Category Archives: faith

Praying For Whom?

Matthew 5:44, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult verses in the entire Bible. It says: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” 

Enemies. Can I safely assume that we all have someone who comes to mind when that word is brought up? Someone who is a source of stress and strife? Possibly it is someone who has physically or verbally attacked us or our family. Maybe it is someone who has become a thorn in our side because of their continual inconsiderate ways. Perhaps it is someone who initiated a one-time event that has caused unresolved bitterness.

    Do we pray for that person? Do we pray that God will touch their heart and heal the part of them that causes them to inflict pain on others? Do we pray that God will soften their heart and help them to see the hurt they have caused and feel sorrow? Or do we think prayer in this particular case is pointless because he or she is beyond the reach of God? (That last one was rhetorical.)

    I have been guilty of sometimes forgetting to pray for the people I have labeled as enemies. I have also been guilty of sometimes intentionally forgetting to pray for them…but I am pretty good at remembering to complain about them. I am pretty good at remembering to tell my close friends or husband what my enemies have done. I am pretty good at referring back to the offense that makes them so hard to pray for with the hope that maybe I can get a “prayer pass.” Maybe my confidante will say, “You know, what she did WAS truly horrible. Let others pray for her…it would just be too much to expect you, the victim, to pray for God to touch her heart and to perform a change in her life.” I have not yet heard those words or anything similar. I have a feeling l will be waiting a while to hear a response that will let me off the hook in the “pray for those who persecute you” department.

    Possibly part of what hinders me from praying for enemies is the realization that He might decide it is the ideal time for Him to impress upon me that I am in need of a heart change. And, you know, if He would choose to mention that while I am obediently pleading with Him to change him or her, it might be a bit irritating. 😉However, God speaks to us about our hearts when He has our attention. And sometimes the prime time for attention-getting is when we are right in the middle of telling Him why and how He should change the heart of our enemy. (And yes, I do say this from experience.)

    Loving and praying for our enemies is a big commandment given to us by a big God who never leaves us on our own to tackle the hard stuff. He will help us. He promises He will be by our side. As we pray, maybe we will not see a change in our enemy. But maybe we will. And as we continue to pray, we just might start to see a positive change in ourselves – a change in our hearts, our attitude, and our response, as He helps us to become more like Him. 

    Heavenly Father, when we have someone in our life we are struggling with, help us to respond to them the way You want us to. The easiest reactions are to complain and to focus on the negative. But You’ve told us to pray for our enemies. Help us, Lord, to truly desire that our enemies will be touched by You and that they will feel Your love. Remove the bitterness and anger. Replace it with Your peace that transcends understanding. Reveal to us the ways in which You want to work in our hearts as well, and open our eyes to Your way. Thank You for Your love, Your forgiveness, Your mercy, and Your peace. Amen.fullsizeoutput_cdef

Home Sweet Home

Years ago, whether our family was arriving home after a week-long vacation or a day-long excursion, our kids could accurately predict that the words out of my mouth as our car pulled into the garage would be, “Home sweet home.”

I have always loved going away. However, when it was time for a family trip to end, an undeniable joy would grow inside of me as our car neared our house. As much as I love family time in exciting locations, and even though these trips provide treasured memories to reminisce about, the truth is, I love being home even more. I feel comfortable, content, and cozy. I feel “at home.”

My husband and I have four children and two daughters-in-law, and all six of them are in varying stages of their college or career pursuits, which means “coming home” has an entirely new meaning these days. 

When our adult children come to our house to stay for a day or two, they open the refrigerator for refreshments and are aware that they are more than welcome to use any household items. It feels natural to them as they “make themselves at home,” and I would not have it any other way.

John 14:23 says, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  Ephesians 2:22 says, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Clearly, God’s Word reminds us that we are to be a dwelling place for our Lord – that He is eager to make His home in us with His Spirit. 

What an unbelievable blessing that Jesus chooses to abide in us and take up residence in our lives. Regardless of the fact that we are unworthy of such a gift, He sincerely desires that our hearts will be His home. Friends, our Lord longs to “make Himself at home,” in us!

What are some ways that our hearts can be a more welcoming place for Him? Are we striving to live our lives in such a way that it will feel natural for Him to dwell in our hearts, as He opens our eyes to His plan for us and uses us for His glory?

As we boldly love Him and bravely live for Him, let our prayer be that we will be a “home sweet home” for Jesus Christ! 

Loving God and Others With Our All

(Following is this month’s contribution to Devotableapp.com – check out that website for daily devotions. I feel very blessed to be one of the contributors!)

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Keep these words in your heart that I am telling you today. Do your best to teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”

This passage found in Deuteronomy 6 reminds me that God does not think of living for Him and loving Him as a minor matter! He does not expect His believers to categorize it as minor either!

How do we keep it at the forefront, no matter what activity we are engaged in and time of day it is? How do we have conversations about anything else, if we are supposed to talk about “these words” while we are “sitting in our house, walking on the road, lying down, and getting up”? I mean, that pretty much covers everything, doesn’t it?

Loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength and teaching that to our children when we are “sitting in our house,” should undoubtedly be the easiest assignment on the list, right? After all, we are surrounded by the people we love the most! Treating each other in a loving way using loving words is probably pretty easy when life is going smoothly. But when a conflict arises, caused by someone who lives in our house with us, do we handle it in a manner that shows our family that one of God’s highest priorities is also one of ours? If it is, then we will decide to show God’s grace and model His forgiveness. We will demonstrate His humility and display His peace. Family disputes will be settled using Christlike principles, therefore falling in line with the Deuteronomy precept.

Loving the Lord with our all when we “walk on the road,” makes me think of our everyday life and everyday routine. When we are at our jobs, at school, attending the basketball game or the church social, and sitting in on the city council meeting, how do we speak to others? How do we speak about others? Is our love for God and His ways evident in the way we work with others and cultivate relationships in our community? Do our children see the way we treat others as an extension of our Christian faith? If we are loving the Lord the way He talks about in verses 5, 6, and 7, then our love for others (yes even those hard-to-love people) will overflow from that!

This passage also mentions when we lie down and when we get up as times to teach God’s love to our children. If we begin the day asking for God’s presence, love, and protection, and end the day thanking Him for all of the above, then our lying down and our getting up is also following Deuteronomy 6’s command.

Loving with our whole heart, soul, and strength should not only be talked about, but modeled as well. God is exceptional at showing us how.

Loving God and others with our all is quite an assignment. Fortunately, we serve quite a God!

Thank You For Your Faithfulness

Lord, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in a world where genuine stability and certainty is unheard of…we are beyond grateful. 

Lord, thank You for being completely faithful in a world where vows are often broken, commitments are frequently backed out on, and trust is routinely betrayed. Thank You for being dependable in a world where plans are often altered and schedules are often adjusted with no regard for who it affects.

In a world that is weak and wavering in respecting absolute right and wrong, Your Word is a solid, steadfast treasure. Your eternal promises are a gift. If You have said it, we can be assured that it will come to pass. It is settled and sure. 

In a world of instant relief, instant rice, and instant replay, etc., we thank You for demonstrating to us a patience that is unmatched. We are thankful that You teach us the meaning of perseverance, what it accomplishes in our faith, and how it enhances our character. 

Thank You for who You are and for changing us to become more and more like You. When we display faithfulness, dependability, patience, and perseverance to others, they are then blessed with a glimpse of Your character in a world that is in desperate need of more of You. Open our eyes to opportunities to develop Your characteristics in our lives. Open our hearts to the desire to seek more of You, so that those traits increasingly become a part of who we are.

We pray this in Your holy name. Amen.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  Psalm 119:90

Thoughts and Prayers

Lately, the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” has taken a verbal beating in some circles. Numerous times, the common social media response of, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” has been mocked, belittled, or challenged.

Of course, there are occasions when the “thoughts and prayers,” response may be a trite, typed phrase with little to no real meaning behind it. However, there are many times it is said with the sincere motive of asking God to comfort and strengthen those affected by hardship and asking for wisdom to know how to be of assistance. And in those cases, hearing a sarcastic or angry complaint after telling someone they are being prayed for can definitely take the well-wisher off guard.

When a Christian says that their thoughts and prayers are with someone, it is not to relieve them of the responsibility of doing something beyond praying. 

Prayers are not being said to check off some “thing I need to say to make myself feel better,” box. I get the impression that when someone expresses that their thoughts and prayers are with a person, there are people who actually hear, “Now I have said I am thinking of them and praying for them, therefore, I can go about my business and act as if nothing is wrong and continue hoping for no change.”  For Christians, when a tragedy strikes and it is a situation that they are able and compelled to help with, thoughts and prayers come to mind first in order to get prepared to take action. Prayers preface action because the person praying desires to take action that will reflect what God is calling them to do. Prayers preface action because they desire to hear from God, who promises to give wisdom generously to all without finding fault, as found in James 1:5.

In John 16:33, Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Until the end of time, there will be tragedies and difficult situations and therefore, many reasons to pray. But thank God, also until the end of time, we can pray with confidence to God because He has overcome the world. Friends, keep praying! God hears. God cares.

How Are You Doing?

How are you doing? It is a question that is easy for us to quickly answer most of the time. But for my daughter, Mallory, and others who have brain injuries, the reply depends on multiple factors. I would love to have an opportunity to give you an idea, to the best of my ability, to tell you “how she is doing.” 

Mallory suffered her 4th concussion in a basketball game in December of 2016, and her 5th in a car accident in February of 2017.  She has seen many professionals, all with the best intentions, but not all with positive effects. She has been prescribed various therapies, supplements, and medications with differing results. So far, many have made the “Not Effective” or “Made Her Feel Worse” lists. Right now she is in the midst of a couple new therapies that we are hopeful will give her a much prayed-for breakthrough.

Since December of 2016, she has struggled with a vast array of symptoms at different degrees of severity depending on several components including the time of day, how tired she is, how full her schedule is, and how much cognitive activity has taken place that day. 

There are bad days and there are “not-quite-as-bad” days, and rarely any indication of what kind of day it will be until she is smack-dab in the middle of it. Some symptoms she battles on a daily basis include a constant headache, fatigue, and insomnia. Also, her autonomic nervous system refuses to calm down, so she is constantly in fight or flight mode. She has short-term memory issues (the reason she writes in a notebook and types many reminders on her phone to keep track of what she needs to do that day, her homework assignments that are due, and even conversations that she has had because she is embarrassed when she repeats stories to people) soreness in her back, shoulders, and neck, because her brain is trying to coax her into the fetal position for protection purposes, focus problems, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to different sounds, sensitivity to overstimulation in her environment, anxiety, and because of the part of her brain that is injured, a difficult time trusting people. Add in the fact that she is a teenage girl and there is built-in stress with that and therefore…bad days can be, well, pretty bad. From my perspective, her “not-quite-as-bad-days” sometimes have me thinking (hoping) she is on the upward swing, when I can’t physically see her grimace in pain or suffer from fatigue, for instance. But it comes down to the fact that I often do not realize how bad her day has been since this young lady copes with her new life like a champ.

Quite possibly the most disturbing of all of her TBI effects is that Mallory feels like her brain belongs to someone else. She does not feel like herself anymore. She is on a roller coaster ride that she did not ask to get on. It’s as if her emotions, physical symptoms, and neurological functions conspired against her and boarded a different roller coaster that’s running right next to her. That ride is within reach, but she has no control over the ups, downs, twists, and turns.      

If you don’t mind, I would like to be “that mom” for just a few moments and say that brain injury is an invisible injury that doesn’t require a cast or crutches while healing, but it is just as real. I would like to shout from the rooftops that she is not faking it, it is not an attention-seeking ploy, she sometimes just needs a break from the world and to not take it personally, and, no she is not “lucky” that she has some school accommodations to help her cope with the fact that schoolwork is all of a sudden challenging. (She would much rather have a healthy brain and no accommodations, thank you very much.)  I want to say that because she seems happy-go-lucky one day and maybe not the next, it is to be expected, because it is a very up-and down-healing process. “That mom” in me wants you to know that she gears up for activities and does those activities to the best of her ability…but the “gearing up” takes a toll on her even before the activity begins, so after a busy week or a big event, her body and brain require extra time to get back to normal, or rather, whatever her new normal is.  “That mom” in me wants to say that the thing she wants the most from people is understanding. 

Mallory is attempting to figure out her new normal, and she is doing it while being a pretty amazing young lady.  She will soon be graduating high school and registering for college classes, she is involved in many music endeavors (I believe music is extremely therapeutic) she is on the local ambulance squad, she has started a blog (mallorythielgesblog.com) which I highly recommend checking out, and she does it all (most of it) with a smile. 😉

My husband and I have said that this is a whole new territory for us, and truth be told, we are getting educated on something we would rather have not known this much about!  However, the “all things work together for good” promise that God gives us in Romans 8:28 reminds us to look for the positives in this situation. The most important one is that Mallory’s faith and boldness in sharing with others about her faith have been renewed and revitalized. Engage her in a conversation, and you’ll likely be reminded of God’s plan and peace for your life. 

And that is my attempt to sum up how Mallory is doing. She is experiencing something she could be complaining about; something that could make her feel hopeless at times, but at the end of the day, she is finding and focusing on the positive. She is reminding others and herself of God’s plan and peace. And this mom thinks she is doing quite well.

 

Walking Partner

I might just be the queen of allowing my feelings to get in the way of facts. I have a habit and a history of seeing my life’s circumstances in light of my emotions. However, a lifestyle in which my life’s circumstances are instead viewed by applying the Light of the World’s illumination is a goal I am praying about and pursuing.

Taking stock of what is happening through God’s lens instead of a “how I am feeling today” lens is valuable. And it is necessary. It helps us to confidently react based on the way God helps us see our situation, instead of allowing our emotions to dictate our response.

If I wake up each day and make a conscious decision to spend that day walking in God’s presence, I am much more likely to desire to live in a way that pleases God. One way that will be exhibited is that I will be more likely to react to challenges in a better manner. I will run my reactions through a filter of, “What is a Christlike approach to handling this situation?” rather than an “I handled that impulsively…how do I go back and fix what I did wrong?” filter.

When I think of walking with someone, I realize it is a conscious decision that takes action on my part. I have a walking partner. Years ago, we used to walk more often, but now because of busy lives, our walks have become a once-a-week commitment. We do not just “happen” to exercise together. It requires us to set our alarms, get out of bed a little earlier than usual, and don our exercise gear and walking shoes. Walking with God also requires a conscious decision…it does not happen by chance. We make a choice to take the steps toward God that prove our desire is to be right by His side. That is the best choice we can make each day. It is a choice that grants us an improved mindset and an increased sense of peace.

How beautiful it is to serve a God who is eager and willing to walk through this life with us step by step and to shed His light on our lives.

 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 ESV

(This is my May contribution to Devotableapp.com –  a website full of encouragement!)