Your Nail-Scarred Hands

Your Nail-Scarred Hands

Lord, open our eyes to see the countless blessings You graciously and generously extend to us. As we reach out to Your nail-scarred hands in acceptance of Your blessings, show us how to live in gratitude for the unmatched sacrifice those scars represent.
May we be tuned in to the ways Your boundless love is on display. May we be compelled to love others the way You do. And as You help us live a life of love and gratitude, may others be eternally impacted for You. Amen.

Intricately Woven Together; Immeasurably Loved

Intricately Woven Together; Immeasurably Loved

It doesn’t matter what people say about you. Why? Because you are intricately woven together and immeasurably loved by Your Heavenly Father. You are chosen, redeemed, forgiven, set free, and a friend of Jesus. All are words straight from our God-inspired Bible, and therefore straight from the heart of God!

Fighting against hurtful words can wear us down. Possibly it is easier to accept or even believe the insults than to expend energy trying to convince others that they are wrong about us. Sometimes the cutting remarks end up being adopted as part of our own inner dialogue.

Here is a song, Daughter of the King, that I wrote years ago. It is about this very issue…believing what others say about us rather than what God says about us.

Again, it does not matter what others say about us –  we are His masterpiece! (Ephesians 2:10)

Friends, let’s remember these truths as we make comments about others. Should what people say matter to others? No, because of the same reasons as stated above. But, let’s not allow our words to be a reason that someone questions their worth. Let’s not be a reason that seeds of doubt about their value as a person get planted in someone’s mind that we have carelessly made a remark about. The person that is getting dragged down by our critical words is loved the same as us! We are all loved by Jesus with a love beyond our comprehension.

Let’s think, or better yet, pray, before we allow others’ words to impact us or drown out what God says about us. AND let’s think, or better yet, pray, before we say anything (or post anything) that could cause someone to question their true identity in Christ. Let our prayer be for God to help us to see ourselves AND others the way He does!

 

 

Unprayed Answers

Unprayed Answers

Whenever I am seated at the piano on Sunday mornings leading our congregation in song along with our church praise team, I consider it to be one of the sweetest blessings in my life. In addition to me, the team presently includes three vocalists, a bass guitarist, an occasional drummer, and an acoustic guitar player. 

In the early 2000s, as I sat on a padded metal chair in a conference room filled with hundreds of other women at a Christian event, a husband and wife duo performed several moving songs. She sang and he played guitar. Listening to them share their love of Jesus and music in such a special way made an impact on me. For a few months after the conference, my mind revisited how touching it was that they had the opportunity to participate in a music ministry together as husband and wife. However, as time went on, the memory of that duo disappeared from my mind.

A few years later, on a whim, my husband and I both attempted to teach ourselves how to play guitar. He learned much more easily and quickly than I did, and my ego took a hit, so I quit. I never tried learning guitar again, and I might just be a little bitter about my husband having such a seemingly easy time mastering a new instrument, especially since I am the one with a music degree and background. (By the way, if you were expecting a post about perseverance when the going gets tough, this is not it.) 😉

More than a decade later on a Sunday morning in 2017, as I sat in front of the sanctuary leading a worship song with the praise team, the memory of that husband and wife duo unexpectedly reappeared in my mind. I immediately began to tear up. I confess that I frequently tear up during the music portion of our church service because when the song lyrics proclaim the greatness of God’s love and faithfulness, my gratitude causes an emotional response. But this particular time, my tears were due to the fact that I had overlooked for several years. You see, I love Jesus with all my heart and I thoroughly love to sing, so I am definitely thankful that I sing on a church praise team. But on that particular morning, I was struck by the added detail that my husband is part of that praise team with me, playing the aforementioned acoustic guitar. I am sure that a combination of factors was involved in God inspiring Darren to learn how to play guitar and join the praise team. I can’t help but think that I know what one of them was: God wanted to accomplish something in my marriage which I had deemed impossible. 

It is amazing that we serve a God who sometimes honors dreams that are shoved down deep into our hearts or almost entirely dismissed. Dreams we don’t even bother to transform into prayer, because we have already decided they are out of the realm of reality.

The idea of sharing in a music ministry together as a couple never became more than an intriguing thought. Not a wish. Not a prayer. In fact, it had been forgotten. But even so, God orchestrated that forgotten idea in our lives years later, and it is an incredible, straight-from-God gift. Because of His great love, God answers prayers we never even consider praying.

Just Like Joshua

Just Like Joshua

Parents often repeat commands to their children for emphasis. In the first chapter of Joshua, he was told by God to “Be strong and courageous,” three times. God’s words in these verses seem to be a very matter-of-fact way of informing a willing man that the next steps must be taken, and success would not be a part of the equation if strength and courage were absent. The next steps were to obtain the land promised to the Israelites.

God’s marching orders held no promise that a supernatural feeling of courage would well up inside of Joshua’s soul. Nope. No “peace that passes understanding” feeling would signify it was time for Joshua to move. The words feel or feelings do not make an appearance in this chapter. God did not tell Joshua to feel strong and courageous. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous.

Did God promise His presence? Absolutely! But there was no promise that Joshua would not necessarily be shaking in his sandals as he carried out these sacred steps.

Just like Joshua, we are told many times in the Bible to be courageous. And just like Joshua, God does not tell us to feel courageous. He says, “Be courageous.”

It will not be possible to find in ourselves the confidence in our own ability to carry out our call, but there is something we can have absolute confidence in – God will show up and walk us through it. Step by step. Forward steps. Even backward steps. He will help us get back on track and be right by our side. Yes, we may have some shaking-in-our-boots or sandals moments, but God’s presence is a guarantee.

When we obey God and follow through with something that takes us straight out of our comfort zone, He blesses us. In Luke 11:28, Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” The blessing of God is worth the prayer, perseverance, and persistence that hard assignments from Him require.

Courage is often about us doing what God has asked us to do even though we might still feel nervous or fearful. Courage is asking God for strength to do it anyway – even though fear may be whispering (or shouting) in our ear that we are the wrong person, that it is the wrong time, or that we heard the wrong message. Courage is the strength to keep repeating to ourselves until we believe it that, “God is with me.”

If we insist upon waiting to be struck with a feeling of courage before we step out of our comfort zone and onto God’s path, we will wait ourselves right out of an opportunity to do something great.

 

 

 

Waiting Well

Waiting Well

Tuesday morning, my prayer ended with me crying out, “God, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to start praying for a different result? Am I supposed to ask You to give me a new plea, a new prayer, a new passion? Or am I just supposed to continue to wait?” His answer was a deafening silence.  

Now God does not answer me audibly, so silence is not new. When I “hear” from God, it is a new thought, a new impression upon my spirit, a new sense of direction; accompanied by peace. Those responses are how I have always known that God “answered,” my questions. So when “none of the above,” happened after my heartfelt, hollered, hopeless, “What am I supposed to do…?” inquiry, it hit me like a ton of bricks: If I am not sensing the Holy Spirit’s prodding to pray in a new direction, then I am to keep praying and continue waiting. 

I know how to keep praying; I have done that many a time. I have frequently assumed God thought I was similar to the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. Jesus’ disciples urged Him to send her away when they became annoyed with her repeated requests.  But I am always encouraged that the story ends with Jesus blessing her because of her faith. 

I wrestle with the waiting. Although I am pretty good at impatient, irritated waiting, waiting well with an uncomplaining, unfazed, unwavering spirit is not a talent of mine.

Waiting well takes a conscious and intentional effort. Psalm 31:24 (ESV) says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” Maybe part of the courage He expects from me is in returning to Him over and over with the same prayer and believing that He is not getting sick of me or my request. Maybe the other part of that courage is believing that His silence is not avoidance and boldly believing He is working in unseen ways. 

On Tuesday, I chose to wait well. By Wednesday, I experienced some moments of not waiting well. And on Thursday, I felt led to start my day in front of my computer writing about what I had been contemplating. 

I asked God to speak to me about what waiting well truly means. At that very moment, my eyes directly went to a “Verse of the Day” email in my inbox. I opened it, and it “happened” to be Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

My first thought was, “Wow, God, thank You for an unbelievable direct answer to my prayer!” My second thought was, “Wow, God, if only You could answer this other prayer so quickly and directly.” My third thought was, “It is up to You, isn’t it? I’ll continue working on this blog post and learning how to wait well, and You continue being God. Thank You for showing me that verse when I needed it and teaching me how to wait well.” Between you and me, I spent entirely too much time dwelling on my second thought.

Apparently, God still has some work to do in my heart. Thankfully, doing great works in our hearts is one of His areas of expertise. 

As I continue to wait for God’s response, God will continue to work in my heart, and I will continue to have a choice on how to wait. Waiting well may take more discipline than waiting with impatience, but it will always afford more opportunities to watch our powerful God work in ways that only He can. 

**This was my November contribution for devotableapp.com – Great place for encouragement  and hope!

I Thought I Heard God’s Voice

I Thought I Heard God’s Voice

I heard God’s voice. Loud and clear.

I had been praying unceasingly for a breakthrough in a difficult situation, yet I had such an unsettled feeling about how it was going to turn out – until that day. God replaced my tension with His peace. I heard God voice the reply I had been waiting for: “I’ll come through.”

As time moved on, I continued to tell myself, “There is still time for God to come through; I know I heard Him correctly.” However, time kept moving, and then time ran out. The breakthrough I had fervently prayed for did not come to pass.

Then doubt crept in. Did God really say what I thought He said? Was it my imagination? Was it wishful thinking? Perhaps Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known,” was meant for someone else. Maybe it was meant for EVERYBODY else. Except for me.

Then the questions started. “God, did You forget what You told me? Did You forget about this situation? Did You forget about me?”

I got frustrated that God did not do what I expected Him to do. I considered giving Him the silent treatment, at least temporarily. Then I had guilt about being frustrated with God and also about avoiding Him.  

While I tried to sort through those confused feelings, I came to the realization that I DID hear God’s promise correctly. However, I filled in the blanks as to how He was going to accomplish it. When He did not do it the way I supposed He was going to, I doubted He was going to do it at all. 

I had happily accepted His assurance, but I had assumed His approach.

If we compiled a list of adjectives to describe God, the words predictable and conventional would not make the cut. Our unpredictable God frequently employs unconventional methods. 

When God grants us His unmatched “calm down, I will come through,” peace in relation to a promise He has made, our jobs are to 1. accept the peace, and 2. allow Him to choose how and when He will bring the promise to completion. What a blessing to know He is a promise-keeping God who always comes through.

Prayer: Lord, help me hear Your voice and trust Your ways. Help me feel Your Presence as I wait in confidence and expectation. Amen.

My sheep recognize my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (TLB)

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.