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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

answer
God is.
God shows up.
God is showing up.
God is showing up in unexpected ways.
God likes to show up and challenge everything we know.
God likes to show up and challenge everything we think we know.
God likes to show up and show us a few things we didn’t know at all.

God is mysterious.  So mysterious, in fact, that He makes me nervous – anxious even – but only when I’m not listening rightly.

God is altogether amazing.  And sometimes, He shows up in unexpected, mysterious, challenging ways that make me nervous.  Sometimes He does that by showing up in you.

Yes, you.

Inside every believer rests the Lion of Judah.  Sometimes he comes out to play and other times he comes out to pounce, pin me down, and place his paw directly over my mouth, look me directly in the eyes, and roar until I flipping listen already.

I prayed a prayer and God answered.

God answered by showing up.
God answered by showing up in you.
And you. And you.  And you.  A million yous – the yous of yesterday and the yous I failed to see all along the way.  The yous I forgot I saw each and every day.  The yous of life of whom I’ve had nothing yet to say.

So many signs were shown to me simply by seeing all of you all my life.  But sometime, somehow, I forgot.  And before I knew it, I found myself wondering where on His wide earth He even was at all.  I was writing prayers missing the most important information.  I was manufacturing my own misery.  I was lying face down with His paws picking me up like some kind of infant Simba, peering his piercing pupils right down into my sluggish, self-centered soul saying, WAKE UP, CHILD!  Wake up.  You are alive.  You are ok.  You are blessed and you are mine.

Sometimes all you really have to do is show up.  We make things so difficult when they are really just so stinking simple.

Do you want to know how to be an effective, powerful, Lion of Judah Christian witness in the world?  I’ve got the skinny: SHOW UP.  Show up.  Most people just want to know if you really care.  You don’t need to have all the answers or even many words at all as long as you have the One that most matters – Christ.  Just say Jesus.  He’s the answer for everything, always.  Just show up for others every opportunity you get.

God answered me by showing up in you.  He did it yesterday, and then, like a once-dead series of life events flashing through my tired mind, he brought to my willfully forgetful, thoroughly convicted recollection all the times He showed up the day before, and the day before, and the day before that – on and on my whole life.  And 99.9% of the time, he showed up in you.  And you.  And you.  And you.  All of you.

Ashamedly, I admit that I had no intention of writing an answer to the original prayer I’d posted on here.  I didn’t expect one.  I wanted one, but I didn’t really think God would show up at all.  But the truth is He’s been showing up all along and I forgot to open my eyes.

So, my humble advice for anyone struggling to see God today is to wake up.  Wake up, look around, and start seeing on purpose the ones in whom He lives.  Stop looking where He isn’t.  Because those people and places are small and almost non-existent.  God is everywhere.

And for those who want to be used of God, just show up.  Be a friend.  Send a message.  Share a prayer.  Eat a sandwich.  Do so with someone who needs to see God in the flesh.  He is in you.  He will use you.  You just have to show up.

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A Prayer

Lord,

Hey.  I’m sorry I haven’t said much to you lately.  You know how hard it is for me to talk sometimes.  I know I don’t have an excuse.  Writing is easier, though, so I’m gonna try this.

So many times I just don’t even know what to say to you.  I want to just listen and see what you have to say to me.  Sometimes you’re hard to hear.  Sometimes I’m hard of hearing.  And the only thing I know to do is study the Words you already said.  Sometimes I feel like that’s all I do.  But that’s just you talking.  That’s still me not talking.

So I talk to you about other people.  I talk to you about other people’s pain and other people’s needs and somehow that’s easier.  I know you love them.  I just wonder if you love me.

How could I not know, right?  How could I be so stupid?  How could I need you to say it again?  How could I doubt after all I’ve seen and known of you?  I don’t know.  I have no excuse.  But I need you to tell me again.  A thousand more times.  Because I’m hard of hearing and really forgetful.  And I feel so alone.

I feel guilty for asking.  But I know you can hear me.  So I need you to show up.  Would you please show up today?  Show up tomorrow?  Show up the next day and the next day and every day until I start hearing you better.  Until I stop forgetting what I heard yesterday?

Would you just help me?  Please.  I need you to help me be better.  Will you help me be a better mom?  A better wife?  A better daughter?  A better friend?  A better Christian?  Because there’s not one thing in this world that I feel like I’ve ever really done well.

And that’s why I don’t really like talking to you too much.  Who wants to sit around talking about being a failure all the time?

Your people have hated me.  They said I’m not fit to be one of yours.  They always avoid me.  So I assume you must feel the same way.  Some of them tolerate me.  You tolerate me.  But tolerance is not love.  Love is closer.  And I want to be closer.  But I don’t know how to get closer to you so you’re gonna have to get closer to me.

In the meantime, I’m trying real hard to love.  Because I believe it’s more helpful to everyone when I say, “How can I love you?” instead of, “Love me!”  Help me in that endeavor.  Show me how to love others the way they need loved.  And maybe at the end of the day, even if I don’t feel the right way, at least I’ll have lived the right way.

Thanks for listening, Dad.  Please show up today.  Amen.

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A few days ago I lost the charm off of my necklace.  I’ve literally worn this necklace for 16 years.  I scarcely ever take it off, although this year my pageant sisters did convince me a few times.  Every one of my kids have broken it at least once pulling on it with their little hands.  I got it in Mexico in 2002 while meeting some orphans and learning about life and love from them.  Orphans always have a way of teaching us things that we couldn’t learn any other way.  But the necklace is kind of like a part of me now.  It’s a daily reminder of who I am and who I really want to be.

So I realized my cross was missing and I remembered that I’d heard something drop onto the floor earlier that morning in my bedroom.  I went back to see if it was there and, after crawling around on the floor for a few minutes, I found it.  As I attempted to reattach it to my necklace on my knees on the floor, it occurred to me that this was exactly where God wanted me to be.  He wanted my attention.  In days past I have been so unwilling to give it to him.  Right then and there, the Lord broke my spirit of resentment and anger.  He spoke to me.

God has given me some great days in 2018.  I’ve done things I never thought I’d get or even want to do.  He has also given me some terrible days.  I’ve experienced fears and feelings I never thought I’d have to.  But if there’s one thing I’m learning in my old age – finally! – it’s that it really is a choice which of those things we see most and allow to be our focus.  I realize that I have a choice every day to wallow in self-pity and sadness or to walk in the freedom and faith that God is ever-extending to me.  It has been a hard, difficult, painful lesson for me to learn.

Down on my knees, cross in hand, I realized how many times this year I have so desperately needed God and so absolutely refused to talk to Him.  Because I was mad.  And scared.  And bitter.  And hurt.

But down there on the floor, I saw him.  I saw him in a million ways like I had never seen him before.  He allowed me to see him in people – in you and in me.

About thirteen years ago I wrote an autobiography of sorts.  It was my first attempt at writing a book and I never even had it bound.  I wrote the whole thing in about two weeks.  It was called, “Seeing God in the People You Know.”  I was looking for ways God had shown up on other people in my life.  By the time it was complete, I was amazed at how much I had seen him in so many people, and, how easy it was to write about.

It’s kind of always been my dream to compile an unabridged version complete with pictures and bios of everyone I know.  Just so the rest of the world can see what I see in them; so they can see what I see.

Sometimes we have to look for Him, though.  So many times I’m so frustrated when he stays quiet.  Other times He just shows up and punches us square in the face with his power and glory.  Sometimes he uses prayer.  I could tell you so many amazing stories about how God has used prayer to show me his power and glory.  I’m talking about New Testament signs and wonders I didn’t know he still performed and certainly never expected.  And I’m not even a good pray-er at all!  So that’s all grace.  But sometimes God uses people to show his power and glory.  Prayer and people.  I don’t care what any religion or religious person may tell me.  Prayer and people – that’s what knowing God is really all about.  That is all knowing God has ever been about.

Lord knows I have spend my entire life desperate to either be or become one of those people – not ever realizing that I am already apart from any accomplishment or antecedent.  I am a person that God will use because I am a person who wants God to use her.  Yet, my most overused and grieving prayer is and has always been, “Lord, convict me; impart wisdom to me; USE ME.”  And I’ve sat around moping never believing he would or was really using me at all.

But I know He has.  I know He is.  I know He will.

Still, fear tells me that all my efforts, hopes, and dreams are for naught.  But faith says he has, is, and will use me mightily if I just trust and obey.

That said, I want to encourage you today, on this last day of 2018.  Do not let another year end without looking for the cross.  Do not let another year begin without getting down on your knees and praying to the only One who sees and knows you rightly.

You might not see what I see.  So I want you to hear me when I tell you who you are – what he told me to tell you no matter how I might personally feel about myself on any given day.  God wants us to encourage one another.  Down on my knees I thought of so many encouraging words that have been said to me personally over the past month;  words I really needed to hear from an actual person; words that truly scooped my heart up off the floor and healed it.  Listen to these words.  Drink them in.  They are about you – not your neighbor or your friend or your sister or your priest.  These words are about you and me and who we actually are in Christ.  Believe them.  Listen and live accordingly.

When I see you I see a human trying really hard to be different and to make a difference.  I see honor, grace, and love.  I see quite a few amazing, God-given gifts.  I see virtue, compassion, and genuine care and concern.  I see a person who is able to bring everything dead in me alive.  I see a friend and a confidant.  I see a star; a hero; a warrior.  Don’t you ever sell yourself short.  Don’t you ever settle for less than you dream. Give God the glory, but give yourself a real hand.  You made it.  You might not be where you want to be, but you have every single right, resource, and reason right inside yourself to get there.  You inspire me.  I love who you are and I love who you’re going to be.  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t worry.  God has built you into a person who possesses a great deal of power and strength.  I see you using it daily.  I am a better person because I know you.  Countless people are.  Keep being exactly who you are.  You are so much better than you think.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live in him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:11

My word for this year is encouragement. I have been given so much more encouragement than I deserve.  I have shamefully so often failed to offer it rightly to others.  This year I will give it back 100 fold.  God waited 37 years to make me a real cheerleader.  Two years later I think I’m finally ready for the game.

Prayer and people.  Let’s do that, 2019.

cross

 

 

 

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pray

“I’ve been here a week and my son hasn’t even called.”

“I lost my wife last year.”

“My granddaughter is on drugs.”

“My sister hasn’t spoken to me in three years.”

When I began making rounds at my local hospital three years ago, I never expected those who are, often severely, physically ill to answer this way when asked, “How can I pray for you?”

I would have expected more physically-related requests, but, no.  The vast majority of the temporarily or permanently infirm that I have offered prayer have answered not with a physical, but with an emotional or spiritual need.

Conversely, when making my prayer rounds outside of the hospital – which, of course, entails a highly scientific method wherein I reach out to people I encounter who either seem to be or have shared that they are going through something emotionally heavy, or whom the Lord has prompted me to reach out to at the time.  In other words, when it is pretty clear that a person is struggling with feelings and fears as opposed to physical illness, their answer to my unsolicited offering of prayer usually goes something like this:

“No, thanks.  I’ll be ok.”

“I pray everyday.”

“Pray for world peace.”

How is it that those physically sick not only recognize their deeper needs, but those physically well tend to hide or deny them?

There is a measure of humility physical needs bring to a person.  There is a certain amount of willingness when one is suffering physically that is not present when we are well, but truly, emotional needs and inner healing are hard to acknowledge in any condition, and even harder to pray through.  They hurt…a lot.  Many people all around you and I every day have been suffering emotionally and spiritually for so long that they often do not even believe a prayer of faith could make any difference.  Ironically, long-term emotional and spiritual stress often leads to physical illness.  Stress kills people – quite literally.  Our world is in desperate need of inner healing.

I had a dream the other night that a large wooden cross was thrust upon my shoulder.  It was very heavy and awkward.  In front of me was a door I needed to open and all around me stood many people watching.  I needed help to open the door, but I was attempting to open it myself because it was as if no one saw me despite the fact that my need was obvious and I had clearly asked for help.

Sometimes our need is so obvious, we have asked so many times, and there are so many people standing around watching us struggle, we can cease to believe that God is even listening.  We can stop believing he even sees us, that prayer is the answer, and that help is even possible at all.  So, we pray for Grandma’s cat and world peace when asked for our own personal needs.

Physical illness tends to remind us of the truth, though, and humble us just enough to recognize the true condition of our hearts.

Why wait until then?  The Lord is willing and able to deliver us from evil today and every day.  Ask him.  His is the kingdom.  His is the power.  His is the glory – forever and ever!  Amen.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil. 

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success
In Nehemiah chapter 4, we find the enemies of God’s people becoming increasingly angry.  The Jews have begun to rebuild their city walls and gates under the direction of Nehemiah, and have already made some significant strides in that work.  As soon as the neighboring Gentile rulers hear of their progress, their anger at these people becomes even more intense.

In verse 1 we find Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, become enraged and begin to mock and jeer at the Jews.  He tells everyone he knows including his army about the work of the Jews and pokes fun at them.  Funny how he tells everyone what a crappy job these guys are doing and how their wall isn’t strong enough for even a fox to stand on, yet he is angry about their progress.  Well, which is it?  Why would the ruler of an army be mad about a bunch of fools who aren’t accomplishing anything?  Apparently this guy was insecure and afraid that the Jews were indeeding succeeding…which they were, by the way.  He was jealous and angry so he set out to stop them anyway he could.  What he didn’t know was that he couldn’t stop them because this was God’s work.

Nehemiah realizes what is happening with his enemies and he prays.  He prays a curse on them and he continues to do exactly that which God gave him to do.

Nevertheless, Sanballet and his big, bad temper decides to try to pick a fight with these guys.  He calls on all his ruler friends to help him cause confusion and problems for God’s people.

Again Nehemiah and the Jews pray.  This time they pray day and night for protection against their enemies.

In verses 10-12 we see the odds stacked against the Jews.  They didn’t think they could accomplish the job.  Their enemies didn’t think they could accomplish the job, and just in case they could, they were doing all they could to make sure of it.  Even their friends urged them “ten times” to stop trying.  This is a sad scene for God’s people!

Good thing they had a good leader who was resolved to do what God sent him to do.  Nehemiah gave the people each specific positions with their families and their weapons, and he encouraged them to remember God and fight with honor for the things that are most important: God; family; community; home.

What do you do when you have a really hard job to accomplish?  When the enemy is mocking and making war against your success?  When you doubt your own ability to succeed and everyone is telling you to quit?  Consider what Nehemiah did.

  1. Nehemiah prayed.  If you know that what you’re doing is God’s will and God’s holy work for you, pray for help and protection in it.
  2. Nehemiah organized his people and his plan.  He put groups of families together in order to strengthen their morale and give them confidence.  If you are working for the Lord, don’t work alone.  Get organized and find a group of people who love and support, and help you and always have your defenses in hand.  Our weapons are the sword of the Spirit, the Word, and the promises of God.
  3. Nehemiah reminded the people to remember whose idea this work was.  He told them to remember God.  He wanted them to remember to trust God and to know that he was the one behind this plan so they would not doubt or get discouraged in the hardships.  When God’s work gets hard and you come up against obstacles and enemies, it is always helpful to remember whose work it really is.  When we are doing God’s work and God’s will, we have nothing to fear because Our God is trustworthy.  Remember that.  When we remember that, we also remember that there is great honor in striving, working, and fighting hard for the things that matter, namely, God’s glory, the good of our families and communities, and our homes.If you are leading a group of people like this one, pray, organize, and encourage them in the Lord.  This is a great model to follow in difficult circumstances…or any circumstances!  If you are part of a group like this one, pray, organize, and encourage yourself and others in the Lord.

    Pray.  Organize.  Encourage yourself and others in the Lord.  This is the way to defeat the Enemy.

    “…Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  ~Nehemiah 4:14

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brother
The book of Nehemiah is believed to have been written by Ezra the scribe around the 430-400 B.C.   Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah were a single book.  Here, we have the memoirs of a trusted, honorable, pious man whom God uses to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.

In Nehemiah chapter 1, we find Nehemiah residing in a palace in Susa, the capital city of the Persian empire.  Nehemiah is a Jew who has been elevated to the most trusted position to the Persian King.  Nehemiah is serving as cupbearer to the king, although his humility does not speak of it save to inform his readers of the historical background.  He initially tells us only that he lives in Susa, not that he holds this distinguished position.  Matthew Henry says, “From hence we may learn to be humble and modest, and slow to speak of our own advancements.” 

Some men come from Judah and he inquires about the state of Jerusalem and all the exiles who had returned there for the building of the temple.  When he is told that the remnant is in “great trouble and shame” and that the “wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3)

For a city in that day and age, having a broken down wall and burning gates was tragic.  The people living there had no protection from enemies and no security.  Nehemiah immediately turns to the Lord in prayer.

The text tells us that Nehemiah sat down.  He didn’t stand up to lead a charge or an army in his own strength or with his own position and power.  No.  He sat down in deference to God and began to weep and mourn.  It says he “continued” fasting and praying.  Consider his position.

Nehemiah was living in comfort, luxury, and high esteem, yet he has been faithfully praying for his brothers who were not so fortunate.  The first thing he does when he sees his kinfolk is ask what’s going on back home.  Many men who live in the lap of luxury  have no concern for anyone who they’ve left behind or who are less fortunate.  Nehemiah teaches us that a good man never forgets where he came from and always remembers his brothers and sisters who belong to the family of God.

Furthermore, Nehemiah has been praying all along.  He doesn’t just jump into a, “God, help them!” prayer when he hears bad news.  No, Nehemiah has been faithfully, steadily fasting and praying for his homeland and the people of God.  How many people do you know who regularly fast for the help of those less fortunate people of God who are suffering?  Nehemiah makes a regular practice of personal sacrifice in care and concern for his people.

Consider also how Nehemiah prays.  Nehemiah begins by praising God and confessing.  He not only confesses the sin of his people, but for his own sin.  He bears responsibility for sin he and his family have committed against God and begs the Lord’s pardon.  He is very specific in his confessions saying, “We have acted corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.”  (Nehemiah 1:7)  Many a man will pray for others, but it takes a noble and humble man to pray sincerely about his own faults and failures asking mercy for the sake of his friends.  Nehemiah could have easily said, “Not my fault; not my problem.” Instead, he takes personal responsibility and does so for the good of others.

Nehemiah relies on the mercy of God and points to God’s promises as he asks for help and pardon for himself, his people, and his broken, burning down  land.  Nehemiah doesn’t say, “Save our name!  Save our town!  We deserve it!  We don’t deserve this terrible destruction!  We’re your people!”  Nope.  Nehemiah says something like, “Save us and save Jerusalem because your good name and your promises are at stake.   We don’t deserve anything; we made this mess from our disobedience.  Forgive us and save us for your good namesake.”  We ought all take note.

Nehemiah’s very name means, “the Lord has comforted.”  God’s use of this man is going to bring big results and much comfort for suffering the people of God, however, it will not come without much opposition and overcoming.  Let us look to Nehemiah for wisdom on humility, integrity, tenacity, faithfulness and determination over the next few months.  Surely he can teach us how to love our brothers better and rebuild the broken, burning down walls in our lives.

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prayer

The people of God have just demanded new gods.  Aaron, their surrogate leader, has just fashioned an idol – a golden calf – out of the gold the true God had given to them from the oppressive enemies – the Egyptians – he had just delivered them from.  Moses is still up on the mountain getting instructions on how to serve and worship the living God as the leader of his chosen people.  Now, God informs Moses of their disobedience in his absence.  In Exodus 32:7-14, God and Moses have a conversation about what will become of these insubordinates.

God is angry.  He has just been sold out for the inanimate gifts he gave to his people.  He tells Moses about the conspiracy and idolatry.  He says he’s going to destroy the people, exalt Moses, and make a great nation out of Moses.

This is quite an offer.  Forget those infidels, Moses.  I’m going to give them what they deserve for their foolish, purposeful disobedience.  But you are my star.  I’m going to make you great.

Moses is not interested in his own glory.  Instead of accepting this self-serving (and, likely well-deserved) offer, Moses asks God why his is mad.  (Exodus 32:11)  Well, God had just told Moses exactly why he was angry – so angry, in fact, that he was willing to annihilate all of His own people save Moses.  Moses’ question was rhetorical.  He wasn’t literally asking the reason why God was mad.  The text tells us that he was “imploring” God.  He was desperately interceding on behalf of his people – people whom, at this point, God would not even own.  In Exodus 32:7, God refers to them as “your people” meaning Moses’ people, not his own.  In turn, in 32:11, Moses returns calling them “your people” meaning God’s.  Can’t you hear Moses’ desperate plea?  These ARE your people, God!  Save them!

Moses goes on.  He pleads with God to stop being angry; to save them.

Here is a lesson for us.  We cannot save people, but we can work to win souls.  However, we cannot work to win souls with whom we are actively angry.  It is a God-like attribute to be righteously angry when people sin.  But the only way to help sinners be saved from sure destruction – the rightful penalty for their/our sin – is to turn from our anger and to intercede on their behalf; to seek to save them from being lost.  This is what Moses does; it’s what he begs God to do.  He does it by denying the opportunity God gives him for his own glory and exaltation.  I believe this shows us that we cannot have it both ways.  We cannot desire self-promotion if our heart is truly set on bringing salvation to others.  We have to pick one or the other.  God exalts the humble in due time, but our agenda cannot have both self-promotion and others’ salvation written on it together.  They are mutually exclusive goals.  Pick one.

Moses uses God’s reputation as the catalyst for answering his prayers.  What will the Egyptians think, God? What will the world think, God?  When your people die because you have destroyed them?  That’s not who YOU are, God.

We ought to follow Moses’ example.  Because it’s not about those who are in need of mercy being deserving – none of us ever are.  It’s about the character, reputation, and integrity of the one giving mercy to the underserved.  We must turn from our own righteous anger over other men’s sins for the sake of our own good name.  We must intercede for them and implore God’s mercy on the unrighteous for the sake of his glory, not theirs.  And we, like Moses, must consider their salvation as of greater worth than our own advancement.  This is how a humble person leads.

Moses wasn’t looking out for number one.  Moses was always most concerned with God’s people and their welfare.  Matthew Henry says of him, “Had Moses been of a narrow, selfish spirit, he would have closed with this offer; but he prefers the salvation of Israel before the advancement of his own family.  Here was a man fit to be a governor.”

Because of Moses’ righteous actions in the face of others’ unrighteous actions, God had mercy on the unrighteous.  Let the same be said of us.

“And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” ~Exodus 32:14

 

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