Monthly Archives: December 2014

When Praising God Is a Sacrifice

There’s an older evangelical praise song that sings “We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.”  That song is something I’ve sung when my heart has been full of joy.  God is so big and so infinite and so mighty.  It has felt easy to praise him even when life was hard.  I never was able to fully connect the concepts of sacrifice with praise, much less to consider praise in and of itself to be a sacrifice.  Perhaps I’m ratting on myself and revealing just how spiritually immature I am!  Since we’re all one in the body of Christ, I’ll trust that you can grant me some grace in this regard.

The last two and a half years have been a tremendous challenge.  My family has experienced professional and personal moments that are beyond belief.  Literally if I wrote them down and read them, I wouldn’t be able to believe that these things happen.  Soap operas are made up of lesser content.  It’s even harder when crushing experiences come from the hands of people who profess to be Christians.  I’ve definitely been convicted to look at my own fruit to make sure that I’m not perpetuating any of the ugliness and invective that we have experienced.  I’ve had to ask myself and my trusted friends if I’m the one that is crazy (and not the other party) and be willing to hear the truth from them.

During these dark moments when I KNEW that we were in the lion’s den and that only God could sustain us, I realized something.  Regardless of whether our lives are happy or sad, easy or hard, God IS.  The very fact that He is our creator and that He sustains us compels us to praise Him.  In these hardest of moments, when it takes every ounce of focus to put one foot in front of the other, I have come to realize that praising God is a sacrifice.  Sometimes this sacrifice comes from a well of sorrow or from a literal battlefield.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament discuss ‘sacrifices of praise.’  Jeremiah 17:26 and 33:11 use exactly this phrase as does Hebrews 13:15.  Hebrews 13:15 & 16 says,”Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  I am not a biblical scholar, but it seems to me that we cannot give God a sacrifice of praise without failing to do good and to share.  The fruit of our lips and the fruit of our actions are our testimony to the world that is watching.

I can say with confidence that my attitude during this season has needed adjustment.  I can only hope God covers this Italian Mamasita with much needed mercy.  At the same time, I have felt compelled to praise Him even when it hurts to breathe.  I have felt convicted to make sure that my actions match the whispers of prayer that I send up in the darkest moments.  The treasures have been those times when someone asked us how and why we were handling it all so ‘well’ (if they only knew what I looked like on the inside).  To God be the glory, to Him be all Praise, and may my sacrifices of praise bring Him pleasure.

Living ‘the’ Dream?

When I was young, I was unafraid to dream.  I loved horses and longed to ride off into the sunset on a warm midwestern day.  Somehow I successfully convinced my father that I NEEDED a horse in the worst possible way and I daydreamed from atop at 16 hand quarter horse about horses and boys. I dreamt of being a physician and was on a pre-med track in college until I met this really hot guy in a class and made a career swerve so that we could be married and find a balanced life together. (Yes he is worth it!)  I dreamed of studying dolphins and so I spent a summer on Cape Lookout, North Carolina doing just that.  Life seemed like an open, endless horizon that I could plant with ideas and endeavors.  From the vantage point of young adulthood I felt as though there would be no constraints on my ability to loop back if I felt I’d missed something that I regretted not doing.

I ended up working as an Environmental Scientist and Business Development Manager for a multi-state environmental services and permitting company.  My husband joined the Air Force and suddenly we were a dual income, no kids couple with time and resources to travel and enjoy life for a while.  I can’t say I spent much time examining my own longings, but that period in time was easy in ways that life now is not.

Somehow life and the trappings of responsibility crept upon me without me noticing.   I was behind the cart instead of in front and somehow I hadn’t noticed the shift.  I was left running behind my life, trying to keep up with it, and attempting to keep it all together.  I forgot about dreaming and focused on surviving.

Recently I was challenged by a sermon by a power couple in ministry together.  Lynette Lewis longed of being a wife and mother but never met her Mr. Right.  She became an Executive at the highest levels in business.  Her eventual husband Ron Lewis was a pastor with a seemingly solid 25 year marriage that fell apart.  God brought them together in a way that only he can.  Lynette dreamed of being a mother, it was the desire of her soul.  Fertility treatments, IVF, and loss followed so she grieved the loss of her dream.  And yet.  Somehow she felt that God was giving her a desire for twins.  Inexplicably her girlfriends would buy her bibs and gifts in sets for twins, but there were no babies.  Ron’s beloved son had been diagnosed with cancer and they were dealing with the grief and the struggle of chemo and and losing the battle.  On that same day, a Christmas Eve, the Lewis’ were notified that a woman wanted to give her twin baby girls to the Lewis’ to be adopted.  They were notified the day before the twins were born.

What strikes me about this is that amidst all of the grief and amidst all of the disappointment, God was still giving the Lewis’ dreams! They experienced failed IVF treatments and miscarriages and experienced the grief of that process.  They lost their son to cancer and their sorrow must have been unimaginable.  In the middle of all of this sadness and what seemed like hopelessness, God was still at work.  He gave Lynette a dream for twins, because he planned to fill her arms with two little girls who needed a mother and a father.  God still had a plan.

I’ve been struggling with a sense of despair and a sense of hopelessness.  It has occurred to me that I have, in fact, quit dreaming.  I’ve given up looking up and am instead plodding along staring at the problems that are immediately in front of me.  As I’ve been examining my heart and my life, I’ve realized that many of my early dreams were about me because I desperately wanted to prove myself-to me of all people.  Lately, I’ve felt an innate fear to dream.  What if I fail?  Somehow, it seems easier not to dream than to dream and fail and feel the sting of failure.  As I re-read that last sentence, I feel sad!  It’s certainly advice I would never give to my daughter.

Now I am realizing that in the midst of the season I am in, God is calling me to dream.  But God wants me to dream His dreams and I don’t know how or even where to start.  I do believe this conviction is from God and that scripture supports it.  Joel 2:28 says, “28“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

My prayer now is that God will open my eyes and my heart to the dreams He has for me.  I pray that He will give me the courage to dream big and not small.  I pray that He would lead and that I would obediently follow in His mighty footsteps.  I don’t want to leave this earth with love unspoken and missions unaccomplished.  I want to encourage you to look to God and ask what dreams He has for you too.