Unexpected Worship

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Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. Psalm 100:3-4

This morning took an unexpected turn.

I am staying in a hotel room, awaiting a training workshop that will begin tomorrow.  I had the idea that I would watch a church service online, and I caught the tail end of one.  The next service would begin 45 minutes later.  While waiting, I decided to check my email.  I found several notifications of an artist’s blog that I recently started following when time permits, and so I happily clicked away.

I was not expecting to have church.  I was expecting to look at a few recent sketches or watercolor paintings.  What I found was a handful of photographs that drew me in, mostly of trees on a riverbank.

I have a fascination with trees.  I can’t name them, haven’t studied them, but they tend to capture my eye when the colors are extraordinary, and especially when the trunks and lower branches are shaped in an unusual way.

I studied the photographs, and then went on to view more of their work, and some of the pieces brought tears to my eyes.  They were breathtaking. I wondered aloud if the Lord looked at this work and felt the same way.  I marveled at the gifts He had given this husband and wife team.

Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You! Jeremiah 32:17

He has given the same gift to countless others.  They try to recreate what He created with the gifts that He has given them.  Does it bring Him joy to see the fruit of their labor, and His?

I looked around the hotel room.  It’s a beautiful room, and I am thankful to be here.  It was designed by man, but inspired by the creativity of God, whether the designer recognized it or not.

I looked out the window for the hundredth time at the autumn colored leaves (in December!), and saw God’s creative handiwork there, too.  I watched as the copper and golden-colored leaves glinted in the sunshine, and I don’t know how it is possible, but it looked like diamonds were placed amongst the leaves, glittering in the sun as a gentle breeze moved them.  It was breathtaking, watching the leaves dance before my eyes.  I wondered if anyone else noticed, or were they busily going about their day, as I normally would be?

For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

As I poured out my heart to the Lord, my thankfulness for the beauty that surrounds us and the gifts that He gives us could not be contained, and my thankfulness erupted into praise. How marvelous are His works!

I began to wonder what His thoughts were.  Does He look upon His creation in nature as beautiful, but then look at us, also His creation, as less than beautiful because trees don’t sin, but we do?

Immediately I knew in my spirit that He doesn’t see it that way at all.  He looks upon ALL of His creation as beautiful.  That brought me to tears all over again!  We so don’t deserve the love and forgiveness that He generously bestows.

We were created in His image, after all, and He is altogether lovely.  That great love is why He sent His Son, Jesus, Yeshua, to reconcile us to Himself – so that He can have a restored relationship with us.

He has placed gifts in all of us, and when we use them, His creativity is released, again and again.  He didn’t stop creating in the first chapter of Genesis, He is still creating.  Will we choose to be His instruments?

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

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The Finished Product

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139:15-16

Do you ever wish you could sneak a peek at God’s book?  All of our days were written in it.  Imagine that.  Before we were even born, He knew every encounter we’d have, every broken heart, every smile, and every tear.  He knew when we’d seek Him, and when we’d wander.

Do you get impatient to know what’s next, like I do?  Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m on hold, just waiting for something to happen, and I grow impatient.  I want things settled.  I want to know what my life is going to look like a year from now, and five years from now.  I don’t think I’m the only one.

We’re used to things happening quickly.  We live in a time of microwave meals and high-speed internet.  Instant gratification.  We want to see the finished product now.

We want to see the finished puzzle, not the scattered pieces strewn across the table.  We’re so impatient to get the pieces together, to bring an end to the seemingly chaotic mess in front of us.  I’m reminded of when I was a child, and I would try to force a puzzle piece to fit into a spot I was convinced the piece must go.  It only makes sense that the blue piece would fit with the other blue pieces, doesn’t it?  Surely it must fit!  Ah, but forcing pieces to go where they were never meant to go just doesn’t work.  It offers a temporary solution, but ultimately throws the whole puzzle off.  Sometimes it feels like we’re trying to put this puzzle together without even having the benefit of a box lid to guide us.

We want to see the finished tapestry, not the tangle of knots and threads that we see on the underside.  The tapestry, a beautiful blend of light and dark threads skillfully woven together to create a stunning piece of art, greatly multiplying the effect of the individual colors.  Certainly there are some colors I would never choose, and the placement doesn’t always seem to make sense, yet in those times when we are given just a glimpse of the beauty on the other side, we see how every color is necessary in order to create something of infinite more beauty than we could have thought up ourselves.  And those knots?  They are every bit as important, as they signal the start and finish of a new vision, a new work.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10

Our lives are not just random moments and seasons strung together over a lifetime, and thankfully, we’re not left here to figure it out alone.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

We have the Bible, the Word of God.  We also have a Helper, if we belong to Jesus.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.  John 14:26

It’s a pretty good deal, isn’t it?  We give Jesus our mistakes, intentional and unintentional, and He forgives us and gives us a new beginning.  We give Him our broken and disenchanted hearts, and He heals us and gives us a new heart.  We give Him our jobs, our finances, our families, our thoughts…everything that makes us US, and He transforms them into something useful for His purposes.  An upgrade for sure, though sometimes the process looks more like scattered pieces of a puzzle or tangled threads in a tapestry.

So why do we grow impatient with the process, or follow reluctantly?

Maybe we don’t really believe that God is as good as we’ve heard He is – as good as we want Him to be.

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?”  Ezekiel 18:25

When I fail to trust Him, aren’t I saying the same thing?

Maybe we think He’ll withhold good from us.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and honor; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  Psalm 84:11

Everything we have, EVERYTHING, is a gift from Him. From the air we breathe to the lungs in our body, from the colors of the sunrise and sunset to the eyes He has given us to see them.  Everything we see, touch, hear, taste and smell is a gift, along with the ability to experience and enjoy those things.

Maybe we think we can do a better job of molding us than He can.

Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:20

I know I have felt that at times, wondering why some areas, whether in personality, mental aptitude, interests or physical body, seemed to be lacking or overabundant.  It is a true statement that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The very areas that I saw as too little or too much are the very things that have drawn those who are closest and dearest to me.  But even if that weren’t the case, HE is pleased with His work, and ultimately that is all that matters.

Maybe we feel alone, and don’t really believe that He cares and is with us.

You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5

And yet, the Lord keeps pursuing us.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He knows our struggles and He knows our victories, and He wants us to know that He is with us.  We are not alone, no matter how it feels or what it looks like.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. Psalm 139:1-4

If I settle myself long enough to really talk to the Lord about my circumstances, invariably He wins my heart over, and I concede that His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  He is good, and kind, and loving, and wants His very best for me.  I find that the waiting process becomes easier when I think more about who He is than what He’s doing or not doing.

If you are struggling with this today, I pray that you’ll talk to Him about it.  Whatever it is, give it to Him, and let Him give you His peace.  Another great trade – our anxiousness for His peace.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

You are so loved.