Counting the Ways

MEME - Psalm 150 v 2(Suggested Reading: Psalm 150)

During my last appointment with my doctor, I thanked him for helping me improve over the last five years. Although I still struggle with chronic pain, I’m better than I was when I started this trek in September 2012.

I rejoiced over the little things I can do now, like writing for longer periods of time. I reveled in the small victories and even appreciated the battles that God used to strengthen my resolve and remind me how much I need and depend on Him.

It haven’t always embraced His peace. Sometimes, I struggle with discouragement, weariness, and doubt. But God’s been patient as He helps me experience the endless hope of surrender and contentment founded in knowing His ways are good because He is good.

After my appointment, I suffered another bout with severe spasms and a debilitating headache that lasted over 14 hours. The next morning, I praised the Lord. Why? Because those painful flare-ups have lasted for days in the past.

As I thanked the prayer warriors who interceded for me, even before they knew I was struggling, God reminded me about the power of praising Him through all circumstances.

When we begin to count the ways God’s been good to us and practice honest praise, it’s harder to drown our hope in discouragement.

The psalmists practiced honest praise.

They processed their emotions and shared their struggles. They recounted God’s merciful and mighty acts, always returning their focus to His unchanging goodness, unlimited power, and unhindered demonstrations of love.

The Lord doesn’t expect us to stuff our feelings or minimize our hurt. He doesn’t want us to pretend we’re perfect or act as if we never struggle.

He knows us, inside and out, and wants us to be real with Him . . . and others.

God can handle our mixed emotions. He can change our confusion to clarity, as we seek Him in His Holy Word. He can replace our anxiety with confidence, our uncertainty with wisdom and discernment. He can meet us in our weakness and empower us to stand firm in faith.

When we’re feeling weary, battling doubt, or ready to quit, God beckons us to lift our chins, inhale His peace, and exhale a whisper of praise.

The more we breathe in the countless ways the Lord has been good to us, the more we can sing His praises and trust His unchanging goodness.

A praise list begins with one thing that we can be grateful for, one thing we’ll choose to give thanks for. That one thing can incite our endless worship and gratitude as we praise the Father of Compassion, the Maker of the Universe, the Sustainer, Redeemer, and Deliverer whose love transforms us and changes the way we approach life.

One thing.

We can praise God for the heavens, the starry skies that light the darkest nights, the sunsets that make us gasp in awe of His creativity, the puffs of clouds and rays of sun that warm our hearts with hope (Psalm 150:1, NIV).

We can praise God for His miracles, as well as the quiet moments when He simply makes His presence known (v. 2).

We can praise God for His greatness (v. 2). Oh, how the list goes on when we count the ways that God is great. Hallelujah!

Nothing compares to the magnitude of God’s love for us, the depth of His compassion for us, the measure of His sacrifices for us.

His greatness is revealed in His unchanging character, the perfection of His God-breathed words, and the dependability of His faithfulness.

We can praise God with the music we make and as we enjoy the songs nature sings for us (vv. 3-5).

We can count the ways He is great as we appreciate every detail in His vast creation, from the sweetness of honey to the intricate paint strokes on each flower petal He decorates.

Our great God listens to us, even when our prayers are silent tears that slip down our cheeks. Hallelujah!

Our great God remains with us, even when everyone else seems to have deserted us. Hallelujah!

Our great God understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. Hallelujah!

Our great God loves us . . . He loves us.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

When we’re counting the ways God loves us, the ways God has been there for us, the ways God has provided for us, the ways God has protected us, our praise will flow.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for the opportunities to reflect on who You are, what You’ve done, and how much You’ve given us. Please fill us with gratitude as we consider all we have, instead of what we feel we lack. Help us appreciate every breath we take as a priceless gift to be treasured. Help us recognize every morning we wake up as another chance to praise You, to get to know You more, and to share You with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Ivonne Vargas.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon.

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Walking in Wisdom (A Prayer)

MEME - Proverbs 4 v 5(Suggested reading – Proverbs 4:1-13)

Lord, thanks for Your inerrant Holy Word through which Your Holy Spirit reveals Your infallible truth and unchanging, perfect character.

Please give us listening hearts. Prepare us to submit our wills to align with Yours, as You help us understand and live in loving obedience to Your Word (vv. 1-4).

Empower us to walk in wisdom and courageous faith, Lord (v. 5).

Please help us give up everything that hinders us from surrendering our all to You, no matter what the personal cost (vv. 6-7).

Help us respect You and honor Your Word, even when the world mocks us and attempts to tempt us into wandering from Your perfect love and the eternal victory You’ve secured for us (vv. 8-9).

Give us ears to hear You, Lord.

Give us the discernment and courage we need to accept Your truth, and the strength and wisdom we need to follow You‒the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; Proverbs 4:10-11).

Thanks for making our paths lead straight to You.

Strengthen us, fueling our confidence with Your promised care (vv. 12-13).

Though the road ahead often feels long and seems overrun with weeds of discouragement and doubt, You are our sure hope.

We need You. We praise You. We worship You, Lord.

Please continue to make Your presence known as You empower us to believe You and walk in Your wisdom, one brave step at a time.

In Jesus’s name,

Amen

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God Doesn’t Forget Us

MEME - 2 Corinthians 4 v 17To respect my husband’s family tradition, we visited the cemetery on Memorial Day and brought new flags, in honor of his father’s service in the military. Although we know we don’t have to visit the cemetery to honor or remember his dad, although we know he had accepted Christ as his Savior and that his spirit is secured with the gift of eternal life, we place new flags on his headstone once a year.

On the way back to the car, I noticed the raised words on a sailor’s gravestone: World War I & II.

Weeds crawled over his name and dying year . . . 1975. No flowers. No decorations. Just weeds.

I glanced at the faded flags we’d taken out of my father-in-law’s marker a few moments earlier.

Every year, we drove to the cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s dad. But there would come a time when no one would visit, when everyone who knew him would be gone.

The sailor’s headstone reminded me that there would come a day when all of us are forgotten on this side of eternity.

I’m sure we won’t be worrying about being remembered by other people when we’re praising God in eternity, but the thought of anyone being forgotten grieved me.

Kneeling before the sailor’s headstone, I twisted and pushed the wooden dowel until I’d secured the flag in the dry, cracking dirt. “Thank you, Sir,” I said.

Alan knelt beside me, without saying a word. He took the second flag from my hand and planted it deep into the ground.

I gazed across the yellowing grass dotted with grave markers and small waving flags and sighed. A group came every year to remember and honor veterans. We’d seen them before, placing new flags on the military headstones. The fresh flags waving in the slight breeze affirmed they’d finished their yearly task. Still, even they’d missed this lone sailor with the weeds covering half of the identifying words under his name.

I began plucking the overgrowth. “It’s sad,” I said, “the idea of being forgotten.”

My husband nodded. “We’ll bring extra flags next year.”

“I’d like that very much.”

And so began a tradition.

Even though there could be people who remembered these veterans without visiting the cemetery, and even though we believe our spirits live forever in eternity when we place our trust in Christ, we committed to bringing extra flags for those whose stories had long since stopped being shared with eager ears seeking to learn more about their families’ history.

We would be more intentional about thanking God for those who had given their lives to protect our freedom, those who had served sacrificially, those who had probably never imagined having weeds over their headstones, those who had never dreamed of the day they would be forgotten.

As the reality of my mortality sank in, God comforted me with the assurance that He knows each of us by name and loves each and every person He creates, even when we reject Him.

God knows us, cares for us, and will never forget us. He wants none to perish, and all to be restored in His love and grace (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter  3:3-9).

Gratitude filled my heart as I, once again, received His truth on a deep and personal level: God knows my name. He is always with me. He will never leave me, never forsake me, and never, ever forget me.

I never imagined there would come a day when I was concerned about being forgotten, until an injury and an extensive recovery time led me into a season of isolation.

These have been the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced.

When feelings of loneliness and sorrow threaten to destroy every bit of my joy, peace, hope, and faith, the Lord comforts and strengthens me with His constant presence and His infallible Word.

He’s increasing my compassion for the forgotten ones, the lonely ones, the hurting ones in the world.

He refreshes my hope by empowering me to live and love each and every day, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ . . . because even when life is hard, this world is not where our lives end.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know there will come a day when all of the people who knew us will be gone. That’s no reason to lament.

Because of our new life in Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith that points others to His everlasting hope.

Lord, thank You for empowering us to make a lasting difference in this world by living and loving in the name of Jesus‒praying for others as we share Your Holy Word, and serving selflessly as we lead others to You‒the only One who can truly promise You will never leave us, never forsake us, and never, ever forget us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children‒with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

The LORD has His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:13-19, NIV)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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