Church in My Backyard

DSC03385*I won’t be posting next week during Spring Break, but I’ll see you back here on March 28!

I’m not the most observant person in the world. Case in point: We helped move our daughter and son-in-law to a townhome in a new city one November several years ago, visited them on the following New Year’s weekend, and then again over the following spring break, but it wasn’t until the trip after that that I noticed they had a church in their backyard—or side yard to be exact. The point is it’s right there.

Imagine my delight when I looked out the upstairs bedroom window early one morning before anyone else was stirring and saw a church tucked behind the stand of trees lining their development. Wow, I thought. They’ve got a church right in their backyard! I could feel a blog post coming on so I grabbed my camera and started snapping away.

Even though Kristin and Shawn didn’t end up attending this particular church, I was still excited to think they had a church—such a visible reminder of God—standing tall and strong so close to their home. A picture of God, if you will, living in their midst, watching over them, inspiring worship and peace for any who would open their eyes and see (the way I finally did!)

Believe it or not, I have a church in my backyard, too. No, it’s not a building made of stone and brick. It’s simply my yard. But it’s filled with visible reminders of God. The trees, the grass, the birds, the breeze all point to him and remind me that he’s living in my midst. He’s watching over me, and yes, inspiring worship and peace when I take the time to lift my eyes and turn my thoughts toward him.

Amazing, huh? I can’t help but proclaim, “Wow—I’ve got a church in my backyard!” How about you?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song…” Psalm 98:4

*Where are some places, other than church, where you’re inspired to worship?

*Hope this slightly revised and updated encore post from March 2010 blessed you today!

*My photo

My Father’s World

Fall 2011 284My Father’s world is an amazing place. The wonders of his creation never cease and never grow old. They inspire fresh worship every day. Not only did God create the magnificent world we live in, but he sustains it. And he alone is ruler.

The old hymn “This Is My Father’s World” beautifully expresses the miracle of God’s world. When I sing it my heart swells in worship. And gorgeous fall days provide the perfect backdrop to just such worship.

Let’s step outdoors this week and lift our voices in praise. Let’s sing to our Father about his amazing world!

This Is My Father’s World

“This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!” —Maltie D. Babcock

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” Psalm 24:1

*What in God’s creation are you enjoying this week?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. Sign up is free and to the right!

*My photo

A Surprise Audience

17200735_e649e76ce6*It’s been a busy month for me so I’m sharing an encore post today. Hope this September 2009 post blesses you!

Last week as I was indulging in another early morning drink of nature, I did a quick survey of my surroundings (as I always do) and saw that no one else was in sight. Good. I was free to give actual voice to my worship and sing my praise –albeit quietly — to my Creator and King.

Looking heavenward, favorite praise choruses flowed from my lips. After all, it was just the two of us. Just me and the Lord. Or so I thought.

In mid-melody, I glanced down and found, quite unexpectedly, I had an audience. A neighborhood cat had slinked in from behind the bushes and was sitting there on her haunches watching and listening to me as if she had purchased a ticket to a show. I couldn’t help but smile.

So as not to disappoint, I continued quietly singing and found myself watching the cat and wishing I had my camera. I’m not sure how long she would have sat there if I hadn’t broken the concert spell, but I couldn’t help it — I had to try to get a picture. I inched my way into the house, but of course by the time I returned, the moment was gone, and the cat had moved on to a more exciting adventure. Digging under the bush. My surprise audience had slipped away.

My early morning encounter with this neighborhood kitty reminded me that just when we least expect it in our lives, we may discover that someone is watching. We may have a surprise audience.

We, in fact, have people watching us all the time, don’t we? What will these unsuspecting ticket-holders see before they slip away? Let’s hope they see something of our Savior. Let’s hope they see something of Jesus.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

*When might others have opportunity to see Jesus in you when you’re unaware of it?

Flickr photo by fazen, Creative Commons License

Quieting Your Heart

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*This piece about worshipful prayer appeared in my February 2010 Life Notes newsletter. May it inspire you today to quiet your heart and enter into worship as you pray. (The new issue of Life Notes came out the first of the month, but it’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!)

In the midst of busy and stressful days, do you find yourself having difficulty moving into an attitude of worship as you begin a time of prayer? Don’t despair or give up on the possibility of having worshipful, personal prayer times in your day to day life. Try some of the following prayer-time enhancers and see what works for you:

Find a place away from the distractions and pressures of the day—even if it’s just in the next room. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

Music works wonders. It soothes the soul and helps refocus your thoughts. Sing a praise chorus or an all-time favorite hymn to the Lord or just listen to the music of a Christian recording artist. “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1)

Light a candle and watch your stress levels melt away. Begin your prayers by just thanking God for the beauty of candlelight and for the calming effect it has on your spirit. “…he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Kneel before the Lord as you approach Him in prayer. Even if you can’t stay on your knees the entire time you pray, kneeling helps you bow your heart before God, too. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6)

Read a favorite psalm of praise, thanksgiving, or encouragement. Replace the worries of the day with the Word of God. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…” (Psalm 19:7)

Look outside or go outdoors if possible and find something in God’s creation that you enjoy and then praise Him for it. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3, 9)

Count your blessings and see how quickly a heart of gratitude crowds out the concerns of the day. This also reminds you to thank God for some things that you sometimes take for granted. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)

Be quiet before God and meditate on who He is. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:1)

Praying to our heavenly Father is a wonderful gift and privilege. Treat it like the treasure it is. Take time to lay aside the pressures of the day, quiet your heart, and enter into worship as you pray. Both you and God will be blessed by it.

*Which prayer time enhancers help you move into a time of worship?

*Be sure to enter the Back At It Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. (Central) August 26.

*Flickr photo by Arend Vermazeren, Creative Commons License

Fresh Worship with Old-Fashioned Hymns

Remember in December when I suggested we carol our way to worship by singing all the verses to well-loved Christmas carols? Well, as January unfolds, I’ve discovered that Christmas carols aren’t the only way to experience fresh worship. Old-fashioned hymns work just as well.

In a New Year’s post, fellow writer and blogger, Julie Gillies, challenged readers to ask God to show them one thing they could do to draw closer to Him this year. After fighting a bit of fear (silly and showing a lack of faith, I know, but sometimes I worry about what God might ask me to do), I asked God to show me if there was something that might help me draw closer to Him. Soon an answer came.

“Sing a hymn each day—the way you did with Christmas carols,” God impressed on my heart. My spirit leaped at the thought. Yes! I would continue the fresh worship God blessed me with during the Christmas season by simply singing through our hymnal this year. (When will I learn not to be fearful of what God might ask me to do? It always brings blessing, and He always empowers me to do it.)

Since we have a piano and I already have a hymnal at home, I jumped right in (singing, not playing; my piano skills leave much to be desired :)). The very first hymn was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”. Can’t get much better than that, huh? As I sang all four verses, not only did I lift my voice to the Lord, my spirit sang as well.

Each morning now I look forward to seeing what my hymn for the day will be. With anticipation, I wonder what message I’ll meditate on as I sing to the Lord. I’m so thankful He showed me a new way to draw closer to Him this year.

Anyone with me? I encourage you to find a hymnal and let some old favorites lead you to fresh worship today. Sing with me, won’t you? “Joyful, joyful we adore Thee . . .”

“I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” Psalm 63:5

*What’s an old favorite you love to sing?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Also have added the option to receive my blog posts by email as well as RSS feed now. See right sidebar.

*Flickr photo by j2wade, Creative Commons License