Category Archives: Hello Mornings

Even in the Middle of a Long, Dark Night

Praise and Worship

It has been relatively silent around these parts for a week now. My family and Dominic’s extended family went on a vacation. 10 days away from work was wonderful and while I learned some good lessons, and experienced God’s beauty in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I haven’t had the time to process and write all that I would like to. Hopefully I will make some time soon!

But for now I need to share a story with you.

One of the things that I learned this past week was that God is always making time for me. There is opportunities to see His beauty, feel His presence all around me if I am open to seeing and receiving it. And while He was faithful to me, I admittedly, didn’t take much time for Him this past week.

I had big plans of setting an early alarm and going for a walk by myself for quiet time and listening to that mornings Bible verses for my group study of Acts right now.  The reality was I was exhausted and needed mornings with no alarm. I slept most days 2 hrs longer than I usually do. And while the catch up was wonderful, as the week went on I could see the reflection of my missed time with God in my attitude and behavior.

Apparently the longer I spend NOT in prayer with God, or learning about Him the more self righteous and indignant I get. Ugh.

An argument with my husband and hurt words said at the end of the week was not how I wanted things to end, and honestly, I wasn’t too happy with God about it either (I’d rather blame anyone else then take responsibility for myself! ahem)….All that to say it is good to be back home and in my routine (well everything except the early morning exercise…that will come next week, I hope!)

Yesterday I was back at it though and we read Acts 16. Or in my case I listened to it on my Biblegateway app which is AWESOME. Seriously listening to the Word being read aloud has opened my ears to things I think I would have skimmed over if I had been reading it!

A lot happens in Acts 16. Paul and Silas meet, they want to go 1 direction but clearly feel the Spirit of Jesus stopping them so they follow His leading and go another way. (How awesome is that by the way?!)

They meet Lydia, who we are told is a woman of God and because of her faith her whole household is baptized. So encouraging for any woman who may be in a situation where the husband is not the spiritual leader of the home (a whole different blog post!)

And then they do some demon casting out and get arrested, charged, beaten with rods and thrown in prison.

Um, hello God!! What is this?!

But you know what Paul and Silas do?

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 

Yep, that’s right. In the midst of a trial – a real one…not just a silly argument with a spouse, but a big, yucky, knock you down trial, they are praising God. Singing to Him and the prisoners hear.

And then there is an earthquake, they are freed, they lead the jailer to Christ, baptize him and then his entire household rejoiced with the jailer that he was saved.

Even in the midst of a long, dark night they praised the Lord! (<====Click to Tweet) And because of their faithfulness some amazing things happen!

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I am on the worship team at church and one of the songs our leader chose for us this week is called Praise the Lord.

I love the song, because it is a reminder that we always need to be praising God because Jesus is Lord.

Tonight we were getting ready to start and our leader read us a devotional about Job. Another story of a man who lost everything. I mean EVERYTHING. His children, his servants, his livestock…all of it gone.

And what was Job’s response?

He stripped off his sack cloth, shaved his head and fell to his knees and praised the Lord.

I felt like once again this must be a lesson for me.

In ALL things, am I willing to praise the Lord? And if not – why?

As we got started the leaders phone rang, and she left the sanctuary for a few minutes. When she came back she was sobbing. She had just been given word that her grandma had passed away suddenly.

Here stood a woman, a friend, in a moment of amazing grief. She wanted to go on and practice but she wasn’t sure she could. I made some poor joke about getting naked and shaving our heads and praising God, which made her laugh a little and she said she wanted to go on and try and practice.

What I experienced next was so profound to me.

There she stood, praising God, the middle of her long, dark night. In the midst of her sadness, she sang.

It takes your breath away when you witness someone display such faith. I don’t know that she realized it but in those moments I saw Paul…I saw Job.

As she stood on that stage and sang, I imagined her grandma, now at the feet of Jesus in complete worship to the same God we were singing for as well.

When Karlena died a friend told me that she loved the idea that her last breath on earth was followed by her first sight of God….standing at His feet. I like that…the same God I praise when I sing will be the One I see on my return home.

It doesn’t make the grief and the pain of our losses any less, but it is comforting to know that the story never has to end here if we are one with Christ.

And while we are here, we have an opportunity to be an example. To praise God despite our circumstances, and how we feel. God is still God and we should Praise Him.

When it comes out easy, Praise the Lord….

Because in EVERY moment, Jesus Christ is Lord.

When it seems to hard, Praise the Lord…

Because in EVERY moment, Jesus Christ is Lord.

Her example tonight will stick with me. I want to be that example for others myself. To stand and worship, even when I don’t feel I have the strength. Because there is grace for today, so praise the Lord.

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Photo Credit: mort’n

For When You Don’t Have it All Together

I shared some of these thoughts with the “Simply Devoted” group that I am leading in the mornings. Thoughts from the verses in Ephesians we are studying in Hello Mornings.

I don’t know about you but this life can be hard at times.

I do get up early every morning and do a little reading, trying to get to know God more. It is more Bible reading and reflection than I have ever done. I feel like I pray throughout the day a lot and remember to thank God for the little things.

But even though I am going through the “christian motions” – I am human, and I still struggle. I get angry with my kids, I don’t respect my husband and I am sensitive and tend to overreact.

Part of me feels like if I were doing this christian walk “right” that maybe I wouldn’t struggle like this. But I believe strongly that I won’t ever attain “perfection” in this life time…no matter how much devotional time I have, or studies I try and lead.

Plain and simple – I don’t have it all together, I don’t have all the answers, I still sin in some way every day….

But God, in His infinite grace, knew this ahead of time, still chose to create me and provided a way “out”.

This week’s HM study of Ephesians hits home – these verses specifically…”4 But God, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, 5 united us with the Anointed One and infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace. 6 He raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with our beloved Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. 7 He did this for a reason: so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus the Anointed. 8-9 For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. 10 For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.”

He has a plan for each of us. Some of us WILL struggle with trying to get this life “right”. May I let you off the hook a little. You aren’t expected to have it all together. You don’t have to earn it – God’s grace saves us from ourselves each and every day. Don’t ever forget that!!

I am so very grateful for this gift of grace. So glad that I have the opportunity each day to start over and try again. Some days I do pretty good. Some days I might actually be a light. Other days I struggle and fail and am not the “example” of Christ that I would like to be.

But that is exactly why He came in the first place. For sinners like me.

This morning when I got up I just felt a weight on me. The reality that I am a constant hypocrite and mess up more than I would like to admit hurts my heart and can feel overwhelming.

And I read through Ephesians 2: 1-10 again, looking for ways to apply it to me. And I was struck again of the reality that I DON’T need to have it all figured out. And that is my testimony friends. That this God of mine loves me so so much that He chose me and lavishes His love on me, His riches even when I don’t deserve it.

I could feel the weight lifting….it isn’t a burden I should be carrying because God already did the work for us!!

This grace is the legacy He is leaving with me. It is my hearts cry to share this grace with you.  It is more amazing to me every time I think about how much He loves us. In spite of us.

Maybe you are trying really hard to be perfect too, maybe you lead a Bible study or participate in the HM challenge but feel like a fraud because when “life” hits your reactions would tell a different story.

I get it. I really do and I am there most days with you!

But God.

Don’t ever forget that friends – if that is the most you can utter out as you put your head down to sleep at night – But God. It is enough. He is enough.

Abundantly Free!

Broken Chains

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I have spent a large majority of my life in chains.

Bound by fear and doubt, concerns about how people saw me, plagued by the belief that I was never going to be good enough, that I would never measure up.

It is a miserable place to be and I know that God doesn’t want us to live this way.  Recently I started the Fall Hello Mornings challenge. We are studying the book of Ephesians. This week we have been reading Ephesians 1: 1-14.

Specifically we are looking each day at what truths, promises and commands we find in these verses.

Verses 7-10 stood out for me and I wanted to share it here with you! (The Message translation)

7-10 “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.”

Did you see that??  God doesn’t want us to live barely free He wants us to live Abundantly free!

And to do so we have to start letting go of the lies and start claiming the promises!!

LIE: “I will never measure up…never be good enough”

TRUTH: “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.”

LIE: “I don’t belong”

TRUTH: “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.”

LIE: “I don’t have a purpose, I am not valuable”

TRUTH: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”

Friends when the lies come, and believe me they will because the enemy wants nothing more than to bury you with them….start claiming the promises instead. Say them out loud if you have to! Praise God for the truths He set for us in His Word and live free!

Abundantly free!

What lie have you been believing and what truth are you going to claim today instead??

Run to Him

I have been slowly reading through the book of John with my Hello Mornings group this summer. I have loved this and have been learning so much about Jesus, His walk on earth and about His character.

I will be honest that I have struggled in the past reading the Bible on my own. I just find myself overwhelmed by it all and so as an excuse, stay away from really diving in and trying to understand it. This challenge has “forced” me (in a good way) to really study the verses and do my best to understand them.  Then we share our thoughts as a group and my understanding and insight grows.

It has been just what I needed in this season of my life.

The past few days we have looked at the death and resurrection of Lazarus. (John 11:1-44)  I have heard teachings on these verses before. One specifically was in the book “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith. I don’t have the book with me so can’t quote her words verbatim, but the imagery stuck with me…and I am going to share it with you, so keep reading! 🙂

As we read in John, Lazarus is sick – John 1-3 “A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”

This is a close friend of Jesus…and what is His response??

When Jesus got the message, he said, John 11: 4-7 “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

His close friend is dying, and He waits.

As someone who has lost a best friend, I know the anguish of hearing the end was near and wanting to get on the first plane possible to be there….and yet He waits.

He waits, not because He doesn’t care, but because He can see a bigger outcome – one where God will be glorified.

By the time Jesus arrives to the home of Lazarus he has been dead and buried for four days. Martha gets word that Jesus is finally coming and “Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him.”

Here is where the imagery comes in….as I remember Angie writing she said that Martha ran to Jesus. Can you see her? A woman in her long robes, picking up her skirts and running to Jesus.

Is she hurting? Absolutely, her brother has just died and her Savior didn’t show up in time to save him.

Is she angry? My guess would be yes! I would be!!

But what is her response?

She runs TO Jesus.

She does question Him – John 11:21-22 “Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

but see Jesus’ response….so beautiful.

John: 25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

Is she upset and hurt, maybe angry and confused – YES!!

But she believes…all along she has believed.

Then Martha goes to get Mary, see her response  – John 11: 28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Is she angry, upset, hurt? YES

But what is her response?

She runs TO Jesus.

As we all know this familiar story, we know the final outcome. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. God gets the glory.

But my takeaway from this study is the reactions of these beautiful women.

Of anyone, these are some of Jesus’ closest followers, they expected their brother would be saved because they had seen Jesus perform miracles. If for a stranger – of course for a close friend right?

And when things don’t go as they had planned they have a choice (don’t we all??!) and regardless of how they are feeling, they still choose to run to Jesus.

I wish I could say that my response was the same.

Unfortunately at times of great stress, I too get angry, I too question God – but instead of running TO Him – I run away. Convinced His love wasn’t available to me too. Choosing to remain in my bitterness and resentment of how things turned out, I shut out God in my life.

It isn’t pretty and it isn’t a place I ever want to remain long…if ever!

What I see from this example in John is how we can choose to respond.

Those situations of trials, death and loss and frustration WILL come. It is promised to us. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Instead of running away, let’s follow the examples of Mary and Martha…. and when those troubles come……RUN Run to Him. Don’t shut God out but press into Him, rely on Him for strength and trust in the promise that He has overcome the world.

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