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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Reach

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Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash

This originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as part of a writing challenge I participated in to stretch my writing:  Five Minute Friday’s 31 DAYS OF FIVE MINUTE FREE WRITES. This is spontaneous writing in only 5 minutes. The word for the day was “Reach.”

“Your lovingkindness, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 36:5

I will never forget a picture that I saw once that portrayed Jesus reaching one of His hands down to retrieve a lamb who had wandered off and gotten stuck in in a tangle of branches. The picture spoke volumes to me about how we have a tendency to do the same, and how He is still reaching out to rescue us.

The Bible says that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray. At times we might not even notice, as we take one step here, another step there, away from the path we know has been laid out for us. Before long, we look around at our surroundings and wonder how we ever got that far away from where we were supposed to be. I’ve been there, and chances are you have, too. It’s part and parcel of the sinful nature we were born with.

We don’t have to stay lost, though. The Savior will always come for us, seeking us and finding us, if we are willing to be found.

The sheep can choose to continually wander, but away from the Shepherd he is in a lonely, vulnerable place, an easy target, and so are we.

If this is you, cry out to Him. He will hear your cry and come to your rescue. He can reach you, wherever you are. You are so precious to Him.

“My eyes are always on the LORD, for He will free my feet from the net.” Psalm 25:15

Focus

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Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 16:8

I was in my bedroom one afternoon, looking out at the backyard through the sliding glass doors.  The doors have old, cracked, and peeling window tint to help keep out the heat from the hot Florida sun.  The sun beats down on this second story room for most of the day, and the window tint helps significantly.

I watched the branches of the tall palm trees in the backyard as they swayed with the breeze.  It was so beautiful, and so peaceful.  After awhile I began talking with the Lord, thanking Him for His provision and the many blessings in my life.  Soon I began pouring my heart out to Him about the challenges I was facing. This was such a difficult season of my life.  It’s hard to admit, but at times I even questioned whether I would make it through.

As I continued gazing at the branches, the Lord opened my eyes to something right in front of me that had somehow gone unnoticed.  He showed me that when I focused on the peeling window tint, the beautiful palm trees faded into the background, just a blur, and barely noticeable.  When I focused on the palm trees, the cracked window tint faded and I saw the splendor and magnificence of the stately palms.

His lesson that day?  What we focus on can completely change our perspective.

So what are we focusing on?  And Whom are we focusing on?

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:8

My mother is an amazing woman.  When she turned 50 years old, this quiet homemaker decided that she was no longer content riding on the back of my father’s motorcycle, so she enrolled herself in a motorcycle course and learned how to drive one herself.  After successfully passing the course, my father rewarded her with a Harley Davidson motorcycle of her own.  We were all so proud of her!

During the course, one of the points the instructor kept drilling into his students was WYLIWYG – Where You Look Is Where You Go.  He reminded them to keep their eyes on the road ahead, and not be distracted by the things around them.  After a few mishaps, they learned the lesson well.

That lesson is for us who are Christ followers as well.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Yet the problems of life loom large at times, blocking our view of everything else.  We lose sleep, we lose our peace, and the problem in front of us seems to grow bigger with each passing day.  We know the Lord could step in and fix it, remove it at any time, and we question His goodness in letting it remain.

What if we were able to see past the problem, and focus on the presence of God instead?  And what if we stopped worrying about the worst that could happen and instead focused on His promises?  His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  His promise to never give us more than we can bear.  His promise to provide what He knows we need to eat, drink and wear.  His promise to work all things together for our good.  God is not a man, that He should lie, and He can be trusted.  He truly can.  He is faithful, day in, day out, and always, always keeps His promises.

Abram believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

None of our lives are perfect.  We are all works in progress, and the process is messy at times!  Sometimes things in our lives may look pretty rough – cracked and peeling even, but that can’t be our focus.  We can and should do some clean up work, but the Lord helps us with it.  He instructs us what to do and how to do it, and brings along the tools to complete the 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

Lord, remind us, over and over if necessary, that You are our ever present help in times of trouble, and that You are with us always.  When we have a tendency to look at what is wrong, or broken, remind us that You are a miracle working God with a master plan, and that You are working in the background and will bring deliverance at just the right moment. Help us to trust You even when it looks hopeless, because with You, there is always hope.  Help us to look beyond the cracks and see the beauty in our lives.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14