Within the same hour, I received news that a co-worker gave birth to a long-awaited baby, a friend had lost a nephew in a car accident, and an amazing couple may have a chance to adopt. On this earth, there is a realm of possibilities. Within that realm, we are free to chase our dreams and experience so much happiness at times, we’re not sure we can stand it. Also within that realm we are allowed to experience pain and gut-wrenching hurt, so much so that life suddenly feels different. We witness death, we see abandonment in a child’s eyes, we hug a woman who just lost her son. Our life is instantly altered, whether we acknowledge it or avoid it. We attempt to place ourselves in different shoes while thanking God and all that’s holy that we don’t have to.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)states we are to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. “All circumstances?” This seems so easy on days when we are cherishing life because of a newborn, but what about those days when a mother stands next to her once newborn’s casket? The feeling and questions of whether she can make it through this come from the very depths of her soul, the realm that only God understands because no one else can go that deep within us. That hurt is indescribable and too gruesome to speak. Our worst fears realized on a day that was completely “normal.” That’s within the realm of possibilities too. God knows that realm and that pain. He cares about us, whether we find it easy to throw up our hands in praise or to our heads in sheer angst. He’s there as we walk this realm out, knowing the perfect time to reveal the new one. There’s a realm that He created that looks absolutely nothing like this. There’s no tears, no pain, no angst, no gut-wrenching hurt that appears like it will continue through to oblivion. This isn’t the realm He had planned for us. He promised to walk with us while we’re in it though. And if that doesn’t mean much to you and you can write it off as unimportant, I believe with all my heart, soul, and being that God is going to become very real to you very soon.
Whether your heart is full of hope or hurt right now, I pray that you remember that the realm of possibilities is a vast one and there are opportunities for growth on both ends of the spectrum.
One of the definitions of “sacrifice” is : “An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” As I was reading in Hebrews one day, the phrase “sacrifice of praise” got me to thinking. The NIV states that “through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Praise is defined as an “expression of approval and admiration for someone or something.”
I thought about how Jesus sacrificed for us and found it strange to think that us giving thanks could even be considered in the same category of “sacrifice.” After all, He died for us, but clapping my hands on Sunday morning doesn’t seem remotely close to “returning the favor.” We don’t have to, I’m just letting you in on where my mind went.
When I was younger, I remember reading a story about a girl who had everything. She was the stereotypical “rich kid” if there is such a thing, and she wanted for nothing. She didn’t even have to ask for most material things, they seemed to appear out of thin air in her huge bedroom. Then one day, her father, a prominent businessman of some sort, was let go from his illustrious company. The young girl didn’t know how to act. After all, she wasn’t prepared to live this kind of life. Her father sadly let her know, “We must all be prepared to make sacrifices.” She had never had to do this before and wasn’t even sure how.
I think emotionally many of us are like that young girl–unprepared to make sacrifices the way we need to. We’ve grown accustomed to living the way we currently do. To “give up something valued” makes us uncomfortable and maybe a little itchy. We crinkle our noses and think, “What? No surely that’s not what I’m supposed to do.” Do we even know how to make sacrifices? “A sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Is that important to you? Is He worthy in your life to receive such honor? Of course, we all nod and think, “Oh yes Lord! Yes you are!” But with that statement comes action. What is taking His place on the throne of worthiness? Can you, will you, replace it for the One Who created you? There will come a day when we stand before Him. What is so important in this world that we would be willing to defend it on that day?
Time passes quickly and it doesn’t require our approval to do so. It is limited. We can never get it back. Are we making the best use of it?
So the radio in our truck died. After telling my brother, he says, “Who listens to the radio anymore??” I raise a hand, wondering if anyone did indeed listen to the radio anymore. I can’t imagine life without the radio. Christian radio builds me up. The songs have Jesus’ words in there and I can’t get enough of ’em. Some days, they keep me from going off the proverbial edge. And I don’t want to choose every song I listen to like you do with an iPod. I want someone else to give me some variety in my life…it’s spicy I hear. Nonetheless, this epiphany doesn’t change the frown-causing fact that my radio is broken.
Since this dreadful day, I have found myself, not only creating new songs, but utilizing beats that “naturally” occur within the vehicle. For instance, I am guilty of failing to get my seatbelt on within the allotted amount of time before the “dinger” starts “dinging.” I do this simply so I can hear it, whereby getting a good beat going. I have always wondered why some people enjoy songs where the same thing is sang repeatedly and I think I now get it. It’s so I can get it! (A multiple-epiphany day! Hooray!) When we repeat things over and over in our heads, (i.e. “meditate”–don’t be scared of that word. It doesn’t require yoga pants. Although I find these to be a refreshing addition.)
God said He wanted to hear a new song and I’m taking Him at His Word. I have been virtually forced to entertain myself (did I mention the Bluetooth is on the fritz too? sigh…) and have sang myself giggly and joyful. God has to be laughin'(at me or with me, I’m not sure) as I come up with my own lyrics to some old favorites. It has also never been so obvious that I don’t know as many lyrics as I thought. “I’ve got the wonder-washing precious blood of Jesus, down in my heart…” I’m thoroughly convinced that is NOT how that one from Bible school went. Or try a nice marching beat, sometimes provided by the bumps in the road: “Jesus loves me, yes He does, Jesus loves me, just because.”
Anyway, turn off the radio (or iPod, or CD, or whatever) check in with your Creator, put a new song in your heart, and make up some lyrics today. I pray you’re blessed with giggles and a case of the sillies.
How do you take the compassion you felt and turn it into a message to relay to people who weren’t there? For the people who didn’t get to go…for those who are scared, physically unable, financially incapable…what are we supposed to say? How is it that we can convey that we saw the power of God Himself…not felt a chill, not prayed a prayer then knew an answer, FELT, HEARD, SAW, TASTED, BECAME ENVELOPED IN the POWER OF GOD. He was not only there, but He inhabited the praises of His people just like He said He would. He loved His people just like He said He was going to. He healed them, just like He used to, in the olden days! He showed His abilities after we asked, JUST like His Word said!!! How exciting!! How do we convey THAT message to anyone who didn’t experience it? To those who believe? To those who don’t believe? I think it’s equally difficult, no matter what group you’re speaking to.
I saw people healed of deafness, bad shoulders, bum knees, blindness, addictions…People who weren’t sure of where they were supposed to go, what they should do, how they should pray, who they should turn to…Answers were given; but only after we asked for them. Some like to be in that valley. After all, what would we do without our drama? We sought God’s face and His healing hand. And the rest of the story is WE FOUND IT. He showed up!!!! How do you come down from a high like that? The truth? Easily. It’s so easy to come back to the humdrum…the laundry, the dishes, pass by the man on the street begging for a dollar, the woman with car trouble. I find myself continually reminding myself to ask God to show His face again. After you’ve experienced that once, it’s a new addiction. You want more. I truly believe that’s part of God’s amazing plan—to show people what He can truly do…to revive them, to revive the fire, to fan the flames so that they reach not only the person next to you, but spread from anyone who speaks to you, then to each and every person who speaks to them, a chain of fire!
1 Chronicles 16:9—Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him, talk ye of all His wondrous works.