Sacrifice of Praise

Sacrifice of Praise

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 4 crazy, homeschooling children ages 9 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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In this month when social media lights up with thankfulness, I want to pose a challenge to you:

“Through – Jesus , therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
Hebrews 13:15 (emphasis added)

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This passage struck me as odd when I read it the other day. A continual sacrifice of praise? It’s such an interesting way to phrase that thought. Is it a sacrifice to be thankful for that cup of coffee (or protein shake in my case) that gets us going in the morning? Is it a sacrifice to be thankful for the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the place we call home?

All these are immediate blessings that we start to see when we open our eyes to how God has blessed us. We are essentially being thankful for the things that benefit us and that’s not so sacrificial. It’s more just acknowledging God’s goodness during good times. Wait….are we acknowledging God while we are giving thanks?

Being Thankful with a Distinction

Being thankful is a blessing in and of it self. It allows us to step back and realize what all we have. It may help us reevaluate how we need to be a better steward of what we are given. It also has many health benefits. But during this time of thankfulness, we need to make a distinction to whom we are giving our thanks.

What? I know it sounds sorta silly at first. Most of us would say we are thanking God for what we have, but are we? Many people are thankful this time of year but their thankfulness does not flow to God. Many in their hearts don’t even acknowledge God as being the provider of what they have. They might be thankful to a person, a job, mother nature, or even themselves.

Being thankful with a distinction is one of the ways we can start implementing this challenge of living a sacrifice of praise through Jesus Christ. When we confess out loud that God is the giver of blessings and it is He that deserves our thankfulness then we are not only praising God but we are also pointing others to Him.

When we “openly profess his name” in praise, we are stepping out and professing our love to our Lord and Savior and not caring what anyone else thinks. Sometimes that takes courage and sometimes that takes sacrifice.

Sacrifice of Praise

To praise God is definitely a sacrifice when it is not a perceived benefit to us. I say “perceived,” because we know there is always a spiritual benefit to praising the Creator of our souls but physically Satan could try to punish us and others may not see it as a benefit. Many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world lose their possessions and even their lives for being willing to praise God to their physical detriment. This is one form of a sacrifice of praise.

Another form, which most often occurs in our lives here, is the sacrifice of praising God through Jesus Christ even when things are not going our way. Are we willing to praise God when others are belittling or ridiculing us? Are we willing to praise God when our car breaks down, we lose our job, or sickness has overtaken our bodies? Are we willing to look like a fool for praising a God who has allowed these things to happen? Or do we feel justified in our grumbling and complaining and throw thankfulness out the window altogether?

Ouch!  Did I step on anyone else’s toes other than mine? This isn’t going to be easy. That’s why it’s a sacrifice. We very well may have to sacrifice the pleasure we get from complaining, but sisters, it is soooo worth it! God’s gifts are always worth it no matter what we have to sacrifice. Sacrificing a negative attitude for one of praise and thankfulness is definitely worth it!

So how do we incorporate a sacrifice of praise into our lives? 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 explains it this way:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

hebrews-13-15

Prayer over our hearts

Lord, we praise you with all that we are and with all that we have. Whatever is getting in our way of praising you, let us know, so that we may deal with it properly. You have created our lives and saved them, so nothing should be more important in our lives than you. Yet, we sometimes put other things in your place, even some of the objects and conveniences you’ve blessed us with. May we set you back on the throne of our hearts and give up what does not belong there.

Oh, Lord! Help us to learn to praise you continually and openly. We thank you for this month where people are learning to be thankful. We  pray we will keep this attitude of praise going after this month ends. May we live a life that continually offers you sacrificial praise no matter what difficulties lie ahead.

In the One who continually teaches us what it means to sacrifice – Amen!

Communion, Children, and Concentration

Communion, Children, and Concentration

Tracy Watts

Tracy Watts

Wife, mom, daughter, teacher, blogger, crafter, organizer - but most and best of all, I am a Christian. I am passionate about my family and my God. I am married to my best friend and am blessed with a one year old son who keeps me busy all the time staying at home with him. And I am glad to be in the service of our incredible and awesome God.
Tracy Watts

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Generally, when one has a kid, there is an understanding that worship will be different. You may not be able to listen to the sermon as well (at all?). You may miss some of the songs (discipline issues? Poopsplosion?). You may only get to hear the first half (or third?) of a prayer.

But, following the wise advice of an older mom, I have found that one area has improved for me. I have been better able to focus during communion.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I have stood and bounced, rocked, nursed, cuddled, and cajoled a fussy baby. We have our days. We have our weeks sometimes. Sickness, stubbornness, and silliness can all be a challenge on occasion.

But stay with me.

Communion might even get better after you have kids. Here is what my friend shared with me.

You might think of the Lord’s Supper as another high pressure point–after all, it should be at least somewhat quiet, just like in the sermon, which of course means that your kid is much more likely to cry, talk, giggle, etc. Toss goldfish, puzzles, and books in their direction until they find something to occupy them, right?

Maybe not.

What my friend did was something a little different. And of course, not every Sunday worked out like this. But the ones that did were amazing.

First, she would hold her two little girls in her lap. In an intimate whisper, she would tell them the best story ever told. She would tell them of Jesus. Of his life, of his great love, of his sacrifice, of his undeserved pain, and of the wonder of his resurrection. She would tell of the Last Supper. Of what the bread and grape juice symbolized.

And she told them how very special this was–and that some day, they too would participate in these special moments focused on the Savior. They too would get to take part in Communion. That they too would be a part of the greatest, blood-bought family there is: the church.

And in telling them that precious story, she herself absolutely focused on the most important subject there ever could be: Christ and his sacrifice. She was focused, not just in bringing herself closer to Christ but teaching her children to do so as well.

Today, her kids are grown. These beautiful, Christ-like women each have talents they use for God. And now, they each participate in the best supper there is–the Lord’s Supper. They give me hope and renewed energy. Their very lives and examples encourage me to keep on doing this tough but rewarding job of motherhood.

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May you be encouraged to do likewise.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Hebrews 12:1-2

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October: A Time for your Family to Shine Christ’s Love

October: A Time for your Family to Shine Christ’s Love

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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I love the tradition of lighting the jack-o-lantern. It’s one we don’t do much anymore for safety concerns, but thankfully there are some really great battery-operated lights to use in their place. The glow from the pumpkins in the dark night is just really cool! There are many negative connotations with Halloween so it’s a holiday I tread lightly upon, but one idea I can get behind is being a light. It’s a topic we can talk about year-round, but I especially love to use this time of year to think about ways to shine God’s love.

let-light-shine

Here are some fun ideas to help your family focus on shining God’s light this October:

Learn a lesson from a pumpkin. 

In 2 Corinthians 4:6 we read: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 

If you think about the message in this verse, it’s quite like the light that we shine in our jack-o-lanterns. Liz Curtis Higgs has a wonderful children’s book titled “The Pumpkin Patch Parable.” This story compares a carefully selected pumpkin, cleaned up and transformed by its farmer, to what happens when we let Jesus take over our lives. It is a great story to read with your children in anticipation of a trip to the pumpkin patch!

Take a family glow walk. 

With the cooler weather and the sun setting earlier, now is a great time to take a walk in the dark with your kids. Grab a flashlight and maybe some fun glow sticks. On your walk, talk about how the light allows you to see where you are going. Use this a bridge to discuss God’s word being a light for us.

Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Say a special pumpkin prayer together. 

Here is a simple prayer you can say together as you carve your family pumpkin this year. There is a different line to say for each step of the process. Click Here:  Pumpkin Prayer

Along those lines, here is another great version of the pumpkin prayer in the form of a printable book (from Christian Preschool Printables) that you can use to say the prayer over and over again! Click Here: Pumpkin Carving Prayer 

Participate in a family glow worship night. 

Give everyone a fun light stick to use while you sing songs that praise Jesus. Don’t forget to sing “This Little Light of Mine!” One of my favorite parts of the pumpkin prayer is said as the eyes are carved: “Lord, open my eyes to see all of the beautiful things you have made.” Take some time to pass around a special light (or candle, if your kids are mature enough) and let each person share something beautiful in their lives that they are thankful for.

Shine your light through family service projects. 

Matthew 5:16 says,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

A great way to put this verse into practice is by doing a special service project together. It could be something simple such as baking pumpkin muffins for a new mom or an elderly neighbor. If your children are older, try volunteering at your local food bank or help someone with their yard work. Brainstorm together one night around the dinner table ways to shine the light of Christ and put a plan into action!

Place reminders in your home! 

At this stage in my life, I’m not a huge craft person. However, I do enjoy coloring sheets because they are EASY and my daughter loves them! These coloring sheets from Christian Preschool Printables focus on Christ and shining your light. After your kids have colored them, display them around your house. Each time you see one, your family will be reminded to shine the light of Jesus this season! Click Here: Free Coloring Pages 

I hope you’ve found some ideas to keep Christ at the center of your home through the month of October! Have a wonderful season shining for Christ!

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Let It Go! A Lesson in Control

Let It Go! A Lesson in Control

Candace B

Candace B

I am a proud wife and Mother! My hubby, Tyler, and I both attended Oklahoma Christian where our love grew! We got married, had two beautiful kiddos, our son Gunner and daughter Brooklyn, and we are living a truly blessed life! I am currently a stay-at-home-mom and I help my husband in every way in his position as a youth minister (It's a true labor of love and we wouldn't be anywhere else!). I am also working on my teacher certification so when both my kids get into school I will have a job that I am passionate about, get to see my kids all the time, and will be out when they are out. I am most importantly a Christian and strive daily to keep God #1 because he is the reason I have all the amazing blessings, I give him all the praise!
Candace B

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Does this sound familiar?

“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small. And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”

Yes, that is a part from the well-known song “Let It Go.”  If you have small children, you have heard this more times than you would like to admit. But have you ever really listened to the lyrics?  These are some beautiful words of truth to live by in everyday life!  I would like to focus on one topic that plagues me on a daily basis: control.

Yes, I said it, control.  I feel that as parents, it is hard not to control everything.  Things would be better, run more smoothly, and you would get things done a LOT faster if you did things rather than the little people.  I would like to point out–I do not have all this figured out, hence the reason why I am writing this post!  But I hope this may be a source of encouragement for all the parents out there who want to “help,” “guide,” etc. your kids in all they do.

let-go-of-control-let-your-childs-talents-shine

Here are some points to consider:

1. Give them space.

Kids need space to do what they need to do. If you are over their shoulders they do not have the capacity to express what they would like to do.  You will realize your kids are capable of SO much more than you think.

2. Let them make mistakes. 

Instead of calling them “mistakes,” let’s say learning by trial and error.  They will make mistakes, but this is how they will learn, grow, and understand what they could do to make it better next time.  You want them to understand that there will be tough times, but they need to learn to work through it on their own.

3. Be present.

Be there, love them, lend them a hand when they need it.  It is always important that you are still there with them so they know you are available when they need you.  There is a fine line between hovering and hanging back to let them figure things out. Make sure your kids know that when things get tough, you will be there to assist in any way possible.

letting-go-of-control-to-let-your-kids-talents-shine

I wanted to write this post because every day I try and want to do EVERYTHING for my kids.  I tend to assist, hold their hand, insist that I do it for them.  But what I have learned is that when you let go, you let your kids show you just how much they can amaze you.  Recently, I wanted to do a painting craft with my daughter.  I knew that my instincts to not let her would creep in. So I decided to embrace what she could do.  The time we spent together painting blessed me tremendously because I learned what an encourager she is!

“Mommy, you do a really good job!”

“That is beautiful!”

“You are the best Mommy ever.”

It brought tears to my eyes because just letting her paint by herself showed me one of many talents God gave her!  We serve an awesome God!

Make no mistake, God works in all of us when we let him and he works in your children as well.  He blesses, he cares, and when you let go…you let God take control.  What a beautiful sight it would be if we let go and have full faith and trust in God!

How do you “let it go?

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The Wise Woman Builds Her Worth Upon the Rock

The Wise Woman Builds Her Worth Upon the Rock

Meredith P

Meredith P

Hello, there!  I grew up as a military kid who loved adventure, so I fell in love with and married a military man right after college graduation.  The two of us had adventures together as we traveled for a while, but we finally settled in cozy Southern Indiana.  However the excitement is still alive, because God has given us four kiddos that I homeschool.  I love nerding out on anything from school curriculum to thrift store bargain hunting, from rockin' recipes to theological debates, and pretty much any lively discussion in between.  Thanks for reading!
Meredith P

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If you grew up in the church at all, or even if you didn’t, you have probably heard the song, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.” The song is based on Jesus’ words right after he gives his famous Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:24-27, he says this about what two people do with what he has just taught:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Untitled design
That paragraph boils down to this: Life is hard. Bad things happen in this imperfect world. Choose to build your life on things you can never lose. If your life centers on things you can lose like money, or your job, or praise and affection from people, when the going gets tough it’s gonna be a rough ride.

Building Our Daughters’ Self-Worth

I’ve seen a trend rising that says we shouldn’t tell our daughters they are beautiful. If we do, we are damaging their self-worth. For example, see this article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/10083124/Dont-tell-your-daughter-she-is-beautiful-parents-told.html

On the surface, I think this is a good thing. Women and girls absolutely should be praised for more than their looks. They are worth way more than what the eye reveals. However, the author suggests that we replace our praise about beauty with praise for skill. As I thought about it and compared this idea to what Jesus says, I realized that both of these forms of praise are sandy ground.

All other ground is shifting sand-2

 Consider this scenario:

Let’s pretend I have praised my daughter for how quickly she completes puzzles, or how beautifully she paints, or how accurate she is in her math work. Let’s imagine that her self-worth, in part, is built on this praise.

The rains are about to come down.

Another day she is putting together a puzzle and is having great difficulty, or she can’t get her painting to look the way she wants, or she is learning a new, challenging math concept and receives a poor grade on a test. Where does this leave her self-worth if it was built on this praise?

The floods are coming up.

The winds of her heart are blowing and that part of her self-worth on which this skill was built is torn down.

So, should we praise our daughters (and sons) for how kind they are rather than appearance or ability? For praising them for things of the heart, so to speak? Wouldn’t that be better?

Let’s say I have praised my daughter for having a kind heart. I see her being tender with a friend in need, or I see her showing compassion and empathy toward a sibling.  I praise her for it, and in part, she builds her self-worth and identity on being a kind and compassionate person.

Another day there is someone for whom she feels no empathy or love. Her feelings are mostly annoyance and she acts rudely. Or perhaps she snaps at her siblings and despite her efforts, she cannot regain her composure and yells at them. Again, the floods are coming up and the winds are starting to blow.

If you stop reading here, you might think I am saying that we should not praise our children for these things laid out above.

I am not.

We need to and ought to praise our daughters (and sons) for their accomplishments and for their kind, compassionate, and beautiful hearts. I praise my children every day for these things. I even praise them for their physical beauty and handsomeness, because my goodness, they are so cute!

What I am saying is that all of this is not enough.
This praise is not worthy to build self-worth on.
All of these are sandy ground.
There must be something else in addition to all of this.

We need to build on the rock.

So what is the rock?

 

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress,
I will not be shaken.
 God is the Rock.

 

He is the only one worthy of supporting and carrying our self-worth. Why is He worthy? Unlike beauty trends, human ideas, affection from people, and our emotions, He does not change like the shifting shadows (James 1:17) or move around like the sandy ground on the beach. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our appearance, our skills, and our emotions change too frequently and are too unstable to support something as valuable as our self-worth.

 

What He says doesn’t change either. Here is what God, our Rock, says in His Word about your daughter’s worth and yours too.

 

You are created in the image of the almighty, all-powerful, and all-loving God of the universe.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

 

So I will teach our daughter this truth: God is unfathomably amazing. To be created in His image is astounding.

You are perfectly and wonderfully made by His own hand.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 

So I will tell our daughter how beautiful she is. And in the very next sentence, with God’s help, I’ll set her worth on the Rock by reminding her that God knitted every single part of her body together. He likes her just the way she is because He made her that way and all His works are wonderful. I pray she knows that full well.

 

He has a plan just for you with jobs He created for only you to do and that only you can do.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

 

 

I will praise our girl for her hard work and her talents and her kind, loving heart. Then, with God’s help, I’ll set her worth on the Rock as I also tell her God knows her inside and out. He has planned certain tasks just for her, and He created characteristics in her to accomplish those tasks. The Creator knows she is the right one for these jobs.

 

He loves you with a beautifully fierce and unconditional affection that movies, books, songs, and other people can never replicate.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:37

With God’s help, I’ll place her worth on the Rock by reminding her of His unfailing love for her. I’ll do this by reading to her His words. I’ll point out His acts and displays of love in the little and big things that happen in her life. I’ll remind her that God’s love for her doesn’t change whether she fails or whether she succeeds. And when her heart is broken, while she may be sad, her worth will not be shaken because it was never wrapped up in human affection.

 

You are worth dying for.

 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll be sure to tell her the Creator of the universe deems her worth dying for. That Jesus paid the price for all of the wrong she has done and will do. He paid it because He thinks she is that worthy and that valuable. He longs to spend eternity with her and have her make His home in heaven her home too. So when she messes up, like we all do, her worth won’t slide because it was not built upon being a “good person.”

 

It was built upon the rock.
And the wise woman builds her worth upon the Rock.
What other ways can we teach our daughters to build their self-worth on the Rock?
Just Slow Down

Just Slow Down

Today I’m reminded to just slow down.

Maybe it’s the beautiful warm sunshine on my skin. Or perhaps it’s the chill music as I’m exiting Panera after enjoying my favorite spinach artichoke quiche. Maybe it’s because my husband is out rock-climbing with the guys for the first time since his knee injuries, and I’ve got free time.

Whatever the reason, I know the quiet voice of God is saying, “Be still.” So, I put the weight of all my stuff in the car and meandered back to the vacant outdoor patio. Feet up on chair, with only a iced green tea and phone in hand.

Wow. I feel so light! And then I think, “WHY is this not my regular pastime?” Why am I always rushing through parking lots? Getting meals to go? Running through checklists? Always on the go. Go, go, go.

I need to Just.Slow.Down.

Slowing Down with Purpose

Then I realize, it’s not just about slowing down. It’s about slowing down with IMG_6625purpose. Enjoying God’s beauty and bounty. So I watch the tiniest baby bird as it perches on the chair next to mine, inquisitively peering my direction. I share a laugh with a young boy as he captures a picture of our little feathered friend. Two strangers who bond over the magnificence of God’s creation as we watch a little bird’s intrigued expression before taking flight. I watch someone talking animatedly on the phone with a friend. I’m so proud of myself in this moment, for both slowing down and taking time to take in everything and everyone around me.

And as I’m watching people…it hits me.

People-watching used to be an art. A fun way to pass time. Is it just me, or does it seem a little creepy in our modern era? Is it because we are so disconnected with the world around us? Too engrossed in our smartphones and tablets? Our own busyness? Are we so focused on ourselves or our own small circles that we forget to look outward? So on-the-go, we forget this part of slowing down – the being watchful part?

What If We Slowed Down?

What if we slowed our pace, sat outside, watched a bird watching people, listened to traffic and conversations…real people and real conversations, acknowledged strangers passing by, what then? Maybe we would bring back another “lost art.” And maybe, we’d glean–and give–something of value.

If I hadn’t needed to run errands today, I might not have left the house. It might have been a different kind of “slow down” day. I might have spent the day in front of Netflix, playing games on my phone, wishing I had something better to do. And calling it “slow…”

And I would have missed all this meaningful, valuable, slow down, people-watching, bird-watching, God-tugging-on-my-heart fun.

What do you need to do (or not do), to ‘Just Slow Down’ today?

I love the way Isaiah 30:18 reads in the Amplified version:

And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!

[John 14:3, 27; 2 Cor. 12:9; Heb. 12:2; 1 John 3:16; Rev. 3:5]

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