My favorite way to pray is through song. For some reason, the combination of music and lyrics often brings me to the verge of tears as the words seem to flutter into my soul.
One such tearjerker is by Dan Schutte. ‘Here I am, Lord’ has been a favorite since childhood.
Over the past several years as I’ve been trying to discern God’s will, this song has even more significance for me.
Will we say, “Here I am, Lord”? When He calls, will we say “Yes”?
Most of us aren’t ministers, theologians, or missionaries. Most of us will serve God in ordinary and everyday ways.
Sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough for me, I want to have a ‘bigger’ purpose, but until I understand what that might be, I will be the hands of God as best I can, in my ordinary life.
How do we fulfill God’s will by serving people in our daily life?
I wish God used a megaphone. I can barely hear Him whispering.
I want to hear His personalized message for living my life, like a heavenly life coach. I try to wait for His timing and listen to His guidance, but it never feels like enough. I want to know more. To hear more. To understand His will for me.
I finally realized that He does use a megaphone. He spoke to the prophets and through His apostles and we have His message in black and white. The bible is God speaking to us, timelessly. Loudly. With a megaphone.
Jesus boiled it all down into a message that our human minds can understand.
And now these three1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
remain:faith, hope andlove. But the greatest of these is love.
That’s pretty straightforward, right?
So, our mission is one tiny verb of gigantic impact.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.John 13:34 (NIV)
It sounds very simple, but is it really?
Of course we love our family members and our friends. Those are generally the easy people to love, but do we truly ACT loving?
How often do we speak harshly and impatiently to those we love?
How often do we help one another without being asked?
How often do we spend quality time, really getting to know each other?
How attentive to our loved ones needs are we?
How often do we make our loved ones a priority?
How often do we judge and hold grudges?
Sometimes we fall short, even with our loved ones. I know I do. If we think that this is God’s number one plan for us, most of us could probably do better.
Have patience if you want a higher purpose and haven’t discovered it yet. God’s plan is perfect, so trust in that. You’ll know when He’s asking for more. Let Him lead you. In the meantime, serve Him by loving until He asks for more.
Before we start wondering whether we’re being called to become a missionary in Uganda, focus on serving Him by loving those around us.
My own reflection led to an opportunity for me to show more love to my loved ones. My sister’s faced with a husband falling into the abyss of Alzheimer’s. I feel terribly for her and pray for them, but is it enough? I don’t live locally so I can’t support her in a physical way, and she’s so busy between work and caring for husband, that I haven’t found a way to stay in touch and let her know I care.
But I’ve let those excuses get in the way. I’ve let the difficultly of the situation defeat me from supporting my sister. But the excuses I’ve given myself are really a cop out. Couldn’t an email or text saying I’m thinking about you and praying for you or Let me know if you need to talk be easy ways to reach out?
There are many simple ways to show more love to our loved ones. How could you do more?
Jesus made that very clear also:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
How are we showing kindness and compassion? How are we helping those in need?
We have endless opportunities to help people within our neighborhood and all over the world.
Help doesn’t always have to be financial. Help can be cooking a meal for a family with a sick member, or taking an elderly neighbor to her doctor appointment, bringing used funeral flower arrangements to a children’s hospital, or donating your used clothes.
Look outside yourself and you’ll see life brimming with opportunities to serve the Lord by caring for others.
If you can make a financial contribution, donate to reputable organizations and causes you know are legitimate. A guide you can use in regards to organizational donations is charitynavigator.org. The site rates sizable charitable organizations by the percentage of donations that are used for the cause rather than lining pockets of administrators. The sad reality is that not all organizations and charities are legitimate or handle finances well, so be prudent in your choices.
In all cases, pray.
Pray for discernment to hear and follow God’s plan for you.
Pray for those who are struggling and suffering.
Pray for those who need to find Jesus the most.
Pray for the souls of the departed.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:35 (NIV)
Be an example of Jesus’ love for us by loving one another. Yes, the ones who’ve wronged us, the ones who don’t look like us, the ones with different religious beliefs, and the ones who push our love away.
Love even when it’s hard.
Remember that Jesus expressed love for his tormentors while they were crucifying H
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34 (NIV)
Your way to serve the Lord is to follow the example of Jesus and LOVE. When you pray, “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?” His answer is always, Yes. Love one another as I have loved you and you will never go wrong.
Let me know in the comments!
As a Catholic who’s been sickened by the atrocities against children within my church, I’ve struggled with where the scandal leaves me as a life-long Catholic. It’s time to call my church to task, as I believe Jesus would ask me to do.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re Catholic or not…
Dear Catholic Church,
I’m eternally grateful that, with the help of my family, you introduced me to God and cemented an unshakable belief in our heavenly Father, Jesus His son, and everlasting life.
My favorite part of Mass has always been the music that fills my soul as if I’m singing among a choir of heavenly angels. The Bible readings feed my faith and the sermons shape goals for my life. Within your walls, I felt safety and security and a sense of family and belonging, similar to how I felt during Sunday dinners at my Grandmother’s house. Within your walls, my heart was home.
And then stories about sexual abuse of children started popping up. My experience working at the church rectory as a teenager and what I witnessed within my childhood youth group told me with unquestionable certainty that the stories were true.
Then people said anyone who turns away from the church is a traitor. They said not to let the sins of a few bad priests shake your faith in the many good people. They said the sacraments were holy and independent of the fallible humans performing them. They said not to give up. To pray for the priests. To pray for the Church. They said my donations weren’t being used for legal fees to protect pedophiles. They said a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way.
I’ve spent the past several years in an internal struggle that I equate to dysfunction within a family, since the Catholic Church and its “Fathers” have been my extended family for decades. So, if my earthly father rapes me, should I be expected to maintain a relationship with him? If my earthly father doesn’t rape me, but rapes my siblings or my friends, should I defend him? Should I maintain a relationship with him just because he never raped me? If my mother knows that my father is raping me and does nothing to protect me, is she innocent? If she never reports my abuse and he moves in with another unsuspecting family and does the same thing to those children, does my mother bear no responsibility?
Because I was never abused by a priest, can I just turn the other way? What about my childhood friend who was abused by a Brother? Does my complacency minimize the pain he suffered?
It’s only a handful of bad apples, they say. No, not really. If statistically it’s 6% of priests who’ve abused children, yes, that’s not a huge percentage, but it equates to a large number of priests. And when priests are moved from one parish to another for their “indiscretions”, putting them directly in the path of more unsuspecting and trusting families, how can the pastors, bishops, and cardinals who are well aware of the rigged system not be held accountable? How can someone shun me as a traitor if I want justice served and the nightmare to end? Why am I the bad guy if I want a light shone in the dark corners of this horror show? Why aren’t we all screaming for justice?
Being Catholic today is a little like an addictive drug. It’s hard to break free from the lifelong association, from the organization that brought me the best part of life itself – faith in a loving God. It feels like having a doting earthly father who treated me to fun family vacations and showered me with love and attention, yet raped my brother.
Does 6% evil count as pure evil? If my brother seems to have gotten on with his life, does that mean I can turn a blind eye to the abuse?
People say, “Don’t let the sins of the church break your faith.” Rest assured, NOTHING can break my faith. My faith is not based on the Catholic Church or any church. My faith is in a loving and fair God. One who asks me to love above all else.
I love you, Catholic Church, but I cannot condone the actions of the sexual predators you have cultivated and protected for so many years. For the love of my brothers and sisters, I must speak out against your sins against them. I cannot be a complacent sister, shoving all the dirty laundry into a closet, just because it didn’t happen to me.
When your pedophiles start going to jail for their actions, I might begin to trust you again. When those responsible for shuffling the perpetrators from assignment to assignment are finally held to task, you might gain back a bit of my respect.
In the meantime, I come to your house to let your beautiful music lift my soul, to hear the words of Jesus, and to share a dedicated time of prayer with my parish community.
You have broken my heart and shredded my trust in you. The only thing that might repair it is if you finally choose to do the right thing for your people, and I pray you will.
Your conflicted daughter
Ever since I was a young girl listening to scripture in church on Sundays, I always found the parables the most interesting. I was surprised by how often I came to the ‘wrong’ conclusion.
My most notable disagreement was with the prodigal son. I became frustrated each time I heard that parable. I associated with the good son, the one trying to do right, who worked
So it irked me when the disrespecting rebel breezed back into town and received a big celebration.
In my heart, I felt dissed by God. If poor behavior was cause for celebration, what motivation did I have to be good? What if I ditched God and just showed up later and said, “I’m back!” instead of trying to be the good daughter all along?
It wasn’t until years later that I finally absorbed the enormity of the lesson.
My question of “What if I ditched God and just showed up later instead of trying to be the good daughter all along?” was exactly the point!
I AM the prodigal son. I’m the one who needs forgiveness. I’m the one who doesn’t follow all the commandments all the time. My lengthy list of faults is living proof.
My vanity in associating with the ‘good’ daughter for many years was simply that – vanity. I need unconditional forgiveness from the Father in the same way the prodigal son did. How many times have I turned my back on God by putting Him second or third (or less) on my priority list? Or failed to treat my family or friends with the love I’m called to show? Or any number of other ways I’ve dissed God.
And I thought He was dissing me?
Since my revelation, three things have become perfectly clear.
ONE: If you truly ARE the ‘good’ child, look no further than within your own heart. Are you happy with how the Father is treating you on a daily basis – by providing food and shelter, a job, a family? His unconditional love, comfort, and grace? I believe the answer would be YES for most people.
Be grateful for those gifts. Holding a grudge against the prodigal son accomplishes nothing more than putting a barrier between you and God. Besides, one day it will be you needing forgiveness and you’ll be thankful when He welcomes you back with open arms.
TWO: If you’re the prodigal son, which we all are at some point due to our human sin, be grateful for the unconditional love and forgiveness that will greet you when you come back home. Make a concerted effort to curb further disobedience or disrespect.
THREE: What I’ve realized the parable of the prodigal son is really about is living your life between you and God and not worrying about anyone else and their personal journey. Be thankful He’s there for us when we follow Him and will always be there to welcome us back when we fail Him.
“In theAttributed to Mother Teresa
endit is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
The Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15:11-21:22 NIV
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be
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There are many ways to praise and honor God. One of my favorite ways is through song, whether it be joining the choir during church services or when I’m singing or just listening to inspirational Christian music. I can’t count the times I’ve been moved to tears at the unimaginable power and love of our Lord I feel in music.
My love of contemporary Christian music began many years ago when my sister introduced me to Amy Grant’s music. Today, there’s a growing list of contemporary Christian artists and groups. I’ve compiled a playlist of 20 of my current favorite songs and I hope you’ll find them as inspirational and moving as I do.
This music can either be enjoyed as quiet meditation or background music when you need some reflective time with God or at full volume when you’re ready to celebrate God’s greatness.
Enjoy the whole playlist or choose them individually, below.
But before you do, I’d like to offer a short prayer for you, because there’s a reason you found me today:
Dear Lord, you know the needs of your children. You’ve led them here today to show them a beautiful way they can get to know you through powerful Christian music. Please grant them the peace, strength, wisdom, faith, perseverance, or healing they most need today. Bless all those who listen to this music. Let it speak to their souls and bring them closer to you. Let them see and feel your greatness and love through these songs of praise. Let the words and music in these songs draw them closer to you and inspire them to live their lives pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Lauren Daigle – You Say, MercyMe – I Can Only Imagine, Chris Tomlin – Good Good Father, So Will I (100 Billion X) – Hillsong UNITED, Laura Story – Blessings, Zach Williams – Chain Breaker, Crowder – All My Hope featuring Tauren Wells, Tenth Avenue North – Control, Citizen Way – Bulletproof, Chris Tomlin – I will rise, MercyMe – Even If , Matthew West – Grace Wins, Lauren Daigle – Trust In You (Live), Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – No Longer Slaves, What A Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship, TobyMac – I just need U, Amy Grant – Better Than A Hallelujah, Laura Story – Mighty To Save, Third Day – Cry Out To Jesus, Casting Crowns – Only Jesus
As someone who’s lived through a cancer diagnosis, I saw first-hand how people struggle with what to say to the sick person – and potentially dying. A little bit of kindness and compassion can go a long way for anyone, but especially someone who’s dealing with a serious medical crisis.
It’s understandable that healthy friends or family members might be uncomfortable facing the illness of a loved one. But rather than say or do nothing because you don’t know what to say or do, muster up your courage and vow to be supportive.
The following ice-breakers can help you get started. The suggestions aren’t heavy or deep. Your sick loved one probably spends a significant amount of time in their own head being heavy and deep. You can be a supportive diversion, while still acknowledging their struggle.
Try out these simple and handy-dandy all-purpose “I care” statements and actions:
I hope it goes without saying that whatever you say or do should be genuine. Don’t tell someone you’ll pray for them if you won’t. Don’t tell someone you’ve always admired them if you haven’t. There are plenty of genuine kind and caring things you can say or do.
You can never go wrong being supportive or thoughtful toward the sick and dying – or to anyone in life, period.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Do you or your sick friend need some Christian inspiration to help you through? You might enjoy these book reviews for Christian books whose theme is about handling life through challenges:
One of life’s toughest challenges is overcoming the anger and hurt of being mistreated by someone, especially someone we love.
As Christians, we hear so much about forgiveness and the need to forgive. But what sounds good in theory often feels insurmountable when you’ve been cheated on by your spouse, or deceived by your supposed-best friend, robbed by your child, or abused by your parent.
We seem to hold tight to the anger and the hurt, waiting for apologies that often-times never come. Does that mean we’re stuck in perpetual angst? To stay broken until an apology magically rights the wrong?
An apology is nice but it’s not the secret ingredient to righting the wrong. In fact, there’s nothing that really rights the wrong, however time and sustained changed behavior can smooth over the torn edges of damaged relationships.
So what’s the balm to soothe your broken heart?
Forgiveness is a magical salve. Forgiveness is a gift for the hurting and is independent of the person who caused the pain.
But what if the person wasn’t sorry? What if they never apologized or acknowledged hurting you? What if they blamed their actions on you? What if…. None of the ‘what ifs’ matter in regards to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiveness allows you to move on from the hurt and pain, to enjoy life without dragging around a mountain of anger and sadness.
Forgiveness isn’t easy but God provides the guidance we need to step up to the challenge.
Romans 12:17-21 New International Version (NIV):
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let God be the judge. Let God hold everyone to task for their faults and failings. We’re called to take the high road and continue to love and help our enemies. We’re called to overcome evil with good.
Does loving our enemies mean to continue to take abuse? Or continue to be used? No.
I believe we’re called to be kind and loving and not hold onto grudges. We can stop being a punching bag or a pushover while remaining kind and loving and strong.
Let God handle the burden of judgment. By handing the judgment over to God, we’re free to move on and live our life with the joy He intended.
Leviticus 26:13 NIV:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.
Forgiveness breaks the bars of our yoke. The burden of pulling a heavy load of anger becomes too much to bear. It clouds our vision, it strains our ability to enjoy life, and it hampers our ability to love.
When we forgive, the bars of our yoke are broken, and we can walk away from the heavy load, enabling us to move forward with joy and lightheartedness and love. This freedom allows us to walk with head held high – proud and happy to move on and enjoy the gift of life as God intended.
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV:
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Forgiveness not only frees us from being captive to heavy grudges, but we are called to forgive.
God promises to forgive our sins and requires us to do the same for those who’ve wronged us. Why should we expect our sins to be forgiven when we refuse to forgive those who’ve sinned against us?
We count on God forgiving us, but He requires us to do the same. That’s a very fair deal, I would say!
Luke 23:34 NIV:
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Jesus showed us the greatest example of forgiveness by forgiving those who had falsely accused him and were putting him to death.
We don’t often think of his torture and agony, the sadness and abandonment he felt. As a human being put to one of the most excruciating deaths, we can only imagine Jesus’ suffering, yet he forgave.
If we can only keep that perspective when we wallow in our pain, we can lean on Jesus to help us when we’ve been wronged. His example shows us the way to survive the pain, the humiliation, and the deceit, and lead us to forgiveness.
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Besides Jesus dying for our sins, the greatest gift we’ve been given is God sending us his Son to atone for our sins and ask his very own son to sacrifice his life for ours.
I don’t imagine that any parent could fathom such a sacrifice. But that’s how great God’s love is for us. By calling his son to die for our sins, we are granted eternal life and forgiveness.
God watched his Son be tortured for our forgiveness, perhaps we’re able to find one ounce of his strength to muster through our own journey to forgive.
He promises a beautiful reward.
Once we find the strength to forgive someone who’s wronged us it’s easier to see why Jesus said we are to continue to forgive. Not only seven times but seventy-seven times.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Let time and distance soften your wounds instead of allowing them to harden into permanent scars. Once you understand the magical power of forgiveness to soothe your aching soul you’ll never try carrying that heaven burden again.
Tell me in the comments!
I sometimes struggle with the pain and suffering in the world. I understand that man created this condition by disobedience, but on a daily basis, it feels like undue punishment.
However, a glass-half-full view of heartache is the inexplicable joy, knowledge, and understanding that it has the potential to bring.
As empathic beings, we can imagine what it feels like to carry someone’s burdens, but unless we experience those burdens first-hand, we can’t fully appreciate the weight.
It is only by carrying the weight of our own burdens that we can experience life-changing growth.
Most of us would probably wish for a perfect life, but a perfect life would be difficult to appreciate. Without burdens, we become complacent with our blessings. We start to expect the goodness. We stop appreciating.
One simple example is my migration to Florida from the Northeast. When my husband and I (and fur baby) first moved to the Sunshine State, I commented, almost on a daily basis, that it was obvious how my new state had gotten its nickname. I relished the sunshine and beautiful winter weather, treasuring my outdoor “office”.
After several months of near constant sunshine, a few random cloudy days irked me. “Where the heck is the sun?” I asked my husband. The unusual dreariness made me realize I’d stopped appreciating the sunshine.
Gradual complacency led to me taking the beautiful gift of sunshine for granted. The clouds restored my appreciation of the sunshine.
A more dramatic example is taking our good health for granted.
I’m living proof of a common cliché – that getting cancer was one of the biggest blessings of my life.
My breast cancer diagnosis stopped my charmed life in its tracks. But like so many others, my post-cancer journey has been an amazing path I’d have never otherwise taken. There’s something about facing the grim reaper that renews appreciation of the frailty of life and motivates us to make the most of our brief journey on earth.
The valleys of life help us appreciate the peaks.
Without the valleys, the views from the peaks gradually lose their awesomeness.
We can usually find a blessing in pain. Not that we can see it while we’re still in the fire of suffering, but that fire has the potential to lead to gifts that we cannot imagine.
In your times of suffering, remind yourself that God’s plan is perfect. While we cannot understand the difficult paths we face, God is in control and His end result will normally exceed our expectations.
Have you found beauty in heartache? Tell me how in the comments below.
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