Under My Skin
"...and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of depair..." Isaiah 61:3a (NIV)
Like the sting of sunburn after a long day at the beach, the heat on my hands stayed for hours. As a treat for my family, I had made Aunt Carol's jalapeno peppers. With the sharp knife and chopping block, I transformed eighteen forest-green peppers into little boats of tasty fun. What I hadn't counted on was that ten minutes of exposure to the pepper's oil on my dry skin produced a burning that lasted hours.
As I looked at my red, cracked hands, I was reminded of another part of me that seemed dry and under-nourished a few months earlier.
My heart had been in bad shape. It had felt like a stone. When I would go to church, I sang the songs but I was just going through the motions. My heart was not truly singing praise to Jesus.
I assumed it was the church. Surely, something had changed. We needed new music; something fresh. But it turned out it wasn't the worship that needed to change; it was me.
I knew I couldn't do this on my own though. I needed to rediscover the oil of gladness mentioned in today's key verse. I decided to get intentional about personally coming into the Lord's presence daily, asking Him to replace my mourning with His gladness and my despair with His garment of praise.
Although I had never stopped reading my Bible and praying, I hadn't really been taking time in God's presence and asking Him to renew my heart.
So I began starting my time with the Lord each day by praising Him. A prayer journal I used gave me several helpful suggestions: repeating His attributes (faithful, loving, kind, etc.), calling out His names (Healer, Provider, Sustainer, etc.), singing hymns or worship songs, and my favorite: reading the Psalms out loud.
Opening my day with praises to my King transformed my heart. Each morning I would start by singing a song; one that turned my thoughts away from me and on to Him. Then I would focus on Jesus' character. Just saying out loud who He was - my hope, stability, and strength - filled my heart with joy. Afterwards, my heart would be reminded that although life can be filled with trials, even monotonous, He was always at work in and through me. Each day He would replace my wearisome heart with His fresh perspective.
After weeks of this new way of experiencing and worshipping Jesus, I found that my outlook through the day was different. Like the oil from the peppers, the lasting effect of His presence is felt in my heart many hours after the exposure.
Dear Lord, help me to enter into Your gates with thanksgiving each day and come into the courts of Your presence with praise. You are good and You deserve my heartfelt worship each day. I love You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Put your favorite worship music on and find a place alone. Spend time worshipping Jesus. Ask a friend what her favorite worship music is and swap for a week.
What holds you back from worship?
Does your heart feel dry and cracked, like it needs some ointment? Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart.
Ezekiel 11:19, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." (NIV)
Psalm 103:1-2, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." (NIV)
Psalm 9:1-2, "I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High." (NIV)