A Thousand Hallelujahs Devotional
We stand and sing the team's national anthem at the beginning of many sporting events. A momentary reverence is shared—standing to attention, removing hats, respectful adherence to a tradition. A bailiff invites us to rise when judges enter the courtroom. We stand when the bride begins her processional up the wedding aisle. The historical narratives rooted in some of these traditions are messy, and some choose to bend the knee or hold their seat. At best, these moments are perfunctory. Not so with the anthem of praise to the King of Kings.
Think for a moment about the anthem of heaven. Can you imagine how quickly we will rise, how loud we will cheer or how our breath will catch at the sight of Jesus? Will it be loud, or will the presence of the King of Kings have us so moved that it will be our collective silence that fills the space? If we take a knee, it will be because our legs cannot bear the weight of our trembling bodies.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Psalm 95: 6,7 NIV
As I ventured into the quagmire of social media today, I became aware of the dangers lurking in the shadows. I fasted from social media through December and am now more sensitive to what is still present on my feeds. I don't search for the bad news. I stumble upon it because conflict, chaos and confrontation reign online. So, with each click, or swipe, I hold my breath. My heart quickens, and I remain on high alert. Not like the lioness crouched down in the bushes waiting for her prey, she is fearless; my vigilance is more akin to the wee antelope who suddenly hears the grass rustle nearby and looks up frozen with fright.
So imagine my delight today when I read a series of posts from a lovely friend, one after another, offering thanks. She gave an anthem of praise. She wrote thank yous to nurses, mental health professionals, teachers, and pastors for all they do to keep us safe, healthy, and informed.
Who else would rocks cry out to worship
Whose glory taught the stars to shine
Perhaps creation longs to have the words to sing
But this joy is mine
An anthem of praise. A melody of adoration. Brooke Ligertwood's A Thousand Hallelujahs is an anthem of praise. A song of devotion. Our heart's cry of gratefulness. We have eternity to sing it. A thousand hallelujah's to magnify his name, give honour and praise because He reigns.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since you were called to peace as members of one body. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, d0 it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:14-19 NIV
If you feel the burden of the here and now, lift your eyes above your circumstances. Join the chorus of A Thousand Hallelujahs. A song of worship we will sing into eternity. An anthem of praise our hearts long to sing.
Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. A Thousand Hallelujahs was written by Brooke Ligertwood and featured on the A Thousand Hallelujahs album.
Last Updated: January 25, 2022
Do you know your giants? It is hard to imagine not seeing that one giant standing in a crowd, but some giants tend not to be that easy to spot. What about interactions with people or things that leave you feeling small or threatened? Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 You would think all giants would be easy to notice, but Goliaths go by different names and attack us in different ways. The ones that dwell inside us rule with an iron sceptre—the giant of insecurity or pride, for instance, or the giant of greed and self-promotion. Prowling around is a giant called judgement who hides in plain sight, distorting scripture and using biblical truth to promote a contrarian agenda. I may not face Goliath, but I've got my own giants. Elevation Worship's, Same God, featuring Jonsal Barrientes, invites us into realignment. A powerful reminder of who remains the giant slayer, the promise keeper and the healer of broken hearts and minds. He restores all things to himself because he, alone, created all things for himself. I'm calling on the Holy SpiritAlmighty River come and fill me againCome and fill me againCome and fill me again The same God who heard the cries from generations past hears us now. And His sameness matters. While the circumstances around us seem fluid and ever-changing like ocean tides, God is the same through all our tomorrows. He still heals and hems us in from behind. He is our protector and defender. You heard Your children then, You hear Your children nowYou are the same God, You are the same GodYou answered prayers back then, and You will answer nowYou are the same God, You are the same God Whether you are battling the giants lurking inside you, or giants that live on the mountain standing in your way, take a moment and remember the God who is for you. He hears. He saves. He restores. The same God whose heart and intention never shifts for your good remains faithful to His promises. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Same God was written by Pat Barrett, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick, Brandon Lake and featured on Elevation Worship's Same God album.
What happens inside when your world feels upside down and nothing seems to make sense anymore? Wave after wave of stories from around the globe relaying horrible acts of violence, families devasted by war, freak accidents or environmental disasters. "All our enemies have opened their mouthswide against us.We have suffered terror and pitfalls,ruin and destruction."Streams of tears flow from my eyesbecause my people are destroyedLamentations 3: 46-48 I long for the days when I didn't know so much. The naivety of my youth without the magnetic pull onto the social media highway. When we hung out at the park and came home when the streetlamps turned on. I never thought I would fondly remember the days of the dewy decimal system and hours lost gathering information. Now there is this onslaught of information, competing agendas, friends who we hardly recognize anymore shouting insults and angry retorts at one another. The world can feel upside down, leaving us feeling defeated and hopeless. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;therefore I will wait for him."Lamentations 3: 22-24 The "just ask Google" age is a double-edged sword. We get information quickly without knowing with certainty that it is accurate. Now, we can find and disseminate information across multiple sources with little accountability to prove validity. Gone are the days of trusted experts...we have become the experts. Our message at church this week focused on humility. Can we acknowledge there are things we do not know or understand? Can we lay down our need to be right? Are we able to live on the edge of not having all the answers? The lyrics in Katy Nichole's song, In Jesus Name (God of Possible), offer words for times when our present circumstances feel like too much to bear. Sometimes, we need help to hope in the not yet. When answers don't come soon enough, or when my solutions don't align with my neighbours. In these moments, all we know to do is pray. I pray for your healing, that circumstances would changeI pray that the fear inside would flee in Jesus nameI pray that a breakthrough would happen todayI pray miracles over your life, in Jesus name We are most at risk when our circumstances feel so overwhelming that all we want to do is hide, or when we are so overwhelmed, we get louder and meaner. As a therapist, I manage well with emotional reactivity in the safety of my office space, but facing an angry stranger at the grocery store, or reading the vitriol of an acquaintance's remarks online, can leave me completely gobsmacked. I speak the name of all authorityDeclaring blessings, ev'ry promise He is faithful to keepI speak the name no grave could ever holdHe is greater, He is stronger, He's the God of possible Come believe it, come receive itOh the power of His Spirit is now forever yoursCome believe it, come receive itIn the mighty name of Jesus, all things are possible If you are walking with someone through their darkest days, or you are finding yourself weary and worn out from fighting your own battles- speak the name of Jesus. Sometimes, this is all we can do. Christ Jesus who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?Romans 8:34b, 35 Resist the tendency to limit the power and effectiveness of His name. No amount of digging for answers, no amount of time spent in dialogue, no amount of tears melts the hurt in the human heart like the ministry of Christ's love. As it is written: "For your sake, we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." NO, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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: 36-39 So we turn our eyes to heaven and cry out "in Jesus name." Receive His love, His healing touch for your weary, worn-out heart. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. In Jesus Name (God Of Possible) was written by Katy Nichole, David Spencer, Ethan Hulse, Jeff Pardo, and featured on the In Jesus Name (God Of Possible) album.
We received a text from our mother at 9:31 am on July 30th, 2020. "I think Dad died!" He died in his workshop. His death was shocking. This weekend we will gather as a family to remember him -- one year later. Dad lived life on his own terms and left deep, tender impressions on our hearts. For you, the words may have been different, but the pain is familiar. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes it is expected and sometimes it comes out of nowhere. Some waves feel manageable, bumping us around with flashes of memory -- even bringing a soft smile to our face. Like the moment you find a picture of your loved one that reminds you of the years gone by. It is tenderly sweet and sad all at the same time. Other waves pick you up and slam you underwater, trapping you in an undertow that threatens your very next breath. What have been the words that left your world forever altered? Your mom has Alzheimer's. Your dad has cancer. Your daughter's baby died before she took her first breath. Your husband wants a divorce. Heartache. No one escapes it. Our experiences look different, but suffering is the human condition. A mark of our frailty. All are at risk of feeling pain. In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials for a little while. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6,7) I wrestle with the scripture inviting me to rejoice in my grief. In the moment when waves of pain crash over me, the last thing I think about is rejoicing. I am more focused on breathing through the unbearable ache that comes with loss. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3) Phil Wickham's song, Hymn of Heaven, offers words that we can sing while being tossed by the waves of sadness. The song acknowledges our vulnerability and desperation, inviting our hearts to lean into the end of the story when death and suffering are no more. Whatever your experience with grief, whatever waves crash around you today, there is a promise waiting. The breath of Heaven is coming. When He returns to wipe away our tearsOh, there will be a day when all will bow before HimThere will be a day when death will be no more Maybe there is room for hope and grief to co-exist? One that grieves and one that rejoices as we look towards a future with Jesus. It doesn't have to be an either/or option ... maybe it is a both/and journey. Not "either I grieve, or I rejoice," but "I can grieve and rejoice in my suffering." We don't have to deny our pain to prove our faith. The songs of faith we sang through doubt and fearIn the end, we'll see that it was worth itWhen He returns to wipe away our tears Thank you, Phil Wickham, for writing music that invites our humanity to exist side by side with the heart of Heaven. This is the kind of worship we can sing with all the pieces of us -- harmonizing the places that ache and the parts that celebrate! Hymn Of Heaven was written by Phil Wickham, from the album Hymn Of Heaven.Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children.
We've been on stand-by for the birth of our first grandchild for what feels like forever. As her due date came and went, the waiting game began. She received her eviction notice but seemed particularly content in her womb. Anticipation of her arrival intensified every day that first week in April. Pondering and praying one morning, I heard myself whisper, "I love her already". We do love her already. We have seen more ultrasound photos of her sweet little hands, feet and pouty little lips than all her aunt and uncles' in utero pictures combined! We love her already. Finally, on the evening of April 12, with one text, we learned she arrived! Listening to our firstborn son describe the birth of his first while hearing her precious newborn cries in the background is a moment we won't soon forget. Our son and daughter-in-law planned for a home water birth with the support and expertise of midwives. They had a plan!! The thing we newly-minted grandparents know all too well is that we can't plan for everything. The baby came fast and furious, opting to forego midwifery's arrival and instead make her appearance before any help had arrived. Our granddaughter made her entrance into her Daddy's waiting embrace on the bathroom floor of their home. Two parents already in love with their daughter caught her and welcomed her into their family. So much is happening in our hearts. We are delighted that the baby arrived safely, shocked that they delivered her on their own, and in awe of these waves of love and affection moving through our hearts and minds. We loved her already. That word "already" implies a great deal, before a specified or implied past, present, or future time. "Already" happens before she masters anything; before she shows that unique achievement before she meets any goals or reaches any milestones, we loved her before any past, present, or future accomplishments. Our granddaughter doesn't know how to "do" anything to earn our affection, we love her already. Babies intuitively know how to take in our love. It is hardwired into them to reach for and cry for affection. They respond to our gaze, and they are calmed by our hummed hushes. Responsive, loving caregivers provide comfort to babies when they are in distress, and children learn to trust their parent's safety and love. Holding my granddaughter, watching her eyes move towards her daddy's voice, my heart bursts; she knows her daddy's tone and affection. She is drawn already to his expressions of love for her. As I sit, feeling the depth of this love billowing up inside me, a steadying hush settles me. I have this thought: His love is greater. We gathered, admiring our little one. She showed no discomfort with our adoration. She wriggled, startled when we shifted her from one family member to the other, but she was deeply content held in our affection. Someone whispers: "I love her already." We all smile in agreement. We do. We love her already. We loved her before, but now the love is immeasurably magnified with a "presence" we can see, touch and kiss. Again, this thought: His love is greater. Yes, greater, deeper, more profound, more enduring, His love is greater. Can you take it in? Can you linger and receive this enduring love that God has for you? Our life experiences distort our receptive capacities. Our attachment systems, hardwired in at birth, are disrupted by disappointment, unmet needs, losses, grief; all the hard stuff of relationships. Over time some of us may close off their receptive capacities staying protected and hidden. Closing our hearts from others creates a false sense of safety, but we remain distant and disconnected from others. We might find it challenging to receive human affection or love, dismiss our need for it, or shift to people-pleasing to earn love and affection. These distortions in our receptive capacity to take in love and affection show up in our human connections and will undoubtedly appear in our relationship with God. Consider your own receptive affective capacity to take in human affection: When someone says to you: "You sang beautifully this morning," or "This meal is delicious." Do you bat that compliment back so quickly, you startle the giver? We mumble things like, "It was ok," or "I don't know, it was a bit overcooked." How uncomfortable do you feel? Imagine sitting for a moment in the discomfort of someone's affection for you, when you have heard heartfelt messages of appreciation like these: I admire you.I respect you.You are gifted.You bring such joy into my life.I love spending time with you.You are funny.I love you. Shake off the false humility that wants to pass back these words and allow yourself time to take them in and notice what happens inside. Allow yourself to be touched, moved, and loved. Then, you can take it a step further. His love for you is greater. His love for you is passed, present and future -- it is already. Without you doing a thing. Nothing right, nothing wrong, nothing outstanding. His love is "already" for you. We are invited to experience His love. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 19-21, NLT) His love. His love is greater than the billowing up, indescribable warmth spreading through my chest as I hold my granddaughter. His love is greater than the joy escaping through my breath mixed into the tears streaming down my face when I heard her first cries over the phone.His love is greater. Don't miss it. The totality of God's love for us, already matured. It won't grow or deepen. We don't have to be alarmed by this -- His affections won't become more evident, deepen or shift because His love for us is at the greatest depth we could ever hope or imagine. He loves us already. His love isn't dependent on "getting to know us." He isn't the grandparent waiting to hold a newborn grandchild. He knows us. He fully knows us. Our past, present, and future selves are known. And He loves with more depth, breadth, and presence than our minds can comprehend. Be held in the Father's love for you. Close your eyes and drink that in. You are fully known. God knows all the places and parts of you, the ones you share and the ones you hide, and He loves you. Go deeper into Christ's love. "This song has honestly been a reminder for me that God is everything we'll ever need. My prayer is that everyone who listens to this is reminded of the Father's heart toward us and that He loves to take care of us." (Naomi Raine, Maverick City, JFH) Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Promises was written by Dante Bowe, Aaron Moses, Joe L. Barnes, Keila Marin, Lemuel Marin, and Phillip Carrington Gaines, and recorded by Maverick City.
You've Already Won is a powerful song by the Worship Initiative that speaks to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The song tells the story of the Ukrainian people who have been caught in the midst of a brutal conflict for years. It is a reminder that, despite the hardships and struggles that they face, they are not alone and that they have already won the victory through Jesus Christ. The lyrics are a message of hope and encouragement for those who are living through the war in Ukraine. The song begins by acknowledging the pain and suffering that the Ukrainian people have experienced, and it speaks to the fear and uncertainty that they may feel on a daily basis: There's peace that outlasts darkness, hope that's in the bloodThere's future grace that's mine today that Jesus Christ has wonSo I can face tomorrow, for tomorrow's in Your handsAll I need you will provide, just like you always have However, despite these difficult circumstances, the song reminds the listener that they are not alone. It tells the Ukrainian people that God is with them and that He is fighting for them. It speaks to the power of faith and the hope that it brings, even in the darkest of times. The chorus is particularly poignant, as it reminds the listener that they have already been victorious through Jesus Christ. It declares that, no matter what they face, they can find strength and peace in Him: I'm fighting a battle that You've already wonNo matter what comes my way, I will overcomeI don't know what You're doing, but I know what You've doneI'm fighting a battle You've already won In the midst of the war in Ukraine, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. You've Already Won serves as a reminder that, no matter what challenges show up, we can find hope and victory through faith in Jesus. It is a powerful and uplifting song that offers encouragement and strength to all those who are caught in the midst of conflict. You've Already Won is written by Shane Barnard and Bryan Fowler, and featured in the album You've Already Won: A Song For Ukraine.
Do you remember the worst moments of your life? Burning recollections that flare up, taunting you with a sense of failure and shortcoming. Wretched moments. Do you remember feeling a sense of hope after a long winter season? Times when grace and peace brought you to your knees in gratitude. Salvation moments. Moments when you were rescued from the miry clay, and delivered safely to solid ground on the other side of the raging rivers. We are wretched. Standing rigid by someone you love, unwilling to acknowledge your mistake when you betrayed their trust. Seeing the pained expression on your child's face when you lost your cool, holding fast to your right to discipline. Letting that hurtful, harsh criticism fly from your mouth without regard for how it cut through the heart of a friend. We are wretched. Maybe you don't see glimmers of yourself in the scenes above. Maybe you have been the one hurt. Your spouse cheated. Your parents screamed at you. Your friend betrayed your trust. The disappointment and pain held weighed down, pulling you into the darkness of despair. You longed for relief -- but the relief didn't come -- in desperation, you looked for an escape from the pain. We are wretched, but the story does not end there. Charity Gail's, Thank You Jesus For The Blood is a powerful reminder of how Jesus has rescued us. He plucks out of the pit where there is loneliness and heartache. The words of this song put a layer of truth on top of our pain, making us whole again. When I was lost, Jesus "broke my chains, freed my soul. For the first time, I had hope." Sometimes the lyrics of a song reach deep down inside, and we recognize ourselves as the melody moves through each verse. We all have a rescue story. Maybe for you it is addiction, or like me, despair. Perhaps you are still trapped behind a curtain of anxiety or doubt. Maybe you come from a long history of broken relationships or epic failures in life. When we find ourselves stuck in the muck, wounded on the battlefield, scarred by hurt from those around us, we need rescuing. I know a thing or two about being rescued. Almost 20 years ago, my world shifted dangerously. My darkest days came after the birth of our fourth child. Hopelessness descended on me like a dark, heavy curtain. Imagine the inner conflict, holding a brand new life and simultaneously wanting to run away from it all. I experienced what felt like an unyielding sorrow -- my heart breaking into a million pieces. No one could see my pain. No one could help. I felt all alone. My secret strength and shield around me,You are salvation's ray of brightness shining on the hillside,Always the champion of my cause.So all I need to do is call out to You,Singing to You, the praise-worthy God.And every time I do, I'm safe and sound in You.When the spirit of death wrapped chains around meWhen terrifying torrents of destruction overwhelmed meAnd took me to death's door, to doom's domain;I cried to Him in my distress, the delivering God,And from His temple-throne He heard my troubled cry. My sobs came right into His heartAs He turned His face to rescue me.-“Psalms: Poetry on Fire,” Psalm 18:1-6, Brian Simmons My journey through the winter season of depression was a road of darkness I would rather not travel again. However, that painful journey took me to places with Jesus that I may have otherwise missed -- this is my experience of the Kingdom like a double-edged sword. My heart both ached and soared as I turned to God and God alone. I learned the upside-down truth that even in my distress, God is good, faithful, and He is for me. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2-5, NIV) I have journals filled with scripture -- the truth of the Word written out letter by letter. Writing scripture and soaking in worship helped me create a roadmap through the dark nights of my soul. I experienced God's goodness as He healed places deep inside me. He is the faithful God who stayed in the boat with me through all the stormy seas and never left me to drown. Is your current season dark and heavy around you? Are you more connected to being wretched than hopeful? Settle in and take a moment to let the words of worship wash over you. Be encouraged by the tender-hearted truth of Jesus. He is for you. Thank You Jesus, for the blood appliedThank You Jesus, it has washed me whiteThank You Jesus, You have saved my lifeBrought me from the darkness into glorious light We all need rescuing. We all have dark, wretched moments. There is nothing more powerful than the blood of Jesus poured over the stormy seas of our own disasters. Thank you, Jesus, for the "wonder-working power of your blood.” See the full interview behind the song Thank You Jesus For The Blood here. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Thank You Jesus For The Blood was written by Charity Gayle, David Gentiles, Steven Musso, Ryan Kennedy, and Bryan McCleery.
Phil Wickham's House of the Lord is a celebration shouting out praise to our God who made a way for us. His presence and provision billow up and overflow from grateful hearts. When you experience His joy, or when you have been rescued and set free, it is hard not to shout out with joy from the mountaintops. Is there joy in your house? A joy that bubbles up, spills over, and leaves your world just right. Maybe you glimpse joy walking along a forest trail, watching your kids play outside, or having that first-morning cup of coffee. Possibly, it is sunsets, sunrises or walking along the beach that does it for you; the moments we feel like our most authentic selves and right there in the middle of this moment, we feel it - deep and steady as a heartbeat - joy. There's joy in the house of the LordThere's joy in the house of the Lord todayAnd we won't be quietWe shout out Your praise But, have you noticed that it doesn't take much to steal your joy? How quickly deep contentment like this can be snatched away? Slipping from your soul the moment you see "that" look from the store clerk and realize you forgot to lift your mask up to cover your nose. You know the look: the judgy eyes, furrowed brows, the look of deep disapproval. Sometimes joy is stolen in moments when family or friends comment or question your decisions, their words laced with sarcasm, passive aggression or explicit judgment. Ever disagreed with a friend and then been ghosted, unfollowed or blocked? And one of the biggest dangers lurks on social media platforms—conversation threads enticing responses and disrupting contentment and joy both for the reader and the ones who post. We don't even have to post a comment to be and feel disturbed by what we read. Joy, peace, and provision. In His house, there will be joy. In His house, we will experience peace. In His house, we will have all that we need. If there is joy in the House of the Lord, we should expect to experience it. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Psalm 28:7, NIV) If we have confident assurance that our God is near, that He heals, and that He saves, why isn't joy plastered like wallpaper all over our social media platforms, filling our feeds? Because our lives are messy, complicated and we are easily prone to distraction and disappointment. The most common presenting issue in my counseling office is anxiety. Anxiety (fear) and joy rarely co-exist. The emotional marathon of 2020 left some of us depleted with a lingering sense of dread for the next hard thing. Maybe we are having trouble concentrating or feeling stuck and unsure how to get moving again. Some are not excited to re-engage socially when given the freedom to do so. Others report feeling aimless, like wandering through the day looking through a foggy window. With so many unknowns in the days ahead, hope for change is waning. There is a word to describe this -- it is called languishing. Someone described it to me like this: "It's been like hitting a dead end at every turn in a cornfield maze. In the beginning, it was a game, and we were set on winning and persevering. There was all this adrenaline to make it through and to overcome the obstacles. One dead-end isn't discouraging because you've only been in the maze for a short while, and you have a lot of energy to keep pressing through. But now, hitting one detour after another ... having to pivot and change directions has become tiresome. I want to stop playing and have someone rescue me. If I could shoot up some flares and have someone lift me to safety, I'd do that." The thought of experiencing life as a maze is so dark and heavy compared to the contagious joyful expression of praise in the "House of the Lord." What do we have to shift in order to have more sustainable joy? At any given moment, you can respond in one of two ways: Either your authentic best self may show up, or your more compromised version of yourself may appear. Think of being overtired, hungry, distracted, or frustrated, and suddenly someone cuts you off in traffic or drops the entire carton of milk all over your paperwork sitting on the kitchen island. Sidestepping all grace, words and gestures fly from your body quickly without much thought. You react rather than reflect, and your compromised self shows up strong and powerful. Though the fig tree does not budand there are no grapes on the vines,though the olive crop failsand the fields produce no food,though there are no sheep in the penand no cattle in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord,I will be joyful in God my Savior.(Habakkuk 3:17-19) Or maybe this is more you. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you land upon a post from a "friend." It is outlandish, offensive and flies in complete contradiction to all your values. In fact, you can't imagine how you didn't know this "friend" felt this way. Thoughts rush in: "what an ignorant comment to make," and "how can they call themselves Christian?" or "how can they believe that garbage is true?" Think about the last time you read something online that annoyed you, rattled you with such intensity that you reacted and responded rashly, or maybe you just muddled it over and over for days after. And, we keep going back to check that post to see what new absurd comments are being made, further disturbing our thoughts and disrupting our sense of calm. Criticism, judgment, seeing myself as the expert, name-calling, and hiding behind anonymity. These joy-robbers, peace-stealers, and grace-dismantling thoughts lead us directly into disappointment, anxiety and impulsiveness. We react rather than reflect. Our behavior becomes quick and prickly. Our compromised selves have sharp edges and tend not to respond well to correction from others. Not surprisingly, you may find yourself irritable, distracted, and sensitive to criticism and judgment in this state. So what can we do when we find ourselves in a prickly, reactive, critical way? Take a social media break and tend to the garden of your heart. Resist the pull to respond. "Whatever momentary self-satisfaction we experience when we entertain it leaves behind darkness and a hardness of heart — like cement that begins to cure while we're standing in it up to our knees." (The Chosen Book Two: 40 Days with Jesus. Day 8 Love) Lift your eyes above your circumstances and reconnect with the Prince of Peace. Sing praise and worship, allowing His truth to wash over you. He heals, He saves, and He is still rolling away stones. He makes a way through every dark valley or risky mountain climb. He will give you what you need to face the tricky places you find yourself in. But His direction, leading, and heart will not be easy to hear or find if you have not attuned to Him. We grow close to those we spend the most time with, and intimacy is cultivated intentionally, mindfully and with consistency over time. We sing to the God who healsWe sing to the God who savesWe sing to the God who always makes a way Come back to the revelation that we are the house of the Lord. We are the body. We are not a building. We are a people. How we engage with the world reflects how deeply His presence has touched us. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. House Of The Lord was written by Phil Wickham and Jonathan Smith.
Ever feel like an imposter? A pretender who is supposed to be full of faith and love but is also full of a bunch of other less desirable stuff? On the one hand, we confess to know Jesus and love our neighbor while our other hand thinks our neighbor is an annoying git? If others knew the thoughts of our hearts, we would be tossed out on your keister. Doubt and shame can hover like a dark shadow. Maybe your thing is a deeply held insecurity you try to keep buried. Your job is secure. You are relatively successful in your work or even wildly successful in your career. On the outside, no one would know the beast of self-doubt that lurks in the dark corners of your heart. Even with all the worldly successes, you wonder if you are enough. All the wrestling on the inside is not hidden from the God who created us and calls us by name. Sit on that and let the shiver snake down your spine. He knows our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts, and his response is to love. Watching the Maverick City's video for I Thank God, I wanted to jump in with equal expressions of gratefulness. God knows all the deep, hidden corners of my inner world, and He isn't repulsed. He invites me closer. The gift in that invitation is that as I move closer and those hidden areas light up with His presence, they are changed. I am changed. The darkness fades, and the light shines more brightly. Because He healed my heartHe changed my nameForever free, I'm not the sameI thank the MasterI thank the SaviorI thank God Maybe you are in recovery - or have been labeled as anxious or depressed. Overidentifying with labels is dangerous. I am not a fan of labels unless they help me learn how to take care of something. Clothing labels help us decide whether to hang it up or throw it in the dryer. A food label helps determine the expiration date. But labels on people are harmful. Labels on people put us in boxes with sides too high to climb. He is in that boat with you. You are not alone. I say I am broken, but God says He makes me whole. "So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority" (Colossians 2:10). A more vulnerable truth might be that we are all in some sort of recovery. Recovering from broken hearts and broken lives. Recovering from what we created and what we have to deal with but never asked for. We face the dangers from within and the chaos all around us. Our slowly drifting, weary souls leave us battered and bruised. Got no choice but to believeMy doubts are burningLike ashes in the windSo, so long to my old friendsBurden and bitter nightYou can't just keep them movingNo, you ain't welcome hereFrom now 'til I walkThe streets of goldI'll sing of how You saved my soul We tend to want people to look and act a certain way, and deviations from the center typically don't fit in well. Variations often find themselves isolated and silenced. I'll sing of how You saved my soulThis wayward sonHas found his way back homeHe picked me upTurned me aroundPlaced my feet on solid ground Let's tell some truth. All fall short of center. On my worst days, you would run and hide if my heart was exposed before you. I have experienced anger so intense my teeth chattered. I have cursed in ways that would curl paint of the walls, but I also create safe spaces for vulnerable people to share their deepest emotional wounds. And if it happens in me, I know some dark things happen inside you, too. Wandering into the nightWanting a place to hideThis weary soul, this bag of bonesAnd I tried with all my mindAnd I just can't win the fightI'm slowly drifting, oh bag of boneAnd just when I ran out of roadI met a man I didn't knowAnd he told meThat I was not aloneHe picked me upHe turned me aroundHe placed my feet on solid ground I do thank God! He invites all to come close, no matter how visible the flaws. Have you dangerously tight roped your way through major depression? Have you felt your heart tear with sorrow holding vigil with a loved one in the ICU? That's my story, so what is yours? And if He did it for me, He can do it for youIf He did it for me, He can do it for youGet up, get up, get upGet up out of that grave God doesn't define you by your mistakes. He gives you a new name! He sees you in a way that the world may not. His vision of you is through the lens of His sacrifice. His blood for our life. God calls you up. He will not push you out because you haven't mastered or cleaned up every area of your life. Get up out of that graveIf He did it for me, He can do it for you Be encouraged. Join in the dance of gratefulness. Worship with Maverick City and thank God for grace - and His unfailing love. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. I Thank God was written by Maverick City Music from the album Move Your Heart.
Ever faced a vast army? Have you walked alone down your driveway to see an angry mob glaring back at you waiting for you to cross the residential boundary line so they could attack? Would you turn around and run back inside? The story in 2 Chronicles describes a vignette like this and is the inspiration behind the song Battle Belongs. The people of God find themselves facing a war they cannot win without help. In 2 Chronicles 20, one of my favorite stories in the Bible, a huge army has amassed to come against the people of God," Wickham explains. "Every time I sing Battle Belongs, it pumps me up because we know that in anything we might face, our God is bigger. I hope this song reminds people that He is with us and for us. If we stand firm and hold our position, we will see the salvation of the Lord on our behalf!" - Phil Wickham We have been facing a pandemic for some time now, and it isn't the virus. The most common presenting issue in my counseling office is anxiety, along with the unbearable feeling of being alone. Unbearable aloneness is the current crisis we face. We may be a part of community groups, bible studies, ministry teams, surrounded by others, and yet, feel lonely. Surrounded by people and still feeling alone seems incongruent. But it is sadly common and very understandable. Aloneness is the vast army many of us face. I will feel alone, not just in the absence of people around me, but when the people around me don't know who I am. Ask yourself: who knows me? Who knows me at my best along with the side of myself when I am compromised? Does my compromised self stay hidden? When you feel anxious, angry, or disappointed, are you alone in those moments? At any given time, we can be our best selves or our worst selves. In my work, I notice that we often feel uncared for when we are showing up less than our best selves. When we are afraid that we won't be heard, accepted, or understood, we don't allow others to see behind the curtain of our one-dimensional "Instagram-worthy" personas. We hide from the potential for criticism or judgment. We present only the parts of ourselves that we decide are worthy of being known. We are often validated to keep offering only the good because we experience the same criticism and judgment we fear when we show up compromised. In 2 Chronicles 20, it says "You will not have to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf". – Phil Wickham Do we hold to the distorted belief that we can only bring our best selves to worship? Isn't the better way to hope that our faith communities would be safe for us to show up no matter what? Sadly, many are not. People who have been hurt by church communities often end up in offices like mine. They have been minimized, victimized, and shamed because they risked showing more vulnerable parts of themselves and faced rejection or invalidation. They heard hollow, spiritually sounding phrases; vain attempts meant to offer hope but left them feeling broken and damaged. Hurting people are told to, "cast all their cares onto Jesus," "trust He has a plan," or that "God is using this season to grow you." There is truth in these words, but if we over-spiritualize distress, we serve to protect only ourselves from our discomfort witnessing someone else's pain. If I offer you some spiritual platitude when you bring me your pain, I only create distance between us, and you are left feeling alone with it. For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. – 2 Chronicles 20:12 Unbearable aloneness is the crisis we face today. Why are we not brave enough to be with another while they are in pain? Please resist the temptation to rush in to fix, to offer some empty spiritual words; instead, allow each other space to be in it. My Christian clients are often very relieved to hear that they can feel an emotion from beginning to end, and it doesn't mean they are not "trusting" in the Lord. I have witnessed the great misconception or belief that rewards and commends chasing after emotions like joy or peace but criticizes all negative emotional experiences. What if we stopped being afraid of emotions…both the ones that reside in ourselves and the ones we witness in someone else? What if we humanized emotion? By our very design, God gives us the neurobiological mechanisms to have feelings and respond to His creation. We can be in awe. We can feel joy. We know sadness.We feel anger … and we can be disappointed, hurt, and betrayed. All of this is what it means to be human: we feel. Emotions show up in our bodies, wired into our physiology. When we pay attention or notice them, they do come and go like waves come and go. Pathologizing people as "too emotional" or labeling emotions as good or bad feeds loneliness. Emotions exist to help us experience the world God created. But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze; For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. – Isaiah 43: 1-3 Unbearable aloneness is like a vast army standing against us. When faced with profound loneliness, our Father says: I will be with you! It is a battle cry, your war song. Wherever I am, in the middle of the storm, falling from the mountain top or dragging myself across the desert wasteland. My God is with me…undoing my aloneness. In the face of the loneliness experienced globally, knowing that He chooses to be close to me even when I am at my worst, is deeply encouraging. Imagine the healing possibilities for us if we could be with one another in our pain, sorrow, and disappointment and undo the aloneness so prevalent in our world. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Battle Belongs © 2020 Phil Wickham Music, Simply Global Songs, Sing My Songs (Admin by Essential Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing CCLI Song No. 7148126.
While walking in beautiful South Carolina along the May River, where majestic oak trees form canopies over the walkways, I drank in the spectacular views. Taking in each breath as I walked, I felt my entire nervous system settle. With each step, each intake of fresh air, I entered further into a place of rest. I whispered a prayer of gratitude for this time of rest. Finding rest is not easy. Biblical rest isn't a call to stop moving but an inclination towards settling on the inside. If you are prone to anxiety, you are well acquainted with the internal energetic waves or a sense of constant churning. Author Bonnie Gray calls rest "emotional honesty." We go to Him as we are...our tired, worn-out selves. We can be ourselves at best or ourselves at worst, but are invited close regardless. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 Our Difference-Maker We have the confident assurance that Christ in us is how we can enter fully into rest. He is the difference-maker. He is our how and our why: How we find peace amidst the heartache. Why we can rise from the ash heap, and the reason we carry on through our weaknesses — the double-edged sword of the Kingdom. He is my strength when I am weak. His presence brings peace in the middle of my storms. Not in our strength alone, but because of who He is in us — Christ in us, the hope of glory. As chosen by God, we are loved by the Father and fully restored to Him through the cross. He has created us; we are His workmanship. Our identity in Him is one we can rest in without striving to prove ourselves or getting lost in climbing up the ladder of success. We can rest in Him. Go and Dwell "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." - Psalm 91:1 We are invited to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and go to Him for rest. Go and dwell. Dwell means to live in a specified place, to think, speak or write at length about a particular subject. We take our whole selves somewhere to remain. We don't pop in now and again…we dwell, remain, and linger longer. Tim Challies, a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and co-founder of Cruciform Press, interviewed Richard Thompson and Jonny Robinson of CityAlight about their new music: "Our most recent hymn, Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me, took us 12 weeks to write. We dove deep into the idea of what it meant to have Christ dwell in us. What an incredibly profound, mysterious truth. It needed time. We wrote and rewrote the songs many, many times. We struggled for every word. If there are any songwriters reading this, we would encourage you to slow down. Your songs will be richer for it." Find rest in your writing. Slow down and notice God's presence surrounds you. Speak from that place of emotional honesty. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. "Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me" was written by Jonny Robinson, Michael Farren, and Rich Thompson, and performed by CityAlight.
I was soaking in Maverick City Music / Elevation Worship's song Jireh this weekend and I feel stretched. At the first phrase, my chest tightened, and a lump of emotion rose in my throat catching my breath -- I'll never be more loved than I am right now. Do I believe that when I have Him, I have everything? Do I believe that He is enough? It's more than you ask, think or imagineAccording to His power, it's working in usIt's more than enough Walking the dog with this song speaking to my heart, I realized the words hit me hard because of how sickly contradictory the world can feel right now. I haven't noticed the boldness of others trusting in God's provision, or witnessed courage and confidence in the face of calamity. Maybe it is my job, or my social media platforms? Maybe it is just situational with our current circumstances? But what seems to be more visible is a message like this: don't trust anyone; protect yourself, be on guard! Some hold firm to the belief that those in authority are out to get them, so be cautious and don't believe what they say. Extreme responses and conspiracy theories pop up on every social platform. They are all too familiar. Be vigilant ... be wary — question everything. We tend towards cognitive bias; a confirmation bias based on overvaluing the information confirming our already-established beliefs and expectations. Our preferences can be rigid, leaving us immovable and unwilling to engage our curiosity to consider alternative perspectives. Interactions quickly deteriorate if our primary goal in communication is to hear we are right. The evidence of this is everywhere. Navigating around the cesspool of opinions feels dangerous. When I manage to offer the grace or understanding or lay down my expectations and face someone's disapproval without blowing my top or losing my mind or wits, I look for a reward. I want someone to notice and say, "Good job, I saw you didn't fight back,...good for you for taking the higher road!" or, "Hey, well done for showing so much patience!" Honestly, please give me a gold star or a button to wear because loving difficult people is exhausting. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV) I will tell you something I have learned about myself: my love is shakeable, circumstantial, and dependent on how I feel. I gravitate towards those who are easy to love and find myself avoiding the people who are difficult to love. There, I said it! I avoid difficult people. I am not proud of the way I hide, but I am so aware of my need for Jesus when I make this explicit. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV) We can't love our critics without Jesus. Look around you. Read those political threads. Witness the virus debate, the vaccine dialogue, and the COVID conversations: our love is fickle. Our love goes up in flames when our opinions or perspectives feel attacked. We justify our cruel, critical commentary, becoming instant experts because we disagree. Allow this thought to reach your soul. God loves that difficult family member, that defensive person online, and that government official you find offensive or out of touch. And if in the moment, you cannot show up with love, step aside and get out of His way. Forever, always and more than enough. He responds with perfect love. Our God sees the issues with perfect clarity, and we do not. His viewpoint, perspective, and wisdom are above all our circumstances. Nothing written, spoken, or even implied comes as a surprise to Him. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3, NIV) Yes, sometimes it can be hard to trust people. Friends, family, co-workers will disappoint us, let us down, and fall short. You will bump into difficult people who stretch you, test your patience and hurt your feelings. I hope this doesn't come as a surprise to you, but there will be moments that YOU are the difficult person. When we feel threatened by someone's response or judged unfairly, try lingering longer in His love. Be reflective, not reactive. His love is enough. He has chosen you. No one can stand in the way. No words spoken over you or to you can dismantle the heart of His message about you. He loves you. When we can take this in and allow our hearts to be changed by His love, our responses to others then changes, too. This song has honestly been a reminder for me that God is everything we'll ever need. My prayer and hope is that everyone who listens to this is reminded of the Father's heart toward us and that He loves to take care of us. (Naomi Raine of Maverick City) Thank you Jesus for your love that your love is more than I could fathom or imagine — it doesn't change; it does not depend on how we react or feel. Thank you, Jesus, that I'm already loved. That it is forever and always more than enough. Maybe if I stay close to God's way of loving me, I will get a taste of how I can love others better. After all, I do believe that is part of His plan. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Jireh was written by Chris Brown, Steven Furtick, Chandler Moore, and Naomi Raine. Jireh was recorded by Maverick City and Elevation Worship.
New Year resolutions - love them or hate them? A new year of valleys, fires and storms. Are you ready? Do you make resolutions and spend time creating goals for 2022? Or are you someone who swims upstream, side-stepping the resolution bandwagon? For years, I began every January with a list of goals to pursue for the new year. I joined gyms, set out to eat more healthily and began new reading material. I started out strong. Went three or four times a week to work out. Followed the clean eating plans suggested by nutritionists. Following the directives of a naturopath, I completed all the testing and purchased my supplements to improve my gut health. I downloaded the most recent Bible study programs from one of my favorite leaders. Determined to see growth in all the areas, physically, mentally and spiritually, I felt ready to see improvement. I felt so proud of my potential, I posted on social media to showcase my goals for the new year. I was determined. I was ready and resourced for what had to be a better version of myself. And He is my strengthHe is my portionWith me in the valleyWith me in the fireWith me in the storm It never took long to stumble into obstacles along my path, thwarting my plans. A series of random events caused me to miss that day at the gym, another day the following week, and, finally, that entire week in early February. I shared my car with one of the kids and ended up without a vehicle midweek. One day, I went out to pick up a friend from the airport and just ran out of time to get back to the gym before it closed. (Ok, if I was honest, I drove relatively slow home, so I didn't have to go back out and make it before closing.) I began to think I would follow a program more closely if I purchased an online version that I could do anytime I wanted in the comfort and convenience of my home. I was wrong. I paid for both for months before finally canceling my memberships. I took those supplements until the first refills and then decided it was too expensive. Embarrassed by my lack of follow-thru, I have never returned to that particular doctor. I fell so far behind the Bible study, like the slow fading of battery-powered string lights, that I just stopped logging on. My little online accountability group must wonder what happened to me, or perhaps they followed the same path and are lurking in the shadows somewhere just like I am. Don't start penning an email about the value of personal goals. Without a plan or goals, we risk meandering around aimlessly, which doesn't serve us well either. But, something about this time of year can feel like pressure to set up something new, join in on the resolution bandwagon, and make the appearance that we are purposeful and intentional. But, why start some workout plan that we will not follow after a month? Why begin some fresh eating or dieting plan that will end in feelings of failure because we cannot stay on track? So come if you're needingForgiveness or healingHis mercy's enoughOh, and this is our hopeThe cross, it has spokenDeath is no moreChrist is the Lord This year, I am trying something different. At the end of the day, I have one primary goal: to witness His love. How would my life change if I dialed up my sensitivity to the love of God? But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 I don't earn His favor. God isn't waiting for me to follow through on my plans before he lavishes me with His love. He is not waiting for my performance, withholding His assessment of my progress before expressing His love for me. He isn't watching how I manage before deciding whether I get to level up. God just loves. He loves without condition, regardless of failure and doesn't demand payback. The gift He gives comes with no strings attached. God really loves usHis mercy's enoughHis grace is sufficient What would happen if I lived like I believed in this kind of love? He really loves us. We are not alone. Two powerful life-changing truths. Do we believe that His love is enough to undo the loneliness, to heal the brokenhearted, to help us navigate through the current chaos? See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a Songwriters Benjamin Glover, Dante Bowe, David Crowder and Jeff Sojka created a song, God Really Loves Us, that beautifully begins my intentions for this year. I have a funny feeling that I won't forget a day, once I start paying closer attention; my gut says the dividends will be spectacular. So this January 2022, I am taking the focus off of self-improvement. Instead, I am going to search for where I see His love. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. God Really Loves Us was written by David Crowder and featured on the Milk & Honey album.