Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dig Deep in 2014


Happy Endings, New Beginnings

2013 is winding down and a fresh new year is rolling in.  So did you do everything you wanted to do in 2013?  Did you soak in God's grace?  Did you listen carefully for his voice?  Did you complete the project?  Stop the bad habit?  New Year's Eve has always been a time for taking inventory.   What went well?  What was a disaster? 

Regardless of how 2013 began or ends, one thing remains.  God's goodness.  In hard times and in happy times, God is good.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. 


I love that God is faithful.  Whether I reached all my goals for 2013 or whether I blew it.  He is faithful.  Who knows what 2014 will bring?  Life is full of uncertainty.  Yet, I know that 2014 will be a year of unceasing love, unending mercy and undeserved faithfulness from my God. 

 I'm counting all the ways I was blessed in 2013 tonight.  What a way  to write a happy ending to end the year.

  Happy New Year.  Happy New Beginning.

Faithful God, I love you more with each passing year.  Thank you for the good, the bad and the ugly in 2013.  Most of all, thank you for being with me every step of the way.  Where would I be without you?  Give me eyes to see opportunities to extend your life and peace to others in 2014.  In Jesus name, Amen.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

When you're stretched

Emotions.  Budgets.  Schedules.  Relationships.  They're all stretched in December.  I can't help but wonder, is it possible to get through the holidays without stretching?  It seems like no matter how hard I try to plan and prepare and slow down, I still feel stretched. 

Maybe it's the way God intended.  The first Christmas Mary, great with child, stretched.  Her abdomen swelled and stretched as she endured the discomfort of a pregnancy.  She was full of Christ.   Emmanuel.  God. With. Us. 

So as Christmas stretches, I can remember the first Christmas and the promise of Emmanuel.   I can choose to be full of Christ.

Lord, help me to be full of you today.  Empty me and fill me.  Stretch me.  Forgive me for forgetting I am full of your spirit.  In Jesus Name, Amen.




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When Gingerbread houses are finished

There are three little houses.  Carefully, small hands crafted the tiny homes.  They sit sweetly on a platter, tempting all who pass by.  Houses prepared during this busy season of shopping and baking.  Houses prepared with joy.  Houses prepared for pleasure.  Carefree.  Lighthearted.  Delightful. 

I remember the words of Jesus.

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  John 15:1-3

Gingerbread houses are nice.  Heaven-bred houses are even better.  I remind myself to think about the sweet home Jesus is preparing for me every time I see a gingerbread house. 

Thank you Lord for the sweetness of this season.  Help me to remember you in the midst of it all.   The one who came.  The one who loves.  The one who gives.  I love your gentle, ginger reminders to keep you at the center of Christmas.   In Jesus name, Amen. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

When the Cookies Crumble

It never happens in the magazines or  holiday specials on tv.  In their pseudo-world, everything is perfect.  Beside the perfect tree is a table holding a platter of perfect cookies.  Longingly, I see and strive for this perfection.  But I live in a world far  from the glossy covers of magazines.  I live in a real world.  A fallen world.  Where real people endeavor to live this life of grace.  So yes, in my world, sometimes the cookies crumble.  And when the cookies crumble,  Christ can put all the pieces back together. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

When Christmas Comes Tumbling Down




The tree was sparkling.  Reds, greens and blues illuminated the room.  I was on my hands and knees when it all came tumbling down.  Literally.   Strings of lights and branches  engulfed me.  I managed to rummage my way through it all and sat disgusted.  The tree collapsed.  I realized the base was cracked when I put it up.  It was nothing a little tape couldn't fix.  So I thought.  Now here I was with a giant Christmas catastrophe.   "

"Maybe I'll just throw it all away and forget it this year,"  I contemplated.  But I could hear little voices oohing and ahhing as they unpacked ornaments.  Nope.  I couldn't be a Scrooge.  I had to strengthen the foundation. 
Foundations are pesky necessities.  They're not glamorous or glittery.  In fact, no one even notices a foundation unless there's something wrong.  The foundation of my tree was broken.  No amount of lights, tinsel or ornaments could cover up the fact that it wasn't solid. 
Kind of like you.  Kind of like me.  Broken.  Cracked.   This Christmas we can try to cover up the foundation with the razzle and dazzle.  But if Christ is not our frim foundation, it all comes tumbling down.   
 
Jesus be my firm foundation-
 strengthening and holding me up
 through the holidays and always  
 Amen
photo courtesy of Eliana Verwers

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thanksgiving in Practice

press
D. Verwers

i feel pressed
to impress
a thanksgiving spirit
on the next generation
press on
press on

It's a very abstract, weighty thought.  So, In an  effort to practice the word of God,  I made a Thanksgiving Hunt for my family.
Take a peek. 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oPTK5esaszdPnrSpTBWaS7zgqacFdKPoeN6yi01K08A/edit?usp=sharing

May we be impressed with all you've given and press on in a spirit of thanksgiving. 
In Jesus name, Amen

Monday, November 11, 2013

Get the Bird Out

A Carolina wren swooped into our house through an open door.  Silently it fluttered from room to room as we frantically attempted to shoo her away.

At first I thought it was a bat.  My hands trembled.
"Get it out. Get it out!" I squeaked.

Then I realized it was only a bird, my jaw loosened and I gazed at the tiny thing perched on a curtain rod.
"It wants to build a nest in here," observed a friend.
 I contemplated the notion.  It conjured up visions of Snow White singing as birds flew about the cottage.
Then I shook myself.  Of course that's ridiculous in real life.  It would be dirty, unhealthy and unsafe for all parties involved.  We had to get the bird out.

Soon enough, with some chasing and flailing, she fluttered out into the dark night.

Just minutes later,  inadvertently, someone left the door open.  It was only a few inches.  Would you believe the silly wren flew right back in?  More swooping.  More chasing.  More flailing.  Get the bird out!

Once again, out she flew.
A stern admonition followed.
"You have to keep the door shut!"

I couldn't help but to think about all the times I've left doors open in my life.  Swooping thoughts of defeat or fluttering sins try to make a home.  The Holy Spirit has always been faithful to "Get the Bird Out."   I just need to make sure I'm faithful to keep the door shut.






God Rewards

Saturday night caught me off guard.

"What happens when you give yourself to God?"  the Pastor questioned.  I know him to be a man of prayer, a seeker of God's face.
"He rewards you.  I know it.  I've experienced it first hand."

His words cut me like a knife and tears swelled.  An infusion of strength and grace permeated my heart with each syllable.  His wife passed away just a few months ago.  Undoubtedly he missed her terribly.  And there he stood, declaring- GOD REWARDS.

Some might become bitter and hard, wallowing in grief.  Not him. 

Looking into his eyes, I knew these were not mere words rolling from the tongue of a seasoned speaker.  No, he had lived these words.  
And they were a plea. 
A dare. 
A call to live solely for Christ. 

Strengthen me Lord, so I too, can boldly declare  you reward those who follow hard after you.
In Jesus Name, Amen.




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Good Deals and Freebies

Pastor John Meaux of Destiny Bible Church  caused us to start a prayer habit.  He would often pray blessings on his congregation and ask God to send good deals and freebies their way.  Bless them, so they can be a blessing.

As our family and needs grew over the years, this prayer became a theme we would pray time and time again.

"Lord, let good deals and freebies hunt us down."

Yesterday morning as we piled in the car,  my husband  prayed for protection, direction and for good deals and freebies to hunt us down.  As we were out and about, both my son and I won nice gift baskets.  Woohoo!  Of course I did my best Price is Right run to the stage as I happily accepted my basket.

Our children noted that we had prayed for good deals and freebies and God had answered our prayer.  It made a particular impact on them as my gift basket was full of toys, candy and games which I shared with them.   I'm so glad they were listening and watching that day. 

Perhaps what I love most about this prayer,  is the glory it brings to God.  How many blessings do we let slip by unacknowledged and unnoticed.  What a shame.  You see, now our family automatically thanks God for any good deal or freebie that happens to come our way.  It's become a habit of gratiutde.  Good deals and freebies have become more than a serendipity.  They are a cue to praise God.  Good deals and freebies have become a reminder of God's goodness, a reminder that prayer and praise change everything.

Do you have a cue, a trigger, that causes you to give thanks to God?


 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What a Friend!

Saturday night my husband pulled out his guitar and started strumming an old hymn:  What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry 
everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit.
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

The Irish poet, Joseph Scriven, penned these words and he was no stranger to pain.  Nor was he immune to suffering.

Allow me to explain.  You see, the night before his wedding day he received startling news.  His bride-to-be had tragically drowned.   Needless to say he was devastated.  He needed a fresh start.  So he moved to Canada, fell in love and once again became engaged.  This time his fiance died tragically from pneumonia.  What a blow. 

Did he give up hope?  Did he fall deep in despair?  No.  He decided to dedicate the rest of his life to helping others.   He grabbed an ax and began chopping wood for anyone who needed it.   Maybe it was therapeutic.  The rhythm, the cadence, the repetition.  Maybe the notion of providing warmth to those most in need, warmed his heart.  At any rate, by God's grace, he turned his suffering into service. 

The words we sing were originally a poem titled, "Pray Without Ceasing."  He didn't compose it to gain worldwide recognition or fame.  These were words carefully chosen and penned.  Heartfelt words poured out of his soul. Joseph's mother was terribly sick.  She was far away in Ireland.  The words we sing are more than just an invitation to prayer.  They are words of comfort that son offers his mother:  a broken heart encouraging a broken body.   Inspiring. 

Today I am challenged.  Am I allowing God to turn my suffering into service? 

Or am I prone to forget what a friend we have in Jesus?  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Glow in the Dark

Sunday mornings are never easy.  Occasionally I hear the song play on the radio.
 
Cuz I'm easy...
 Easy like Sunday morning.  

I scoff and mumble.  The singer must not have children.
It was such a morning at our home.  Coffee was brewing.  People were showering. And two children were putting together and puzzle in the faint morning light on the dining room floor. It wasn't just any puzzle. It was a glow in the dark puzzle.

Most glow in the dark items operate on the premise of being "charged"  by sunlight to glow.  I realized the puzzle had been in a dark box and was now in  a poorly lit room.  There was no way this thing would glow.  It needed to be charged by the light.

"I'm going to turn on the light,"  I said flipping the switch on.  "If you don't let the light shine, it wont glow in the dark."

As soon as I spoke the words, God spoke to my heart.  I must take time to get "charged" in the light: His presence and His word.  If I settle for the safety of a box, if I am satisfied with the dimly lit room, I will never glow the way I was created to glow in the dark.

Let's stay charged so we can glow in the dark.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

He's perfect enough...

Children have a way of remind us of all our imperfections.  Sometimes they announce it in front of everyone.  My 8 year old was listening intently as his teacher spoke.  His older brother was listening as he raised his hand and said, "That's like my mom.  She tells us to do stuff that she doesn't do herself."

Ouch.

Older brother recounted the incident word for word.  The eight year old stood smiling.

"What?!"  he sputtered out in sly shock and innocent self defense, " It's  true."

It took me a moment to respond.

"You're right,"  I replied, "that is why it is so important to keep our eyes on Jesus and not other people.  People will always disappoint us and let us down. But Jesus never will."

Prayer gives me perspective, reminding me Jesus is perfect enough for the both of us.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spouses

I picked up an great prayer list yesterday.  "Pray for Your Child's Future Spouse"  the title read.   The words penetrated my heart.  Stewardship is much of what parenting is all about.  God gives you children to love, nurture and train.  They grow up.  They leave.  It's the way it's meant to be.  I know this, yet somehow the idea of praying for spouses for my children feels painful.  As I read and murmur the words on paper, I feel cold and dry.  Lifeless.  I realize this is not a heartfelt prayer.

I think for a moment about my husband.  Over 12 years we've shared joys and pains together.  We've grown together.  We've changed together.  We've laughed together.  The warmth, affection, respect and loyalty we share has been a sustaining force.  We've challenged one another to seek truth.  We've known one another deeply.  I want this for my children.
I love listening to him play the guitar at the end of a long day.

I try again, uttering words of life and grace for my children and their future partners.  Better?  Yes.  Heartfelt?  Almost.  Maybe I'm just not quite ready to imagine the great plans God has in store for them.

Lord, help me to remember my children don't belong to me.  Give me the strength to keep praying.  Give me grace to guide and give me wisdom to see your plan.  In Jesus' name, Amen.



Friday, September 27, 2013

Vacation Memories: Sea Turtles Follow the Light

Two massive sea turtles decorate the wall in my living room.  I bought them while shopping with my Aunt Connie.  It didn't take much for her to talk me into buying them.  Sea turtles  hatch in darkness on sandy beaches.   They emerge from their shells in the night.  Birds and crabs wait, ready for an opportunity to feed.  Few of these turtles will make it to the ocean.  The only saving grace for these tiny, majestic creatures is to follow the light of the moon.  The light of the moon reflecting on the water hope for survival.  If they fail to follow the light, death is imminent.

Because of the obvious spiritual parallel, I love the sea turtles on my wall and use them as a tool to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  When we decided to visit Topsail Island, I began reading books about sea turtles to the children.  I explained how the loggerhead turtles often nest on the island we would be visiting.   They even have a sea turtle hospital.  I brought along several of the turtle books to the beach house.   We read them together again with the sound of the ocean waves crashing against the shore.

Then one morning, dozens of spectators gathered near our house.  There were camera crews, photographers and more spectators making their way to the ocean.   We went outside to see what all the fuss was about.  I gasped when I realized what was happening.  Sea turtles were being released from the turtle hospital back into the ocean.  A massive turtle, carried by 4 volunteers, was gently place into the water.  I stood in delight at the beauty of it all.  What are the chances of that happening?  1 in a 100?  1 in a 1,000?  1 in a 1,000,000? Salty tears of joy streamed down my face. 

God's goodness is beyond my comprehension.  The more I try to understand it, the more awestruck I become.  Standing there on the beach, I felt God speaking to me.  "Follow the light."

Lord, help me to fix my eyes on you,
~ gleaming, glittering. glowing, 
burning, illuminating, warming ~
LIGHT in a world of darkness.  
In Jesus' name, Amen.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

Vacation Memories: Farm Fresh Eggs and Faith

Prayer, this constant awareness of God, changes things.  God cares about the details of our lives.  

My friend invited our family to come see her horses and other critters.  There were bunnies, hens, horses, kittens, dogs, guineas, guinea pigs and a pig.   My children were ecstatic.  It was better than a zoo visit because we could pet, hold and even ride.  The zoos tend to frown on such behavior.

As we were being shown around the property, we were invited to hunt for fresh eggs.  The owner showed the kids where to look.  They found one egg.  Then another and another.  



The owner looked a bit shocked.  She went on to explain that typically there were only 2 eggs because some of the hens were not mature enough to lay eggs.  Interestingly, there were three eggs today.  It was just enough for her to give each child and egg.   Some would call it a coincidence.  I call it a sacred reminder. 




Hebrews 11 speaks of faith.  It alludes to the process of meshing the sacred and secular.  We are reminded faith, this holy hope, can infuse every aspect of our lives.  I can't help but think of Hebrews 11:1 which says faith is the substance of things hoped for.  Were my kids hoping to each find an egg?  Did God reward their faith?  I don't know for sure.  But I do know I was hoping for a special time with my family.  And finding 3 farm fresh eggs that evening on the Carolina coast was very special to me. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vacation Memories: Foosball and Open Eyes

 While on vacation, the kids had a blast playing foosball.  Unfortunately, the foosball was actually a ping pong ball.  After hours of constant banging, the ping pong ball was crushed.  I made a mental note to run to the store a grab a package of balls later.

The following morning I took a stroll on the beach.  The foosball was the last thing on my mind as I witnessed a glorious sunrise.  The ocean waves crashing on the shore were the perfect soundtrack to the marvelous, colorful display in the sky.  The old hym "How Great Thou Art" played in my mind.  

Then, I just happened to look down.  To my amazement, I saw a small ball that had been washed ashore.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a foosball! Needless to say, I overwhelmed and thankful.  I was also struck by how I miss gifts God has for me. Too often I live my life in darkness with my eyes shut tightly.  He wants to give me just what I need, but I refuse to see. Opening my eyes to God's goodness enables me to see the blessings he has lavished upon me and receive the gifts He has given me. 

Lord, please don't let my heart become calloused.  Give me eyes to see.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.

Matthew 13:15

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vacation Memories: Sharks' teeth, Conch Shells and God's Good Plan


My swimsuit was full of sand.  I had been sitting on the seashore, scouring the shoreline for sharks' teeth.  After several days of careful searching, I continued to come up empty handed.  I used to constantly find sharks' teeth  on this island where we were vacationing.

"Where did they all go?"  I wondered.  I even prayed that God would help me find some.  Still, nothing.

I decided to end the days' hunt and walk into the water to clean the sand off of my suit.  Time to call it quits.  As I stood up and walked knee deep in the salty sea, something caught my eye.  I quickly reached down and picked up a perfect conch shell.  I had never found such a massive shell on the beach.  My heart leapt.  It was breathtaking.

I dashed back to the beach house to share the exciting news.  I didn't find any sharks' teeth, but look!  I found something better.  Something bigger.  Something beautiful.

"I personally find it very comforting I'm not swimming with sharks,"  a housemate commented when I mentioned how strange it was to not find sharks' teeth.  She was part joking, part serious.  Maybe she was mostly serious.  Come to think of it, perhaps she was completely serious.

I smiled at God's good plan for ALL his children.  God knew my housemate would be disturbed by sharks' teeth.  He knew I wanted to find something special in the ocean.  So instead of answering my prayer, he gave me something  special, beyond my wildest dreams.

Today I am reminded that God is working his good plan out in all things, not just with sharks' teeth and conch shells.  


Monday, September 2, 2013

3.3%

I read an interesting statistic today.  Only 3.3% of Christians pray for strangers.   This saddened me because one of my greatest joys as a believer has been praying for strangers.  Some days I sit on the porch and for the people driving by as I drink my morning coffee.  At times I'll see a person at the store and pray for them quietly.  If I notice someone hurt or ill, I pray for their healing. 

Praying for strangers reminds me to not live a self-centered life.  It's easy to pray for our loved ones and of course we should.  But it takes discipline to pray for people you don't know.  It requires our focus to be on Jesus.  I like to imagine the possibility that God directs certain people into my life so I will pray for them.  I believe that God uses our simple heartfelt prayers to bring hope and change to the world. 

So, I dare you to join the 3.3%.  The world is full of hurting people who need prayer, even complete strangers.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dressers are Not for Climbing

"Mommy,"  exclaimed my sweet 4 year old, " God answered my prayer."

My heart began to melt.  What a sweet, sacred moment.  Beautiful.  Simply Beautiful.  That is, until I heard the rest of the story.

"I was climbing on top of my dresser and I prayed 'Please God, don't let the dresser fall and don't let me fall.' and it didn't fall!"  Her face was bright and animated.  So much for my moment.

I proceeded with a  brief explanation on the merits of using wisdom and obeying house rules.

Then I explained rock walls are for climbing.  Playgrounds are for climbing.  Dressers are not for climbing.  If you need something on top of your dresser, ask a tall person for help.  Just because you can climb something, does not mean you should. 

Wisdom.  How many prayers could be avoided by simply applying a healthy dose of God's wisdom to life.  Had Eliana asked for help, she wouldn't have found herself in a dangerous spot on her dresser crying out to God for help.  

Too many times I find myself on a metaphorical dresser that I shouldn't have climbed.   Desperate and scared I cry out to God.  Amazingly, He always comes through for me.  He never lets me fall. 

Lord, please give us wisdom to stay off dressers.  
In Jesus Name, Amen

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pray together, Celebrate together

There's something powerful about people gathering together to pray.  Strength.  Support.  Unity.
Our church had been praying for a permanent location for nearly five years.  Over the last three years, I've had the pleasure to join in with them on a few occasions.  Finally, a property was secured last month.  Prayers were answered by the one true God.  His timing was perfect.  It was truly exciting to see those who had prayed together for so long celebrate together.

For wherever two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.
Matthew 18:20

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Answers

A soul that not only seeks an answer, but seeks first the God who gives the answer, receives the power to know that it has what is has asked of Him. 
-Andrew Murray


What's the best thing about prayer?  
"Answers," a reasonable person might conclude.  

I would argue that the answers are good and desirable, but there's this great thing that happens as we seek answers from God.  We ask and begin to seek God. As we seek Him, we find Him. As we find Him we realize we already have what we need. 

He is The Answer. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In this world...

There's one glaring dilemma with prayer.  Prayer has a transforming power.  As I get closer to God, I find myself becoming more like Him.  The problem with that is the world is full of things that break God's heart.  From indifference, to violence, to corruption, abuse, injustice, hatred, the list goes on and on.

Unfortunatly, this illumination  is downright heartbreaking and often tear wrenching.

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted.
I have found comfort in mourning with these intimate words Jesus spoke to his disciples:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33
  
Remembering all the people of  Moore, Oklahoma in prayer.

Photo credit: thedailybeast.com

Friday, May 24, 2013

Build Something Great

Desperate to escape the demands of their social lives in the north, Archer and Anna Huntington built an escape along the South Carolina called Atalaya.   With large studios for Anna to work on her sculptures and a library for Archer to manage his affairs and write poetry, it was their ideal winter retreat.

As I explored the corridors, hallways and rooms, I was mesmerized.  The Huntingtons built something that only they could truly appreciate.  Archer designed the building with a Mediterranean flair and Anna had a massive indoor and outdoor studio that included a stable for her horses and a cage for bears.  After all, who could sculpt without live models?

In the process of building, they became the largest employer in the city as they hired and trained locals to erect this incredible estate.  They provided valuable jobs during the great depression and later during WWII, the estate was used by the military.

The thing I love about Atalaya is the fact that it was built with no blueprints, just the instructions Archer gave.   It was said that he had designed the estate with detailed imagination "in his head."

It reminded me that I don't have to be a wealthy philanthropist to build something with  my words.  Prayers are eternal building blocks, more real than bricks and mortar and I too can build something great. 
 Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.  II Samuel 7:27 (NIV)




Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thinking Bigger

It's easy for me to get all wrapped up in myself.  My plans, my desires, my needs seem to be reoccurring themes in my prayer life.  And  it's good to pray for ourselves.  But it's also good to think bigger.  

Recently our church was challenged to think big.  Every year we are challenged to a  Faith Promise.  The leadership asks us to prayerfully consider believing God to bring extra money, beyond what we would normally give to missions.  Essentially a promise to have faith for God to provide for missions.  After all, it's His work, right?

 Here's the kicker:  we were instructed to believe that God would provide the money to give.  It wasn't  to be discretionary income. It wasn't  to be budgeted into your finances.  It was simply a promise to be a promise to believe that God would provide extra money to flow through you to the mission field.

As we were considering what to give, my husband felt the desire to write a specific number.  He showed me the number.  I raised my eyebrows, then nodded in agreement.  God would certainly have to provide that amount!

A few days ago, I was thumbing through the mail and noticed and odd envelope.  I opened the envelope and smiled when I realized it was a check from and unexpected sources for the EXACT amount my husband wrote down.

My first thought was, "Wow!  This is God answering our prayer for the Faith Promise money for missions."
My second thought was, "Boy, I could use this for a lot of other things."
That was quickly followed with,  "Nope, this is money for missions."  

Needless to say, this whole Faith Promise experience was about so much more than the money.  It was truly a great opportunity to build my faith! 




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pray for Boston

Sometimes in the course of everyday life, an event occurs that drives us all to our knees.  My heart broke at the tragic news of the bombings in Boston and the senselessness of it all.  It's a grave reminder of how evil man is apart from God.

I can't imagine the heartbreak and sorrow that so many awoke with.

Lord,
I pray for comfort, peace, strength and hope in the midst of sorrow, pain and confusion.  You alone can help.  You alone can heal.  May justice prevail.  May your wisdom guide the officers, detectives, officials, psychologists, therapists, nurses and doctors who embark on a journey of caring for victims and seeking truth.  Words alone don't express how desperately my heart cries out for you to help.  See our tears.  Hear our cries.  Answer our prayers. 
In Jesus Name, 
Amen

Monday, April 8, 2013

Update on 1,000 hours

Perhaps you're curious about my 1,000 hour challenge.  So far I have logged 117 total hours in my prayer journal.  An interesting phenomenon occurred around hour 50.  I quit keeping really accurate tabs on time.  There are two primary reasons this happened.

First, I began enjoying the presence of the Lord so much that I would forget when I started and try to linger in His presence as I began my day, carrying the conversation on with Him as I began laundry, swept or took care of other mundane tasks. 

Secondly, I am now praying more through out the day.  Using my prayer notebook app, I might pray while waiting for the kids or an appointment.  Hearing a firetruck might prompt me to pray for divine help for the firefighters. 

Funny story:  I had to go to the DMV.  Usually I dread the lines, the wait and the entire experience.  This time I was excited.  My husband would watch the children so I could go alone.  I had already predetermined I would pray for the people in my notebook as I waited in line.  No long line would steal my time today.  I would advance the kingdom of God in that atrocious line today and I was happy about it.  When I walked into the DMV there was NO wait.  I kid you not.  NO line at all.  I laughed to myself and was in and out of the DMV in less than 5 minutes.  So much for praying.  I guess the devil got word of my plan and made everyone else run late!  Just one  unexpected benefit of committing to a prayerful life.

A few other benefits I have noticed since I started this challenge are:
*A new found pleasure in conversing with God
*A deeper love for the Bible
*An intensified compassion for people
*Greater peace
*An awareness of God at work in my life and the lives of others

My Pastor read this scripture from 1 Peter 4:7-8 
The end of all things is near.  Therefor be clear minded and self-controlled so you can pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. 
 I am still mulling over these verses from last Wednesday night.  Expect more thoughts from me in the future about this verse.  




Saturday, April 6, 2013

Be Still and Jackie Chan

Yesterday, while hanging out with some  friends, we watched Lisa Chan's video Be Still.

My husband was excited about this Lisa Chan movie.  Allow me a moment to explain something I shared with him.  For those of you wondering, as far as I know Lisa Chan has no relation to Jackie Chan.  Do not watch her video expecting anything remotely like a Jacki Chan movie.  Be Still is not an action packed kung-fu movie.  There were no buildings blowing up or high speed car chases or karate chops or roundhouse kicks.

So, in her exciting, yet decidedly non-action video, Lisa reminded us of the importance of taking time to be still and encouraged us with her story.  She said: 

"We are living in crazy times where life is so full and has so many distractions and so many things to do. Every year life just gets busier and busier, and there's more things we add in and more things we try to accomplish. And in all of this madness, God, who never changes, and who always stays the same, is saying "Be Still." Well, how in the world do I do that? Why would I make that a priority?"

She went on to explain how God drew her to Him and her story inspired me to draw closer to Jesus.

When I read Psalm 46:10 and it's admonition to "Be Still,"  suddenly I feel like a 3 year old, fidgety and restless.  I think of all I have to do.  I think of the places I need to go and it's hard to turn it all off.  It seems impossible to slow down .  Luckily, what is impossible for me is possible with God.

Earlier this week as I was organizing and cleaning, I read a quote on a piece of artwork that said:

Everything changed the day she realized
she had just enough time to do all the important things in life.

This simple quote pierced my heart.  God gives me enough time to do the important things.  Am I wasting time by not listening to God ? Am I doing things but not taking time to do the important things?  When I am quiet, I am aligning God's agenda with my schedule and pacing my life with His plan.

God has something better for us than being busy.  He formed us to be fruitful.  This can only be accomplished by being still and allowing God to set the pace and the agenda for life.

Lord, help me be still.  Help me to be quiet.  I want to hear your voice. In Jesus' name, Amen

To watch the trailer to Lisa's video check this out:
https://flannel.org/products/true-beauty-be-still


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Walk the Walk

    A sweet friend of mine sent me a letter today and I was touched by her words.  She explained how she found herself telling someone, "I'll pray for you."  Later, she was convicted when she realized her words were simply a sentimental Christian expression and she didn't plan to pray.
   Needless to say, she's not alone.  I too have felt the conviction of saying I will pray and failing to follow through.  For me, a lot of it boils down to having a plan to pray.  I like to carry my prayer journal in my purse.  This enables me to write out requests, lest I forget.  And trust me, if I don't write it down, I will forget.  It also serves as a reminder to ask a friend how things are going with that particular matter of prayer.  My prayer notebook app on my phone has also been a huge help in reminding me to pray for important people and things. 
   In Quiet Talks on Prayer, Samuel Dickey reminds us of the importance of praying:

The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. 
 I do not mean those who talk about prayers;
 nor those who say they believe in prayer; 
nor yet those who can explain about prayer; 
but I mean those who take time and pray.  
They have not time.  It must be taken from something else. 
 This something else is important.  Very important, and pressing than prayer.  
There are people that put prayer first, and group other items in life's schedule around and after prayer.

I feel like Samuel understood the plight I face day after day.  Important and pressing things scream for my attention, particularly when I commit myself to prayer.  Overcoming the urgent to do what's important is a daily battle I face. 

Lord, help me to be someone who prays even in the midst of important, pressing things that must be done.  In  Jesus' name, Amen. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Provision

Has God ever asked you to do something beyond your capacity? 
Has He ever whispered a plan that seemed too much and too big?
God put some pretty big things in my heart lately. 
Big things that had me wondering, "How God? I just don't have all the resources."
Finally, I rested knowing that God would provide for His plan. 
And guess what?  He did. 
He provided in one of those big, in your face kind of
miracles on Palm Sunday.  
The kind of miracle that makes you think, "Wow.  That was God!"
It was an answer to prayer that built faith of our kids
 as we told them  the prayer we had prayed the night  before,
  was answered that morning...a Palm Sunday provision.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jesus and Prayer

I've been studying the book of Matthew and I've really been struck by how much Jesus taught about prayer.
Andrew Murray made this observation:

"In all His instructions, our Lord Jesus spake much oftener to His disciples about their praying than their preaching.  In the farewell discourse, He said little about preaching, but much about the Holy Spirit, and their asking whatsoever they would in His Name."

Several times I read how Jesus went off and prayed by himself.  If Jesus had to take time alone to pray, how much more do I need to?  I'm thinkin' alot. 


If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matthew 21:22

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I steal prayers

True confession: I steal prayers. 
I can't always find just the right words. 
So I steal prayers from the Bible.

I think it's ok to infringe on copyright laws when it comes to prayer and I am stealing God's Word.

 Hopefully the plagiarism police wont peek into my prayer journal.  They'd find the words of Jesus, David and Paul carefully penned and claimed as my own. 

Today David's words reflect my heart:

Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
Psalm 119:133 

By the way, if you decided to steal prayers too, I won't tell a soul.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Howl for Joy

Sometimes I like to sing when I wake up.  Today as I softly started to sing, Goldie my dog decided to join me by whimpering as I sang.  First quietly, then with more animation she attempted to mimic my praise.  Her joyful howls made me giggle and reminded me of how much God deserves the unspoiled, imperfect, beautiful praise of all his creation, especially me!


Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.  Psalm 98:4 (NIV)


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sleepless Nights

Usually I have no trouble falling asleep.  Moments after my head hits the pillow, I'm out until my alarm clock rings in the morning.  But a few nights ago I woke up, wide awake at three a.m.   After a few minutes of tossing and turning, I realized that I couldn't fall back to sleep.

Laying there thinking, I remember sleepless nights.
God spoke to Abraham in the darkness and told him his descendents would be as numerous as the stars.
Jacob was wrestling God all night long until he got his blessing.
King Xerxes remembered Mordecai on a sleepless night.
Samuel, just a boy, heard God's voice in the stillness of a sleepless night. 
Chains were broken during midnight worship and Paul was set free from prison on a sleepless night
And  most memorable of all, God's very own Son came to Earth on a glorious, sleepless night.

Hmm..... A sleepless night might just be an invitation from the Almighty. I slipped out of bed and into His presence with a song, a scripture and a conversation.

Over the years I've heard countless stories about believer being abruptly woken in the middle of the night inspired to pray urgently for someone: a prayer of supernatural intervention.  A prayer of faith in a time of need that made all the difference.

As I slid back into bed, I smiled. It's good to make the most of a sleepless night.

Have you had a sleepless night?




Sunday, February 24, 2013

Unforgiving Prayer

I awake early to pray but something is off, not right.  It occurs to me I am angry.   Upset.  I feel my rights have been violated by someone close to me. Could I talk to that person to try to make ammends?  No, much too early.  The sleepy sun hasn't even begun to peek over the horizon.  I try to pray, but it's like a hitting a brick wall.  Nothing comes so I sit.

I think of the scripture

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven may forgive you.  Mark 11:25

I know that I can't talk to that person, but I can begin making amends.  I can forgive.  I tell God how I feel.  Confess that I've been too wrapped up in myself and too unconcerned with others.  I reflect on the millions of violations I've committed before a Holy God who lavishes his forgiveness on me time and time again.  Unforgiveness towards anyone seems like a selfish, unspeakable crime for someone like me who has been forgiven of so much.   I decide to forget when my flesh tries to remember.  I'll put those cruel, condemning thoughts out of my mind and remember how God has forgiven me time and time again.  I remember His Spirit in me, enabling me to exhibit divine forgiveness.  

 A breath of fresh air fills my soul.  

Finally, I can pray. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Put Yourself In Timeout

"Go to your room and think about the right way to use your words,"  I said to my daughter as I sent her to her room for a timeout.  I managed to keep a  low calm voice, but my heart was pounding and all I felt was anger.

With clenched teeth and tight fists I wondered why I have more trouble with this one child than the half dozen I used to care for in my home daycare.  She pouted down the hall and I had a Holy Spirit moment. 

"Put yourself in a time-out and pray," came a gentle whisper.

I sat down on my couch and poured out my heart to the Lord.  I told Him I was frustrated.  I asked Him for grace.  I prayed for Him to touch my daughter's heart.  Quite frankly, it was the best time-out I ever had.

When the timer beeped and I let her out, I was amazed at how God's spirit had worked in her heart and perhaps more importantly, mine.  A fresh flood of grace and love filled our home. 

My takeaway: Sometimes you just need to put yourself in a timeout and pray.

              Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  Colossians 4:2


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hard Days

Some days are simply harder than others.  My amazing husband has been working some pretty crazy hours.  There is more work for me and I feel the drain from the lack of his presence at home.  I have a choice:  complain or cry out to the one whose presence never leaves me,

So I find myself crying out.  I learn to pray for my family as I fold their clothes.  Laying their lives at his throne as I lay their clothes in neat piles.  I intercede for husbands coworkers as I prepare a pizza for him to share.  Let them hunger for you and be filled, I pray.   

I seek to really live 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18:

Be joyful always.
Pray continually.
Give thanks in all things.
For this is the will of God concerning you.

Even on hard days.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Praying for my Hands


   



    I look down at my hands, wrinkled and cracked from the daily routines they endure.  Wash.  Fold. Clean. Wash. Fold. Clean.  I gave up painting my nails years ago and it’s been nearly a decade since I have had a professional manicure.  Soapy suds 3 times a day, day after day, month after month, year after year have take their toll.
    Lately I have noticed the neatly manicured nails of beautiful women I see at the banks and stores.  Their perfect nails colored in vibrant hues of pink and red and violet, beg my question.
    “How do they do it?” I wonder.  
    A few weeks ago, my daughter and I sat down at the dining room table.  Reluctantly, I consented to painting her nails.  Stroke after stroke of coral on her ten tiny fingers.  Feeling ambitious and with her insistence, I painted mine as well.  We sat there at the table gently blowing on our fingers.  
    My polish didn’t survive 24 hours.  Staring at my chipped nails in disgust, I reached for the acetone and removed all hint of color:  naked nails for working hands.
    The human hand is a marvelous creation.  29 bones, 9 major joints, 48 nerves and 123 ligaments are skillfully woven together enabling baseball player Aroldis Chapman to heave a pitch at a staggering 105mph.  The same materials  that produce such power and force can operate with enough precision to actually paint a picture on a grain rice.  If you have not seen these tiny works of art, you have to google them sometime.  I’m certain you’ll be amazed by the sheer wonder of such a minute masterpiece. 
   The hand also provides a unique form of identification.  Tiny swirls twist and turn like windy roads on a map to create a one-of-a-kind stamp we call a fingerprint. The palm of the hand with all of its wrinkles and creases  is tough and durable, yet strangely sensitive.
I stare at my wrinkly, dry hands that bear 30 years of tiny scars from my busywork.  It’s doubtful they’ll ever look like the perfect fingers I see  in magazines.  They are short workers constantly on duty.  They remove splinters and clean scraped knees.  They rest on a forehead to measure temperature and wipe little noses that run.  They chop onions and knead dough. They type and paint and fix and scold and they hold the hand of a loving man whose affection I don’t deserve.  
Index finger has pointed under hundreds of words, slowly moving, letter by letter, as tiny lips decode  the sounds into intelligible language.  Who knows how many pinky promises my little finger made  as a child? Ring finger has worn a golden band for nearly 12 years.  Then holding it all together, often offering an encouraging “thumbs up” is my short, stout thumb on the end.  
             Holy scripture has a lot of say about hands.  Hands clapping.  Hands praising.  Hands working.  Hands laying.  Hands spinning. Hands rinsing.  Hands lifting. Hands striking. Hands delivering.  Hands producing. Hands making.  Hands harvesting.  Hands fulfilling.  
I love what Nehemiah said about hands.  He had a job.  Nehamiah was rebuilding a sacred wall torn down by adversaries.  Words of ridicule and opposition were shot at him like evil darts of an enemy.  

His response is recorded in Nehemiah 6:8-10 (NIV)

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Strengthen my hands.  Strengthen my hands.  Strengthen my hands.   I murmur the words to myself imagining the urgency and fervor with which Nehemiah must have prayed them.  Desperate to see the job done right and done well.  Longing for  his hands to finish what they started, he prayed.  I get that.  Something deep inside of me wants to see the job done, but I get tired.  Can I pray like Nehemiah?   Can I trust God to strengthen me for the task at hand?

    The unique fingerprint testifies to the unique task each hand is equipped to do.  God designed your hand to build something that only you can build.  There is work only your hands can do.  
    Maybe your hands are like mine, tired and sore from their daily routines.  Or perhaps you just treated your hands to a manicure and they rest on your lap with colorful, glistening veneers.  Regardless, tiny swirls masterfully designed by the Creator, barely visible and rarely noticed cry out.  They whisper God’s special plan for you, for your hands.  Seek Him to discover what your hands were designed to do.  Then,  cry out like the Psalmist in Psalm 90:17:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

God will strengthen our hands.  God will establish the work of our hands.  Here’s the best part.  Our hands bring us rewards.  

Proverbs 12:14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the  
work of their hands bring them reward. 

    God strengthens our hands.  God establishes the work of our hands and God brings us rewards from the work of our hands.  Nothing our hands do go unnoticed.  As we live out Colossians 3:23 and do all things as though we were doing it for Jesus himself, we receive rewards: both on earth and in heaven.

    In Proverbs, we read of a woman who was diligent in working with her hands whether for buisness or charity.  The Bible says:
Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.  Proverbs 31:31

I smile at these words.  Honor her for all that her hands have done.   In a world consumed with appearance, in my mind obsessed with pretty hands all that God cares about is what my hands have done.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived had some thoughts on hands as well.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Eccl. 9:10

I only have one chance to do something with my hands.  You only have one chance to do something with your hands.  Let’s use our hands to hands to give  Glory to God.

Today, I pray like Nehemiah,   "Strengthen my hands Lord."

References accessed Feb. 14, 2013:
http://www.allroundmagazine.com/In_The_Magazine/itm_HANDS_FACTS.html
http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=sh-redspadres092410


Friday, February 15, 2013

One Liners

Everyone loves a good one liner, but what about a prayer one liner?  I was thinking about the tax collector in Luke.  He prayed a simple one-liner, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  This simple one-liner pleased God.  He was humble and honest. 
 
Yesterday I adopted an even shorter one-liner.  "Change me, Lord."   

Early that morning  I decided to use this one-liner to connect with God through out the day.   I  was amazed at how many opportunities I had to utter those words.  I could truly sense God answering my prayer and changing me to be little bit more patient, a little bit more loving,  over all a little bit more like Him.  

Realizing how much change need, my one liner for today remains, "Change me, Lord."
 
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector  Luke 18:9-14
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Everlasting Love

Maybe it's all the heart shaped candy and flowers, but I just couldn't get my mind off this verse today as I sat in God's presence.

...I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. 
Jeremiah 31:3

 This was my daughter's memory verse for the week.  I sat in her bed saying the verse and she would repeat the words.   She knows little of love and faithfulness.  She doesn't realize the countless hearts that have been broken or the lives turned upside down by lies and broken promises.   Though I hate to admit it, one day she'll experience heartbreak and disappointment beyond me telling her she can't have more candy.  And maybe, just maybe, this verse will come to mind and become real to her.  Perhaps she'll realize that His love is enough.

Only God can love us perfectly.  Only He can satisfy.   The pain comes in seeking that love and satisfaction from anything or anyone other than Him.  

Chocolate gets eaten and flowers die, but God's love is everlasting.  His faithfulness continues.


 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mama Stack

Mama Stack prays like no one I know.  One moment she might pray eloquently with the grace of queen.  Another moment she prays with the intensity of a boxer, fighting the good fight of faith.  She cries out to the Lord with the neediness of a child crying for their Father.  She prays sweet, tender blessings of peace like a mother with a child.  Her tongue is like the pen of a ready writer quoting beautiful scriptures as she approaches the throne of grace.

Her relationship with God is a paradox.  She speaks to Him as a close friend, yet knows Him as the Creator and Judge, someone all-to magnificent to fully understand.  

She recently celebrated a birthday and when I think of  Psalm 92:12-15, I can't help but envision her as she ages. 

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Recently our church launched a mentoring program to connect younger women with older women, but  I didn't sign up for it.  It was not because I don't need mentoring.  Trust me, I need all the help I can get.  I didn't sign up because I live next to Mama Stack.  She's a Titus 2 woman in my life.  She is open and honest about her struggles.   She encourages me to keep on keeping on.  And in spite of her wisdom from a lifetime of living for God, raising babies and now welcoming grandchildren into the world, she remains humble.  She is flourishing.  She is fruitful.  She's staying fresh and still bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.  She's not perfect, but she knows that In Christ she is righteous.

Her generosity challenges me.  Her faith inspires me.  Her stories stretch me. Her love enriches me.  

Tonight we met at her house for prayer.  She shared her need for us to pray for her if we think about her.  She explained often when we think about someone, it's a prompting from the Lord to pray for them.
  
"If God brings someone to your mind, pray for them," she admonished. 

So today I am praying for Mama Stack.  May her legacy of faith and prayer endure throughout the generations of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond.  May the rest of her life be the best of her life.  Holy Spirit, continue to use her in ways that shock, amaze and delight her.  Fill her with renewed energy and vitality.  Pour your goodness and grace upon her.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Ask and you shall receive...

It's my great pleasure to announce I have had no furry little surprises for a few months.  Though I am delighted I have not seen more mice,  I am a wee bit concerned.  Honestly, how something so small can cause me to feel so upset and lose my focus?  How often do I allow little surprises to shake my faith walk? Shouldn't my faith permeate every aspect of my life?

Sometimes I like to think I am a woman of great mountain-moving faith.  Then I have moments where I see myself as I truly am, very human and desperately in need of more Jesus and more grace.  I feel like the disciples in Luke 17:5 asking Jesus "Lord increase my faith."  I don't just want great faith for the "big" stuff.  I need great faith for the small things because I deal with so much "little"stuff.  

A little mouse reminds me nothing is too big or too small for God.   Thankfully,  a  few traps and much prayer seemed to get rid of the intruders. 

Ask and you shall receive...Matthew 7:7