31 Days of Praise {Day 2}: What is Praise?

In order to move forward with our 31 Days of Praise series, I’m going to heed some advice from one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Sound of Music”.

When Maria is asked, “But how do we sing?” by one of the children, she very simply states,

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.


I firmly believe it’s important to establish both what praise IS and what it is NOT. Please understand up front that my goal is to encourage you in your daily walk. I believe that the Bible is the final authority and do my best to search and prove the Scriptures. My desire is not to debate, but to use this series as a means to challenge you to have a closer walk with the Lord in the coming year. If you study what the Bible has to say on the subject of praise and come to a different conclusion than what is offered here, then it’s still been profitable and we have both learned something. I welcome your questions and comments and covet your prayers on this topic.

What Praise is NOT:

  • Praise is not about how you feel — if it were about your feelings, it would be  emotionalism — and that’s more about putting on a show than worshiping in spirit and truth. Our earthly flesh wants to be a good steward so we can say, “Look what I did for God.” and feel good about ourselves.
  • Praise is not a discipline or “work” you can do — that is something akin to “will worship” — i.e., “I prayed for 2 hours today – I’m so spiritual and I love God so much.” That is more about self than about God when you get right down to it.
  • Praise is not something you just do at a location — or at an event, or even at church. It’s not just an external manifestation of ‘going through the motions’ – there’s no specific place you must go to offer your praise to God.

What Praise IS:

  • Praise is an intelligent, purposeful act that requires recognition. That simply means that we must do it with intention because our Heavenly Father deserves our praise — after all, he created us for the specific purpose of glorifying Him.
  • Praise is offered for who God is — His character and being. He is the great I AM, the Alpha and the Omega, the mighty Creator and He alone is worthy of our praise.
  • Praise comes from a sincere heart full of love for God — our affections are set on Jesus and the perfect works He has completed in us. We are to worship and praise in ‘spirit and in truth’ — Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no man can come to God the Father but by Jesus.

Is it always easy to praise God? How about when you lose your job? What about the loss of a loved one? Can you still find a way to praise Him when He allows pain and suffering to enter your life? Are you able to find it within yourself to offer a sacrifice of praise when it feels like God isn’t even listening to your prayers?

If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, then my earnest petition is that you’ll continue with me in this series. As a preacher’s wife, I’ve experienced first hand every single one of the scenarios above, and then some. Listen, I know that none of us have it easy in this fallen world, but we should all be willing and able to recognize God’s providential hand in our lives and offer our praise daily to Him just for saving us, if nothing else!

I love what Amy Bayliss said:

We want to declare that 2011 will be a year for Him and His purposes.

Visit other participants:

Amy Bayliss {Cajun Inspired} : 31 Days of Heart Matters
{A Martha Heart} : 31 Days of Prayer
Karin {Mommy Matters} : 31 Days of Intentional Parenting
Jenny {867-53oh9} : 31 Days of Social Media
Dawn {My Home Sweet Home} : 31 Days of Encouragement
Lisa Boyd : 31 Days of WordPress

*Links to all posts on this subject can be found here.

31 Days of Online Ministry – Praise Edition Welcome

I love a clean slate, which is why I love the New Year so much. It’s an opportunity to do better than I did last year, a fresh start for tackling the projects on my to-do list that I didn’t quite get around to before, to change bad attitudes and habits, and to try new things.

If you’ve been blogging or reading blogs for any length of time, you’ve heard of the wildly successful 31 Days series that The Nester hosted back in October of last year. It was based on Darren Rouse’s “31 Days to Building a Better Blog” series, which originally ran in 2005.  For the month of January, I’ll be participating in a different type of 31 Days series hosted by A Woman Inspired, called “31 Days of Online Ministry“.

My topic is “31 Days of Praise”, and my heart’s desire is to be an encouragement to others by offering up a daily sacrifice of praise for the next 30 days. The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3) — meaning He dwells in the atmosphere of that praise. I don’t know about you, but I love the sound of God inhabiting the praise I offer up to Him. Please be in prayer for the other ladies participating – pray that God would touch hearts and help us to make 2011 the year we submit our wills to Him and give ourselves to His perfect purpose.

Visit other participants:

Amy Bayliss {Cajun Inspired} : 31 Days of Heart Matters

{A Martha Heart} : 31 Days of Prayer

Karin {Mommy Matters} : 31 Days of Intentional Parenting

Jenny {867-53oh9} : 31 Days of Social Media

Dawn {My Home Sweet Home} : 31 Days of Encouragement

Lisa Boyd : 31 Days of WordPress

*Links to all posts on this subject can be found here.

Change is hard

Fall is here and we are in our fourth week of homeschooling. Wishing I could say it’s been an easy transition from summer, but the truth of the matter is – it has not.

Some of the things we have learned:

  1. 3rd grade math is much more difficult than 2nd grade math.
  2. When the curriculum states you must do a book report, guess what? You must actually read the book first.
  3. Rambling sentences with lots of dashes and ampersands do not a story make.

Something just feels a bit off this year for me. Perhaps it is in part because of the hectic and emotional summer we just came through. Or maybe it is because I am getting old.  It could just be that my heart is not in the right place…I seem to be too focused on myself and how I feel lately…what I need versus what I can and should be doing for those around me who are hurting.

I am always joking that “I don’t have time to fall apart, there are too many people depending on me”. But honestly? I think I long for solitude more than anything right now. The ability to get away from everyone and everything and just be with God. I don’t have that luxury for a while, however – we are about to uproot our family and move in with my mom in order to take care of her while she rehabilitates from her latest injury (she recently fell and crushed her knee – consequently had knee surgery and is in rehab for another week or so).

While I consider it a true privilege and blessing to be able to minister to my mom, there is a small part of me that wants to cry out, “When is it MY turn? When do I get to rest?”

I am moody and irritable, easily “set off” by small things that shouldn’t affect me in this way. I am at what feels a bit like an impasse  – wedged firmly in between wanting to minister to those around me and a continual desire to just be left alone by everyone. Makes so much sense, I know.

It’s an odd place I find myself. I am certain I am not being a very willing vessel for the Lord of late.

I have been reading in the Psalms for my early morning quiet time  and this morning came across the familiar verse from Psalm 141:3 – “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”.  Like gentle hug from God, this verse really spoke to me this morning. We must quiet our own hearts and mouths if we are to be able to listen to the voice of God.

Even though I may feel discouraged, overwhelmed and stressed out, it is important that I remember that God is more than able to see me through it. I must not allow my feelings to dictate how I respond to my husband or my children. I pray that one day, change will be easier. Right now, it is just so hard.

Goodbyes and Hellos – Final (I promise)

Just joining me? If you hate joining in the middle, I encourage you to read the first two installments:
(read Part 1)
(read Part 2)

Before I continue with the final installment of my story, I’d like to point out two things:

  1. I am not bashing the SBC…I was saved in an SBC church and I know many fine folks who attend SBC churches. Not all SBC churches are the same, however.
  2. Along the same vein, keep in mind that not all IFB churches are the same, either. There seems to be a stigma attached if you are “fundamental” in your beliefs – it means you’re really “old-fashioned” and don’t listen to the most current “worship” music and wear long skirts and your hair in a bun. Don’t believe everything you read or hear about the IFB, either.

If you have been a reader of my blog for ANY length of time (today marks my 3 year blogiversary), you know that I try to look on the bright side of things…keeping a positive perspective on life has always been part of my makeup. My mama used to tell me that ‘if you can’t look on the bright side, then at least polish the dull side’, hence my tag line. I doubt seriously that she made it up, but it has been a phrase that I have repeated to my own children when times get tough.

Our move to our new church was most definitely orchestrated by God. We may not always understand the “why’s” or the timing of things, but thankfully, that’s not our job. Our job is to step out in faith and put our trust in Him and believe that He’s really working all things together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.

So I mentioned that we would soon discover why we were called to this church in my last post, and the few of you that read (and yay! there’s more than two!) have been so patient, today I’ll tell you why and what has happened. I’ll try to keep it to the Reader’s Digest condensed version, although I don’t make any promises.

Two months after we joined our new SBC church, a dam broke. I don’t know how long it had been cracked, but apparently, someone had been holding their finger in the crack for a while and evidently became too tired to hold it back any longer and let go. There was a skerfuffle within the Deacon’s meeting wherein our Asst Pastor (who was over the youth) resigned, along with his wife (who was our choir director and pianist). They didn’t want it this way, but it’s how it turned out. I’ll not go into details, because the details of this aren’t important.

What is important is that when our Asst Pastor left, there was an amazing amount of confusion and hurt, and a good amount of anger and frustration that had been churning in the waters that also spilled forth when the dam broke. There was another Deacon’s meeting…and eight Deacons resigned their posts because of the situation.

Now, with those eight Deacons, came eight families. Young families. Families with children that were faithful to the church and worked in the church weekly. Teens, juniors and elementary…you name it. Our church lost Awana workers, children’s church workers, teen workers, an entire Sunday School class was obliterated, several more Sunday School classes lost teachers…all in all, it was a big old ugly mess. I was having a hard time looking on the bright side, to be honest.

For the first time, I began to realize that we weren’t here for the long haul. God had moved us specifically to help the church in any way we could through this tough transition. From music to children’s ministries, we served in any capacity we could. I became the new Awana commander and my husband became the new Youth leader. We were so grateful for the “core” of folks that remained faithful to their duties in the church and were so supportive of us as we took on new responsibilities.

How did I know we weren’t there for the long haul, you might ask? I can’t describe it. I just knew. God had orchestrated our move and timed things perfectly so we’d be in the right place at the right time…and just as we’d felt the gentle “nudge” to move there originally, as the Awana year was wrapping up, we felt the “not-so-gentle” nudge that we were to head back to our old church.

Let me explain. Many church pastors today “teach” instead of “preach” from the pulpit. Nothing wrong with teaching…in fact, I LOVE teaching. But in addition to teaching, you have to have honest-to-goodness-old-fashioned-hellfire-and-brimstone preaching to go alongside the teaching. No sense in teaching a bunch of lost folks if they never receive Jesus, is there? You can’t preach “feel-good” messages all the time, or folks won’t understand their need for salvation and a Savior. I mean…personally, I think Joel Osteen is making the world a better place to go to hell from. You think that’s ugly? Well, yes. I suppose it is. But I don’t agree with his doctrine and it’s my blog and I have the right to say that. 🙂

My husband is a wise and discerning man. He preaches with conviction, and might even raise his voice a time or two. Many of the folks from our SBC church told us that they had heard a lot of teaching from behind their pulpit, but that after hearing my husband, it was the first time they had been “preached to” in many, many years. They loved it. They wanted more of it…we wanted to give them more of it. But it wasn’t happening.

For whatever reason, the door to preaching at our church, as well as any of the other SBC churches my husband had submitted his resume to, was closed. There were no offers. The only offers to preach we were receiving were back in the IFB — and they were weary of the fact that we were serving in an SBC church. So we had a choice to make. The answer was obvious, but it didn’t make it any easier.

I still don’t understand why so many churches today won’t hold up the Bible as the infallible Word of God. There are people all over our nation that are HUNGRY for what God has to say, but have no one willing to stand up and say the hard things. We want to sugar-coat the truth and make God’s Word easier to swallow so people will keep “paying their tithes” and we can keep the church doors open. Our experiences at the SBC church opened our eyes to what is happening all across America…not just in the SBC, but in every denomination.

I’ve never been a pastor’s wife…I don’t know the day to day pressures that a pastor faces, but I know they must be great. I appreciate men who are willing to stand up and preach the Word of God from the pulpit with conviction and are still seeing souls saved for Jesus. I applaud the men of faith who believe that you don’t have to have a congregation of thousands to be “successful”.

So we’re heading back to our old church this weekend. Excited, renewed, filled with hope.

Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. “

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Goodbyes and Hellos Part Two of Who Knows How Many

So yesterday, I posed the question “Why in the world did we feel the need to leave our Independent Baptist church 9 months ago and move to a Southern Baptist Church?”

I think the two of us have pondered that question more than once over the last 9-1/2 months, which, incidentally, is the gestation period for a human mama when she is pregnant (more on that later).

My husband is a preacher. Not a pastor, but a preacher. What is the difference? A church home in which to pastor, I suppose. While we were content where we were at, we felt the not-so-gentle pulling in a new and different direction for God. We were in a state of contented “discontent” and felt the Lord leading us to find a new church in which to serve. There isn’t one particular incident that stands out in my mind where we said, “Oh…that’s it. The final straw. We’re leaving.” We told no one that we were “looking”, as is often the case. We just began to look for another place to serve. It felt really weird.

It was a little like having an affair, to be honest. I felt like we were “cheating” on our current church when there was nothing really all that horribly wrong…yet here we were searching for another church because we felt that was what we were supposed to do. Can anyone else identify with this? Why did we feel so guilty about doign something we felt God was leading us to do? We finally settled on an SBC church that was mostly full of older people (probably 75%) and had a few young families, as well as an Awana program and youth activities.

So…my husband and I interviewed the prospective Pastor to see if he believed what we did and all seemed to be in order – we felt this was really where God was leading us…felt really good about it. We decided to join the church, but before we could do that, we needed to tell our current Pastor what was going on. And so we went back to our IFB church and told our pastor we were leaving.

He was shocked to say the least, because we had given absolutely no warning…we weren’t missing excessive amounts of church, we were still tithing and being faithful to our church duties, so he asked if it was anything he had done. To which we had to reply “No, Pastor. It’s not you…it’s us.” Sounds like a really terrible break up line, doesn’t it? Honestly…it felt cheesy and we felt terrible for not giving him more information. But how do you tell your IFB Pastor you’re leaving him for a more liberal SBC Pastor?

So…we left the following week for our new church. We were put to work immediately in Awana, Choir, as Children’s Church workers — our eldest daughter was asked to be in the children’s choir and my husband was doing supply preaching for the Pastor in his absence. Our kids were caught up in the Awana program and for the first time, experienced what it was like to have structured Church-sponsored game time with Bible lessons and handbook time. They loved it – made new friends and were excited about the possibility of what was to come. We were just as busy in our new church as we had been in our old church.

But things were about to change, and we would soon discover why were were “called” there by the Lord…(to be continued…)

**Read the Final Installment Here**

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