Face to Face With Grief

I’ve discovered that I tend to want to find an escape when faced with uncomfortable emotions like grief or frustration. Or maybe it goes so far as to be any time I feel completely out of control of what is going on around me. My means of escape are harmless in and of themselves: shopping (well, that may not be completely harmless….); going out with a friend; going out to do something – anything; meeting with my pastor; or even just our normal scheduled activities; and I even escape with comfort foods.

Why do I do that? I know it’s probably a pretty normal response to difficult situations and emotions, but I “know better”. I’m supposed to know that escaping won’t solve anything, and that the answer to my grief cannot be found in any person or thing or activity. I know Jesus is the only Person who completely understands, and He is the only One who is truly “acquainted with (my) sorrows”.

Perhaps I’m not so much escaping as I am simply looking for something to soften the harsh reality of my grief – a pillow on which to lay my broken heart until it feels better. My routines – especially the ones that involve church – can be a pseudo-comfort. I’ve been expecting my friends to assuage my sorrow to some extent, and part of me has been terrified that they would forget. I’ve been fighting to keep Rusty’s memory alive in everyone’s hearts – or was it just my heartache I wanted them to remember?

Last week, the anniversary of Rusty’s death, made me realize all this, because I didn’t have a way to escape. It was Spring Break, every midweek activity was cancelled at both of the churches I am involved with (I’ll explain how I came to be involved with 2 churches in a different post.) My worship pastor, who has been my grief counselor in many ways this past year, was out of town with his family. My pastor was out of commission due to an injury requiring surgery. My friends were busy enjoying their own Spring Break activities. Every means I would normally use to escape was unavailable to me last week.

So it was just me and God. I wish I could tell you what a wonderful week of sweet, comforting, healing communion I enjoyed with the Lord. But I can’t. For some reason, I was holding Him at arms’ length. I knew He was there, and I was even talking to Him some, but I did not throw myself into His arms like I could have. I didn’t spend my evenings, after everyone was in bed, pouring my heart out to Him. Why? Why do I do that? Am I afraid? If so, of what?? Am I angry? Yes, that’s very possible.

But the Lord is good. He is faithful and long-suffering. He still upheld me because of the prayers of my friends. He has been there in this whole, long, excruciating season of my soul. He met me at church on Sunday. First, while I was working in the nursery, He had a nice lady who only knew the gist of what had happened, asked me for all the details. I could ┬áhave politely declined to answer, but I didn’t. I think the Lord wanted my heart to be exposed, because every single song during the service met me right where I was. It was as if the whole service had been planned for me. I know it wasn’t, except for in God’s plan. It was hard, and I cried a lot, but it was healing.

So I learned that I need to put my arms down, and stop trying to find something or someone else to “fix me”. I need to not be afraid to come face to face with my grief. For when I do, I’ll probably find myself face to face with God, who alone can comfort and heal.

Categories: brothers, choices, church, grief, lessons, Uncategorized, worship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Light and Salvation

I was meditating on Psalm 27:1-3 this morning, and was struck afresh with God’s power and passion to protect His people. (My pastor would be SO proud of that last part of the sentence. He loves alliteration.Ha!)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.”

The Hebrew word for “light” in this passage is associated with the rising of the sun. It makes me think of another verse, whose reference I can’t remember, that says, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered.” The word for “salvation” means “liberty, deliverance, prosperity”. As an intercessor, I’ve seen God arise and scatter His enemies on numerous occasions. I’ve experienced His liberty, seen His deliverance first hand, and been amazed by His provision and blessing in the midst of the storm. Hallelujah! All praise and glory to God!

However, I tend to be a “dumb sheep” with a short attention span. When I get blind-sided by an attack of the enemy or a storm of life, I quickly get distracted by my circumstances and take my focus off of my Light and Salvation, and I get afraid or worried. I forget that God is for me. I forget sometimes that He is mighty to save me. And for some reason, I find it much easier to trust God on behalf of others than it is to trust Him for what concerns me. (Yes, that would be a control issue I have, but by God’s grace, I am getting better with it.) So my prayer for each of us today is that we would remember that the LORD, YAHWEH, is our light and salvation. I pray that we would hear Him saying to us, “Jennifer (put your name here), I AM Yahweh, the glorious morning light that rises in the midst of the darkness, and I am Your deliverer. Do not be afraid or worried, My beloved. You have seen that I am mighty to save, and You have experienced the power of my righteous right hand to redeem and restore. When I arise, your enemies will scatter. Even when overwhelming, game-changing situations surround you, be confident that I AM for you and I will deliver you.”

Are you facing a battle today? Know that God is for you. His plan is perfect and it is for your good and His glory. If you would like to have someone praying with you and for you, please comment below and let me know how I can pray for you.

Categories: devotional thought, Uncategorized, worship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Being Quiet

I have been frustrated in my attempts to pray on my own lately. I would sit there and have to fight to come up with the words to pray – and then they would sound so juvenile instead of the “pretty” prayers I’m used to “coming up with”. I recently started journalling my prayers, and thought it would make it easier, but if anything it’s now worse. I have no words of my own. Instead, the only thing that comes to my mind is Scripture, whether it’s in prayerful worship or in intercession. I was writing out my frustrations to God this morning, and He quickly showed me that I am in a season of “being made silent”. (Not sure why I put that in quotation marks, it just felt like it should be in quotes.) I have grown self-sufficient in how I pray. He wants me to get back to praying only Spirit-led, Scripture-fed prayers. (I mean, Hello! That’s what Pastors Harry and Kevin have been leading us in for well over a year at my church, Shades Mountain Independent!) And sometimes, He doesn’t want me saying anything – just being still and trusting that His Sovereignty and grace are sufficient. He sees my heart and knows what’s in it – the worship, the gratitude, the requests, the concerns, the desires, and yes, even the sins and weaknesses, the deceptions I’ve bought into. He knows it much better than I ever will. I don’t have to say anything. Sometimes, I just need to be quiet and get out of the way so His Spirit can do His work in me and through me.

Categories: God, prayer, silence, worship | 5 Comments

Rejoice Evermore

I Thess. 5:16-18 – Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I recently heard a report from a lady who was in…Uganda, I think, on a short-term mission’s trip. She was working in an orphanage where many of the children came from pasts that would out-do most horror movies. And yet these children were some of the most joyful children she had ever met. Was there intense counseling? No. Drug therapy? No. They just spent all their free time in praise and worship. These children would go to school, then do their chores, eat supper, and have praise and worship time. Then in the morning, they would begin their day with praise and worship before going off to school. This missionary said these children weren’t forced into these sessions, they looked forward to them and participated in them with all that they had, and would leave the sessions still singing, dancing, and rejoicing in the Lord! Isn’t that wonderful?
It makes me wonder about us, though. How much time do we spend worshipping and praising the Lord? What would happen if we stopped wasting our time on Facebook or watching the junk on TV or even reading the latest Christian motivational book, and used that free time to worship God instead? I am willing to guess that we would find our stress and our concerns put in their proper perspective – God’s perspective. We would have a much easier time of letting go and letting God handle everything. It would change our lives.
These verses in I Thess. 5 are what came to my mind when I was thinking about all of this. I looked up some of the words. “Rejoice” means to be cheerful or calmly happy. “Evermore” means every when (which made me think of the phrase “even when ….”) and at all times. Sometimes I think of rejoicing or being joyful as exuberant happiness and I think to myself, “I just don’t have the energy for that right now”. I’m so glad that word means calmly happy – one could probably say peacefully happy. And of course, the next two phrases are pretty clear cut – “pray without ceasing” – turn everything over to God in prayer. “In everything give thanks” – giving thanks in the midst of a trial or giving thanks as soon as you’ve asked Him for something is displaying your faith in the God who hears and answers our prayers – and knowing His answer will be for our good and His glory. The next phrase is what gave me a little bit of pause: “For this is the will of God…” – we hear that phrase so much, but what does the “will” in the will of God mean? According to Strong’s, it means a determination, desire, or pleasure. God’s desire is for us to spend our time praying, praising Him (expressing gratitude for the works of God), and rejoicing in Him, which is worship.
So my challenge for myself and all of us is the next time we need to unwind, instead of picking up the remote or booting up the laptop, turn to God instead. It can be with music or meditating on His Word (not with the assistance of any other books, sometimes we’re so busy trying to figure out what so-and-so says about a verse that we miss what the Holy Spirit is saying about it.). It can be through just talking to God or just sitting and listening to Him (Ps. 46:10). It can be whatever God leads you to do. Remember, worship is all that we are responding to all that He is.

Categories: orphans, prayer, worship | Leave a comment

A Life of Worship

Last week I shared what God has been showing me about making my life an act of worship, and the sermon at my church last Sunday only reiterated all of that to me. Our worship pastor preached, and he talked about how worship is our response with all that we are – body, mind, will, and emotions – to all that God is, says, and does. So that got me thinking. What does a life that is lived out as an act of worship look like? I know it’s a life that is living to love, but on a practical moment-by-moment basis, what does it look like? How can changing my baby’s dirty diaper, or cleaning the kitchen be an act of worship? As I’ve pondered this, God has brought two verses to mind. The first one is Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This sounds like just another abstract concept, but it has to do with my motivation and my attitude. Do I grumble about changing a diaper every time I turn around or because it seems I am the only one in my house who knows how to throw anything away? No, I do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. I guess a good example of what I’m thinking this looks like is the way I am at church. I love SMIC, and I love this worship ministry. As a result, I do whatever I can to serve this ministry – from these prayer emails (and the praying), to helping set up chairs or file music. Therefore, how much more should I be willing to do in my home or out and about as an act of love and service to my Lord Jesus?
The other verse that came to mind is I Thessalonians 5:18 – “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So the other part of it is not just doing things without grumbling or complaining, but also with thanksgiving and gratitude to God. So I can thank God for my sweet baby girl who will only be this little and in diapers for a short time, and for my family that I get to clean up after (as an act of love to them AND to God) and that I have a house that needs cleaning and the healthy body to get up and do it. In other words, it comes down to my attitude. Because, after all, God is not looking at the outward stuff of what I’m doing, He’s looking at my heart. Like Kevin said Sunday, worship should start in the heart. Therefore, making my life an act of worship is all about making my heart a place of continual worship and thanksgiving to God.

Categories: worship | 4 Comments

More Thoughts on Worship

I thought I was done with the devotional thoughts about worship, but God keeps giving me other little pieces that I want to share with you. After last week’s description of getting into the manifest presence of God (which is a very different thing than the omnipresence of God), the question came to me, “Why then does it seem that some people can get there so easily and quickly, and others it takes a long time – if they are able to get into that intimate place of worship at all?” God immediately put Luke 2:25-38 on my heart. I will only point out a couple of verses from this passage. Luke 2:25, 27 – “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him….Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God.” And Luke 2:36a, 37 – “There was also a prophetess, Anna….She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”
Simeon was righteous and devout. The Greek word for devout in this verse is eulabes. The prefix, eu means “well”. The rest of the word comes from a Greek word lambano which means “to get hold of”. Simeon desired to get a hold of the presence of Christ, and lived in such a way as to make sure he was able to hear from Him and follow Him. As a result, he was tuned into the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Who led him into the physical presence of Christ. In this passage, it also says that God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Christ, and when he does, his prayer includes the line, “Now let your servant depart in peace”. In other words, Christ was all he was living for.
Anna made her home at the Temple and worshiped constantly. Verse 38 says, “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (KJV) Because she dwelt as close as she could to the presence of God and was constantly worshipping God, she was instantly in the physical presence of Christ when He was brought to the Temple.
The application to our lives is very clear to me. We must be living for Christ, always desiring “to get hold of” His manifest presence, living righteously as God enables us. We must also live as close to Him as we can. Continually desiring to be in His presence, in fellowship with Him, so that when His manifest presence comes, or when we enter into corporate worship, we will be able to immediately be in that Holiest Place, immediately worshipping. For me, when I do get into that place of worship, I don’t want to leave it and I don’t want it to end, which motivates me to live in such a way that I don’t have to waste time trying to get back into that place. I just want to be with Him. It reminds me of the chorus of a song (that I can’t remember the name of),

I just want to be where You are,
Living daily in Your presence
I don’t want to worship from afar
Draw me near to where You are.

Categories: Simeon and Anna, worship | Leave a comment

Some thoughts on worship

God has been teaching me a lot about worship lately, and I would like to share it with you.

John 4:23,24 – “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (NIV)
The Greek word for worship/worshipers in these verses is proskuneo and means “to kiss, like a dog licking the master’s hand; to fawn or crouch to; prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)”. The Greek word for worshiper in these verses means “an adorer”.
In our culture, and even in our churches, we have a hard time understanding what worship is. We tend to be very good at praise, though, because we see it everywhere we look – your favorite team scores a touchdown and everyone jumps to their feet and raises their hands, shouting and clapping and rejoicing; at church we always see people standing to their feet and raising their hands in praise to God. Now, granted, once upon a time even that was not seen at church, and I praise the Lord for releasing us from tradition into praise in that sense. However, considering the meaning of the word worship in the verses above, when was the last time you saw that demonstrated – even in church? In order to worship in the way the Father wants us to, we must first become completely humble, which is probably why it is so rare to see true worship. We are not a culture or a people that are very good at being humble. We think conditions have to be the way we want them to be in order to worship. How many times have we said, “Well, I just can’t worship with that song” or “The music was awesome today. I really got into the worship!” What worship were we getting into – the worship of the Father, or just the music? True worship is not about music, it’s about relationship to the Father. That Greek word for worship has as its prefix, pros, which is a preposition meaning “towards, to, with, along side”. If you have really worshipped, you come away not with an appreciation for the music or prayer time or preaching, you come away with an awe for the Heavenly Father and the Lamb of God, and a closer relationship with Him. Worship is when we “see the Lord, high and lifted up, and His train fills the temple.”(Is. 6:1) and we realize how lowly and abased we really are.

I was going through Revelation the other day, reading the awesome worship passages that are in it, and I noticed something. Every time it mentions anyone worshipping God/Christ, it says they “fell down and worshipped” or something similar. It goes back to humbling ourselves as I mentioned above. You can’t ask for truer or more Spirit-filled worship than the kind that is going on in heaven. Our Worship Pastor at my church is always encouraging us to worship in every Biblical way. So that means if God so moves you to do so, it is perfectly Biblical for you to bow in worship during our services.
Here’s my other thought: Worship cannot be forced. There is a progression that must be followed. The pattern of the Tabernacle is our example (disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on the Tabernacle, and it is with much fear and trepidation I even mention it. If I get something important wrong – and everything about the Tabernacle is important – please correct me). In order to enter the gates of the Tabernacle, you had to come through the tribe of Judah. Judah means “praise”. In Psalm 100:4 it says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name,” Praise is the vehicle that takes us into His gates, but your first stop inside those gates is at the Brazen Altar.One could not enter into the Holy Place without first coming to the Brazen Altar and making atonement for their sins. The Cross is our Brazen Altar, but we need to confess our sins to Christ every time we seek to come into His presence.
The next stop was at the Brass Laver where the priests had to wash with water every time they went into the Holy Place (Tent of Meeting). The Word of God is the water with which we must allow the Spirit to wash us, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we are not conformed to this world. (How many times have we struggled to get into the praise and worship on a Sunday morning because our minds were on something else?) Only then, can we come into the Holy Place, where we feed on the Word of God (table of shewbread), where the Light of Christ (golden lampstand) to direct our path and the Spirit (oil in the lampstand) are, and where the prayers go up (table of incense). Finally, we pass through the curtain that was rent from top to bottom at the death of our Savior (Hallelujah!) and into the Holy of Holies and the very presence of God. And there is where we worship, falling on our faces before the majesty and glory of the Lord Most High.

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