post

Surprise Finds to Go with Yesterday’s Post on Prayer

Words Aptly SpokenI’m so excited! I just love it when this happens. This morning during my quiet time, I came to a passage of Scripture that illustrated yesterday’s post so perfectly. Later, while reading another book, I came across another thought that did the same. Coincidences like this just have to be shared!

First, the Scripture passage:

“‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.'”Psalm 91:14-16

The Bible doesn’t name the author of this particular Psalm, but he had touched God’s heart. God saw that this person loved Him and wasn’t afraid to acknowledge God’s name. God responded by blessing him with rescue, protection, answered prayer, His presence, deliverance, honor, long life, and salvation. God has different blessings for different people; He knows best what we need. But when our prayers come from a loving and sincere heart, God takes notice and responds.

Surprise FindsSecond, the quote from the book:

“Times with your tween daughter can be bonding times that help you focus on your relationship and convey the message that you are excited your daughter is growing up.” -An Arp Adage from She’s Almost a Teenager by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp, p. 16

What does a parenting insight have to do with prayer? When I read this quote, I couldn’t help but rewrite it: Times with God can be bonding times that help us focus on our relationship. They give Him the opportunity to convey the message that He is excited that we are growing up.

Prayer is so much more than talking to God about what we want and what we’d like to see Him do in our world. Prayer is enjoying an ever-deepening relationship with our loving God.


 

I’m sharing this post on the Thought Provoking Thursday Link-up. Click here to read more posts shared there.

post

Liking Having to Get Along

Words Aptly Spoken“I actually liked having to get along with people I didn’t particularly care for and finding ways to work together. Because in the army it can’t be all about me, it has to be about we.” –Emma, The Merciful Scar, p. 209

I had an “Aha!” moment when I read this sentence. Something about the way it’s worded really appeals to me.

Why? It challenges me.

Getting along with all people all the time is difficult, perhaps impossible. Yet this is what God commands us to do, Jesus prayed for us to do, and we, in fact, must do, if we’re to glorify God through His church.

My favorite way of getting along with people who test me, however, is to avoid them. I let them do their thing while I do mine. I pray for them from a distance and figure that’s the best that the situation can be.

I find a sadness in this, though. Emma, the character who made the above statement, is talking about getting along with people she doesn’t really care for. Truthfully, there aren’t too many people I don’t really care for. I may be quiet, but I adore people. I find them fascinating. I want to learn their stories and invite them to know mine. I want to listen to them, pray for them, encourage them, and share joyous discoveries to build them up in Christ. I like being a friend.

The people I try to avoid, therefore, are the ones who’ve made it clear (at least from my point of view) that they don’t care for me. In a sense, I figure I’m doing them a favor, while protecting myself from the pain of rejection.

Yet I sense defeat in this.

The Merciful ScarEmma’s statement challenges me to work a little harder at this working together thing. It also tells me how.

First, I have to set aside the assumption that the other person doesn’t like me. I have to ignore and overcome my insecurities. This has to be my choice.

Second, I have to identify the mission and keep my mind on that. If God has given me something to do and people to do it with, completing the task is the most important thing. I must get to work.

I stumbled across a few Bible verses this morning that added to my thoughts on this getting-along subject:

In Philippians 1, Paul addresses the issue of motive. There is a concern that some people are preaching the Gospel for selfish reasons. Paul says, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (verse 18).

If we’re working together to build God’s Kingdom, we’re not sitting around analyzing each other’s reasons for doing so. Only God can accurately judge what’s in another person’s heart. We can and must let go of this concern, work together, and rejoice when God’s Spirit brings results. (This is true even if our own motives are off. We continue to do the work, and trust God to fix our hearts.)

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul addresses the issue of credit for work done. There is a concern about the wrong people getting credit for conversions and baptisms. Paul says it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, so long as the work gets done. Verse 9 says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” God is building His Kingdom; ultimately it’s His work. We’re privileged to take part in it. We’re working together for God’s glory and His creation’s good.

Father, thank You for Emma’s insight. Help us all accept the challenge to find ways to work together—whether or not we naturally get along. We’re working for Your glory, for the honor of Your name. Achieving the objective isn’t about us. It’s about You. Please give us willing hearts and wisdom to accomplish Your purpose. Amen.

post

Unbalanced, Resting, and Free

Words Aptly Spoken“One of the favorite words in the Rule is ‘run.’ St. Benedict tells me to run to Christ. If I stop for a moment and consider what is being asked of me here, and what is involved in the act of running, I think of how when I run I place first one foot and then the other on the ground, that I let go of my balance for a second and then immediately recover it again. It is risky, this matter of running. By daring to lose my balance I keep it.” –Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction

I came across this quote this morning in the daily devotional I’ve been reading this year, A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, and it really made me think—especially when I put on my running shoes and took off for five and a half miles shortly after. I put the quote to the test, confirmed it was true, and made a few discoveries of my own to share with you.

When we run, we launch ourselves into the air with one foot then catch ourselves with the other. We don’t really think about this; we just do it. (No Nike reference intended.) But the launching is risky. It’s like singing a Capella for a moment, hoping that when the accompaniment starts again, we won’t have slipped off key for our audience to hear. If we don’t hold our feet just so while in the air, we’ll fall when gravity pulls us back to earth.

This means walking is safer. When we walk, one foot or the other is always in contact with the ground. (This is part of the definition of walk.) The motion is the same; we’re still pushing up with one foot while supporting ourselves with the other. But we never actually leave the ground.

So we have a choice to make. Walking is safer, but when we run, we enjoy a moment of freedom from the earth—we soar! And it’s in this moment of soaring that we rest!

That’s right. We rest. We rest while we run but never when we walk.

Most fascinating of all: those who’ve learned to run the fastest, rest the most. Have you ever watched an Olympic runner sprint? Their strides are longer than their heights. Those runners get air!

10-29-14 PostMe. My stride needs work—lots of little jumps. I’ve read that if I boldly allow myself to enjoy a longer stride, I’ll find myself running faster with less effort. That change will take courage because it will involve greater risk. My stride won’t lengthen until I trust myself more, until I stop believing that if I stay in the air too long I will fall.

This trust is what running through life with God is all about. God offers us freedom and rest, but we have to be willing to jump, to work on our stride. This will leave us feeling unbalanced at times, but it sets us free. It lets us rest. No worries about the future; it’s in God’s hands. No struggles to be met in our own strength, with only our own resources. Just confidence in the One Who’s leading us where He wants us to go, where, ultimately, He knows, we most want to be. This running is risky, but God won’t let us fall. He’s teaching us to trust Him, so we can run with Him for all eternity.

Father, please help us to run with confidence and strength. Set us free to enjoy life Your way. Enable us to rest in You. Amen.

Related Bible words: Hebrews 12:1, Isaiah 40:31, Proverbs 3:5-6Proverbs 3:26

post

Words Aptly Spoken to Help Us Forgive

Words Aptly Spoken“I release you from my hurt feelings. I free you from my reading of your motives. I withdraw my ‘justified’ outrage and leave you clean and happy in my mind. In place of censure, I offer you all of God’s deep contentment and peace. I will perceive you singing, with a soft smile of freedom and a glow of rich satisfaction. I bless you my brother [or sister]. You are a shining member of the Family of God, and I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind.” –From The Quiet Answer by Hugh Prather

I found this meditation in the devotional book I am reading this year: A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck. I wanted to share it with you because it’s one of the most beautiful tools I’ve ever seen to help us through the often challenging process of forgiving an offense.

I don’t think I’d ever speak these exact words to someone, though that could be healing for both parties if one came to another seeking forgiveness for something especially hurtful. Rather, if I were praying about a need to forgive someone and found myself struggling to do so, asking God to help me with each element of this quote, daily if necessary, could really help me. Prather even ends the quote by saying, “I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind,” which leads me to believe this was his intent in writing it. (I’m adding his book, The Quiet Answer, to my TBR list, so that I can find out!)

The next time someone hurts your feelings or offends you in a way that requires forgiveness, place this meditation where you can see it daily, asking God to help you phrase by phrase so that your heart and, hopefully, the other’s will eventually be blessed with peace.

Father, when we cling to our hurt feelings, we build walls that entrap us. Please help us through the hard work of forgiveness, so we can be set free. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Note: I’m linking this post to the Hearts for Home Blog Hop.

post

A Deeper Step of Faith

Words Aptly Spoken“If you always choose the easy way, asking for the peaceful valleys, you will never see God’s power displayed to enable you to take a mountain. Seek out the mountains, and you will witness God doing things through your life that can be explained only by His mighty presence.” –Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, p. 216

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” –James 1:2-3

Reading these verses  and the Blackaby’s devotional on the same day triggered some thoughts that demanded some serious processing. I found the combination interesting.

You see, James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials. In other words, we are going to face trials, so we should be thankful for the good that God will do in us through them. When we trust in God when life is challenging, He allows those challenges to test our faith and build perseverance into us. Our faith grows as we trust God to lead us safely through the trails we face. This is a very good thing.

But Caleb, in Joshua 14:12, took this concept a step further. He not only endured trials; he actually sought them! Let’s take a look at the verse:

“Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

If you remember, Joshua and Caleb were the two spies who assured the Israelites that, with God’s help they could take Canaan. All of the other spies said it would be too difficult, and Israel chose to listen to them. As a result, all Israel had to wander in the desert for 40 years. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land. God called Joshua to take Moses’ place leading His people. Caleb earned himself a prime piece of land, and in Joshua 14, he claims it.

DSC01971eIn Experiencing God Day-by-Day, quoted from above, the Blackaby’s point out that Caleb could have asked for a peaceful valley. He could have retired quietly and rested for the last of his days. But Caleb didn’t do this. Instead, he asked for a mountain—a mountain that Israel’s enemies had fled to when Israel had conquered their land. Caleb chose a fierce trial.

What’s more, he didn’t choose the trial in order to build his own character—no, Caleb had already endured 40 years in the wilderness. I’m sure perseverance was well-ingrained. Instead Caleb chose the trial to give God a new opportunity to display His power on His people’s behalf.

How incredible is that?!

And . . . Caleb didn’t even know if God would take him up on the offer. Joshua 14:12 ends with him saying, “It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said” (emphasis mine). With that statement, Caleb joins Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Hosea, Job, and others who knew that trusting God means trusting Him whether things go well or not. We live to know and honor Him—wherever we are, in all we do, whatever our circumstances.

Lord, help us to choose the path that brings the most honor to You, putting Your glory and majesty above our personal comfort whenever that’s what You lead us to do. When trials test our faith, teach us to persevere. When we have choices to make, help us to choose on Your behalf. Let Your Presence and power be seen through our lives that others will join us in living for You. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

post

Celebrating Christmas Love

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” –1 John 4:16

Words Aptly SpokenAndrew Murray said that love “is the deep desire to give itself for the beloved. Love finds its joy in imparting all that it has to make the loved one happy.”

As we prepare for Christmas this year, that seems especially profound to me. Truly, God, Who is love, gave Himself—His whole self—for us. And it wasn’t because He wanted us to do something for Him, but because He loves us. He offers us eternal happiness in Him—in the only place where we can find such joy. God desired to give Himself for us. God finds joy in giving all He has to make us happy, not happy in the ways of the world, but happy forever, for real. That’s why John says, “God is love.” God’s very Being defines the word.

So as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth by opening our own carefully chosen gifts of love to one another, let’s remember our greatest gift: God Himself in the form of true love. Let’s find time to bask in that love–to let God fill our hearts and dwell within that His love will spill out to everyone around. God will help us desire to give of ourselves for our loved ones—to impart all we have to make each other happy in Him. We live in love; we live in God. And God, Who is love, lives in us.

Merry Christmas everyone!

post

Turning Off the Voices in Our Heads

Words Aptly Spoken“Most of us, these days, spend much of our lives in our heads in a state of preoccupation and self-absorption, wrapped up in our anxieties and harangued by familiar voices that seem to run in an endless tape loop in our minds. We are obsessed with the things we have to do, or with how we can best play the starring role in what one of my students called, ‘the movie of my life.’ We rarely notice what is outside of us, right now, in the present moment.” –Barbara Baig, How to Be a Writer, p. 76

These words challenged me today. I’m all too aware that often they are true. Turning off the voices in our heads which demand we compare, contrast, worry, obsess, meet expectations, have our thoughts and opinions heard, or complete so many tasks in a day—too many tasks if they keep us from hearing others—can be difficult.

So let’s rise to the challenge today. Let’s make every effort to ignore those familiar, but pesky, voices, and use our senses to truly take in the action all around us. Let’s see the smile that’s not really a smile, so we can ask what’s really going on to show we care. Then let’s hear the story as it’s really being told, striving to get inside the talker’s head. Let’s smell Autumn in the air and taste whatever we eat—especially if we’re taking communion at church today! “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8a)! And don’t forget to touch. Greet each other with hugs and firm handshakes, being sure to take the time to connect with each other’s eyes. Let your friends know they are loved by offering your senses to them instead of to the voices in your head.

Then don’t forget to do the same for God. As I mentioned a few days ago, He’s all around us, waiting to be noticed, longing to be heard and loved. Make every effort today to listen for His voice, to see His face hidden all throughout this world. He promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Let’s devote our hearts to finding Him this day.

Father, thank You for this day. Help us, please, to live in the moment, noticing all that surrounds us, all You’ve given us to enjoy. Help us devote our senses to finding You and to loving the people You bring into our lives. With grateful hearts and Your Spirit’s help, we’ll train ourselves to live this way, intentionally, all the time. In Jesus’ name, amen.

What are you more likely to notice when you try to live this way? (The Leave a reply button is at the top of this post.)

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.