Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mindful Always

"Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations." I. Chronicles 16:16. Not only did God make a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants, but to me, a Gentile, did He make a promise that if I call on His name, I will be saved (Romans 10:9). Not only for eternity, but from the day-to-day. He rescues, He relieves, and He refreshes. Here is this week's record of Cultivating Thankfulness, November's focus for the Scripture Writing Bible Study.  I thought I'd add the photo designs I like to create this time that go with the day's reading/thoughts.

November 13/Sunday - I. Chronicles 16:8-11 

Give thanks, call on His name, make known His deeds, sing, talk of His wonders, glory in His name, let the seeking heart rejoice, seek Him, seek His strength, seek His face. -That's a lot packed into four verses! The verse that stuck out to me was verse 10, "Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD". When I seek Him earnestly, truthfully, I can do nothing else but rejoice as He reveals Himself, His love, and His guidance. 

November 14/Monday - I. Chronicles 16:12-18

Just this: Remember Him. Remember His "marvellous works" vs. 12. Marvellous→ synonyms: heavenly, otherworldly, supernatural. Remember the works that only He could have done that caused me to wonder and admire. And verse 15, "Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations." Be attentive, aware, careful always to notice His extra-ordinance in every ordinary day.   

November 15/Tuesday: I. Chronicles 16:23-26

To sing with abandon as a care-free child, to roll down the car windows like we did as teenagers and sang to our heart's content on the way home from basketball practice (in the freezing cold!)...what happened to those days? As an adult, I find myself self-conscious and shy to sing out. Verse 23, "Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; shew forth from day to day his salvation." From day to day - as in, make it a habit to belt out, hum, whistle, or chirp if that's all you've got. It doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, one definition of the word 'sing' says this: "to give out a continuous ringing, whistling, murmuring, burbling, or other euphonious sound, as a teakettle or a brook" and this: "to tell about or praise someone or something in verse or song."

"He who sings scares away his woes.” wrote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra --I read that singing can reduce stress, improve your immune system, aid in better sleep, and enhance your memory. So there's something to singing aloud especially is we are 'ringing, whistling, murmuring, burbling' to the Lord whether you sound like a teakettle or a brook. There are no specifications that I have found to make this a daily habit. No singing tryouts. No voice lessons required. "For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised.." 16:25a.
I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me.

 November 17/Wednesday: I. Chronicles 16: 27-30

vs. 27, "Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place." And who doesn't need a little strength and gladness? I think it's safe to say that everyone is in need. The place to find it? It's in His place -in the place with other believers as in church, sure. But more than that, when I seek Him in earnest faithfully, He never hides, He always makes Himself known. 

November 17/Thursday: I. Chronicles 16:31-34

Because God is still on the throne and He still reigns over all, no matter what is going on in society --let the heavens be glad, let the earth rejoice, and let men talk about His enduring mercy. That's what we were created to do. Let the sea and all its greatness roar, and the fields and everything in it rejoice, and the trees in the wood sing at His presence. When God hears all these sounds coming from everything He created, I wonder at the harmony He must hear when all creation- man, beast, every living thing- praises Him. That's some kind of choir. 

November 18/Friday: I. Chronicles 16:35, 36

"Blessed" - sacred, holy, worthy of reverence. 
"Amen" - certainly, indeed, so be it

Holy is the Lord and all the people said 'Amen'. They accept that He is holy. They acknowledge He is worthy of reverence and proclaim, 'so be it'.
I. Chronicles 16:35, 36 "....gather us together ..that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise". Gather us together...that's what Thanksgiving is about. We pause and reflect on our blessings and give thanks to the Giver of them. "Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD." Something I need to focus on during the hustle and bustle of the season and all it entails...traffic, crowded stores, people in a hurry everywhere. It's easy to become cranky for this homebody girl. I will concentrate on keeping my focus where it needs to be and hold close the blessings. So be it.

November 19/Saturday: I. Chronicles 29: 11-13

Of all the verses I have been reading in this 'cultivating thankfulness' study, these verses right here are ones that really took my breath away. 

"Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name."
Is there ever a way to really wrap our brain around all that? To fully understand the depth of God and all that He is? It's a lifelong journey, no? And to think He Who reigns over all, Who possesses all power, glory, victory, majesty would care about me? In His hand alone is the power to make great and to give strength. He is all and can do all. And I can do nothing else but thank Him because He didn't have to share Himself. But He wanted to. "Love so amazing, so divine- demands my soul, my life, my all. " -Isaac Watts

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Over and Over, Again and Again

A continuation of this month's Scripture Writing I am participating in, here is the latest study notes from this week.  

Nov 6/Sunday; Generational Grace
Psalm 100 - My focus for this passage: "For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." (verse 5) Because He is good, His mercy is timeless. Since He is good, His truth is sustainable and withstands all generations. Not just for the Israelites. But for me. And to my son and his potential sons and daughters. No limits. No expiration date. "Be thankful unto him and bless his name". (verse 4) 

Nov 7/Monday; Say So
"O Give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so...."  Psalm 107:1 --I can be thankful in my heart. I can possess the 'head knowledge' that God is good and that His mercy endures forever, but I am encouraged to 'say so'. Sometimes hearing your own voice say something aloud breathes life. It somehow makes something more 'official'. I read that memory can be improved when you vocalize a thought or concept. And to remember God is good and that His mercy will withstand an eternity, •saying so• can have a much more powerful impact for living grateful.

Nov 8/ Tuesday; Led the Right Way
Today, a pivotal moment in time, I read this: "Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." Psalm 107:6-9
No matter what the final decision is in the election, no matter my cry of trouble for this great country, God still will deliver. Maybe not deliver from the choices made today by voters, but deliver in the heart. Deliver from anxiety, disappointment, grief. He still leads in the right way so I may dwell in Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So whatever the outcome, God is still good, He still assures the longing soul and fills the soul that is hungry for Him with the best part of Him. "Oh that men would praise Him"...yes. But more this: "Oh that **I** would praise Him"....'Change my heart, O God, make it ever true; may I be like You."

Nov 9/ Wednesday; To the Rescue
Yet another account of God's people rebelling, God using His authority to show them the error of their ways, and then the people crying out to Him for help when they had nowhere else to go. But God doesn't turn His back on them. When they are repentant and sorrowful, He saves them. Over and over, we read this. And..I'm no different, really. I stray, get distracted, yet He's just as close as the mention of His name. Psalm 107:10-13

Nov 10/ Thursday; The Story of Grace
Reading the records of those who have lived before me- They have a story to tell-- of grief and joy, of rebellion and obedience; and above all else, redemption. How they responded (whether badly or in faith/obedience) to God's divine direction is a testament in how to live wisely and how to teach my son to live wisely. This is what comes to mind when I read in the Psalms. Today's study stems from Psalm 107:14-16. "He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder." (vs 14) The image here is of prison. For the Israelites, they were in physical bondage at one time. But what about depression, loneliness, and stress? They are all darkness as well. But when do I cry to God? When I have the leisure to? Or when I feel trapped, have nowhere else to go, and have 'run out of time'? There is no distance He cannot reach across to bring me His light for nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38,39). "For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder." And when God delivers and brings His light, there are not any boundaries He cannot sever. Verse 15, "Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." There's comfort in the story of grace. It weaves and knits our hearts to Him and to each other. And grace can penetrate way down deep in the shadows. His light has not changed. His manner of deliverance has not changed. The story of grace will never change. So thankful.

Nov 11/Friday; Over and Over Again

Reading is in Psalm 107:17-19. Again, the Israelites cry out to God, and again He comes to the rescue. And they knew that. They knew He would deliver and make them able to stand and survive. And because God has not changed through time, His people are able to still come to Him. There are no limits for God's grace which beckons me to come again and again. Here are the lyrics to a song that goes along with my focus for today.
"Over and Over":
I've stood on the bank of a wide raging river
Trusting that I'd get across.
I've made my way through some valleys and deserts
Believing that I'd never get lost.

I've been at the foot of what felt like Mt. Everest
Knowing I'd have the strength for the climb
'Cause through every trial, each test and temptation,
One thing is sure every time:

Over and over, again and again,  God is faithful.
Over and over, again and again,
Through it all He's made me able
To stand and survive, to come through alive
When it sure looked like I couldn't win.
Jesus is with me so I claim the victory
Over and over again.

If you ask me why I have no hesitation,
God does what He says He will do.
I'd simply say every battle has taught me
There's nothing He won't help me through.
So why should I dwell on the hardships and struggles
When I look just beyond them I see
The way this will end is with great celebration,
Deep in my heart I believe: (chorus)

November 12/Saturday; He Sends His Word

A man's word doesn't mean much these days, it seems. Once upon a time, a word and a handshake sealed the deal. Nowadays, a binding, legal contract is needed to hold someone to their promise. Not so for God. He promises over and over that if we cry unto Him, he will heal. Today's 'cultivating thanksgiving' thoughts come from Psalm 107: 20, "He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction." Not the first time He's come to the rescue and it won't be His last. The Israelites just needed His word. If the word of God could breathe into existence a whole universe, surely His word could mend a whole nation. The centurion in Matthew 8:8 beckoned for Christ to 'speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed." God's word was good from the beginning and the validity of His word has never faltered. God can heal physically, yes. But most importantly, He heals our souls. He delivers from ruin, despair, and decay. "Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing." Psalm 107:22

Through it all, the trials and troubles in life, God is just waiting to hear our cry for help, for comfort, for deliverance, for light and grace...and all He has to say is, "Come". I love the chorus of the song I've been thinking about this week. It blends nicely the end of one week with the beginning of another. 

"Over and over, again and again, God is faithful.
Over and over, again and again,
Through it all He's made me able
To stand and survive, to come through alive
When it sure looked like I couldn't win.
Jesus is with me so I claim the victory
Over and over again."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

He Works At His Leisure

 "The finest workers of stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time." Henry David Thoreau  

     I think that's how God works many times; gentle touches here and there, working to soften edges, smooth out the harsh.  He works at His leisure to teach me something, forming a sometimes-hard-as-stone heart into a person more peaceful and 'polished'.  And most 'devotional' posts I write are about those touches from God working, shaping, reforming in His allowance of time.  "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time", wrote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:11a. 

     This month's focus on Bible study for me is "Cultivating Thankfulness." I have been working through a Scripture Writing Worksheet each month. I haven't done every day this year as sometimes my schedule changes due to the needs of the family, but I really wanted to be intentional this month even if I need to do this late at night after everyone else has gone to bed. Each day on Facebook, I've been trying to share the day's Scripture reading and what I learned about 'Cultivating Thanksgiving'. I can say that I am learning a lot through this study. It's easy to say, "I'm thankful to God for all He's done for me", but daily, the Word takes me deeper and I realize there's so much more to learn about developing a grateful spirit and disciplining myself to stay the course to build a thankful heart. Here are this week's study notes and the focus I came up with for each day.

November 1/Tuesday:  •Captivate the Good Things•
Scripture reading was in I. Thessalonians 5: 12-19, but I read a little further.  Paul says in 5:18, "In everything give thanks". And in 5:21, "Hold fast that which is good." I am reminded to captivate the good things resolutely for time goes by quickly; it can be easy to forget the good during the difficult. I am encouraged to claim the good things faithfully because they are gifts from God.
To seize the good things and to capture them in my heart → they make all days full of giving thanks.

November 2/Wednesday:  •Let Me Come With Gratefulness and with Glad Voice•
Scripture reading: Psalm 95:1-5
When my plans change because someone needs me, when the time goes by spent helping with errands and in the emergency room with a loved one, let me come before You, Lord, anyway with thanksgiving in my heart. Thankful that I am here. Thankful that I am available. Your greatness has not changed; let me not change if the day doesn't begin so great. So when things are left undone, may I come with a 'joyful noise' anyway. Not with resentment. Not with frustration, but with glad voice simply for another day to help, to care, to love...because I, too, am helped, I am cared for, and I am loved by You. In Your hand is in the deep places of the earth, and surely Your hand is in the daily changes of schedule. If the strength of the hills is Yours also (Ps. 95:4), then let it be so that Your strength is in me.

"Let us come before before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God..." Psalm 95:2, 3a

November 3/Thursday: •You Are Cordially Invited to Worship and Bow Down•

Scripture reading: Psalm 95:6-9
It's as receiving an invitation in the mail, the words I read this morning. "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand..." (Psalm 95:6, 7a.) And when an invitation is sent, it is with expectations of receiving an RSVP, a "répondez, s'il vous plaît,", or "Please Reply". I am summoned to pray, adore, glory, and have been prompted to bow down. To kneel is to put oneself in a position of humility and submission. And to bend in such a position, not only am I bowing the knee, but I am surrendering my heart and my will. The appeal is to revere *OUR* maker, for He is *OUR* God, and "*WE* are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand." It's possessive. It's personal. How am I going to respond today? With hardened heart (Ps. 95:8)? or with wonder for MY Maker, MY God, MY Shepherd?

November 4/Friday: •The Best Part of God Can Be Viewed Through the Lens of Admiration and Assurance•

Scripture reading: Psalm 31:19, 20
"Cultivate" → to plant, to prepare, to tend to. To cultivate thankfulness is the theme of this month's Bible study. And so far, the common thread is that the way to plant, prepare, and tend to a state of thankfulness is to praise, sing, and worship. Today's thoughts are no different. 'Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou has laid up for them that fear thee; which thou has wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!" Ps. 31:19.
"Goodness": the state or quality of being good; moral excellence, virtue; generosity: (and my favorite) → the best part of anything
"Fear": reverential awe, especially toward God
So to see the best part of anything-- the best part of God-- is to fear Him - or to respect, to honor, to worship Him? And to know the best part of God is to trust in Him? "Is that all?", I think. And then..."Isn't that everything"? If so, then the beginning of praise, the movement to worship-- is the birth of thanksgiving. God had 'laid up' or kept/stored the best part for those who fear/honor and for those who trust and place their assurance in Him. Fear and trust go hand-in-hand, I believe, in terms of honoring God. Oh how great is the best part of Him. He's all good, I know...but how much more of God would I see if I viewed through the lens of reverential awe/admiration and assurance in Him?
A lens is "something that facilitates and influences perception, comprehension, or evaluation". And what exactly influences my perception, comprehension, or evaluation of God? of His plan? of my life? My focus for today.

November 5/Saturday: • Remember the 'Righting Reflex'•

Scripture reading: Psalm 31:21-24
I resonate with King David and his emotions throughout the Psalms. One day he's up, says he's trusting in the Lord and how wonderful and marvelous are all His great works. Another day, he's begging for mercy because he's in trouble, is feeling depressed and weak. Yet, even through the ups and downs, the praising and the wallowing, David is still able to come back to a place of adoration, worship.  It's comparative to the 'righting reflex' principle, "a reflex that corrects the orientation of the body when it is taken out of its normal upright position.'' (Wikipedia definition) Likewise, the spiritual 'nervous system' is able to find its balance after falling.  "Blessed be the LORD; for he hath shewed me his marvelous kindness in a strong city". (vs 21) When David gets hasty and feels cut off from God, he still feels that his prayers have been heard (vs 22). He then encourages love for the Lord because He preserves the faithful and to those who place their hope in Him, they are strengthened. I noticed in vs 24 he said, "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart..." Seems that there's an order of activity of good courage first - synonyms being: determination, spirit - then the strength comes. Determination to do what? Well, since the whole chapter 31 is pertaining to trust in God, I'm thinking that's the formula.  Being courageous isn't about what I feel, but what I do. And it's that 'coming back to a place of adoration and worship', that determination to trust God anyway, that will be my 'righting reflex'. So I don't have enemies breathing down my neck, and cities to conquer, and people to lead, but I still have stress. I still have ups and downs and times of praising and wallowing. But the key is to not stay there. The key to getting through the mess is to continue to see God for who He is and to praise Him, to bless Him, to love Him, and to hope in Him. 

David reigned as king for 40 years and through it all God was working at His leisure in His measure of time, shaping, molding, hammering away the sharp edges. And through it all, David always came back to a place of worship and thanksgiving because he determined to trust through the disappointments, the losses, the stress. My 'take away' is this: When I trust through the stress, I have placed my hope in Him and have strengthened my faith which will assuredly prepare my heart for giving thanks through all things. And seeing the Lord through the eyes of giving thanks? It orientates everything.