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    Daily Thread

    The LORD Is My Shepherd

    Shepherd is my favorite name for God, hands down. I know Him by this name intimately as I’ve shared my story in past blogs. A shepherd stops at nothing to keep one his sheep safe, which depicts how the Lord cares for us, how He loves us and how He manages our hearts when we go astray. I love how Psalm 23 begins by reminding us of who He is—trustworthy and lovingly bringing us back into the fold, a gentle yet fierce Rescuer and Protector. 

    So often I get caught up in my own shortsightedness and assume God is not working on my behalf if my prayers aren’t being answered how or when I want them to. It’s our human nature to double fist our fear and doubts in to the picture even when God, time and time again, reminds us that He will fulfill His promises.

    I find a lot of comfort in remembering the story of Joshua and how God tells him 3 times to “be strong and courageous,” because Joshua likely had a thick skull like all of us, prone to forget.

    The book of Joshua begins with God saying: Moses is dead. You’re up for the task. It’s time to take back the land I promised to these people you’re now leading.

    God is sweet in assuring Joshua 3 times that all he needs to do is “be strong and courageous,” emphasizing at least once to “only be strong and very courageous. ” Nothing more. Nothing less. And God will be with him the entire way.

    I know I am guilty of relying on what I can see to determine my level of trust or course of actions to follow. I have the tendency, at times, to assume God is just like us, or like the people that have hurt me before. But our Good Shepherd cares for us and is behind the scenes at work for you, even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening. He's the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, so let's proclaim that promise by fixing our eyes, not on what is seen because what is seen is temporary, but on the unseen, the eternal promises that God makes to us in scripture.

    He is the Father, “with whom there is no variation and does not change like shifting shadows." -- James 1:17

    One of the most distinct words that come to mind when I think of God as our Shepherd is Rescuer. I know the Good Shepherd isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, because He comes after his lost sheep. The reality, though, is that the rescue the Lord provides comes in various forms. There’s the visible: where God visibly plucked me out of a horrific situation, for example. Then there’s the invisible, which is more subtle, but nonetheless extremely profound (i.e. seemingly unanswered prayer, a season of waiting, etc.). And that’s where the trust has to come in.

    Our family is currently in a season of waiting for several things to happen. I’ve had to catch myself when I start going down the rabbit hole of thoughts like, Where are you, God? Do you even hear me? I’m praying for good things, though! I can’t see what you’re doing, so are you doing anything at all? We get caught up in the misconception that if we can’t see anything happening, then nothing must be going on at all. We’ve been begging the Lord for these good things to come, but what He keeps telling us is, This is my rescue. The fact that I have not answered in the way you desire, I am telling you no. The timing is not now and that is for your protection. I see things that you cannot see. I am your good shepherd, your protector. I have your best interest in mind, I promise. Do not mistake an unanswered prayer, as you call it, or a no as me not paying attention. This is a test for your faith in me, for your refinement and for my glory.

    May we be a people whose roots are so deep in an understanding of who God is that we would surrender all of our desires, all of our prayers, to know that He is sovereign. The enemy wants to tell us is that nothing is happening, that we’re fools for asking for anything. He wants us to feel like we are self-sufficient and the god of our own lives.

    Think of yourself like a tree. In seasons of waiting we feel like we are continually being cut down to the stump. How can anything grow out of a stump? God has reminded me these last few weeks, though, is that we cannot see the root system underneath with our natural eyes. We serve a God who is a living hope. He is in control where we cannot see. Even when we feel like we're really smart, we do not have the full picture, but the Shepherd does and He is standing over us, He sees us and He sees the infinite purposes of our lives. We have to remind ourselves that we are the sheep. We are not the Shepherd. Let us rewire those pathways of trust to know that when it looks like nothing is happening, that some of His most powerful work is being done behind the scenes. Our job is to lean in, pray and trust that He is All-Knowing and All-Sufficient. 

    So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:18

    “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

    If you haven’t heard her new album, Look Up Child, already, Lauren Daigle’s Rescue lyrics cut straight to the heart. I hope you are encouraged regardless of your circumstances: https://youtu.be/3U4Q2R7ZZAE

    He is a living and active hope. — 1 Peter 1:3

    Hope is not what is seen but in what is unseen. — Romans 8:24

    The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. — Exodus 14:14

    As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger...yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

    What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
    what God has prepared for those who love him—
    1 Corinthians 2:9 

    We named our Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy Shepherd (“Shep” for short) to serve as a reminder of God’s faithful promise to lead and guide us. Although he’s only been a part of the family for 8 months, he has been trained up to be trustworthy and obedient to his nature. I am in desperate need of reminders to point me back to the Good Shepherd, who has taken me by the hand over and over and guided me through every season. I can be oh-so forgetful! When I look at Shep I’m reminded of what God has done, that He is good and faithful, that He is constant and my certainty. Constantly saying his name reminds me to declare and claim the Truth of who God is. (Silly, but you gotta do what you gotta do!)

    Don’t believe in the lie of scarcity, but rather believe in the promises that He has something abundant for you. He has a plan for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you and to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) no matter what’s going on.

    Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when He finds it, he joyfully puts it on His shoulders and goes home. Then He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not repent. — Luke 15:4-7

    Starting this Psalm off with the imagery of a Shepherd sets the stage for all the goodness that’s left to come after the rescue. He doesn’t take you home to condemn you. Instead through His kindness He puts you over His shoulder and says, Let’s go home.

    I can’t wait to take you through this Psalm 23 journey!

    The best is yet to be,

    Anthem of a Striving Heart

    “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
    He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
    You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
    you anoint my head with oil; 
    my cup overflows.
    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
    and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever!”
    Psalm 23

     

    Psalm 23 has had a reoccurring presence in my life the last few years and has become a tried and true foundational anthem for my striving heart. The Psalm itself is short and sweet, but it profoundly lays the groundwork for our identity and our faith: come as you are, you have a place at My table, I’ll take it from here. 

    With all its enticements, false promises and ever-changing expectations, the world has set us up for failure. But the Lord, with His never-ceasing mercy, unchanging character, deep love and carefully crafted mighty purposes, has set a table for us. It’s brimming with all we need and overflowing with replenishment, nourishment and intimacy.  He is the ultimate dinner party host—asking us to trust Him and simply relax in His presence. What a luxury.

    Over the last couple of years, the Lord has spoken these healing words from the psalms over me: Be still. I consistently avoided rest, I pursued busyness and I attempted to manage every aspect of my life, causing me to always be tired. It was difficult for me to grasp that Jesus’ last words on the cross were It Is Finished not Go And Do More.

    But God has repeatedly me brought me back to Psalm 23, teaching me to stop, to let my striving cease and let Him do the work. True peace, which lifts burdens and calms the tides of our restless hearts, comes from being still in God’s presence. I had to learn how to create that time and space for intimacy with Him so I could fully embrace His promises, provisions and security for me.

    I will fight for you, you need only be still – Exodus 14:14

    When it comes to Psalm 23, I have found it to be so profound that God literally asks us to do basically nothing. He’s not like, “Hey girl, you need to get this cleaned up before you come to the table.” He never actually asks us to lift a finger but rather tells us to kick off our shoes, throw our feet up (dirty socks and all) and stay a while. How counter-culture. But also, how God of Him. He says in Luke that “(His) yoke is easy and (His) burden is light” – it’s not heavy or burdensome, weary or stressful. It is full of blessings, joy, restoration and replenishment. This bedrock promise is all about Him and what He does for us. It’s not on us. He wants you're striving to cease. He has gone before us and taken care of every detail. He's going to prepare the meal. He's going to prepare the harvest. He’s going to restore, heal, renew, revive. It's about what He has done and what He can do.

    He came not to be served but to serve! – Matthew 20:28

    Amidst all of our daily distractions, I wanted to create a wearable reminder of His foundational truth, His unshakable promises, His immeasurable hope, His endless and immense love for each of us. For years I’ve been on the hunt for an easy gift to give a friend who was in need of a reminder that God sees her. But if we’re honest with ourselves, Christian jewelry hasn’t exactly been pegged as fashion forward—we’re talking cheesy and bulky, or beautiful and pricey. I had a hard time finding an in between, so here we are. First came the Honeycomb Collection and now the Psalm 23 Bracelet. God has used my testimony of messiness and failings to bring me to a place that I still can’t fathom, so it has become my greatest joy to proclaim His Name through conversational and purpose-centered jewelry at Golden Thread. My prayer is that we each continue to seek more wisdom from Psalm 23 and to truly find soul-fulfilling rest in His presence—no matter if this is a calm and relaxing season or more chaotic and busier than ever. Psalm 23 has the most essential cornerstone promises of God that are not based on our circumstances, rather they are freely available to us at all times. Seek, find and accept this rich and priceless treasure you’ve been searching for!

    Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30

    I hope, with everything in me, that this bracelet is a sweet, sweet reminder for what God has done, from where He rescued you from, for what He is doing in you and the wonders He performs on your behalf. As humans, we can’t hear this enough. Our one true identity is validated in Him and Him alone.

    So as you start preparing for the holidays and Christmas season, I hope you look no further than the Psalm 23 Bracelet. Use it as a tool to help memorize scripture or to prompt Gospel-centered conversation. I am so excited for what God has in store for the expansion of His Kingdom through something as small as jewelry. 

    Before I wrap up, I wanted to share the symbolism of each of the 10 colors in the bracelet in accordance with Psalm 23’s 10 stanzas: 

    White - He is my shepherd, He leads, guides, rescues and protects me
    Green - He makes me stop, lie down and rest 
    Blue - He leads me beside still waters, leads me to refreshment and peace, He asks me to “be still” and ensures me He’s got it all
    Silver - He restores my soul, makes me whole again and provides renewal for my weary heart
    Black - Even though I walk through difficult times, I am not alone and will not fear
    Burnt Orange - He is with me always, He makes me courageous, He is the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3)
    Yellow - He anoints me with oil, He blesses me
    Purple - He prepares a table for me packed with intimacy, nourishment and replenishment
    Red - My cup overflows, He gifts me with lavishes blessings filled to the brim
    Gold - He promises that my life is surrounded with mercy, goodness and love. I dwell in security, safety and He has a mighty and purposeful plan for my life

     

    As we enter in to this holiday season, here’s to knowing who you are in Christ Jesus, what you have available to you in His Mighty Name, when you need Him you know where to find Him, where He is at all times is right next to you and why He has come back for you over and over. It is because of His endless and all-consuming love for you…His Beloved! 

    Next time I write we’ll start going through each verse more in depth. I figured the best way to break it all down was to focus in a little at a time and really press in to some of the key words and phrases used in Psalm 23. We’ll start with verses 1 and 2 (The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters), where I’ll dig deeper in to God’s guidance and insistence for us to rest. We welcomed home our sweet puppy Shepherd (Shep, for short) 8 months ago, whom we named after the Good Shepherd, to serve as just another daily reminder of the One, the only One, who is faithful and trustworthy. I am not at a loss for words on it— I’ll tell you that now! (As promised, here’s a puppy picture!)

    I hope you enjoy and find great hope in our Lord!

    Stay tuned for our upcoming Psalm 23 series,

    Instant Gratification Is Not Our Destiny

    For the past several weeks I’ve felt convicted about my phone being a part of my existence rather than just a tool. This realization came about one day when I noticed my phone was the first thing I grabbed in the morning and the last thing I put down at night.

    I’ve stumbled upon multiple blogs, podcasts and chapters in books recently that have been hitting on this hot button topic of social media and phone usage. It’s safe to say we’re not alone in this mess. But as it keeps reoccurring in conversation, I’ve started to ask myself a simple question: Why am I doing this? 

    Well like any good defense attorney, I have a long list of reasons why I pick up my phone. It’s my calendar, it’s my alarm, it’s how I communicate with my employees, it’s how I stay up to date with friends and family from out of town. 

    But when my friend gets up to grab silverware at lunch, I check for that text. When I’m watching a movie with the kids for the thousandth time, I’m scrolling through Instagram. When I’m waiting in the carpool line, I’m sending an email. If there was ever a time I didn’t want to sit alone with my thoughts, my regrets, my pains or my deferred hopes, I could pick up my phone. My phone has become a habit that never gives me peace but it keeps me occupied, no doubt.

    Welcome to 2018, friends.

    When it comes to social media from my 35 year old lens, I’m not sure I could have handled being a teen or in my early twenties in these days. It’s scary to think of the rejection and comparison we have immediate access to. I’m a mom to three little kids and I constantly have to think about how I’m suppose to raise them up against this social media empire to use it healthily and as a means of encouragement. 

    Instagram has recently rolled out a new update to remind you when you’re all caught up on viewing posts. It’s even starting to let you set a time limit for yourself so the app may remain “positive, intentional and inspiring.” Remember those Push Notifications everyone was telling you to turn on? Yeah, Instagram is actually encouraging you to mute those now.

    To put it simply, our social media pages are generally highlight reels of the good stuff going on in our lives. When we consider that to be a front or a disguise for the reality of our hearts’ condition, I think we’ll each find a lot of conviction in where our approval comes from. In 1 Samuel, we are reminded that the Lord looks at our hearts, not our outer appearance. He wants us to find our validation in Him, which is freely given to us.

    Christine Caine recently spoke on this subject and went in to depth on the dinosaur age of taking your roll of film to Eckerd’s to have your pictures developed. Your film would go into a dark room to be processed—it would have to be forged in the dark on to the negative. If you opened that dark room too soon or if you brought light into it, the exposure would ruin the image permanently. She encouraged us to look at social media in a different way: that upload of instant gratification is not our destiny. We don’t need to be discovered. We need to be developed by God and oftentimes we use social media as a place for waiting for man to discover us. I’ll feel more secure if I get over 100 likes. If this person sees my story, I’ll feel noticed. We don’t need to be discovered by man. We have already been created by the God of the Universe, who has already put His stamp of approval on us. We need to be developed by Him in the dark room, in solitude, not out front for all to see. We need to get comfortable with sitting still and alone before God where He can forge His image into us.

    The Apostle Paul made it a theme in his teaching to speak about the things that can have a hold on us. He often asked believers to think about the choices they made in regards to their body, what they ate or drank, or the day they chose to worship.

    “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12

    I think we could all use that kind of self-examination. What is the output of the input? Where are our thoughts susceptible of going when we get into a trend of bouncing around from account to account? It takes a lot of maturity and humility to ask: Am I okay with not being in the spotlight? Am I okay with being blissfully unaware of not being invited or unrecognized? Can I be content with solitude, silence and stillness before God?

    It’s time to take a breather from the comparison, the measuring up (or lack there of), and the numbing. It’s time for me to intentionally sit down the Lord and focus in on the condition of my heart. Let’s be more intentional with who is physically in front of us.

    A few things you might do starting this weekend that may help you or heal you:  

    Turn off your phone for a few hours.
    Practice a new morning habit that doesn’t include your phone (i.e. make your bed)
    Simplify your life—clean out your closet or maybe just delete old texts out of your phone.
    Go on a walk with a new friend.
    Figure out one thing you really enjoy doing by yourself, and do it.

    I recently read, “when something, no matter what it is, takes more from us than it gives us, we are wise to put it down.” There’s a lot of truth in those words and a lot of freedom in them to lean in to God’s best for us. Let’s be women that care more about the light that is in us rather than the light that is on us.

     

    I’d love to hear what other ways you’re disciplined in this!

     

    How Deep The Father's Love For Us

    Big days have a predictably unpredictable way about themselves, don’t they? They have the irrevocable ability to resurface years worth of resentment, some intense, self-preserving behavior and a million expectations. For anyone who has come face to face with the reality that these days, no matter how hard we try to overcome the memories, are not always what they’re cracked up to be: this one’s for you.

    Today’s for those who need to be reminded how deep the Father’s love for us truly is. How desperate He is for us to kick our shoes off and stay a while. How rest is promised to those who cast their burdens upon Him because He cares for us.

    For a majority of my life, I have been in a constant battle between rest and busyness. My inner critic lets me know that there is always something to be done — always reliant on myself to do more! Connect, manage, hustle. All perfectly good things until I’m unable to give them my full attention and wholly receive their fruit. Resting only made my anxiety worse as my to-do list grew and I attempted to manage every aspect of my life.

    God, in all His tenderness, has reiterated the powerful, healing words of “Be still and know that I am God” over me to captivate me into His relentless pattern of bearing my cross for me. Time and time again I find myself reverting back to my self-sufficient ways, completely tiring myself out, but He reminds me that it. is. finished! He conquered death so that I can freely experience His gift of rest.

    Don’t mistake rest for sleep, though. We shut everything down when we sleep to refresh our bodies. Rest gives us the opportunity to restore our souls. The rest God provides isn’t the peace that comes when you are sleeping and the switches are all turned off. It’s the peace that comes when you are awake and fully able to acknowledge whatever it is we are feeling. Stillness, solitude and silence are some of the most practical gifts we can give ourselves when our circumstances start to cloud our judgment, so that we are able to discern the voice of God.

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

    “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens!” (Psalm 68:19)

    “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

    Psalm 23 has had a reoccurring presence in my life and has become a tried and true foundational anthem for my striving heart. It’s short, sweet and to the point: come as you are, you have a place at My table, I’ll take it from here.

    As scripture reads Psalm 23:

    “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.

    He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

    You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

    My modern-day translation of Psalm 23:

    He guides and protects me.

    He makes me stop and rest.

    His ways lead to being still, to refreshment and peace.

    He makes me whole again and provides renewal for my weary soul.

    He shows me where to go and gives me a testimony.

    He is sovereign and refines me through difficult times.

    He makes me courageous and I am never alone.

    He is the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).

    His table is set for me with plenty. With intimacy and packed full of nourishment. He has set the stage. He has many purposes and plans for my life.

    He blesses me.

    He gifts me with lavish blessings full to the brim.

    My life is surrounded with mercy, goodness and love.

    I dwell in security and safety, always.

    With all its enticements, false promises and ever-changing, often unattainable goals, the world has set us up for failure and a snare is set. The “if only” and “greener grass” models have left us to believing and hoping in lies that will only leave us more weak and dissatisfied than before. But the Lord, with His endless mercy and unchanging character, has set a table for us. It’s brimming with all we need and overflowing with replenishment, nourishment and intimacy. He is the ultimate dinner party host—asking us to trust Him and simply relax in His presence. What a luxury!

    “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) 

    “For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
    but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

    So as summer kicks off, my prayer is that we each seek more wisdom from Psalm 23 and truly find soul-fulfilling, life-transforming rest in His presence. If your summer is calm and relaxing, press in. If it’s busier and more chaotic than the school year, press in. When we seek Him, we find Him and when we find Him, we encounter Him and when we encounter Him, everything changes. 

    Be still. Give yourself grace. Know that He is God. Surrender and rest. He’s got it all! May you experience just how deep, vast and immeasurable the Perfect Father’s love is for YOU,

     

     

     

    “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

    Summer Soundtrack

    “He inhabits the praises of His people!” Psalm 22:3

    Oh how much I adore the truth in that verse – I’ve experienced it first hand! 

    I love discussing the purpose of worship, the power of worship and the passion with which worship movingly leads us into a place of total surrender -- proclaiming scripture, uttering truth, declaring victory, crying out for help, telling of all the attributes of our Mighty yet Gracious and Compassionate Father, entering into a time of praise and thanksgiving for what He has done (and will do), claiming His Promises over our lives and standing sturdily in agreement and awe of our Shepherd, Savior, Creator, Redeemer, Healer, Anchor, and Prince of Peace! It fully transforms the tide of your restless heart and weary soul. Its intimacy enraptures you with the beauty of who He is and points your heart towards what He is capable of in your life! 

    Eventually I want to get in to the reasoning behind Golden Thread’s Summer Soundtrack series, but first I want to share how worship planted a seed in my heart, which inevitably led to my complete unraveling and ultimate rebuilding! Oh, the power of worship music to transform a life and radially revive a dead heart.

    My heart used to be made of stone -- cold, callused, wounded, hard. In the throws of marital strife, I vividly remember my husband sitting outside on our back porch, night after night, with his Shane and Shane (specifically “The Worship Initiative” albums) music on, with his head bowed in prayer as he quietly prayed for me – his very lost wife. Listening to even a note of worship music ignited abrasive, angry, and offensive feelings within me. While desperately trying to laughably uphold my good girl reputation, I still went to church. I would purposefully run late as my husband would literally drag me along so I could skip the worst part of church service to me -- the worship music. The music used to make my whole body recoil and squirm. The convicting sounds of the music had a deep personal assault on my sin-filled, wretched heart. The resounding sounds could effortlessly penetrate this fortress of a heart when nothing else could. It could see through my smiling mask and phony façade -- straight into the depths of my heart. The Spirit’s conviction of the sin that was entangling and choking out my life was scary and I had to avoid it at all costs. Ironically, I could completely disengage from what the Pastor was speaking about during the sermon, but for some reason my soul, my spirit, and my heart could not go deaf to the poignant effect of worship music. Light was trying to get in there, but I was determined to not let it in.

    That, my friend, is spiritual warfare. It’s a clear picture of how darkness rejects and recoils at the light. A colossal collision of the darkness that lived inside my heart and the light outside that was trying to break in and free me. Oh how it tremendously grieves me to write about the state of my heart back then.

    The assurance that God will be present when we praise Him is promised to us in Psalm 22. He “inhabits the praises of his people.” We cannot deny that he is there with us. Even being in intense denial, I could not emotionally or spiritually disconnect when there was praise and worship music on because His presence was palpable to me. After all, I am an “image bearer” and He was the one that created this heart.

    But I didn’t want to feel worse than I already did. Just let me keep running from you, God. I can manage this without help, I used to think. I didn’t need to feel more beat down. I had such a catastrophic misunderstanding of who He was. I thought He was mad at me, couldn’t wait to judge, destroy, condemn and shame me, and would happily hand out cruel consequences to me. What a surprise it was to me, when He met me with tenderness, mercy, freedom and a love that was there to gently rescue me instead. 

    It’s as if I was hearing the Lord sing these lyrics over me:

    “Come out of hiding,

    You’re safe here with Me.

    There’s no need to cover

    What I already see.

    You've got your reasons, 
But I hold your peace.


    You've been on lock-down
, And I hold the key.

    'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love


    And I saw it all, still I chose the cross


    And you were the one that I was thinking of
 when I rose from the grave.

    Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours


    I tore the veil for you to come close.

    There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore


    You're not far from home.

    No need to be frightened by intimacy


    No, just throw off your fear
And come running to Me.”

    Bethel Music / Steffany Gretzinger – “Out of Hiding”

    So then a morning came when I was still very much in a depressed, anxiety-ridden and hopeless place that I recall praying for alleviation. I was in such distress and was willing to try anything. I was in my bathroom by myself when I heard a clear, quiet, calming voice whisper to me and say– “just play a worship song on your phone.” To no surprise, I didn’t have worship music on my phone. But I remembered the name of a band (Shane and Shane) I loved from many years previous, so I got on Spotify, searched their name, clicked play on their most recent album, “Psalms II” (for some reason it seemed the least threatening to me), and found comfort in the fact it would all over in 3 minutes. The Lord didn’t ask me to do any more than I could – which, at that moment, was to press some buttons on my phone. He met me where I was, and He did the rest. 

    As I was dying of thirst, He offered me Living Water. As I was starving, He offered me the Bread of Life. As I stood deserving of death and condemnation, He freely offered me a new hope. He lifted my heavy, downcast head off the bathroom floor and said, “I’ve been waiting for you my Beloved! The time has come. Come and follow me.” He inhabits the praises of His people!

    I fell to my knees as I listened to the Psalms play (which that album is PURE Scripture – HIGHLY recommended)! He unraveled me with this simple melody. For the first time in years, I felt relief, hope, and lightweight. And as it was playing in my bathroom for the first time ever in this home we lived in, I was weeping -- unhindered tears of brokenness just streaming down my face like never before. God met me on the floor of my bathroom in an immense breaking point and outpouring of grief and despondency from the cisterns of my hidden heart pain. The music cut through my ready-to-be-released-buried-heartache like a knife. I was sucked into the beauty, splendor and hopefulness of the lyrics I was hearing! And honestly, from that moment on, my life has never been the same. Certainly there was immense work and painful restoration ahead, but it planted a seed in my heart that could never be unsown. Monumental cultivation began. I had turned my life over to The Carpenter – who majors in rebuilding and construction – both old and new assembly. What was to happen in the coming days, I wasn’t prepared for, but my God had come back for me. His relentless pursuit of me and my broken heart was on.  He was willing to destroy the walls of my fortified heart and break down every lie I believed by ANY means necessary. It’s true – “He never leaves the one behind” (Luke 15). He used worship music to initiate the breaking off of my chains and He had come to set this captive free (Isaiah 61). It was as if scales fell out of my eyes. That moment initiated sparks of revival in this lifeless, numb, unresponsive heart.  It was like an AED (defibrillator) had shocked my heart back into its proper, healthy and yet new rhythm. 

    “He surrounds me with songs of deliverance!” Psalm 32:7

    “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

    I remember being embarrassed to tell my husband what I had done that morning. I expected him to judge me since it had become a trend for me to mock others’ devotion to worship music. But when he got home from work, I somehow mustered the words to tell him what I had done and what had happened. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “We’ve been praying and waiting for this day. I knew it would come!”

    So – note to self – NEVER give up on someone – your prayers are never for nothing. It might not be on your time frame, because I was lost at sea for years – but keep praying! Fruit isn’t grown in a day, and your prayers WILL produce future fruit! Hope in the Lord and in His plans and timing – with the deep-rooted trust that the Lord is on a very personal rescue mission and is constantly interceding for your lost loved ones too! He “NEVER leaves the work of His hands!” (Psalm 138:8).

    The seeds the music had planted in my heart lead me to complete repentance and brought me into a place of total humility. And that is why from that moment forward, I’ve never turned that worship music off. It is on in my home, in my office, in my car. I am proudly dependent on it. I very much had a Saul to Paul moment and now I have become a person who cannot devour enough worship music. It keeps my heart in a place of gratitude, focused on who HE is and what He is capable of! Thanking Him for the miracles He worked in my life and in my marriage!

    My family and my community of dear friends have experienced the power worship music has to usher in the Gospel and change and transform a heart and life. He is a prison-shaking Savior! We see it in Acts 16 when Paul is imprisoned and begins singing songs of praises in His jail cell. I encourage you to go read the powerful story! Because of his worship, major and mighty things changed on the scene.  The Lord showed up! He inhabits the praises of His people!

    Desperation brought about by my woundings sparked an interest. Peering in with curiosity made my distrust, doubt, dread and fear of the Lord turn into examining. Examining quickly turned into a partaking; partaking turned into reverence, reverence into awe, awe into adoration, adoration into captivation, captivation into total freedom, freedom into delight, delight into worship, worship into love, and love into magnificent joy! Not because these weren’t incredibly trying and tumultuous times, because they were!  

    “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. A hope does not disappoint!” (Romans 5:3-5)

    Investing in matters of God’s economy does not ever return void or empty. We have an earthly lens at which we view things, from which all things shift, change and pass away. Yet, His Word, His ways, His purposes, His covenants, His timing, His economy are unchanging, always-for-your-good, unshakable, endless, forever-present, continually-productive and will never let you down. Leading to fullness, richness, and life abundant. In suffering AND in celebratory seasons – and everlasting fruitfulness is fashioned: joy, peace, hope. Everything your desire-seeking heart searches for. It freely awaits you.

    “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him!” 1 Corinthians 2:9

    “No one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4

    His music speaks and tells the truth about who you are - how loved, delighted over and adored you are! You are chosen and ransomed and He has mighty things planned for you and your precious life!

    Step into His presence and experience the great exchange! He turns mourning into joy, grief into dancing, shame into significance, failures into purpose, brokenness into wholeness, bondage into freedom, scarcity into abundance, defeat into forgiveness, striving into peace, performing into acceptance, regret into repentance, weakness into strength, hopelessness into healing, torn into transformed, the old into something new. 

    Worship, praise, and prayers change the entire atmosphere. They instantaneously shift the focus off us and on to something greater! They challenge us to look up and out instead of down and in. The picture of a captivated and yielded heart, a bowed and enraptured heart, and rightfully on the throne is Jesus. Inviting and opening the door for the Holy Spirit to come and be apart of those moments does something!  

    Even if you don’t have the words yet, the music will. It’s a beautiful place to start. Whether you are hopeless, hurting, or lost and aren’t sure what to pray or you are crying out begging for help and healing. Maybe you are looking to surround your home and your family with songs of deliverance – go shout out truth and cover it with His promises and defensive and offensive battle cries! Use worship to pray for guidance, answers, freedom, joy, deliverance, help, growth, calming of seas, wisdom, healing, change, hope, restoration, revival, life abundance and wholeness!

    Worship is about intimacy. Entering into a moment of raw vulnerable emotions and encountering security and shelter - moments to know and to be known. It's a time to cry out for whatever you're praying for. It helps to recall scripture and declare lyrics of assurance in times of uncertainty and need. It brings peace. It's a picture of surrender. Choosing to worship Him despite how we feel or what we are going through. It matures and grows you. Worship fashions trust and a secure attachment to your Father- allowing the Lord to come into your circumstance, however hard that is – and develop a confident intimacy. The flawless intimacy we all desire and need. Based on His love that is not passive, never disengaged, and always keeps its promises. It ushers in the joy of the Lord. Worship crosses the barrier and breaks the boundaries between our heads and our hearts. May it sink in. I know that it calmed my restless and fatigued soul. May music plant seeds of revival in your heart and in your home too. 

    God has laid it on my heart to share my personal playlist with all my favorites and go-to’s. There are 94 days of summer, so naturally there are 94 songs! My challenge is for you to listen to a song a day and let the words wash over you. We are posting song lyrics every Monday on our social media platforms, so make sure to follow along!

    https://open.spotify.com/user/jenniferwelker/playlist/3KbETi3lclPk9BCWeNEToo?si=SqDkDUzgSc2j-Mtbqqrldw

    My prayer for you is that you invite worship to become a norm in your life. No matter the circumstance, make Him your anthem. Hope awaits you at the press of a button.

    Claim His promises and proclaim the truth! May we be a people who praise Him and cry out to Him in the valleys, storms and rough seas AND on the mountaintops and sunny days!

    “If the stars were made to worship, so will I” – (Hillsong United),

     

     

     

     

    “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

    Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come before him with joyful songs.

    Know that the Lord is God.

    It is He who made us, and we are His;

    we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

    Enter His gates with thanksgiving

    and His courts with praise;

    give thanks to Him and praise His name.

    For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;

    His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

    Psalm 100: 1-5