Cultivating a heart of gratitude and praise
I sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” for a funeral today of a man about my age who deeply touched my life with His love for the Lord. I taught his children music. He taught me about passion for Jesus, love of family, selfless service and worship. He ran 21 miles the day before He went home to be with Jesus. The service was a reminder of how precious life is here on earth. I want the moments of my days to count for eternity. Another one of my students buried her father today as well. The reality of life and death is weighing on my spirit. I’m so grateful for the lives the Father weaves into mine...the tapestry of His love and truth and grace. I have so much to learn. He has so much to give. I’m overwhelmed with the sense that I need to slow down and soak in all He has for me, all that He is.
And yet the holiday season is here..... and all that comes with it. This year as we enter the season of Thanksgiving and then fast forward into Christmas, I think it’s important to pause and consider what it means to cultivate a heart of gratitude and praise. It’s that kind of heart that will lead us into a lifestyle of worship. It is our calling in life, what we were created for. Yet sometimes in the busyness of these seasons of abundance, we get caught up in the festivities, the family and friends, the feasts …..
and neglect the One whom we celebrate,
the Giver of all gifts.
The perfect sacrifice of Jesus opened the way for us to the Father so that our sacrifices, imperfect as they may be, are now acceptable to God. We see in these verses in Hebrews 13 that God wants our lives to be a constant reflection of His goodness and grace. That means my deeds and words should speak the heart of Jesus in my everyday walk and the celebrations of life. The only way that we will be able to magnify God with the “fruit of our lips” in continual praise is if the roots of His Word and character have taken hold deep within our souls.
Our worship takes two primary shapes. We worship with our words - the fruit of our lips of praise that profess His name, and our deeds--
as we do good and share with others.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find that hard, especially in this season of the year. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and end up exhausted just trying to survive until it’s over.
And that’s not why He came.
Each year I have to be intentional to set aside time during this season to spend with the Lord in His Word and prayer. It seems everyone wants a piece of me and there’s not enough to go around.
Do you ever feel that way?
I wonder if this year you might consider with me trying to make the holidays different - to make worship and praise the priority. I love the way Ruth Meyers describes worship. She writes that she likes to think of worship as a beautiful crown adorned with two brilliant jewels. “Mounted in the crown of worship - the basic act of offering God our lives, of honoring Him as God - are the jewels of praise and thanksgiving.
Jewels that radiate the glory of God, to His delight and ours.”
A dear friend years ago gave me a little plaque that I have treasured and found to be true in my life. It is based on Psalm 22:3 and reads,
“Praise is the pathway
into His presence.”
When we need to experience His presence in the midst of difficult circumstances or the frenetic pace of life, it is praise that often leads us there. So I’m asking God to develop within me a deeper heart of gratitude in every circumstance and situation throughout each day.
Won’t you join me?
I’ve been thinking of planting a little winter garden of blooming plants around my fountain. It looks pretty sad right now, but I was recently given some beautiful pansies and petunias. They are such hardy flowers here in our southern winters. They bloom and radiate beauty despite the cold and gloomy days. Our hearts need to be cultivated and nurtured just like my little fountain garden.
Developing a heart of gratitude and lifestyle of worship begins when a seed is planted in a heart of desire. Praise and worship which flows from a heart of gratitude has to be cultivated and nurtured. It doesn’t bloom automatically. The spiritual garden where the heart of gratitude grows is nurtured by many of the disciplines we’ve been exploring in this series and will look at in future weeks:
-spending time in the Word of God
-surrendering and depending on His Holy Spirit
-choosing to walk in His will and ways
-growing in the knowledge of God’s character
When we choose to cultivate His spiritual garden in our hearts His beauty radiates within us.
So in this week of Thanksgiving let’s nurture our hearts with His Word. Choose some Psalms to ponder that focus on praising the Giver of all things. Some of my favorites are
Psalm 18, 23, 27, 33, 62, 63, and 145.
Begin each day in surrender to the Holy Spirit and choose to walk in a manner that honors His name and brings hope to the hurting and lost.
Choose an attribute of God’s character to focus
on this week such as
His faithfulness, love, wisdom, compassion,
or one of His glorious names….
Savior, Provider, Healer, Shepherd, King, Refuge, Bridegroom….
Consider the beautiful names in the image here.
Look up Scriptures that display His name or attribute each day and then look for ways the Lord is displaying that aspect of His character to you. Take time to thank and praise Him for His pursuing love in your life through the people
and circumstances you face.
For years I have used a little devotional book full of Scriptures entitled “31 Days of Praise” by Ruth Meyers
to turn the focus of my heart off of myself
and my circumstances
toward a heart of praise.
Our worship and praise is richer when we focus on
who God is, what He does, and what He gives.
Below is one of the entries from her book:
“My heart rejoices in You, Lord, for You are my strong shelter in times of trouble and danger and stress, my hiding place to whom I may continually resort...my Father who lovingly provides for me...my Shepherd who guides and protect me...my Champion who upholds my cause as His child and defends my highest interest...my Bridegroom who delights in me...my God who is mighty to save, who rests in His love for me and rejoices over me with singing, with shouts of joy. You are my inheritance, my share in life, the One who satisfies my longing soul and fills my hungry soul with goodness.
I praise You for Your love and Your wisdom. You are too wise to ever make a mistake, too loving to ever do anything unkind. You act on my behalf, accomplishing what concerns me and fulfilling Your purpose for me as I call on You. Thank You that You love me deeply and tenderly. You are compassionate and gracious, full of lovingkindness, ready to forgive, patiently considerate, and generous beyond imagining. You desire my love and rejoice to do good things for me. You delight to give me the desires of my heart as I delight myself in You. How precious is Your love to me, O God! I sing for joy as I take refuge in the shadow of Your wings!”
Psalm 27:5;71:3;91:1-2;Matt.6:25-26;Psalm 23:1-2;Isaiah 62:5b; Zephaniah 3:17-18; Psalm 16:5-6; 107:9
Psalm 57:2;138:8;86:5;103:8;Matthew 22:37;Jeremiah 32:41;Psalm 37:4;4:367;63:7
I know that this week is full of family and festivities for most of you who are reading. My prayer for myself and for you is that Jesus will be the center of it all. I pray that we will choose to focus on planting the seed of desire into our hearts to live a life of gratitude and praise to our Lord beyond this Thanksgiving week. As we choose to cultivate and nurture a heart of praise, His Spirit will lead us into a lifestyle of worship.
I’ll save that topic for the next blog as we enter the Christmas season and purpose to keep it sacred and devoted to the One who came to save us.... the One whom we worship and adore.
Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!
May we cherish the moments with family and friends and look for opportunities to serve and share the love of Jesus… offering our sacrifice of praise.
We never know what the next day will bring.
Rest in the truth that as His eye is on the little sparrow,
He watches and cares for you.
May you experience the pathway into His presence this holiday
as you choose to cultivate a heart of gratitude and praise!
With a grateful heart,
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