Monday, September 24, 2018

How Can We Bless the Lord?

Hey Friend,

I love the Psalms.  They minister to me in so many ways.  There's a unique group of fifteen Psalms (or songs) called the Songs of Ascent. Many scholars believe the title indicates that these songs were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Psalm 134 has taken on new meaning to me lately.

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion, 
he who made heaven and earth!
(Psalm 134)

When it comes to blessing, I naturally think of God as the "Blessor" and me as the "Blessee".  After all, when God blesses us, He adds something to us.  He bestows gifts like grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, kindness.  That's God's job, after all isn't it, to bless us? 

Psalm 134, however, continually talks about us blessing the Lord.  This concept is a little harder for me to get my mind around.  What does it mean to "bless the Lord"?  After all, God is totally complete unto Himself.  There is nothing we can add to Him or detract from Him. Nothing we can give Him that He doesn't already have.  In essence, He really doesn't "need" us, but He chose to create us anyway.  

I believe that by blessing the Lord, it means to constantly keep His name in the conversation.  By blessing or praising the Lord, we enhance His reputation here on earth.  One might say, "We give God props!"  Not to go all Southern on you, but when good things happen here in the South, there is always someone who will shout with gladness, "Praise the Lord!!"  They are giving credit where credit is due. Our job is to bring glory unto Him. How good it is to bless His holy name!

I recently received a short email from a friend, and at the end she signed it, "I'm grateful for you, Bev."  Those words of gratitude and blessing brought a smile to my face.  I believe that when we bless the Lord - lift Him up and glorify Him - there has to be a smile on His face.

Recently, here in the Carolinas, we lived through a devastating hurricane.  Slow moving Florence dumped record levels of rain on us, sweeping peoples' homes away in floods and toppling trees on others with her wind gusts.  She even closed down I 95 which is a major north/south interstate.

I distinctly remember standing by the window, watching the rain pelt against it and watching the huge trees in our back yard bending, almost parallel, to the ground.  I pleaded with God to place a hedge of protection around hold those trees by their roots, to not let the rains flood us. I cried out to Him. 

Our small slice of NC was relatively spared, but 40 miles to the east, people lost everything in the flood waters.  Entire homes were consumed.  To the west, trees were toppled on houses and roads flooded out.  If there was ever a time to shout, "Praise the Lord!" this was it.  Sometimes we won't be spared the crucible, but when we are...what is our/my response?  Do my words and my actions bless the Lord?  Do they enhance His reputation?  Do they let others know that I firmly believe God is at work?  Even in the disasters? 

I'm good at pleading, but am I good at blessing?

And what about "lifting up holy hands"?  You have to understand that I grew up in a staunch Presbyterian church.  If anyone raised their hands in church...well, they were just plain crazy. Boy have I changed.  This girl's hands just automatically raise when the Holy Spirit moves in me.  We all worship differently, but for all the goodness God has given me, I can't help but raise my hands and bless Him.  I can just picture the sojourners to Jerusalem, singing songs of praise and lifting their hands to bless God on the way to His temple.  Might we learn something from them?

I did see a very humorous Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, who does a hilarious routine on hand-raisers in church.  "First," he says, "you have those who 'carry the t.v' - that's when your elbows are at your sides and your hands are held out like you're helping someone carry the t.v. into the house.  Then you have 'wash the window'," he goes on, "those are the ones with one arm up, palm flat and forward, and they sway and swoosh their hand back and forth as if washing that window clean.  Ultimately," he concludes, "you have 'touch down'.  That's both arms up high like the ref signaling six points."  Cracks me up....Yes, I digress...but I do believe that hands raised in praise do bless the Lord. 

Finally, I love the progression of this Psalm:

1.  First WE come and Bless the Lord.
2.  We lift up our hands to the Holy Place.
3.  We THEN call upon the Lord's blessing from on high - the maker of heaven    
     and earth.

I admit that I often have it in reverse:  God, you bless me first and THEN I'll bless you.  I also know that exclamation marks are not often used in the Bible.  Look at how many in this short Psalm....three!  These folks are SERIOUS!

And so I serious am I about blessing the Lord?  How often do I keep His awesome name in the conversation?  How often do I give Him credit where credit is due and speak of His lovingkindness?  How often do I give Him props?

Coming through this hurricane has given me time to pause and reflect.  I believe this sister needs to get her southern on and shout, "Praise the Lord" and lift my hands to the holy place!  Can I get an Amen?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for ALL the blessings you have bestowed upon me.  Help me to not take them for granted.  Please be with those who have had devastating losses in this latest storm.  May you give them peace that passes understanding and may those of us who were spared reach out to help.  Lord, let me continually bless YOU by keeping your name on my lips and in the conversation.  Let me lift up my hands in praise to You for you are more than worthy.  Let me come into your presence with singing for you are truly good, Lord...oh so good to me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  When was the last time you blessed the Lord?  Take inventory...what in your life makes you want to raise your hands to Him in praise?  What have you experienced when you bless the Lord?  Are you waiting for His blessings first?  With what have you already been blessed?  Do share...

Be blessed.....

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Biggest Lie About Surrender - Guest Post & Giveaway

Hey Friend,

For the past several weeks I've posted about a must-read book coming out, written by my good friend and writer, Jennifer Dukes Lee.  It's entitled, "It's All Under Control".  

Her book truly spoke to me because I am a life long member of "Control Freaks Anonymous."  In her book, Jennifer debunks the myth that I bought into for so is possible, good even, to always try to be in control.  Ha!  

I've since learned that fear drives the need to be in control and when we move aside and let God take the driver's seat and truly learn to trust, then we are set free to walk in the freedom He wants for us.  

In her book, Jennifer challenges us to let go of our "busy" life in order to take hold of our "best" life.  Sound familiar?  I now give you Jennifer - as sweet and real as her picture - in a guest post and yes a Giveaway!!

Please give Jennifer some lovin' in the Comments and be entered to win a copy of her new book!  If you don't sure to pick up/order a copy from your favorite bookseller.  Available September 18th!!

The Biggest Lie About Surrender – and Why You Can’t Afford to Believe It

If you asked me five years ago, I naively would have told you that I didn’t struggle with control. I mean, seriously— as long as everything went exactly the way I hoped, I was totally flexible.

It’s not that I wanted to control other people. Mostly, I wanted to control myself. If I ever had high expectations of anyone, it was of me. I wanted to present the self-assured, together version of my whole being. Which means I craved control over my face, my emotions, my body, my food, my words, my house, my schedule, my yard, my future.

My preference was a tidy, predictable, safe life where no one got hurt, where my kids remained in one piece, where there was no pain for anyone ever again, amen.
I said I trusted God but had reached the point where I realized I actually didn’t.
As a Jesus girl, this shocked me.

Clearly, my old systems of coping weren’t working: My desire to obsessively orchestrate my whole life was burning me out.

As a mom, I heard myself snapping at my kids. As a ministry leader, I knew that I was functioning within my call, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was tired, even after a regular night’s sleep. And I found myself zoning out during conversations with my husband, because I was mentally making lists of everything I needed to get done.

In short, I ran out of gas.

Maybe the empty tank was God’s way of bringing me to a dead stop, so I would finally pay attention. It worked. God got my attention, and maybe he’s trying to get yours too.

Imagine that it’s you who’s run out of gas. Maybe that doesn’t take much imagining after all, because like me, you’re tired of trying to hold it together. You want to keep it all under control, but things aren’t working out the way you planned.

When you and I began to follow Jesus, we relinquished control over our lives. But because we suffer from the chronic condition known as being human we constantly try to steal that control back.

My wake-up call happened when I realized that the battle for my heart was regularly being fought inside the tiny squares of my to-do list.

I began to ask myself this question: “What are the things that, if they were taken away, would shatter the identity I have created?”

Was it my work? My calendar? My efforts to shield my children from pain and suffering? This urge to always say yes?

For me, the answer was: “All of the above.” I was trying to be the CEO of everything.

Jesus delivered a sobering reminder: You will never know if you can trust Me if you don’t give Me the chance to prove it.

I recommitted myself to a life surrendered to Jesus’ plans for my life. But something felt … off … when I considered what surrender truly meant.

I accidentally bought into a weird idea that surrendered living meant mostly that I needed to “do less.” Yet that was unrealistic because so much of life clearly couldn’t be opted out of. People depended on me. I had kids to feed. A house to manage. Books to write.

Most people can’t simply fire their lives and move on when it gets too chaotic. We can’t stop managing a household, cancel all our appointments, and spend the rest of our days on a floatie in the middle of a lake.

Here’s what I began to learn: Surrendered living is much more than “doing less.” It’s being more of who God created us to be.

Yes, I totally need more chill in my life, and maybe you do too. But here’s the full truth about surrender:

Surrender doesn’t come with some unrealistic demand that you are suddenly going to stop being the incredibly brave and brilliant woman that you are. Real surrender appreciates God’s remarkable design in you.

Do you know what a wonder you are?

You don’t settle. You are the sort of woman we can count on to meet a work deadline, organize a food drive, take in the neighbors’ kids during an emergency, drive your coworker to chemo, counsel a friend at 3 a.m. by text message, keep track of everyone’s appointments, and make sure we’re all wearing seat belts before you drive us on the three-day adventure that you single-handedly arranged.

We need you. We need take-charge, charitable women like you as doctors and nurses in operating rooms where details like “proper disinfectant” matter. Let me tell it to you straight: If you have an inner control freak, I’m hoping you’ll let her bust loose like nobody’s business if someone I love is on your operating table. We need responsible women like you to control all the bleeding.

We also need you in charge of schools, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies. We need rock-star women like you to show us that surrender isn’t “lie down in a pile.” It’s “march forward like a warrior.” Sometimes surrendering to God will require you to do the hardest work you’ve ever done in your life: take in another foster child, fight for your marriage, kick cancer where the sun don’t shine, or refuse to capitulate to the persistent drubbing from Satan.

Girl, listen up. We count on you. You are a woman fervently devoted to God’s calling on your life, not only in your work but also in your relationships.
Of course, as Carrie Underwood will sing to you, Jesus is definitely taking the wheel. But make no mistake: There are times when he’s going to ask you to do some driving.

Don’t think of Jesus as your chauffeur; he is more like your driver’s ed coach. He’s there to teach you His rules of the road. Friend, do not fear the wheel. You have been equipped to drive—and Jesus is beside you when you steer the wrong way. Hopefully He will pull the emergency brake if necessary, and I’ve personally put in a request for roads lined with padded walls.
 The windows are rolled down, the music is cranked, the tank is full, and there’s something that looks like freedom on the horizon.
Out on the open road, may you feel the reassuring love of Jesus. On this journey toward surrender, you’ll discover that, at last, it really is all under control: God’s.

BIO: Jennifer Dukes Lee is the wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, and an author. She loves queso and singing too loudly to songs with great harmony. Once upon a time, she didn’t believe in Jesus. Now, He’s her CEO. Jennifer’s newest book, It’s All Under Control, and a companion Bible study, are releasing Sept. 18th! This is a book for every woman who is hanging on tight and trying to get each day right―yet finding that life often feels out of control and chaotic.

Adapted from It’s All under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible by Jennifer Dukes Lee, releasing this fall from Tyndale House Publishers.

Together with Jennifer - She Speaks Writers' Conference

If you'd like to win a FREE copy of "It's All Under Control", leave a comment below and you'll automatically be entered in the drawing to win a copy of this wonderful book!!  Contest open until September 30th, 2018.  Winner will be notified by email.

Be blessed.....