Prayer, Perspective, and Peace

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “I know You’ve got this, Lord” and 10 being “Thanks, God, I know You are super-capable, but this situation is just not going to get better unless I fret and stew over it…,” I give myself a 5.5. Some days I can go through a twenty-four-hour period without a worry in the world. Some days there are burdens that jump into my thoughts, but they do not take up residence. And still some days I am a ridiculous off-the-charts worry-wart. Yep, I’m going to say I average out to a semi-solid 5.5.

The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” in 1 Peter 5:7. Another version says to throw all your worry on Him.  No matter what version you are reading, the message is the same. God cares about you and your burden and desires to carry it for you. Of course, God knows our needs already, but communication with Him is vital in our relationship with Him.

I look forward to prayer time when I can get to a quiet place, worship God for who He is, thank Him for what He’s done, listen to His wisdom, and then lay my burdens before Him.

Obviously, finding quiet spaces with no distractions is not always feasible. Praying to a God who can hear our prayers through the chaotic symphony of family life is such a taken-for-granted gift. Whether the quality time happens in a serene location (My quiet places are my closet or on our rural gravel road as I run) or in the midst of rush-hour traffic, there is a delight in knowing that we serve a God who is not only accessible 24/7, but eagerly awaiting our decision to spend time with Him and bring Him our needs!

We should guard against allowing busyness, laziness, or disinterestedness to get in the way of communication with Him.

Instead of fretting and worrying about what our family and friends are facing, let’s actually lift them to God in prayer. We should never let a flippant comment of, “You are in my prayers,” be a substitute for actually praying for someone.

Whether my worry is about myself or someone else, I want to always remember that going to God with an explanation of why taking this problem away would be best for everyone really is not praying! I have been learning, slowly but surely, that while there is nothing wrong with praying for a specific outcome, my job is not to convince God of why that specific outcome should happen. Praying is not a closing argument monologue in which we are trying to convince Him that our way is the solution to the problem. I am beginning to realize His Word is the final one, and while I may need an extra dose of His comfort and assurance in handling a less-than-desired outcome, I am getting better at trusting that He knows what is best.

Friends, when I spend time with God in prayer, He grants me a sense of perspective and peace every time, 100% of the time. Seriously. Every single. time. It simply cannot be a coincidence that I feel recharged, refreshed, and reassured after connecting with God. In voicing my worries and requests to God, He often grants an insight that I had not thought of before. It isn’t because the problem is solved instantly and it isn’t because He says, “Yes, I’ll answer the way you want me to.” It is because He reminds me that even if His answer is “No” or “Wait,” He will be with me through it all.

Prayer changes our perspective and gives us peace. Let’s make prayer a vital part of our lives. God is enthusiastically waiting.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

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“All In For Him” College Athlete Devotional

allinforhimlargefrontI have to say I am both excited and nervous about the new territory I am finding myself in: I wrote a 21-day devotional for college athletes and in a few months, it will be available through Crosslink Publishing, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble! When Crosslink Publishing contacted me and said they had selected “All In For Him” as one of the books they want to publish this year, I was ridiculously excited. And then soon after that, I became ridiculously nervous. What do I know about the publishing process? Nothing! Absolutely nothing…

So, I am diving in and learning as I go.

I requested and received some endorsements from some great people, I wrote a bio, I wrote a subtitle, I have read through my manuscript endless times to look for typos even after it has been edited by the publishing company, and now I am looking at ways to market it. I may know nothing about publishing, but I know even less about marketing!!

God gave me this idea, and He has been guiding me through it. So…I am just going to keep walking…trying to hold on to His hand. I am just going to keep feeling excited and nervous, but I am also going to keep being confident in the One Who has proven Himself to be faithful again and again and again. I am trying to take the approach of going “All In For Him.”

If you think of it, I would be very appreciative if you would say a prayer for me as I try to navigate this new terrain!  An even more important prayer I would ask you to join me in is as college athletes read this devotional, their faith will grow stronger. That they will see that responding to the issues they face with a Christlike attitude can impact coaches, teammates, and fans alike. That they will see how going “All In For Him” is the way to go!

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Dear Lord, Heal Our Land

Dear Lord,
What an amazing blessing it is to identify as Your people. We are thankful for the opportunity to be Yours; that we can go to You in prayer at any time, that we can know for certain You hear our prayers, and that we can know You have a plan for our lives that was set in motion before we were in our mother’s womb. We are grateful, but wow, do we ever take these facts for granted. Forgive us, Lord and help us keep these truths close to our hearts and foremost in our minds from now on.

Lord, help us humble ourselves. We have sadly embraced the idea that we are self-sufficient…that we do not need You until we are desperate. We have uninvited You from being part of the daily routines of our lives, the daily decisions that we make, and the daily burdens that we carry. Forgive us and remind us that we not only need You, but that You actually desire to be in everything we say and do. Clearly, we need to remember Who You are, and who we are in comparison to You. You are God. We are not. Help us live daily in a humble manner.

Continue reading “Dear Lord, Heal Our Land”

Only One Said, “Thank You”

God is so very worthy of hearing a sincere, heart-felt “Thank You” from us. Let us take our cue from the one healed leper who knelt at His feet and could not ‘thank Him enough.’

When our children are small and they receive a gift or some sort of treat, what do we almost always hear ourselves say? When my children were little and were standing there with a new treasure, I remember saying, “What do we tell them?” or “What do we say?” to avoid any awkward, empty silence that should be filled with a sincere, “Thank you.”

The story of the ten lepers in the Bible has always aroused my curiosity. I remember the flannel-graph version when I was a child sitting in a Sunday School room in a small, red rounded-back children’s chair. I remember reading a devotion based on it when I was older. And I remember just recently being reminded of this story found in Luke 17, when a long-time prayer in my life was answered and I went about my day without even murmuring a quick, “Thank you” to God.

When my prayer request was granted in a wonderful way, I felt relief, excitement, and joy. Somehow, however, my mind skimmed right over thankfulness.  When I realized I had forgotten to thank God, the picture of the ten lepers jumped right into my mind.  Out of ten completely healed and restored men, only one came back and knelt at Jesus’ feet in gratitude for healing him of this horrible, life-changing disease.

The Message version says, “He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank Him enough.” The Living Bible version says, “He fell flat on the ground in front of Jesus, face downward in the dust,” and the New International Version says, “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” Genuine appreciation is definitely sensed when the one receiving a gift is face-down, kneeling at your feet!

In Luke 17:17, Jesus asks where the other nine healed men are. He speaks about it with grace; in the only way Jesus would. If I were Jesus, I would most likely be saying, “Did that just happen? I miraculously made those men whole again. Did nine of them seriously go on their merry way without even a wave or a smile in my direction?”

There is a humility and a sincerity that is expressed in the simple two-word phrase that we work so hard to try to teach our children to say without reminders. “Thank you,” may seem like two simple words, but the impact made by those two words is not simple.

I am sure that you can think of a time when you felt especially validated after someone took the time to thank you for something you did or said. I am also sure that you can think of a time that you felt your kindness was taken advantage of when there was no ‘thank you’ offered.

If gratitude has been absent in your life, it is never too late to count your blessings and give thanks to others and most importantly to the ‘Ultimate Blesser’!  God is so very worthy of hearing a sincere, heart-felt “Thank You” from us. Let us take our cue from the one healed leper who knelt at His feet and could not ‘thank Him enough.’

Lord, we realize that all good gifts come from You. We thank You and we praise Your holy name. May we never take the blessings You give us for granted. Even more importantly, may we never take You for granted. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Prayer After A Long Day

imageDear Lord, it was a tough one today.

I am not complaining about big burdens or big problems. My family is relatively healthy. I have a loving family. I live in a caring community and have wonderful friends. But today, I lost my focus on the good. My eyes wandered onto what I did not have instead of what you have blessed me with. I wavered in my resolve to become more like You. I struggled. Big-time.

I woke up with positive plans. I read my Bible, spent some time with You in prayer, and attempted to put my day in perspective.

Then life happened.

An abrupt response, an irritable child, a broken-down appliance, no clean pair of socks, forgotten homework, a flat tire, and an unexpected bill.

I took the first couple of mishaps in stride. After that, I lost it. I was responsible for some non-Christlike reactions, some negative comments, and fixing my mind on some thoughts that were definitely not authored by You.

Lord, I could have done that whole “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” thing and that “Be imitators of God…walking in love” thing if my day would have been smooth sailing. It is easy to serve You heartily, happily, and wholly when difficulties are not seemingly getting in line to attempt to defeat and disappoint me.

Lord, I wish there was a reset button. But there is not. So, please help me concentrate on what IS available to me: Your amazing mercy, Your second chances, Your unfailing love, and Your all-encompassing forgiveness. That is already quite a list, and there is even more.

You do not hold these gifts of grace in some secret place, waiting for us to go through a special ceremony to unlock them. Instead, You hold them out to us in Your arms that happen to already be outstretched in order to hold us and tell us You are here to comfort us.

Lord, please refill me with Your Holy Spirit, refresh me with Your peace, and renew me with Your power.

Lord, You love me. You love me when I ask for forgiveness, and when I repent of my wrongdoing. You love me when I seek You and when I call on Your name. You love me when…I could go on forever.

I am the recipient of unfailing love that I do not feel worthy of, but You declared on a cross that You are willing to overwhelm me with. You continue to cover me with that love on bad days, good days and all days in between.

May I never use Your promised love as an excuse to not strive to be more and more like You every day. The “You love me no matter what,” fact should be incentive to become more and more like You, not an excuse to ‘get away with’ actions that do not reflect Who You are.

Lord, maybe people did not see You in my actions today. Lord, I ask You that they will see a glimpse of You in my renewed determination to display Your character tomorrow.

Only You can shine through a broken vessel like me. Thank You for wanting to show Your glory through my weaknesses and imperfections. Thank You for assuring me that while sin separates us, my repentance and Your forgiveness bring us back together again.

Thank You for second, third, and countless chances. Thank You for being Who You are. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 5:1

It’s Okay Either Way

I am in the midst of preparing for a graduation open house in honor of our 18-year-old son, Drew. Two long, rectangular tables will be reserved for photos of his childhood and scrapbook pages highlighting his growing-up years and achievements. Our shop will be filled with family, friends, food and photos on May 22nd.

While perusing his baby book, I came across the following prayer that I wrote down when Drew was 4: “Dear Jesus, please help Brady tell me all of his secrets, because I won’t tell anyone. But it’s okay if You don’t make him tell me because You are the Holy One and You’re my favorite guy. In Your holy name, Amen.”

Drew’s style of praying was straightforward, reverent, and unswerving from the very beginning, and hearing him pray aloud recently showed me that is still the case.

In this particular prayer fourteen years ago, a little boy voiced a request in a straightforward manner, addressed God reverently, and displayed a faith that is unswerving…a faith not shaken by God answering a prayer differently than he hoped. A faith that led him to say, “It’s okay if You don’t…”

I asked Brady (his next-oldest brother) if he remembered those secrets that his younger brother found so enticing, but he did not remember what they were or if he revealed them. Wondering what provoked this prayer made me smile. It also made me think. The child-like faith that is expressed in this prayer is the type of faith we are all supposed to strive for. Often children bring honest requests to God, knowing God is in charge and understanding that His way is the best way.  Basically it is: ‘Here is my prayer… please answer it however you see fit, because You are God. It’s okay either way.’

How often do adults pray that way? I’ll start with me. Do I have a straightforward way in relating to God? Yes. Do I address God in a reverent manner? For the most part, but there is room for improvement. How do I do with the unswerving faith component?  Here is where I sometimes fail. Here is where my work begins. My goal is to begin consistently praying something like: “Answer my prayer how you see fit, God, because I know You have my best interests at heart. You love me. You have a plan whether I see it or not. My faith in You is based on who You are, not what You do. It’s okay either way.”

I was searching for cute photos, but I came across a cute prayer that contained a lot of wisdom. The open house tables will be filled with photos of Drew growing up with his brothers and sister, playing sports, playing with cousins and friends, and other important memories. I also plan on finding a special spot to display this sweet prayer. May I learn from my son’s prayer from 14 years ago. I do not know if God answered that prayer with a yes or a no, but I know Drew’s faith was unswerving. It was okay either way.

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Jesus Prayed for Unity

IMG_5737Jesus Christ prayed to His Heavenly Father for unity.

John 17:20b-23 reveals that unity in the body of Christ was one of His most heartfelt desires! “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

If Christians agree on the major things: how we get to heaven, how we become more like Jesus, and how we treat others accordingly…then is there really a place for bickering about the minor things? Is there a proper time for condescending social media posts?  If we are supposed to strive to be like Jesus, (Come on, Friends, that is one of the ‘majors’) then talking about or to a fellow Christian in a rude manner should not even be a possibility! If we engage in behavior that brings about division in the body of Christ, then we are conducting ourselves in direct conflict with Jesus’ prayer!

There have been some ‘minor’ concepts that I have seen Christians attack each other for just recently: ‘Which version of the Bible do we read?’ If we get asked that question at the pearly gates, and we say anything other than King James, I’m 100% sure that we’ll be allowed to stay. I believe getting to know Him through His Word is so much more important to Him than which version we use to do it. I also think that the Holy Spirit is really good at orchestrating the way in which the Word is received and taken in. What about the age-old crisis of whether we sing hymns, praise choruses, or a healthy mixture of both during our worship services? I firmly believe that God loves it when we worship Him. Period. He loves to hear us bless His name, and His concern is not whether we do it in a modern, traditional, upbeat, or non-upbeat sort of way. His concern is if we worship Him with sincerity. We do sing for Him, about Him, to Him, and of HIM, not us, right?  If we can’t ‘get’ in the worship ‘mood’ because the music isn’t our style…then we are forgetting the true meaning of worship and who it is about.

Other issues on the minor list, such as drinking an occasional glass of wine, getting a tattoo, immersion vs. sprinkling, listening to heavy-metal music, and going to a rated-R movie can all be points of division, and maybe our thoroughly-thought-out reasons that we are for or against these hot-topics are worth fighting for, in our opinion. Then again, maybe arguing with someone about a minor point in Christianity, even while using our well-thought-out rationales, would be in complete opposition to what our Savior desires.

There will be times we are led to express our Biblical views on the major issues…like whether Jesus died on a cross, rose again, and whether our soul’s eternal destination depends on our decision to accept His gift of eternal life. I will go to my grave defending God and His brilliant plan. After all, His plan of salvation is what we are put on this earth to share with others.

But the minor ones? Let’s keep them that way. Let us celebrate our similarities with other Christians and spend time worshipping our awesome God together in unity! And then, because we are Christians that pursue harmony with other Christians, we will be an answer to Jesus’ prayer. Wow. We can be a part of an answer to Jesus’ prayer. Did I say, “wow” yet? What a blessing it is when we help in bringing about what Jesus prayed for.

New Year, New Prayer

Typically, as the new year arrives, we spend time thinking about what we want to carry forward and what we want to leave behind. We think about the things that we want to ‘start anew.’

It’s a new year full of new opportunities. As I grow older, I grow more and more thankful that I serve a God that makes all things new. Every time we see a sunrise, we can see it as a magnificent reminder that His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:22-23)

I recently read 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 with a new perspective: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

This year, may Christ’s love compel me to pray a new prayer.

Lord, may Your love compel me to act and react as you would: with an extra measure of compassion, grace, mercy, and love.

Lord, may Your love compel me to look at others with Your eyes of love and see a potential bloom where others see a withering flower.

Lord, may Your love compel me to forgive people for offenses when the world tells me I’m justified in wallowing in self-pity, holding a grudge, or even seeking revenge. May Your love compel me to be the one with which bitterness ends and understanding begins. You don’t have a list of requirements, a test we must pass, or a list of grudges that You hold until your good and ready to forgive. You forgive us readily, rapidly, and repeatedly. Arms open wide. Eyes full of mercy. Heart full of grace. May Your love compel me to forgive as You do.

Lord, may Your love compel me to radically reach out to people that I wouldn’t ordinarily extend myself to – knowing that Your Holy Spirit will lead me if I allow Him to.

Lord, may Your love compel me go the extra mile, put forth the extra effort, and do all to the glory of You. May the way I use the gifts You gave me reveal how much You mean to me. May what I spend my time on reveal how much You mean to me. May where I put my resources reveal how much You mean to me. May my life’s pursuits be all about You.

Lord, may Your love open my eyes to the opportunities You place in my life daily in which to reflect Your character to a world that is hurting, cynical, and worn-out. A world that needs You…A world full of people divided on whether they need You or not.

May my actions, reactions, behavior, and words, point them in the direction of You. Point them in the direction of realizing that You are fully worth seeking and serving; fully worth loving and living for. May the praises from me to You let You know that I believe that You are worthy, oh so more-than-worthy, of living every moment and every day for.

Lord, may Your love be seen through me. May it overflow, and may someone see You through that overflow…and may they see that You are worth starting anew with, for, and alongside.

In Your precious, perfect name I pray.

Amen

 

 

 

Coincidence? God answers in time of doubt

During the early years of my marriage, I went through a phase of feeling very inadequate. The voice that casts doubts on whether we are good enough, smart enough, witty enough, pretty enough, interesting enough, capable enough etc. was screaming at me, and I was listening.

You know that voice? Sure, you do. It whispers, speaks, or shouts at different levels and at different times during our lives. Some of us are just much better than others at quieting it. Some of us have even found a way to turn the voice off. Unfortunately, at that point in my life, I didn’t know that not listening was an option.

I vividly remember one early morning sitting down in my living room recliner asking God through tears why I couldn’t be this…or that…or more this…or more that. And that particular morning that voice had convinced me that my husband was wishing or hoping or even praying that I was more than I was. What I was struggling with the most was that I didn’t feel beautiful enough…on the outside or inside. Mirrors constantly reminded me that I had never seen myself as beautiful. And comparing myself to others constantly reminded me that I wasn’t interesting enough to ever be described as having a “beautiful” personality.

My Bible was in my hands. I opened it, and it ‘happened’ to be these words that I read on page 1384: “Instead, it (beauty) should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” A rush of tears came and fell. I wept because He answered me so specifically, so intimately, and so perfectly. God heard me. God cared about me. And God cared about what I cared about. Goodness gracious…my Bible “fell open” to that particular verse…a verse I had never noticed before…a verse that hit the nail precisely on the head with my pain of feeling like I lacked beauty inside and out! He’s just that good. What I received from that answer to my tearful prayer was the promise that God says that the quiet, gentle trust I have placed in Him makes me beautiful, and it’s a beauty that does not fade. (1 Peter 3:4) The Bible says so.

I should mention that my husband hadn’t done anything to make me feel like I am not enough. This mindset was invented courtesy of me and the voice I hadn’t learned to hush. I am now confident that when he looks at me, he sees inside and outside beauty that he’s pretty thrilled with! I should also mention that I’m not saying a woman has to be reserved and quiet in order for God to find her valuable! The Bible doesn’t say a gentle and quiet personality…it says a gentle and quiet spirit. A gentle and quiet spirit comes from an assurance that God is taking care of you and that He loves you, despite what life’s circumstances might lead you to believe. It’s the type of assurance that gives us the peace that “transcends understanding,” talked about in Philippians 4:7. Our spirit doesn’t have to be caught up in the rush of anxiety and “disquiet”. We don’t need to be controlled by unrest, wondering if He has our best interests at heart. He does…and He proves His faithfulness over and over.

God gave me a confidence that day. It was placed in me by the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb. Wow! It’s a confidence that says I am of great worth in His sight. You can have that confidence too! That is a beautiful truth about a beautiful God who created people that He finds beautiful. People that sometimes just happen to open the Bible to the exact verse that speaks to their exact issue at that exact moment. What a beautiful coincidence.