Garment of Praise

On the morning of New Year’s Eve I nestled into my comfy couch with a Bible and a delicious cup of hot coffee. Before reading, I took one quick scroll through Insta stories and my eye caught on a scripture that a young friend of mine posted (Thanks Sam!) And just like that–no gif, no emoji, just a plain screen with a verse on it, God captured my attention. I read Isaiah 61, the verses that Jesus quoted when He first announced His ministry:

“He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

I’m pierced by the phrase “garment of praise.” As I sat with my coffee, I felt God state matter-of-factly, Maggie you need a new garment.  My breath caught in my throat. Yes? Garments can be taken off or on and I guess somewhere in 2020 I took off that lovely garment of praise and put on one of low-key sadness. It wasn’t like a heavy coat of depression, but it was more like an undershirt. I wore it under a jacket at the beach or sweats at home. I wore it while we played cards during the holiday and while I cooked our meals. Can anyone relate to this? Like a low-grade fever, sadness doesn’t stop one from working and going about the day. But it does flatten our response to life. Perhaps it insulates us from anxiety but it also dampens our joy. And I don’t know about you, but I was made for joy!

So, I got up off the couch and imagined Jesus standing there with a beautiful garment of praise. Would you like to do the same? As we turn with our back to Him and slip one arm into the sleeve and then the other, He bestows on us what He promised: a garment of praise. Will you accept it? Wear it? Admire it in the mirror? (Yes, praise does look good on you!) Wear His garment of praise in the car, at the beach, while you cook. Declare God’s goodness as you go to sleep and when you awake. 

After Jesus read Isaiah 61, He said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” and He sat down. (Luke 4:21) Think about it: He heals our broken hearts, proclaims freedom from oppression, and comforts us. He gives beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, and praise instead of despair! Jesus acknowledged the heaviness this life can bring and He declared Himself as the remedy.

Just four days into 2021 I have already won in the difficult choice to put on His garment of praise when my mind, will, and emotions screamed despair. Can I just tell you how good that felt? Come on! We are made to wear His praise. Here’s my prayer: God, we praise Your holy Name. From the rising of the sun to the setting of the same God’s Name is to be praised. For breath in our body and strength in our bones, we give You thanks. In every trial and every comfort, we give You praise, O God for You are good and Your love endures forever! Thank You Lord for giving us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Dear friend, if you are desiring spiritual growth, please go through my book with a friend! You can find Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion at www.MargaretAllen.org or anywhere books are sold. If you want to get this blog emailed to you each week, go to my website and sign up at the bottom of Monday’s with Margaret.


What is Faith?

I caught myself several times this week praying almost absentmindedly, O Lord, what is Your way in all of this? I want the eyes of my heart to be fixed on Jesus, which means I frequently have to turn my gaze from media and the ways of man. Years ago, I met a lovely woman from Ukraine at a party. I asked her what differences she saw between the U.S. and Russia. She said, “In Russia we all knew that the news was full of propaganda. But in the U.S. people don’t seem to understand that–they think their news is true!”

Curiosity is a core value in my life. I try to walk in a peaceful, loving posture. But I need faith to live this life, don’t you? We all want to live our lives from a position of peace, love, and godly wisdom. We don’t want to just swallow what we are told so we use critical thinking. But there are spiritual dimensions to this life that worldly wisdom cannot fathom.

So, when my prayer returns over and over to Lord strengthen my faith, I think of Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 and 12. These are wonderful chapters to study this week. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.

Faith looks like reward. When we diligently seek the face of the Lord, we are rewarded. We win His presence and peace, His instruction and revelation. Come on, it’s not even fair the inner reservoir we live from, because of Christ. All else pales in comparison to this.

Faith looks like rest. Faith trusts that even though we have no idea how it’s all gonna work out (fill in the blank here—pay our rent, fix our marriage, get healthy, heal our nation, and so on) we know that God sees and rewards with His goodness, favor, and most importantly His presence.

Faith looks like power. Hebrews describes the impact of faith in God’s people as,”…they through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of invaders.” Hebrews 11:33-34

Do we believe the goodness of God in our life? That is faith. We are exhorted to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2   If we can fix our eyes on Jesus and run with endurance no matter what is set before us, then we can experience the reward, the rest, and the power of life lived in Christ.

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Tracing My Steps

I’ve been remembering my first steps with God and thinking about friends who have recently become Christ-followers. When I became a Christian on June 1, 1978, I didn’t know much about God. I knew that He loved me and sent His Son to die for me so that I could have life to the full. My eyes were suddenly opened to the spiritual wrestling match that had gone on to deliver me, safe and sound, to God’s door. For the first time I connected the dots of all the different people who shared with me about Christ and all the ways God protected, guided, and provided for me.

It’s true for every new believer. They can look back over their life and see ways that God was loving them, guiding, protecting, speaking, even waving at them. I’m here! Over here! That’s Me, loving you! I sent that person to shine a light for you. I sent those friends to be truth for you! I see it clear as day for my friends new to the faith. God has been wooing them all along.

At the end of his life, Moses recounted the ways God cared for him and the nation of Israel. He said of Israel: “God found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, So the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.” (Deuteronomy 32:10-12)

God found many of us in a desert land. Oh, it might have looked fine on the outside, but the inside was an empty wasteland. As Moses says, God encircled us, instructed us, and kept us as the precious apple of His eye. Like an eagle builds and fluffs a nest for tender young, so God hovered over each of us and carried us up into His protective care.

There is a provision in the Spirit of God, so rich it is hard to describe. My outer world, swirling with Coronavirus worries, is in stark contrast with the beauty and provision in my inner world. Moses said that God would give the produce of the fields, honey from a rock, and milk and meat from the flock and the choicest wheat and wine. God takes good care of our physical needs. Emotionally, spiritually, relationally Christ cancels out our fear, our dread, our hatred, and fills us with goodness, love, and faith. Where we were a “howling wilderness” inside, now we are filled with the choicest provisions.

Have you recounted the many ways God made a way for you? My friend, take time today to remember God’s goodness in your life and give Him praise.