This Is My Sacrifice



“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

I got to thinking about this yesterday.  What it would mean to really offer up a sacrifice of praise.  Why it’s a sacrifice.

I got to thinking about how my favorite times are times with eyes closed and hands heldd high and songs lifted alongside the corporate body of believers.  I got to thinking about how I put that worship music on and sing my heart out while I’m doing dishes or baking bread.  Sweet incense swirling around His throne.

Doesn’t feel much like a sacrifice of praise.  Feels like a gift He’s given me.

But that little song stayed on my mind….”We bring a sacrifice of praise…into the house of the Lord…”

And maybe yes, the singing, the songs, the music, the eyes closed and hands lifted high, the dancing across the kitchen…that’s a gift.  It lifts my head and my heart, yes, it is a good gift.

But what about the others ways we praise?

When we give our money…not knowing how we’ll cover bills and groceries, but we give the way Jesus taught us to give.  Giving sacrificially and joyfully.  That hurts sometimes.  It’s a sacrifice of praise.

When we offer forgiveness to someone who isn’t even sorry…to someone who has broken our heart…when we do that…that’s a sacrifice of praise and it hurts.  It costs.

When we whisper our broken thanks…when we worship even though everything is a mess…when we are thankful and content in the midst of circumstances…that hurts and it costs and it is hard.  It’s a sacrifice of praise.

When we do what’s right even though it is decidedly NOT what we want to do.  It costs.  A piece of us dies and it hurts.  But we do it as a sacrifice of praise.

We bring these sacrifices to the altar.  In Old Testament times, they brought lambs and doves and had to slaughter them for a sacrifice.  I am grateful we don’t have to do that and I’m sure it wasn’t fun…but did it cost like these sacrifices?

These sacrifices are gifts from our deepest selves.  We give them wholly…when we’re doing well.  We hold them back when we’re not.  The good news…there isn’t a time limit.

God is always waiting for us to bring our sacrifice.  Even at the eleventh hour.  Even after weeks, months or years of holding it back.

He waits.

He is patient.

Bring a sacrifice to Him today.  A sacrifice of generosity, of obedience, of gratitude.

Bread, Not Stones

Everytime I begin to feel like a failure…God reminds me of this verse:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:9-10

And it might seems strange…since it’s not a verse about my performance but maybe that’s the whole point.

Yesterday, I felt a bit like a failure as we navigated the day.  I wrote my blog but after that it just seemed like nothing was going right.  Catching the bus was hard, getting to preschool was hard, getting coffee in the morning was a giant fail…just one of those days when all the little things pile up and threaten to knock you right down.

Then, the afternoon came and I didn’t plan it out very well.  The bus ended up coming early and I wasn’t outside in time and the end result was a pregnant woman running after the bus, yelling, “WAIT!  WAIT!” while it drove away.  With my child on it.  And then I had to call the school and they were impatient with me and I could almost hear the woman on the phone rolling her eyes.  Maybe thinking to herself, another mother who thinks being at the bus stop is something she can take lightly.

I was ready to cry.  Because it hit me right where I’m vulnerable.  Right in a raw place…a place of worrying that I don’t measure up as a mom.  That place of wondering if I even have what it takes.  And that tape began to play in my head of all the ways I’ve failed as a mom over the past twenty years.  And that tape got louder and louder and Lila was on a bus somewhere and I was falling apart in the middle of the road.

What kind of mom can’t walk the handful of yards from the house to the bus in time?

And it’s not like I did it on purpose.  The bus was really early, for one thing.  It wasn’t due to come for at least eight more minutes and often is later than that.

But all the frustrations and irritations of the day plus this?  It added up to me pressing play on that tape that tells me I’m the worst mom ever.

Fast forward about fifteen minutes and the bus has brought me my child.  I think to myself, “Let’s shake this off and go get a Frosty.”  Which we attempted to do.  But Claire had removed my wallet from my purse and hidden it in the house and so, although we’d driven up to Wendy’s and ordered, I couldn’t get the Frostys.  Causing weeping and sorrow and disappointed little ones in the car.

Cue the tightening of the throat, the threat of tears and that tape on a loop in my head.

Come on, Lord.  I said.  Help me.

I spent the afternoon scolding myself for struggling with these first world problems.  Scolding myself for not doing a better job.  Scolding myself for not having it more together.  Scolding myself for not having a better attitude.  No grace for myself at all.

And as I was laying in bed waiting for sleep to come and for the very bad, no good day to end…God whispered to me.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I am evil and need my Savior.  I am a mother who would not give her children or the ones in her care stones or snakes…I want good things for my little ones.   And God wants good things for me.

He doesn’t want me to beat myself to death for mistakes and for my failings.  He doesn’t want me to shame myself.  He doesn’t want me to play that tape anymore.  Because I am redeemed, I am living out the calling He gave me.  I am enough for my children.  I can do this.

He has good gifts to give.  He loves me.  And even when the day hands me stones and the world hands me snakes, God has bread for me and He has fish for me.  He has gifts to give.  Gifts that I missed yesterday because the day won and I lost and I didn’t remember to be thankful.  I gave myself no grace.  I gave myself no mercy and left no room for the counting of joys.

It’s not too late.  Yesterday’s gifts:

Talking with Claire after nap. She can tell you where all of her body parts are, including tricky ones like her eyebrow, elbow and knee.  And if you ask her her name, she can tell you what it is.  Sort of.  (It kind of sounds like Carrie.)
Sammy and the baby dolls. He loves the babies. He wraps them in blankets, pushes them in the stroller. And sometimes, Claire even lets him do this in peace.
Lila’s hug when she finally did get off the bus. Do you know it never occurred to her that I wouldn’t be there? That’s not a possibility in her life. She is secure and sure that her mom will be there.
Nora’s little baby taps and kicks and hiccups. I only just started feeling her move a few days ago and she hit the ground running. She’s a busy baby and every moment fills me with love for her.
Luke when he said, “It’s picture day at school, that means it’s going to be the best day ever.”
David’s dimples. They never fail to make me smile.
David and I’s trip to Walmart for his birthday present- a noisy truck and watermelon gum. He loved being able to pick for himself and he loved that it came in a bag just for him.
Pictures of my little nephew. He is a bolt of sunshine and love. We did not know how much our family needed this little nephew until he arrived.

Why didn’t I remember to count those things yesterday?  I chose counting the stones that life handed me yesterday, not the bread that God gave.

And then I had this thought:  I’m not the only mother that days like this happen to.  Don’t we all have a tape that plays on a loop and tells us of our failings?  Don’t we all have days where we’d love to press reset and just start all over again?  Don’t we all screw up sometimes?  Haven’t we all been late for something or forgotten something altogether?  It’s not all hugs and kisses and reading stories.  Sometimes, all day long is hard.

But I’m not the only one.

And, I have the power, tools and resources to make the next day a better day.

I woke up with Matthew 7:9-10 playing on a loop.  I woke up with those fresh and good words in my heart.  I woke up longing to find the gifts of the day, the jewels He leaves me, the joys that can be found in the everything that’s around me.

Today will be a day of remembering His goodness and His gifts.  Today, I will count the bread, not the stones.

Will you count with me?  Leave your list of gifts in the comments section.  We’ll give it to God like a big offering- an offering of thanksgiving and praise.  A sacrifice of praise even.  We’ll sacrifice our desire to complain and feel frustrated and we’ll sacrifice our usual routine of beating ourselves up.

Share your joys with me and with our fellow moms and dads and other readers.

The Sacrifice of Praise

I think we know in our heads and even in some places of our hearts that God knows best.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying to tell Him what to do.  I often get His plan “figured out” and then I try to make it happen.  Yes, you read right.   I try to make it happen.

This is, of course, fruitless.

I think of Abraham and Sarah and how they tried to make God’s promises come to pass.

It began with this- a Holy visitation and a word from the Lord.  “I will make you a father of many nations.  I will give you and Sarah a son.”

And the two of them wanted that son a lot…Sarah grew impatient and decided they would need a surrogate.  She supplied her servant Hagar to her husband in order to get this son.  But it wasn’t a good thing…and it wasn’t really what Sarah wanted because this is not what God had in mind.

Genesis 21:12 says, “For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”
The New Living translation says, “…This happened just at the time God said it would.”

God’s timing.  He sets the times and none of our striving can change that.  It’ll happen at the time God said it would.

Last night, I made oven baked chicken with a ritz cracker crust.  It was really good but man, it was spicy.  I couldn’t figure out what was making it so spicy.  Paprika, salt, pepper, thyme, onion powder.  Why were we all on fire?

John suggested, “Maybe you mixed up the paprika and the cayenne?”  And sure enough I had.  We all agreed that it was better this way and it made me think about God.

Sometimes we think we’ve figured out His plan. Sometimes we think we know best but the truth is…

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And only He knows when and how and all of that.  And it’s like the chicken.  Sometimes the unexpected is the most flavorful.  Sometimes we can’t imagine what His best really is, we can only see our best.  And how can we even know what the best is?  God can see the end of the story and we can’t.

I’m in a season of surrender.  I’m in a season of placing all that I try to control and manage and worry about on the altar.  To make my life a sacrifice of praise.  It’s a choice I must go back to day in and day out.  Laying down my plans for my family, my plans for my future, my dreams (this one hurts) for all of us on the altar and giving all to Him.

I want my heart to beat with His.  I want my steps to be in sync with His.  I want to walk the paths He has for me.  It’s scary to lay it all down and surrender my own will.  It’s hard.  But I don’t want to miss His best for me.  Thirty nine years in this life has taught me one thing- I am nothing without Him.  And His best is what I want.  There is joy in the laying it down.  There’s something about emptying ourselves out and letting Him fill us back up.  There’s something powerful in surrender.

He never holds His best back from us.  He gives it with no strings attached and with open hands.  But we have to be willing to release control and take it.