That Wasn’t What I Expected, Lord…

That Wasn’t What I Expected, Lord…

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Lord, I was confused for quite some time about that answer. “Yes,” would have made perfect sense, and I felt prepared to accept the blessing that I requested. And I was prepared to thank You for it.

But You said, “No,” and it came out of nowhere because I thought all signs were pointing to You responding to this prayer the way I hoped.

I felt blindsided, Lord. And You are very well aware of that because I told You several times. And then I asked several times, “Why, God?” And I did not sense an answer.

I began to realize I was in need of a heart check. I prayed that You would adjust my attitude to one of gratefulness, not one of bitterness. And while You were probing my heart, my eyes needed an exam as well. I needed You to clear my vision; to help me to focus on the many blessings in my life, instead of what I thought was missing.

Lord, I know in the future there will be more unforeseen responses to my prayers.  Remind me that whether or not I understand Your reply, it will be good. It will be right. It will be the answer that allows Your, “All things work together for those who love the Lord,” promise to be on display in my life. Lord, help my definition of good to be in alignment with Your definition of good.

Lord, from now on, help me to invite You into my heartache instead of shutting You out. Help me to acknowledge and appreciate Your Presence in my pain. If I intentionally listen for Your voice, my heart will be open to new and exciting lessons about Your restoration and redemption.

Lord, I am grateful for Your blessings. You bless me with more than I deserve and more than I could ever earn. You generously give to overflowing out of Your deep love, even though I too often zero in on the empty areas because of my short-sightedness.

You take no delight in my distress. You are willing to teach, guide, and love me through disheartening moments. You come alongside me. You never barge in and insist that I instantly proclaim Your plan as better than mine. Instead, You tenderly offer Your enlightenment, as I process the pain and revitalize and regain trust in You.

Lord, You have promised hope and a future to all Your children. Help me realize that if I am trusting You with my future, it also means believing that You know what You are doing in my present.  Replace any lingering feelings of lack and loss with Your perfect peace.
In Your holy name, I pray. Amen.

Be Courageous

Be Courageous

Just a quick thought I wanted to share with you –

We’re told many times in the Bible to be courageous. God doesn’t tell us to feel courageous. He says, “Be courageous.” Often it’s more about us doing that thing God has asked us to do even though we might still feel nervous or fearful. Courage is doing it anyway. Do it knowing that God will show up and help you through it. Do it knowing that the world’s response is much less important than the obedience you’ve shown in doing it. If you’re waiting for a feeling of courage to come before you step out of your comfort zone, you’re going to wait yourself right out of an opportunity to do something great.

Praying For Whom?

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

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

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

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

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.