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Okay, Stones – Your Turn!

Dear Blog World,

I’ve missed you! I hope you’ve missed me, too. I also hope you’ll forgive my extended absence and welcome me back. I really do have a lot to say. In fact, I’ve been saying it in my journals all along, processing . . . learning . . . praying . . . absorbing. Now I’m ready to write out loud again.

Where have I been?

In April, we added three new children to our family. I still feel kind of like I’m not quite telling the truth when I say that I have seven children, but I do. God has grafted a total of four beautiful girls – biological sisters – into our family tree in the past year and a half in much the same way He grafts those who receive His Son as their Savior into His. (Someday I’ll have to write more about that.) But in case you didn’t know this, whenever you add a family member, whether by birth, marriage, adoption, or alien invasion, there are adjustments to make for all involved. These adjustments pretty much filled my brain with fuzz.

And then I got sick. One day I was fine. The next I woke up and was not. We’ve only recently gotten a partial diagnosis about what’s going on. The good news is it’s not life-threatening. Now we’re just waiting to see if what it is can be treated or if I’ll have to learn to live with it. I’m already doing the latter, hoping this living-with-it-thing is temporary, but knowing that life must go on. If you think of me, please keep me in your prayers. (Maybe I can even be one of your Parachute Prayers . . . whenever you see a wildflower . . . I’ll let you work that one out.)

One of the limitations of this mystery illness is that I can no longer sing. Okay, so all I really did before was make joyful noises to my King, but now I can’t even do that. When I go to church on Sunday, I stand and listen and pray the words to the songs. If I try to sing, my lungs hurt, my heart flutters, and I have to sit down and assure myself I’m okay. The doctors in the ER don’t want to see me anymore. (That’s okay. I never wanted to see them in the first place. Not that they aren’t perfectly nice people, but . . . well, they’re in the ER.)

A few weeks ago, instead of listening and praying, I was whining to God about the situation. (Technically, that’s praying, but it’s not very worshipful.) The following verse came to mind: “‘I tell you,’ [Jesus] replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'” -Luke 19:40. I almost laughed out loud, thinking, “Okay, stones. It’s your turn!” I’ve had that thought in my head each worship service since.

Our God is so amazing, He just has to be praised. If the Pharisees try to shush His people, He can make the stones cry out instead. If one of His children has a physical limitation that keeps her from adding her voice to the mix, He can call in a few rocks to fill in for her too. So far He hasn’t chosen to do this.

But He could. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Lord, how I thank You that one way or another, Your Name will be praised. And one way or another, I will find a way to praise You even if I cannot sing! You have worked miracles on my behalf and for the benefit of my family this year. I’ve been amazed to see what You can do when You decide something must be done. Nothing and no one can stand in Your way. I’ve seen the truth of this – and I love You for it! No one else deserves my trust, my life, my heart like You do. I will praise You however I can. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Praying for Healing Needs

James 5-16

Yesterday morning, our pastor included a time of prayer for physical healing in the worship service. He invited people with specific concerns to come forward to be anointed and prayed for publicly. Friends and family gathered around to support them in prayer, too. As I was praying for these, I thought of friends and family far away who also need physical healing. I prayed for them, then, because physical needs are often accompanied by emotional needs, I went on to pray for people who need to be healed emotionally. Of course, this reminded me of people in need of social healing—people suffering relational wounds, attachment injuries, separation from loved ones, loneliness. These need healing, too. I was just beginning to pray for people in need of spiritual healing when prayer time ended and the service went in another direction. But I liked praying this way. That’s why I’m sharing the idea with you today.

Is this a Parachute Prayer? Not really, but it’s close. When we pray this way, we are using a prayer prompt, and perhaps, you never know, God’s Spirit will bring it to mind at some random moment, calling us into God’s Presence to pray for loved ones and acquaintances in need of healing. In that case, it would become a Parachute Prayer.

But I see this more as a tool for a time of more concentrated prayer.* We all know many people in need of different kinds of healing. Sometimes we tell them we’ll pray for them and whisper a quick prayer in the moment but forget to bring the need before the Lord in a deeper way.

I always feel sad when I realize this has happened; I try to remember. I know it’s important. But sometimes I forget. I believe this new prayer prompt can help.

Whenever we go to God with a healing need, let’s take the time to let God’s Spirit lead our thoughts to other people with similar needs. As time allows and as we exhaust one list, say our list of people who need to be healed physically, let’s move on to people who need other kinds of healing: emotional, social, spiritual, mental. There’s no need to worry about saying a lot of words about each need. We’ll just talk to God about each person’s situation, how we feel about it, what we’re hoping He’ll do for them. Then we’ll reaffirm our trust in His perfect wisdom regarding the situation and thank Him for working in and through each person’s life. He loves all the people we’re concerned about, and He’s already working faithfully for their good.

Father, we thank You for teaching us to pray and for calling us into Your Presence on behalf of people who need to be healed. Remind us to pray for them often, enjoying time with You as we do. Amen.


*To learn more about this, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available at Amazon.

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The Real Value of Bible List Verses

Fruit of the Spirit

“Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”John 6:24

I used to be a big fan of list verses. That’s my name for the Bible verses that contain lists of character traits we all want more of in our lives. For example, Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 lists ways to identify love: it’s patient, it’s kind, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not rejoice in evil, it rejoices in the truth, it always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres, and it never fails. Colossians 3:12 tells us what virtues to clothe ourselves in: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In fact, verses 1-17 of that chapter are one big good stuff/bad stuff list.

All of these verses are helpful, and I am still a big fan. But over the years, there’s been a shift in my understanding of them. Now I love them for completely different reasons than I used to.

You see, I used to see them as to-do lists. I wanted to accomplish the getting of these traits into my life. My motivation was right: I wanted, and still want, to live a life that glorifies God. I thought developing these things in my life was what God wanted me to do.

The truth is, though, that I am not able to develop these things in my life. I need God to develop them in me. This is what He wants to do. God Is love, therefore His active Presence in my life produces everything on the Corinthians list. The Galatians list is called The Fruit of the Spirit for a reason; those virtues flow from Him. And even the virtues from the Colossians list come from setting our hearts on what’s above: Christ, now seated at the right hand of God. (See Colossians 3:1-4.)

The list verses have great value but not as to-do lists, things for us to generate in our lives in order to glorify God. In fact, in John 5:41, Jesus said, “I do not accept glory from human beings.” His glory comes from His work in our lives not from anything we try to do ourselves.

But when we look to Him, remain in His Presence, keep our lives rooted in His Spirit, we allow Him to work through us, producing all good things. The value of the lists comes from the way they help us recognize God’s Presence and work in our lives—or the lack of such.

The Real Value

In John 6:24, the crowds realized that Jesus wasn’t with them. They wanted what only He could offer, so they went in search of Him. We can do the same thing. When we realize that our lives aren’t as loving as they should be, that the Spirit isn’t producing fruit in us, that our spiritual clothing is becoming tattered, that’s our cue to drop everything we’re doing and seek Jesus with all our hearts. The Christian life is all about learning to be where Jesus is all of the time, so that He can continue to work in and through us for His glory and our good and the good of everyone around us. The lists, lists of things God produces, help us identify problems, so that we can know when we need to draw closer to our God.

When the crowds found Jesus, He gave them the only to-do list we need:

“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” -John 6:28-29

We stick close. We believe. He makes us into people who bring Him glory.

Father, thank You for inspiring Paul and others to give us lists that help us see how closely we’re living to You. When we recognize actions and attitudes that don’t come from You, from Your Spirit, from above, help us to act on that cue to talk to You, to read Your Word, to enjoy worship and fellowship with Your people who are doing the same. More of You in our lives, Lord. That is all we need. Amen.


Do you want to learn more about drawing closer to God through prayer throughout each day? Read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Click here to learn more.

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Who Can We Pray For?

The Conversation BeginsIf you’ve been following this series, you already know the answer to this question. We can pray for anyone whose name or face comes to mind. In fact, if their name or face comes to mind, we can get in the habit of considering it a call to prayer. If we’re aware that God’s Spirit is with us always and learn to pay attention to His prompts, He’ll call us to pray for others more often than you may think. I’ve written about this in Parachute Prayer: the Practice of Praying Continually. I invite you read that book to learn more about this discipline.*

Here are a few ideas for now:

  1. We can pray for God. Jesus did! In The Lord’s Prayer, He prayed that God’s kingdom would come and His will be done.  We can ask for this, too. Does God need our prayers in order for His purposes to be accomplished? Ultimately, I don’t think so. I suspect the prayer for God is really for our benefit and for the benefit of those around us. When we ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will be done, we’ll become more aware of ways we can participate. We’ll become more willing and eager to participate. God’s Spirit will work through us to draw others into the action, too.
  2. Who We Can Pray ForWe can pray for our families.
  3. We can pray for our friends.
  4. We can pray for ourselves.
  5. We can pray for our churches.
  6. We can pray for our communities.
  7. We can pray for people who serve our families and communities.
  8. We can pray for our nation.
  9. We can pray for our world.
  10. We can pray for strangers we encounter while out and about.
  11. We can pray about needs we see on the internet, in the paper, or on TV.

We can pray for specifics if we know them, but if we don’t and sense a reason to pray, we can pray generically. God knows what’s going on in other people’s lives even when we don’t. Going one step further, we don’t even have to wait until we sense that someone needs a prayer. If we’re sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight, we can talk to God about the fellow travelers who come into view. If someone treats us with unexpected kindness—or undeserved grumpiness—we can whisper a prayer for that person as we go on our way. One deserves a blessing; the other may need it desperately.

Father, please make us sensitive to Your Spirit’s call to pray—for anyone, anywhere. You know the whole world’s needs. Thank You for inviting us to participate as You work in our world. Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Amen.


*If you’re starting to think about Christmas, Parachute Prayer even has a section on praying through the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and more. To order a copy from Amazon.com, click here.

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Gracefully Removing the Labels That Hurt

Ugly LabelIn my current Bible study class, we’re studying the topic of grace. In this past week’s lesson, we looked at the story of The Woman Caught in Adultery. You can read the story here if you are not familiar with it.

To summarize, this woman was dragged before Jesus by a group of legalistic religious leaders who were using her to trap Jesus. They wanted to know if He would enforce the letter of the law and have her stoned or deny the law and condemn Himself. They thought they’d wrangled Jesus into a no-win situation. But Jesus simply told them to let whoever among them who was without sin throw the first stone. The crowd slowly dispersed. When the woman realized that no one had condemned her, Jesus told her that He wouldn’t condemn her either. He told her to go and sin no more.

At this point in the lesson, our group leader asked us what we thought became of the woman. My imagination grabbed hold of that question, and I found myself thinking about it long after I’d gone home.

The Bible doesn’t answer this question for us. We like to hope that after an encounter like that . . . with Jesus . . . in person, the woman went away changed, happily following Jesus and living according to His Word.

Realistically, though, this woman would have had some issues to work through. The religious leaders exposed her sin to the whole community. The people hadn’t stoned her, but she bore a label anyway. Adulteress. Dead woman walking by Jesus’ mysterious grace. How did her husband and family feel about her sin? Her lover’s wife and friends? Was she welcome at the Temple? In the market? Or was she branded an outcast? Shunned?

When people receive grace from Jesus and try to change their lives as a result, people who liked the way they were often try to pull them back into sin while people who were hurt by their actions are afraid to trust them. Jesus lifts people like this woman up out of the dirt, telling them to go and sin no more, but other people continue to throw dirt at them behind His back. If they throw enough dirt, people who are trying to change are tempted to give up in despair.

Label of GraceI don’t know if this is what happened to the woman or not. I’d like to hope everyone there was changed by that encounter with Jesus that day. I’d also like to hope that, even if the crowd wasn’t changed, the woman knew Jesus forgave her and found His grace to be enough. (It is, you know. This is true.) I hope that, if this woman did find herself a Scarlet Letter outcast, she chose to leave what she no longer had anyway in order to stay close to Christ. If you are in this situation yourself, clinging to Christ is the key. Let Him strengthen, teach, and encourage you as you pray He’ll also work in the lives of those who are causing you pain. “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.”James 4:8

When I consider this Bible story from the what-happened-next point of view, I realize how important it is to follow Jesus’ example of grace. As His impromptu object lesson revealed, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We find those words in Romans 3:23 followed by these, “and have been justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Justified: Just as if I’d never sinned. I learned that definition so long ago, I don’t even remember where. But it’s a perfect reminder here. When someone receives Jesus’ grace, that grace removes the sin labels. Therefore, our grace has to stop seeing those labels, labels that are no longer there. The shamed and humiliated adulteress has become the beloved daughter of our King. We need to learn to welcome her as our new sister and friend.

Since the afternoon of that Bible study, God has been working hard on me. He’s been bringing names to mind—people from the past, sometimes very long ago, whom I’ve labelled with concrete signs. The labels stick to people who’ve hurt me—or mine. I forgave but left the labels on . . . to protect myself . . . just in case. These labels don’t say things like adulteress. Instead, they say, “Dangerous! Beware.” These labels must come down. I must ask God for the grace to pray them down. I must entrust my heart to His care, and trust His work in their hearts as well.

At the same time, I’m realizing that there may be people out there I’ve hurt. Not intentionally, but maybe through a careless action, a misspoken or misinterpreted word. I’m asking God to give them grace for me—maybe even, if needed, give me the opportunity to make things right. I’m asking God to heal wounds given and received by filling all our hearts with His grace. May all the ugly labels go away.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for the grace You offer. Help us to receive it. Help us to pass it on. We’ve all sinned and fall short of Your glory, but You sent Your Son to make it right. Help us to remember the gift we’ve been given at such great cost. Help us follow Christ’s example toward us. Please make all the ugly labels go away. Help us to see each other as You do, so we can encourage each other along. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Book Review: “Gospel Formed”

Gospel Formed“The power that raised Jesus from the dead is also for everyday life.” In his book, Gospel Formed, J.A. Medders helps readers understand this truth and apply it to life. The book contains 27 short meditations full of Bible verses to consider, simple teachings to grasp, and a quirky bit of humor to entertain while clarifying the point. (Evidently, I am a member in good standing of Medders’s diet soda denomination. You’ll have to read the book to learn why.)

The book is divided into five sections that progressively take the reader deeper into the gospel-formed Christian life, from the starting block to worship, identity, community, and mission. The section on community was my personal favorite. Under the title of each section’s introduction page, Medders has placed two simple definitions of the term he’ll be exploring within. These were useful points of reference to return to as I encountered these terms in each chapter; they kept my thoughts on track.

I especially recommend this book to growing Christians, those who’ve experienced the thrill of salvation and are ready learn how to serve their great King. Medders helps readers discover the life part of the Christian life. I enjoyed reading his book and am passing it on to someone else whom I know will enjoy it, too. I thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Hebrews 10:24-25 on My Mind

NewOMM“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25

Let’s make a game of these memory verses. As we focus this week on the words, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” let’s really do this. Let’s consider all the people we know, the people we encounter frequently, and let’s brainstorm ways to encourage them. Then let’s follow through using our favorite ideas! We’ll be committing two new verses to memory and putting them into practice at the same time. I’m thinking this will make both activities more memorable all around.

In reading these verses and reflecting on them for this post, I see one idea built in. The author of Hebrews is encouraging readers to keep meeting together because he (or possibly she) is concerned about those who’ve stopped meeting with other Christians regularly. Let’s build on this by reaching out to those we’ve started to miss. Not in a guilt-inducing way. In fact, we don’t even have to mention church attendance or small group activities. All we need to do to encourage such a person is to reach out in friendship. Send a card. Make a phone call. Invite this person to lunch. Sometimes just knowing that someone has thought of you and has wanted to spend time with you is all it takes to motivate a person who has left to come back. And even if the person chooses not to return, at least that person will be encouraged to know that someone cared.

  • What encouragement ideas come to mind at first glance?

Father, the Day is approaching. Only You know when it is. As we wait, though, teach us to love. Help us to encourage each other and to do good deeds. Give us creative ideas and the resources to follow through. For the good of Your kingdom and the glory of Your name. Amen.

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Enjoying a Season of Rest Effectively

Finding Home“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”Psalm 23:2-3

Not too long ago I visited with a seasoned military-wife friend who told me she’d been involved in everything possible at her husband’s last duty station but that she was using this assignment to rest. I understood completely and was thankful to learn that I’m not the only one who has ever found a need to do this.

Ordinarily when we move, we want to plant our pulled-up roots into new soil as quickly as possible by getting to know our new surroundings, making friends, and getting involved in activities as God leads.* If we move often enough, though, God may lead us to rest—especially if our relational roots were wounded or torn in our previous location or if we’re simply so exhausted that the new soil seems too hard to dig into. Transplanting our lives takes time and energy. Sometimes we need a season of rest and renewal.

There are two things we must remember should God lead us to rest, though:

1. This isn’t a time to withdraw into a “kingdom of isolation where it looks like [you’re] the queen.”** Yes. You are protecting your roots so they can heal or grow, but they’ll rest best in God’s Presence (through Bible study, prayer, and church attendance) and growing strong among the permanent people of your life: spouse, children, parents, faithful friends who keep in touch no matter where you live. God created you to interact with Him and with other people. Use your season of rest to build the most important relationships of your life.

2. This season of rest is only for a season. Enter it as God leads. Leave it the same way, whether after just a few months, a year, or a full assignment. If you try, because of false guilt or pressures from within or without, to jump back into too many things too soon, God will let you know that you still need to rest. If you get too comfortable in your resting place, however, God will do whatever it takes to “encourage” you to get involved again. Make this timetable a frequent topic of prayer. Cooperate as God leads.

Father, thank You for the seasons of life, both active and restful. Thank You for leading us into service and fulfilling activity in most of the places where You take us in life. Thank You also for leading us beside quiet waters where You can refresh our souls. Please give us the wisdom to know the difference. Help us to recognize Your guidance and to cooperate fully. We trust that You will give us all we need to serve You well wherever You send us and in whatever You lead us to do. Thank You, Lord. Please find us faithful. Amen.

*To learn more about this, read my book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

**Quote taken from the song, Let It Go.

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Book Review: “Palace of Darkness”

Palace of DarknessPalace of Darkness by Tracy Higley is an exceptional read on many levels. It is an historical Christian fiction novel set in Petra about 100 years after Christ. This is where Higley excels! She travels to the sites of her novels to research them thoroughly that she can make history real to her reader. I loved that one of her characters had met Paul before his death and was reading a letter Paul had written to the people of the church in Petra. That would have happened! In fact, it’s how so many of Paul’s letters eventually ended up in our modern day Bibles. It was fun to get a glimpse of the process as it could have been.

Higley also has a gift for the concept of “show, don’t tell.” I’ve read two self-help/Bible study-type books on one of the issues one of her characters struggles with. Though both were good, I felt they only defined the issue. I didn’t see resolution anywhere. Higley provided resolution as her character struggled to find it in her life, as she grew closer to Christ and learned how His sacrifice could impact her personally–and practically, too. Though a historical novel, Palace of Darkness is full of life application lessons for today, shown through the medium of a captivating story.

Palace of Darkness started slowly then drew me in–something I’ve come to expect and enjoy from this author. I recommend this book to everyone! Thank you Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Praying for Healthy Growth

Parachute Prayer

 

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”Luke 2:52

I’ve been praying Luke 2:52 for my children since they were born. I continue to pray it for them even now, though they’ve most likely reached their full stature by now. I want my children to grow like Jesus, and I know this is something God desires for them, too. Luke 2:52 covers every aspect of human growth:

In wisdom = mental growth
In stature = physical growth
In favor with God = spiritual growth
In favor with man = social growth

People who grow steadily in all four areas are well-rounded and healthy human beings indeed.

So let’s turn this verse into a Parachute Prayer!

First, if you haven’t done so already, commit the verse to memory. You’ll need to keep it in your brain for use whenever you’re reminded to pray this prayer. It’s an easy verse to memorize because it’s short and it’s a list. All you have to remember is that Jesus grew and that He grew in four ways: in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Now here’s the trigger. Whenever we see a ruler or a measuring device of any kind, let’s let it remind us to pray. We can pray for our kids and/or grandkids, for our neighbors’ kids, for kids who go to our churches, for nieces and nephews, and for our kids’ friends.

We can also pray for grown-ups who are striving to grow in any of these areas. (When I do this, stature represents health in my prayer.) Until we reach Heaven, we all must strive to grow, prayerfully allowing God’s Spirit to make us more like Christ. So from now on, whenever we stop to measure something, let’s also pause to pray.

Father, thank You for making people able to grow, and thank You for Jesus’ example to follow. Please turn the measuring tools we use so often into reminders to pray about this process so crucial to all-around good health. Amen.