Tag Archives: faith

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.

Remembrance and Restoration

The physical pain, the emotional pain, the “letting people know,” the condolences, the what-ifs, the fake smile I put on to match my fake Christmas spirit, and the feeling of being crushed. If you were to ask me what I remember from a few days before Christmas in 1992, these are the vivid recollections I would list for you. 

I also remember finding a sorrowful sense of irony in losing a baby to miscarriage just days before the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

My mind had the following phrases on repeat: God could have prevented it from happening and God could have performed a miracle once it happened.

The question of “God, where were You?” evolved into, “God, why would You…” and then, “God, how dare You…” (and there’s still a part of me that wonders how I was not zapped or struck by lightning immediately after uttering those words to Him…) 

As I wrote in a post a few years ago, My First Pregnancy, My Faithful God, and My Firm Stand“He knew my husband and I were ecstatic about being parents. How dare He take this baby away? Yep, I said those words to the Creator of the Universe. I looked upward, right up to the sky and screamed, “How dare you!” Looking back on that moment and the bitterness I harbored for quite some time afterward, I sometimes think, “Wow, God, it takes a lot of nerve for an almost 22 year-old woman to challenge Your sovereignty. Thank You from the bottom of my heart for being patient with me and lovingly waiting for me to realize there was no one to blame.” I wasted a lot of time being mad at God when I could’ve spent that time being comforted and held by Him instead.”

I am unable to give an eloquent explanation of why it occurred, and equally unable attempt to inspire others with a “Therefore, this is why terribly sad events sometimes happen…” speech wrapped up in some sort of Christmas-time revelation gift with a bow on top. Oh, how I wish I could say that I remember that I allowed God to fill my emptiness to overflowing with His comfort and love. But instead, I remember resting in rage and resentment and not allowing God to console me with His relief and restoration.

I clearly remember a list of painful moments stemming from a miscarriage during the Christmas season years ago, but in Lamentations 3:21, there is mention of “remembering something that fills me with hope.” What is that something? As verse 22 and 23 say, “The LORD’s kindness never fails! If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The LORD can always be trusted to show mercy each morning.” That something is an unrivaled kindness and mercy that He lovingly pours out upon us. Years have passed, and although there is a comfort and excitement in knowing I will meet that baby in Heaven, I still wish there had been a different outcome – namely one in which I am a mother to 5 thriving children, instead of 4. I believe we can still be Jesus-loving, God-trusting people even if we sometimes wish a couple of parts of our life stories had been written differently. But dwelling on those thoughts instead of asking God to increase our trust in Him causes us to hang on to hurt instead of having the beautiful experience of being healed by Him. His unmatched kindness and mercy will ultimately overshadow painful memories every time.

I eventually made a choice to focus on remembering God’s kindness and mercy instead of loss, and as a result, gained an incomparable hope of a future filled with promise.

ISAIAH 55:11 – GOD’S WORD WILL NOT RETURN VOID

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

GOD’S WORD IS A GIFT

I would like for you to imagine telling someone there is a gift waiting for them with their name on it. Imagine telling them this particular gift will renew their perspective, remind them of their priorities, and reveal their purpose. Now, imagine if that person said, “Wow, that gift sounds awesome! How wonderful to have access to that!”…and then they proceed to ignore it? They decide to leave it unopened. Would you be outraged? Shocked? Puzzled, at the very least?

If that gift was offered to you, would you ignore it and allow it to remain wrapped? No way!

But we all do it! We leave one of our most beautiful treasures unopened. Friends, we’ve been given a gift beyond words: a love letter from the Originator of Love. A Holy Book filled with love, lessons, and life. Literally!

Read the rest at Devotableapp.com.

(This is my most recent contribution to Devotableapp.com – I invite you to go to that website and subscribe to the daily emails. You will get an encouraging devotional in your inbox each morning!)                                                                                                                   

 

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

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. 

 

I Will Praise You Anyway

I would like to share with you a song I wrote this week, “I Will Praise You Anyway,”  When our prayers don’t get answered the way that we hope, we can sometimes be angry, confused, and maybe hurt – OR we can choose to trust that God’s “No,” answer is for a better reason that He knows about because, well, He is God. We can make the choice to praise Him anyway, because He is so worthy!
If I am being honest, I am struggling with some prayers that He has answered with a, “No,” lately and I am still working on not being angry, confused, and a little bit hurt…I’m trying to come around to what I know the truth is…He is really good at being God, and He knows what is best for us! 🙏

Lyrics:
That is not what I pictured. That is not what I prayed for. Your answers have left me confused.
I thought I was praying for Your will. I tried to trust You and be still. But I can’t stop my heart from feeling bruised.
You’re always there to wipe the tears away. And You supply the strength to say: I will praise You anyway.
So when I’m in the desert again, remind me Your faithfulness will never end. And when You answer, “No,” it’s because of Your love.
If I’m only praising You, when You do what I think You should do, You’re not getting the praise that You are worthy of.
You’re always there to wipe the tears away. And You supply the strength to say: I will praise You anyway.
I don’t want You to be a God that I can predict or fully comprehend, but God, if I am being honest I am near the very end of my human understanding of why You’ve allowed some things to happen…
But You are God, and I am not. And when I was young, I was taught that sometimes Your best plans include some pain. I will praise You anyway.
You’re always there to wipe the tears away. And You supply the strength to say: I will praise You anyway. I will praise You anyway.

So Much More

During a recent Sunday School class, we were discussing the nature of God and our identity in relation to Him. A remark that the teacher (who happens to be my husband) made, stuck with me. He said, “God isn’t just a better version of the best version of us.” How true that is.  God is so much more.

Are you ever tempted to humanize God in order to make Him easier to understand? I have been guilty of trying to reduce Him to a human level as I tried to comprehend His ways. However, that is a mistake for a few different reasons. 

1. As a society, we have gradually minimized the very essence of God. We continue to lose the wonder of a wonderful God and the awe of an awesome God. He is beyond compare and beyond description. True wisdom begins once we comprehend that His awe will never be comprehended!  Proverbs 9:10a says, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Realizing the awe He is worthy of opens our hearts to receive His wisdom, and He gives it eagerly.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” 

2. We expect God to think the same way we think. We assume He will solve problems using the same reasoning we do. However, Jeremiah 55:9 says that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  He sees the past, present, and future of a universe full of people He loves. He is working all things for good for those who love Him, according to Romans 8:28. There are countless moving pieces on this planet, and somehow He keeps perfect track of every single one of them.  All while drawing each of us to Himself. The circumstances of this world are interwoven in a way that only a perfect God could accomplish. Actually, it is a relief that He thinks differently than us. Would you want God to think in the limited, self-centered, inconsistent way that we do?  Neither would I.

3. We run the risk of thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. If we minimize God’s holiness in an attempt to understand Him, we may inadvertently increase our significance to more closely match His. When we start to erase the gap between the amazingness of God and the reality of who we are, a problem arises. Thinking that we are equal to and just as deserving as God is not a minor matter. It is pride. Pride is a sin, and sin has consequences. Remember Satan’s downfall?  

Remembering that God is God and we are not is always valuable. We often attribute human characteristics to God, and we describe His qualities using a human scale. We forget the awe and wonder that is due His name. However, He is more than we realize, more than we give Him credit for, and more than we can ever comprehend. God is so much more.

(This was my September submission to devotableapp.com — check that website out for a daily devotion!)

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)

Acclaim His Name

     fullsizeoutput_ced3Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.  Psalm 89:15-17 NIV

The dictionary tells us in a nutshell what acclaiming means: to announce or proclaim with enthusiastic approval and to applaud. The Bible tells us in a nutshell what acclaiming God looks like and what happens because of it. “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,” is a portion of Psalm 89:15 which points out that acclaiming God brings blessing. The word learned in this verse suggests that acclaiming God does not necessarily come naturally to us – evidently, we must learn how to make it part of our lifestyle.

If someone was asked to attest to our relationship with Jesus, would our words and actions speak for themselves, or would that person be forced to guess how serious we are about our faith? Is our love for and excitement about being a believer evident, or is it more of an implication we hope people catch? Does our life display a passion for Christ and a passion for seeking and fulfilling our God-given purpose, or is it something we hope others sense without having to be too forward? 

Many of us do not hesitate to credit God for loving us beyond measure and for counting us as one of His cherished children. But do we openly acknowledge Him? Do we make an effort to tell others how great He is, and that He is directly responsible for the blessings in our lives? I do not think it is necessary or realistic to begin every single one of our sentences with phrases such as, “Let me tell you why God is so great,” or Thank God that He…”  For most people, that would be a contrived, forced exchange. However, I bet we can agree that allowing His beloved name and our thankfulness for Him to become a natural component in the flow of our everyday discussions would potentially cause many in our circle to see Him in a different, positive light.

Maybe we are worried about being “that annoying Christian,” or “that Jesus freak,” who talks about Him entirely too much. But He created us, died for us, forgives us, desires a relationship with us, and makes it possible for us to spend eternity in Heaven with Him – do we honestly think we come close to talking about Him enough? Friends, do we acclaim Him? Should we not, as Christians, be intentionally seeking opportunities to acclaim the awesomeness of God?

Of course, the goal of acclaiming God is not to “get blessed.” The goal is to please God…and the bonus is that He blesses us. 

I have added the word acclaim to my vocabulary. My aim now is to add it to my lifestyle.

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.