Singing His praise and a taste of spring already!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul!

O Lord my God, you are very great!

You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

covering yourself with light as with a garment,

stretching out the heavens like a tent…

He set the earth on its foundation,

so that it should never be moved…

O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom have you made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;

May the Lord rejoice in his works,

who looks on the earth and it trembles,

who touches the mountains and they smoke!

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,

for I rejoice in the Lord.”

Psalm 104:1-2, 5, 24, 31-34

May you hear God’s creation singing His praises this week, and

May you sing as long as you have your being!

Japanese Magnolia outside of “The Bakery”

Mississippi State University

(…if only I could live and serve here on this campus forever ! )

February 8, 2012

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Psalm 118:28-29

“You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;

you are my God; I will extol you.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 118:28-29

Thanks be to God for all of His wonderful and many blessings!  My best friend got into dental school on Thursday which has been something that we’ve been faithfully praying about for the past year.  Another friend that I’ve made told me on Tuesday that her mom doesn’t have breast cancer anymore.  God is good, so good.  Today, I even praise God for the beautiful African Violets that seem to smile at me as I study for finals and write the 5 papers that I have left (22 pages left to write…. God help me! haha)

What will you thank God for today?

Praying your day is filled with Sonshine,

Sarah 🙂

At the heart of worship is surrender.

I am so excited that I wish I could shout this from my rooftop:  I have an Internet connection!!!  Imagine this: since July, I haven’t had access to this blog, email, my school’s website with our classes’ websites, guitar music, iTunes music store, etc.  For some, this may not sound that monumental, but for a 2o year old in this day and age, that’s huge!  With this small victory, I write to you from the comfort of my couch with a cup of coffee in my hand and a great story of worship on my heart…

.hillsong live.

This past Monday night, I lost myself in a night of worship.  The Hillsong- New York City’s pastor cried out, “Don’t leave this place the same way as you were when you walked in here tonight!” And I didn’t…

———-

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:

take your everyday, ordinary life

–your sleeping, your eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–

and place it before God as an offering…

Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Romans 12:1-2 (the Message)

———-

What is true worship?

It is this…

…surrendering to God.

Some may be reading now and say, “Oh, but I’m not one of those enthusiastic believers that breaks out into dance, waves my hands in the air, etc.”  And honestly, I haven’t been.  I lacked courage to raise my hand even above my heart as if doing the pledge of allegiance.

But we have so much more to offer God than a pledge of allegiance.

While standing at the foot of the stage, I listened to songs like “With Us” and felt the words sinking into even the deepest places of my heart… “There’s no end to your love.  There’s no end to your love,” they sang, “You’re with us.  You’re with us.”  With closed eyes, I relished the sweetness of those words, the truth of them even sweeter than last week’s Thanksgiving dessert.  “…There’s nothing in this world/ That could take you away/ You’re with us/ You’re with us…”  In that moment, I drew near to God, and just as James promised in James 4:8, God drew near me.

What I learned Monday night is this: worship isn’t just listening to Christian radio in the car, nor is it just going to church and enjoying the solo during the offertory.  Worship–true worship of the Father and Creator of this Universe whose Son, Jesus Christ, lived as a human, died on the cross and overcame the world when he defeated even death itself–is encountering God and responding to Him.  It’s the crying out of your heart after casting your burden on Him and feeling Him not only take your burden onto His back, but take you up into His arms, as well.

Today, my prayer for you is that you offer up your everyday, ordinary life to God and ask Him to meet you in every moment.  Whether it’s a prayer that He helps you be patient with a coworker or customer, a prayer to have a greater desire for Him, a prayer to give your life over to Him, God is able.  God is able…

So what is worship?  It’s the proper response to an encounter with the One that knitted you together in the womb (Psalm 139:13), the Son that has gone before you (Hebrews 6:20) on your behalf.

Worship is surrender.

More than a rose from the casket.

On Sunday, we celebrated the beautiful life of my Mammaw, Gerry Harden.  And even though there are thousands of words in the dictionary that I could choose, there is one word that best describes that tear-filled day: hopeful.

If thinking only about the secular meaning of the word, you might wonder why I would choose hopeful as the best description for that sad day.  Even for me, in the majority of the time since Thursday morning at 10:07 am, I would have scoffed at the thought of being hopeful during this time of grief.  The temptation to focus on her absence, the lifeless body that lay in the casket, and the constant reminders of life with her before: this temptation was overwhelming.  With force, it ruled over my body, my mind, my heart, my soul.  I didn’t want to eat, sleep, talk, or carry on in life without her.  I loved her at a depth that I couldn’t even fathom.  I still do. She was my Mammaw, the mother of my very own mom, the feeder of our family, the unifying force that brought our extended family together year after year.  And in that phone call on Thursday morning at 10:58 am, she was gone…

You see, in order for there to be hope, there must be something in life that causes us to need hope in the first place.  Something has to happen that robs us of our joy, steals our passion, or even makes the journey of our life seem to have reached an end.  As the contrast to total despair, that is the only way that we can see that hope shines, cutting brilliantly through the darkness.

There is no doubt in my mind that many more tears will be shed.  Grieving is part of the healing process.  As a co-worker told me yesterday after my SECOND breakdown of the day by only 9:30 am (I had only been there for 30 minutes), “You just have to get it out before you can get it together.”

I look back now on all the tears that I’ve shed, and while I don’t regret a single one, there comes a point when we cannot continue to live in the darkness of mourning.  If we truly believe that Christ died for the sins of the world, to be the living sacrifice that would one day bring God’s children back to Himself, we cannot cling to suffering.  We must reach out in faith; we must continue on in hope.

What is difference between secular hope and hope that the Gospel offers?  Hope in this world is merely the wishing that things would be different, that things would get better, and it is marked by the possibility  that what is hoped for WILL NOT or CANNOT happen.

But this is not the same hope that we have through Jesus.

The hope that Jesus offers is based on God’s promise, the Truth.  This hope is the blessed assurance that God’s promise WILL be fulfilled!  That Jesus WILL come back and that he WILL abolish the darkness and all that’s in it, that one day we WILL sit in the lap of our Father, and He will wipe away every single tear: this is the hope that we have.  He will tell us, “Shhh, my child, death is overcome.  Mourning is no more.  Heaven has come to this new earth, and I am here.  I am here.”

On Sunday, October 16, 2011, we may have laid Mammaw’s earthly body in the ground, but we did not bury her spirit.  The life that she lived and the legacy carrying her memory forward: forever, these will always live inside of me and inside of those that knew her.  She was and still is a remarkable woman of God.  Never will I use only the past tense to talk about her because this is the hope that I have in Jesus: the spirit of my Mammaw, Gerry Harden, is still alive and well.  Right now, she is smiling down on me and on all of her family and friends.  Free from the devastation of ALS, I can hear her saying to me,”If only you knew what it feels like to be in the presence of Jesus…”  If only we could experience it on this side of heaven…

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

you have loosened the sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

O Lord my God, 

I will give thanks to you forever!”

Psalm 30:11-12

And so here I am, learning now to praise the Lord even in the midst of this hard time.  He is the giver of real hope, the kind that, through faith, will give me the strength to keep on going and rejoice in the promise of Heaven.  Deep down, I know that I have more to cling to than a single rose that I pulled from the cover of flowers on Mammaw’s casket.  I have even more than the memories of our past together…

…I have the promise of our future together.

——

Hope that comes from the Lord: what a beautiful promise this is.

——

“Skipping Stones”

“Let me be Your skipping stone,

Let me be the one

With whom you throw into the deep

and let Your will be done.

Let me skip along the water

and walk with faith like Peter

Let me never fear of failure but

know Your love runs deeper.

So send me out before you, God

behind Your faithful Son.

Send me out into the field

until Your battle’s won.

So throw me into the unkown,

so throw me into fear.

Throw me where I don’t want to go,

but always find You near.

Let my splash into the surface

be the end of Your great throw.

Let the ripples of my sinking

show Your presence midst the flow.

So stretch out wide and stretch our far

but never let me go.

Stretch your arm and skip more stones

‘mong Your children here below.

For You are the Great Potter,

and we are but the clay.

You are the Great Maker,

and we are what you made.

So shape us into skipping stones.

Shape us into ones,

with whom You throw into the deep

and let Your will be done.”

“Skipping Stones”

Sarah Hollinger

August 19, 2010