Friday, November 13, 2015

Bringing the Sacrifice of Praise

Something I have learned over the last few years is the importance and power of praising God amidst very difficult circumstances. It is easy to praise in spirit and song when you have no life or death matters that invade your thoughts as you try to focus on the Father. It is easy to praise when you are on stage leading worship. It is easy to praise when you consider what God has done for you and the promises that you see being fulfilled in your life.

It is much more difficult to praise when you are fighting fear. It is much more difficult to praise when your thoughts go to begging God to save you and your family. It is much more difficult to praise when you don't know why God has not yet responded to your acts of obedience, has not answered your prayers, and when others have suggested that this apparent wilderness in your life is because you haven't prayed hard enough, fasted long enough, or that there must be something spiritually that is wrong in your life for God to not respond to your dire situation.

When your spirit is crushed, when you don't know how to go on, when you are confused and angry...that is when it is difficult to praise. And that is when praise becomes your sacrifice.

Unlike many other forms of spiritual warfare and different acts of worship, praise brings us full circle to where we began and why we were created. God didn't create us so that He could save us. He didn't create us so that we could need Him. He didn't create us so that we could go forth and bring more people to Him. His purpose of creating us was so that we could commune with, honor and love Him. 

For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,' declares the LORD, 'to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.' (Jeremiah 13:11)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
When we bring a sacrifice of praise, we are praising Him for who He is. Not for anything He has done for us. Not for anything we are happy about. When brought as a sacrifice, praise moves from being an emotional response to an act of obedience. Biblically speaking, obedience is time and again upheld as our first responsibility to God, and the first thing we will do if we truly love Him. By bringing the sacrifice of praise, we are obeying Him with nothing for our own gain attached. It becomes simply about Him because of who He is.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
When you normally praise, it is a sacrifice in the sense of bringing a gift to God. But when you bring the sacrifice of praise, it is out of your complete brokenness and is because you are choosing to bring it, not because you have an abundance of good feelings to shave the top of. It's when you have nothing. The beautiful thing about it is that it's beautiful to God.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)
It seems that in the beginning of a wilderness period, we cling to the promises and look forward with vigor and hope. As time goes on, though, and weeks turn into months, months into a year, and one year into multiple years, we grow weary. We grow unsure. We grow scared.
 “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?  And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’ ” (Malachai 3:13-15)

When it becomes the most unnatural to praise, let it be what you do. Let it be the sacrifice you bring. Esteem His name, for His response in Malachai is great.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.  “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. (Malachai 3:16-17)

Choose to have your broken spirit be a vessel of praise, so that even when you are facing extreme circumstances, even when you have nothing left, even when you are confused or angry...even when your heart is far from can offer the sacrifice of praise before your King. Praise Him through the battle.
And the Lord said:“Because these people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder." (Isaiah 29:13-14)
There is power in the sacrifice of praise.

(image credit to Cecil Porter)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Reviving Life

 There are times when life gets crazy. You know the feeling. It might be bills, overbearing neighbors and people groups, job stressors, too many commitments...adjusting to life as a working mom, a stay at home mom, or a home schooling mom. Trying to balance an addition to the family. Dealing with an unruly pet. Figuring out how to not go crazy at home with the never ending cycles that come with being with small children all day. Figuring out how to not go crazy trying to balance working outside the home and meeting those small children's needs for mommy. Facebook addiction. Phone addiction. Pinning all the things instead of doing all the things. You get it.

My family was there. Really, we've been there for a few years. Our "crazy" has meant court battles, managing a child with PTSD episodes and other behaviors that are hard to manage, two years of not living in our own home, periods of joblessness, job changes, living in a small apartment with five people, me homeschooling and managing moving and the kids while my husband has been away more than he hasn't for his job the last year...but it's starting to break. Homeschooling is getting easier. My husband just came home after being gone for almost all of the last three months (even though he's gone again next week). My daughter is currently in an improved phase, and I found some REALLY promising resources for her in the location we're in now. Our family court appeal is going to be heard on October 28, and we currently don't have any other ongoing trials to deal with. And, we are finally closing on this beautiful log cabin home in the woods. Peace. Wow!

It's a long story, and it still continues. But God is faithful. He has so much love for us, and He has continued to provide even when our circumstances have literally been impossible. I am so thankful, so grateful, so humbled by it all. How great the Father's love for us.

So we're beginning. Continuing. Reviving ourselves as we near the end of the struggles we've been facing. Running as fast as we can toward the relief that we want to wash over us. Being silent, because we don't know what to say as we just breathe. It feels so good to finally breathe again, and not in hurried, panicked breathes that we choke on as we try to save ourselves. If I've learned anything, it's that we can't save ourselves. We can't save our children. We can't save anyone. We can only release ourselves. Release our children. Release others.

Today, we mark another step in reviving our life, and we are so ready.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Surviving Adult Chickenpox

I am thirty, and I have the chickenpox. Not shingles. Not a few red spots. Full blown-itching-my-brain-out-chickenpox. Google "adult chickenpox" and you won't find much about how to survive this. Maybe because you're supposed to have gotten this over and done with in childhood, or maybe because it's not survivable. I'll let you know which it is in about two weeks.

I was diagnosed yesterday, though I think my first "spot" showed up three days ago concealed by me thinking it was a bug bite. Like I thought the cluster of five that showed up on my arm were. Like I thought the next cluster on my foot were. It wasn't until I'd exhausted Dr. Google before dawn because I couldn't sleep due to the itching that I starting thinking it wasn't a normal bug. Silly me, I even thought it was quite possibly bed bugs and even woke up my sleeping husband to tell him so, until I went to the bathroom and saw The Rash on my legs. Like, all over my thighs legs. I watched the rash morph over the next few hours, telling myself that I would NOT be that person who went to the ER in the middle of a night for a non-life-threatening rash. Proudly, I made it until the closest doctor's office could fit me in yesterday.

Here's what happens when you're a chickenpox infected adult: other adults get scared. This is confusing to them. New territory. You are not only probably wrong about what you have, but you're also strange, and probably have something that's going to kill them, or at a minimum, should be on display (while quarantined) because now something that's only in textbooks has become a real life medical model. I witnessed this as I politely (and quietly) told the office receptionist that I think I may have the chickenpox, and could they put me in a separate waiting room or at least give me a mask so I don't infect anyone else if I'm contagious? I got The Look. The wide eyed, I have no idea what to say, I'm not sure I should hand you a pen or take your registration paperwork back before I spray it with bleach solution, look. Thankfully, the physician assistant knew what to do and told the panicking receptionist to "put her in room 5" (along with my paperwork).

When the female physician assistant was able to get in to see me, she offered a gown. When you're a chickenpox adult victim, you don't wear a gown. You just strip your clothes off as fast as you can so that the diagnosis can happen because you think that they must have a magic can of itch-stopping spray handy for cases like this, and you want that magic spray can. A whopping 30-seconds was needed for diagnosis, thanks to the various spots that now covered all of my limbs and back. She writes me a script for an antiviral that might offer relief though I'm bordering on the 24-hour start threshold (or possibly a day over it), I throw my shirt and pants back on, and then the door opens again because another young staff member has never seen chickenpox in real life. No problem, glad to be of assistance.

Society apologizes profusely for your plight, from the pharmacist to the cashier. Everyone except for your kids, who still demand you function at just the same level as before you were a walking red, itching mass. You didn't think to ask all of those apologetic people if they'd put their empathy to work by watching your kids for you, so you become a zombie chickenpox adult as you use Benadryl as your coping method. When I say "coping method", I'm really just referring to the trade you're making between itchiness and alertness. Since you can't nap or lay in bed all day, but you REALLY need that diphenhydramine, you are now a bumbling, fumbling, slow, foot dragging, red, itching mass...who, if she was with it enough, would be praying that her children don't see this as an opportunity to take advantage of.

Since Dr. Google isn't helpful enough to give you a list of what you need to know to survive the chickenpox as a mother, here is a summary of what I've learned:

a. It isn't fun. In fact, it's worse than the opposite of "fun", whatever that may be. It can be described as "the type of itchy that consumes all of your willpower and thoughts." You will be so itchy, in fact, that you will be nauseous. 

b. At least it isn't Scabies. Google that. You're welcome.

c. That oatmeal bath thing? Fiction.

d. Popsicles: skip it. Your throat hurting is easier to deal with than cleaning up the stickiness that is bound to occur when your children eat popsicles because they see you eating one. And you don't have the energy for sticky floors right now.  

e. Benadryl. Consider making it a family event.

f. People are going to tell you weird things. Weird remedies, weird memories, weird everything. Just move on. 

g. There is an antiviral specific to chickenpox/shingles/herpes. Who knows how well it really works, though. I don't know yet, but I'm taking four pills a day, anyway, just in case.