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.