Praise In Poetry: Motivated By Morning

Many times I find the first few hours in the morning to be very inspiring and motivating. Whether it’s the result of a good night’s sleep or the promise of a new day, those first conscious hours of waking up can be magical. Today I felt especially motivated when I woke up and even more inspired after reading my daily devotional.  So after a couple of cups of coffee I decided to put these feelings/thoughts down on paper:

As I awake and embrace
This gift of a brand new day
I deny the sorrows of yesterday
To invade the blessing of today
Allow my ears to hear your songs of love
As they echo from every corner of creation
Guide my steps down the path of your desire
While guarding my heart from villainous temptations
Grant me the resolve to use all of the gifts
That You have graciously implanted me with
Ensuring that my heart may always match my lips
Seeking neither praise nor glory in my name
But In Yours
And when I stumble and begin to stray
Lift me up and continue to guide me on my way
For when I look back
On days both distant and passed
I can clearly see Your direction
Even when my eyes were not looking
And when favors were never asked
From gratitude and determination
These words and feelings are derived
And in hope and faith
They will survive

 

The particular passage that inspired this poem was Psalm 143:8, which reads:

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

I also referenced and drew inspiration from another verse, Matthew 15:8:

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Like many of you, I always like to start my day by taking a few moments to give praise and thanks for be granted another day of life, a gift that sometimes can get lost or underappreciated in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As I grow older I just hope and pray that I will be able to make the most of every single day I am given while being aware of all the blessings and directions in my life.

 

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Humility Over Haughtiness

If you look back into your lifetime or into the entire annals of human history, you would be hard-pressed to find a more self-indulgent and self-obsessed culture than the current society in which you and I currently both inhabit. It is not my intent to start off this post with a such a seemingly negative and pessimistic statement, but it is a statement, for better or worse, that holds a lot of truth.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we are given a description of how people will conduct themselves during the last days:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Does this sound like an accurate description of how many people live their lives in today’s society? Whether you believe in Biblical prophecy or not, it is hard to deny the fact that many people and cultures fall into these categories.

Technology has allowed every person to create and indulge into a medium in which they can share and project their own personal beliefs, opinions, fears, joys, hate and love to thousands upon thousands of people and followers across the entire world. Many people have learned to place and find personal value/self-worth based on the number of likes and followers they achieve on social media.

I am by no means bashing social media, technology and/or the internet, I am both a fan and a user of all three, I am merely trying to illustrate an example of how we have transformed into a self-indulgent society that relies and thrives off of instant gratification and validation.

It’s important to note that human beings for the most part have to overcome a natural inclination towards selfishness. How many times have you heard a baby or young child sternly use the phrase “mine!”, only to be scolded by his or her guardian? Sharing and selflessness are both characteristics that have to be developed and learned in most people, and unfortunately some people never quite get the hang of these valuable skills in their lifetime, I’m sure you could name at least one such person.

One of the many things that both struck and shocked me when reading the New Testament was the humbleness and humility that Jesus displayed after performing several of his healing miracles. For example, in Matthew 9:31 after Jesus healed the two blind men, He ordered the men to “See that no knows about it.”.

Despite Christ’s stern command to keep the miracle a secret, the blind men went out proclaimed what Jesus had done for them. And who can blame them? But it is in Jesus’ desire to keep his miracles a secret that we can find one of Christ’s many great examples of how to live a humble life for the greater good/purpose.

Jesus just could have easily told any of the numerous afflicted people who He healed to go out and tell everyone that they knew to spread the word of what He had done for them, but Christ knew that would ultimately detract and hinder his goal and message. A little humbleness and humility can go a long way in the long run.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing and being proud of your own personal accomplishments and achievements, God blessed each and every one of us with gifts to achieve great things in this world, but when pride turns into boasting and ungratefulness, we now begin to have a problem.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  – Proverbs 16:18

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”  – Proverbs 29:23

Like most concepts in Christianity, humility is not a hard or complicated concept to grasp, but is also a concept that can be lost or forgotten in its simplicity. For some people, they cannot be humbled until they have suffered or lost the things and/or people that they were once proud and boastful of.

I encourage myself and everyone to practice developing that Christ-like voice inside your head that warns and deters you from making haughty boasts, comments, and posts. By beginning to practice and living your life in such a humble way, you can create a more peaceful and beneficial existence, not only for yourself, but for others as well.

 

 

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Shifting From Anxiety To Thankfulness

When brainstorming ideas and concepts I always find myself returning to the topic of Anxiety at some point or another. I don’t necessarily consider myself to be an anxious person, but I definitely tend to over-think and over-analyze things, which usually results in some form of anxious thinking on my part. OK, so I may be an anxious person, but I digress.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s extremely easy to be overtaken and overwhelmed by each new day’s tasks and trials. Some of us face much more serious, life-threatening and trying circumstances than others, but everyone definitely has their own daily crosses to bear.

But with a simple shift in our conscious thinking from worry to thankfulness, we can begin to shift towards a more peaceful and appreciative state of being. It’s fairly easy to get lost focusing on the people and things that aren’t in our life rather than the abundance of things and people who actually are present.

Before I even opened my eyes this morning, one of the first thoughts I had was how comfortable and warm my bed was and how I wasn’t looking forward to leaving it to prepare for the day and work. But by recognizing that this was not the mindset that I wanted to begin my day with, I made the conscious choice to shift my thoughts to a state of thankfulness.

I instantly thought how thankful and grateful I should be that I was even laying in a comfortable and warm bed, and then I expanded on that thought by thinking how thankful I was to have four walls and a roof to contain that comfortable bed that provided me with a good night’s rest. As for that pesky and sometimes stressful job? I was thankful that I have that ability to pay for those four walls and roof that houses my warm and comfortable bed. And finally, I thought how thankful I was to even be given the gift of life today.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

It is not a new, foreign or strictly Christian concept that by changing your thoughts you can change your outlook, instead it is a concept that is so simple that it can sometimes be forgotten or unappreciated. By recognizing and giving thanks to God for the blessings he has given each and everyone us, we can continue to live and fulfill the lives that He intends for us to live.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – Thessalonians 5:18

So I encourage not only myself, but everyone to transform their negative, anxious and worrisome thoughts into thoughts of thankfulness. Change your mind, change your world.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

 

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Finding God In 50,000 Thoughts

Everyday each and every one of us fights a battle, whether we are aware of it not. This battle is not fought outwardly with physical weapons and strength, it is fought within the confines of our own mind and spirit, and it begins everyday from the moment we take our first blessed and conscious breaths.

Instead of a traditional horn or a trumpet signaling you to charge into the fray, this battle is usually declared by a digital tone emanating from a device placed by your head and set to a recurring time to systematically raise you from your nightly slumber. To put it plainly, an alarm clock.

This daily skirmish that I allude to is the battle of attempting to keep God, Christ and Faith in our estimated 50,000-70,000 thoughts that we experience each and everyday of our conscious lives.

I understand that nobody can keep a Christ-like consciousness 24 hours a day, we all fall extremely short of that glory, but by being more mindful of our daily thoughts we can definitely begin to shift our lives, actions and interactions towards a more beneficial and faithful outcome.

I know that I am not alone when I wake up everyday and my mind is immediately bombarded with the daunting thoughts of the tasks, situations, stress and realities of the world I will face throughout the day. Some days it takes every ounce of faith and mental strength I possess to face these challenges head on, and God help me if I don’t get my two to three cups of coffee in the morning.

If you’re fortunate or faithful enough to not have these intimidating thoughts every morning, God bless you, but if you find yourself in the same boat as myself, I say keep fighting the good fight. It all starts from within. Remember, it’s not so much about what goes in, but rather what comes forth:

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person – Matthew 15:11

Defiled and hurtful words, thoughts, and actions are all born from allowing our minds and thoughts to stray away from God and Christ. Nothing good or uplifting will ever come from living and leading this type of life. Once we begin to be mindful of how our vile thoughts produce vile and undesirable actions and words, we can begin to transform and train ourselves, and our minds, to produce more fruitful and faithful results.

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. – Matthew 12:33

Everybody can reflect back on their lives to at least one situation in their past, whether distant or recent, where their thoughts and/or mindset produced a hurtful or unfruitful situation, phrase or action. Chances are you may also know or work with somebody who does this on a daily basis. In either case, you are able to see how walking, living and thinking with a mind not set on God and Christ can negatively impact the world around you.

The idea of keeping and practicing God’s teachings, love and grace in your daily thoughts is not a new concept, but it’s something that we sometimes need to be reminded and mindful of. The idea of trying to keep God in your 50,000 daily thoughts can also seem overwhelming, but if you break those 50,000 daily thoughts down into roughly 35 thoughts per minute, it seems a little more attainable.

As I mentioned earlier, it all starts from within, and with one thought at a time.  It is a process that may never be mastered in a lifetime, but it is both a process and a habit that is completely worth the effort, and one we must all strive for.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

 

 

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We Are Designed And Destined For Joy

It’s extremely easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of our daily, weekly, monthly and eventually yearly grinds. Getting lost and engulfed in 40, 50, 60 or more hour work weeks is unfortunately a cycle that most of us find ourselves in.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no shame or anything wrong with working long days and weeks to support yourself and your family. If anything, a respectable work ethic is something that is lost among many people in our modern culture. A solid and diligent work ethic is something that has been appreciated back to biblical times.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Proverbs 13:4

But as I mentioned before, as those long workdays turn into long workweeks, and those weeks turn into long and stressful months, and those long and stressful months turn into years, it becomes exceedingly easy to forget that we are created for much more than a paycheck.

Again, I’m not advising you go out and quit your job, as lovely as that may sound. Everyone (well most everyone) needs a paycheck. It is our civil duty to contribute to society and support ourselves and our loved ones. But it is also our Earthly and spiritual duty to live a joyful and faithful life that we are destined and designed for by our creator.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

God does not want our lives to merely be punching time clocks and working overtime (although he respects that), He wants us to also enjoy and rejoice in this wonderful world and life that He has created for us while using the gifts that He has graciously blessed us all with.

As hard as it may be, when you hear that alarm clock go off every morning, take the time to thank God for this life, and ask him to guide your steps and actions towards leading the joyful and faithful life he wants to you live. Not for your own personal enjoyment, but for the fulfillment of His design for you.

Take time to find joy in your daily grind, even if it is as simple as appreciating a sunset, taking a quick walk, or talking to a loved one on the phone. A life lived without joy and praise is a life that is not worth living, and a life that God does not want us to live.

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Defeating The Darkness

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided to look up some of Dr. King’s quotes this morning while having my morning coffee. I was overwhelmed by the amount of poignant and truly inspirational quotes that this man delivered during his short, but important time on this earth.

I have always had respect and a basic and fundamental understanding of what Dr. King represented and fought for in his lifetime, but by no means claim to be an expert on the man. After some deeper research I cannot help but feel an even greater amount of respect and appreciation for his legacy.

As I sit here today, in my new life with God and Jesus Christ, I could not help but be drawn in and inspired by some of Dr King’s quotes. The man had faith, love, compassion, strength and inspiration in spades. I was especially fond of the following quote:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength To Love, 1963

 

Dr. King’s above quote reads like a passage from the Bible and was undoubtedly inspired by his own personal faith and relationship with God.

There is so much darkness in this word and within ourselves, whether you want to personally admit it or not, that we all must try to overcome to make our existence much more enjoyable and meaningful. And as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, we have the tools and the teachings to accomplish this.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Through following, studying and exemplifying Jesus Christ, we can overcome and shed light on all the darkness in the world and ourselves. God so greatly loved us all that he gave us His son to be the shining light that would lead us out of the darkness.

I know from my own personal experience and transformation, that my life has indeed become much brighter since I began walking and learning with Christ. Old fears seem less fearful and former anxieties have been replaced with a new peace.

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8

So let us all be the lamps of God and Jesus Christ and help to defeat and throw back the darkness that we all must contend with in this life. Not only for ourselves, but for all those who wander lost and weary.

 

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Praise In Poetry: Friday Edition

Since my teenage years, I have always enjoyed poetry, prose, and the written language. This obviously comes as no surprise, seeing as though I own and operate a blog, but I have always kept my writings fairly secret and tucked away into several notebooks.

But in searching for an idea to post about today, I decided I’d share a short piece I found in one of my aforementioned notebooks. I wrote the following untitled piece in March of 2015. A time before I seriously began to follow God/Christ, but also a time where the seeds of grace had been planted in my heart.

In myself
and within myself
I seek peace
from an external temporary world

I have weathered many storms
and I must weather many more

When the moon rises high
and when the sun kisses the sky
I will call out in praise
and thanks

For all my battles
give me strength

I find it interesting that I wrote this piece three months before I ultimately decided to follow the Lord and give myself over to Christ. As I look back at it now, almost a year later, I can see how God was already preparing me to fully realize the gift of grace that He had prepared for me.

Also in this pre-awakening writing of mine, I draw a parallel to James 1:2-4.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Even before my walk with Christ, I realized the importance of enduring all the difficult trials in life we all face and how they can actually produce strength. After coming to Christ and seeing this very philosophy in the pages of the Bible, it only strengthens my resolve and belief in the concept.

Some of us have more difficult and trying trials than others in this life, but none of us are free from the burden. It is only through steadfast faith in God that we can endure all the trials of this life.

 

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