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A Prayer about God’s Way

Romans 5-8

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:6-8

Lord, how did you do this? I really need to know. While we were still sinners, while we were at our very worst, knowing all that we had done, were doing, would do, and still have yet to do, You chose to give Your life for us—to give us hope, to make it possible for us to live as children in Your Kingdom now and to enjoy eternity with You forever.

What an amazing and absolutely undeserved gift! I thank You, Lord. Forever, I thank You.

But how did You do this? We hurt You, Lord! We still hurt You today. Even those of us who love You and live for You and serve You sometimes fail. And so many aren’t even trying, won’t hear Your voice, have no interest in Your will or believe that You are there.

When people hurt me, Lord, I build walls. My natural inclination is to protect myself from anyone who causes my heart pain.

But this is not Your way. And I know Your way is better. So teach me, Lord. I’m listening. Please help me understand.

Your Word says that You know how we are formed. You remember that we are dust. (See Psalm 103:14). Is this the key, Lord? You know that we are human, prone to act according to our own interests instead of in obedience to You. You know that our understanding is limited, our instincts hard to recognize and overcome. We are children still learning so much; there is so much to learn.

Is knowing this what gives You such fathomless compassion, grace, patience . . .

Hope?

Do You view us with hope, Lord? Not hope that we might be okay, like children hope they might get something for Christmas, but with that certain-knowledge-of-a-future-in-Heaven-with-You type of hope that You give to us once we chose to become Yours? No matter how we’re behaving now, You know how we’re going to turn out. Is that a kind of hope? Is hope something You can do?

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before [Jesus], he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus endured great suffering and humiliation because of the joy that He knew would follow someday. That sounds like looking forward with certain hope to me.

Whether the terminology is right or not, it’s not something I can enjoy or apply to my relationships with difficult people. I don’t know how they will turn out. You haven’t chosen to reveal that to me. (I can see how that may be a good thing.)

But I do know that we are all formed in Your image and that we are all works in progress in Your hands—still dust. And because I know we are all in Your hands . . . and You love us . . . and You are faithful, able, and good, I can trust You, follow You, obey. I can choose to do right even when other people don’t. How else will they ever see You through me?

You loved the world so much You gave Your one and only Son that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life. (See John 3:16.) I live not to protect myself from harm but to trust You with my life no matter what so that “whoever”—no matter how sinful, hurtful, or hateful—may come to believe in Jesus and enjoy eternal life with You some day.

I do want all people to come to know You, Lord. Yet sometimes I struggle over being the one You call to love them in Your name—especially if they happen to be hurting me through the process. Please continue to help me with this. In doing whatever You lead me to do, I’m learning to trust You with me.

Lord, thank You for loving so much—for sending Jesus to make our salvation possible, to teach us how to live. Help us to follow His example, loving others for Your sake. We love You, Lord. Our lives are Yours. Always. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Finding Grace for Me

Finding Grace for Me“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”Psalm 103:8-9

My philosophy of illness and injury doesn’t always work out well for me. While I’m usually pretty compassionate with others, telling them to take it easy and get the rest they need, so they can recover more quickly, I’m more likely to tell myself to just walk it off. In fact, I read somewhere that you can run off a cold, so I try to keep up with my running routine even if I have to stop every few steps to blow my nose. I try to keep up with all of my other expectations for myself, too, believing on some level that if I stop to rest, I’ll succumb to the illness or injury. I’d rather outrun it.

But like I said, this doesn’t always work out well for me. This week I had to give in and rest.

I haven’t been happy about this.

At first, I tried to console myself with the thought that forced relaxation was giving me an excuse to enjoy more guilt-free reading time. But even as I was saturating my mind in great books—really great books!—I was scolding myself for not being more disciplined. The floor needed to be vacuumed. I had a blog post to write. Minimum maintenance was not enough! My lecture to myself went on and on.

Then one of the authors of one of those great books I was reading included Psalm 103 in his work, and God drew my attention to the beginning of verse 9: He will not always chide.

Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful expositions of the character of God and His stance toward His children one can find in the whole Bible. (If you haven’t read it in a while, click here to read it in the English Standard Version at BibleGateway.) It reveals His justice and righteous, His mercy and grace, His love and compassion and patience—all given in perfect parental balance. He expects obedience because He wants what is best for us, yet He remembers that we are dust and provides for us what we cannot while helping us grow stronger every day.

He will not always chide. He knows that would only discourage us. There will always be something we can improve on.

When I realized that I was expecting more of myself than God expects of me, I stopped. He and I had a long talk about the situation. God helped me to see that though I was calling myself undisciplined, there are some things I am extremely disciplined about—even in illness. And so I made a list.

It’s what I do.

I made a list of everything I expect or want myself to do routinely. Then I put stars by the ones I’m already disciplined about, activities I do so routinely that I can’t even imagine not doing them. There were quite a few, and most of these were the ones I would consider most important on the list. I realized that labelling myself undisciplined, especially while sick, was unfair and untrue. I may struggle to be disciplined in a few areas of my life, but generally, I am a disciplined person.

Realizing this, I decided to stop scolding myself. Instead I tried offering myself the grace that God already gave.

From that stance, God and I went over the rest of my list together. I chose one item on the list to focus on for now. My goal will be to incorporate it into my routine as diligently as the items that I’ve already put stars beside. At the same time, I’ll still be aware of the other items on my list. I’ll keep trying to incorporate those as well, but, with God’s help, I will remember that though I’m not doing these as perfectly as I’d like to, I am doing them well enough. At some point in the future, as God leads, when my current focus item has become something I can’t imagine not doing routinely, I’ll turn my focus to another item on my list.

And when I can’t get to everything, I will not chide. Instead I’ll seek God’s grace toward me.

  • In what area of your life is God offering grace while you are not?
  • What do you tend to chide yourself about?
  • What will you do to discover God’s opinion on the matter?
  • How is He calling you to obey?

Father, sometimes I expect too much of myself. I expect myself to be able to do what I would never expect, counsel, or even want other people to do, knowing it is too much. I expect more of me than even You do—and You know what I’m capable of. You created me. You know me better than I know myself. You have good plans for me. You love me just as I am. When I catch myself chiding myself, draw my attention to You. Help me to seek Your opinion on the matter and to respond obediently. I guess obedience isn’t being more perfect than I am. It’s humbly doing what I can as You lead—and trusting You with the rest. Please help me with this. I thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Praying When We Feel Hungry

Parachute PrayerAre you ready for the first Parachute Prayer of the new year? I discovered this one while taking my son to the airport last week. It was a long drive, and we were running a little late. Suddenly my stomach started growling. I have no idea why; we’d just eaten a good dinner. But my stomach was hungry, and I didn’t dare ask to stop for food. We needed to get our boy to the airport on time.

My youngest son would call this a first world problem, but I didn’t really see it as a problem. I didn’t need to eat, and I knew when I’d be able to eat. My stomach just had to be patient. Thinking about this reminded me, however, that there are those who do need to eat and who don’t know when they’ll next be able to eat. They became the subject of this new Parachute Prayer.

Hunger ParachuteWhenever we feel hungry but can’t eat right away, let’s pray for hungry people who don’t know when they’ll get their next meal or if they’ll get enough to feel satisfied when they do. Let’s ask God to provide generously. Let’s ask Him to prompt others to pray—and to serve. Let’s ask Him what He wants us to do—on a regular basis—to help relieve this problem . . . in our communities . . . all over the world.

Then, if we have time (or maybe later when we have time), let’s let this Parachute lead us to others regarding needs in society. When we let Him, God’s Spirit will guide our thoughts from one prayer concern to another related concern and to another and on and on. Linger over the ones that most burden your heart. Trust all to our sovereign, loving God—the God Who Sees.

Father, thank You for seeing the needs of Your children all over this world. Please provide food, clothing, and shelter for those who don’t regularly have access to these basic needs. Warmth is crucial in many places at this time of year. Help the lonely find family and friends. Thank You for Your care. Thank You also for letting us participate in Your provision plan. Show us what we can do and prompt us to obey. We love You, therefore we love others. Help us to love generously in both word and deed . . . as Jesus did. Amen.

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Just a Thought about Intercessory Prayer

Prayer Snippet

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Book Review: “Hiding Places”

Hiding PlacesAs I read Erin Healy’s latest book, Hiding Places, I wondered several times, “Where does she come up with these ideas?” In this book, for example, she’s combined an elderly woman and an eleven-year-old girl, both mostly forgotten, ignored, discarded by their family with a homeless man-boy framed for a murder he didn’t commit with the history of some of the struggles of people with a Japanese heritage living in Colorado during World War II with an orphaned cougar cub with a resort hotel that has secret tunnels and, of course, hiding places. Somehow she took all of these ingredients (with a few more I haven’t mentioned) and arranged them together to produce a captivating story with a powerful message—or two.

Healy has a gift for taking her readers right into the heads of her characters, revealing their motivations, so that even when they’re doing wrong, you can’t help but hope things will work out happily for them in the end. I guess you could say she approaches these characters with compassion and teaches her readers to do the same—all while offering a story full of surprises and strange happenings. Healy’s books are always a treat! I recommend Hiding Places to you.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending me a complimentary copy of Hiding Places in exchange for this honest review.

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Questions to Ask When People Bring Hurt

1 Peter 3-8n9“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”1 Peter 3:8-9

If only everyone would follow Peter’s instructions found in these verses, our world would be a happier place. Just imagine if everyone tried to see the other’s point of view, to be sympathetic, to love, to show compassion, and to act with humility in all situations.

Sadly, not every does. In fact, everyone doesn’t—at least not in every situation all the time. This may be why Peter devoted one sentence to how to conduct ourselves positively and two to what to do when others don’t. In this world, we will encounter evil and insults. We need to know how to respond.

Here are three things to ask when deciding how to repay evil with a blessing:

1. If Jesus were in this situation, how would He handle it? When we don’t know the answer, we can study to gospels and ask God’s Spirit for help. The better we know Jesus and His way, the more naturally we’ll follow in every circumstance.

2. What might God be trying to accomplish in this other person’s life? Depending on how well we know this person, the answer may be obvious or hard to determine. Either way, we can take what we know to God as we talk with Him about the situation and pray for the other person.

3. How might God be able to use our response to this event? Asking this question takes the focus off ourselves and our personal injuries. We can trust God to help us and to heal us regardless of what the other person does or has done. Therefore, we are free to pray for the one who hurt us, to seek that person’s good.

When we repay evil with such a blessing, we enjoy personal peace, we help to bring healing to the situation, we offer good to the one who hurt us, and we send a message to the world. All of these honor God because as Christians, we are being watched every day. Unbelievers want to see, to test, how we handle life. Our reactions to evil and to insults teach them about Jesus Christ.

Father, that’s a sobering thought. When someone hurts me, my response can’t be all about me. But, thanks to Jesus, it doesn’t have to be. I can trust You to take care of me. Help me to offer blessings to others to encourage the world to seek You and to do good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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God Reveals His Truth and Love

God Reveals His Truth and Love“Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” -1 Kings 17:24

First, Elijah showed up on her doorstep as she was preparing to make a final meal for herself and her son. She had thought her little family would eat a final meal then starve, but Elijah asked her to include him in that final meal. The last of the widow’s flour and oil lasted until the drought came to an end!

Then her son became ill and died. The woman went to Elijah to complain, asking if her son’s death was punishment for sin. Elijah didn’t answer. He just asked for the boy—and asked God to bring him back to life. (You can read the whole story here. It’s found in 1 Kings 17.)

I found it strange that this was the point where the woman came to believe that Elijah was a man of God and that God’s Word from his mouth was the truth. Why wasn’t the miracle of the flour and oil enough to convince her?

As I thought about it, I wondered if maybe she thought the only reason the flour and oil lasted was for Elijah’s sake. Maybe she saw herself and her son as coincidental, maybe just useful, beneficiaries of Elijah’s blessings.

But the resurrection of her son was personal—a gift just for her. God knew what she needed. He showed her He cared—not only for His prophets but also for lonely widows and their sons.

Father, we know You care. You see our pain and suffering. You listen to our prayers. You answer according to Your mysterious but perfect Will. You are preparing us for something better someday: eternity with You—and with no pain or suffering.

But there are many out there who don’t yet know this truth. Please reach out to them as you did to the Widow at Zarephath. Get their attention. Reveal Your love. Use us as You used Elijah. In anticipation of such, help us live and speak Your truth always. We thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Exploring Other Blessings of Parachute Prayer

Parachute PrayerIn my new book, Parachute Prayer, I discuss four of the blessings that come from practicing these simple prayers. These are the primary blessings but not the only ones. Today I’d like to explore another one:

Parachute Prayers make us more aware of the trials other people face, giving us a stronger sense of compassion and empathy.

Here’s how this works:

Several of the prayer prompts in my book come from considering our own struggles. We identify the problem and pray about it, for ourselves, but we don’t stop there. Instead, we take a little time to think of others who may be going through the same thing and pray for them. If we don’t know anyone else who is suffering in the same way, we realize that, even so, our problem is not unique. God knows others who are challenged by it. So we pray for them. It doesn’t matter that we can’t pray for them by name. God knows who we are praying for. He knows it breaks our hearts that others are feeling the same pain we feel. He cares about us all.

Today’s new Parachute Prayer is one of these:

Fraud VictimsWhen someone treats you unfairly, pray for victims of fraud – people who’ve been conned, scammed, hacked, or just plain lied to. God sees it all and hates it. Ask Him to make things right, as only He can.

Then ask Him to help you and other victims to trust His ways. He doesn’t always work the way we want or expect Him to. He is working on behalf of everyone. He will make everything right in His time, delivering justice or offering grace. Our job is to talk to Him about the situation, forgive the offender, then trust God to work in the offender’s life.

And if forgiveness doesn’t come easily – I suppose it rarely does, ask God for help with this. Decide to enter the process of forgiving, be willing to forgive as God works on your heart, make forgiving the offender your goal. This process will help you draw closer to God while keeping bitterness out of your heart.

Father, thank You for all of the blessings of prayer. To think You hear us when we talk to You! You hear and You respond. Please help us to remember to bring all of our concerns to You. Help us to bring the similar concerns of others to You, too. Make us compassionate and forgiving, trusting You to see what’s wrong and make it right in Your perfect time. Amen.

To learn more about Parachute Prayer and its blessings, order your copy of my book here.

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Book Review: “The Dandelion Field”

The Dandelion FieldSingle mom Ginevieve Lightly has been running from life with her daughter, Raine, since she was old enough to do so. Raised in an abusive environment, abandoned by Raine’s father, Ginevieve doesn’t trust anyone. All she wants is to provide a loving home and a better future for her child. In her mind this means running away whenever someone gets close enough to cause them pain because she is convinced that everyone has an agenda that will eventually cause her pain.

But Raine is a senior in high school. She doesn’t want to run anymore. When her mother’s car breaks down in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Raine begs Gin to let them stay in that town until she graduates. Gin reluctantly agrees, but then regrets it when Raine announces she’s pregnant.

Cody, the baby’s father, was also raised in a single-parent home. His father was killed in a tragic accident when he was six years old. But his father’s best friend, Dan Moretti, stepped in to mentor Cody as if he were his own son. The Dandelion FieldWhen Cody announces that the baby is his, Dan is right there, offering support to both teenagers and their moms, helping them all understand more clearly what being a parent means.

I loved everything about this book. I appreciated the way Dan and his family and friends modeled unconditional, and relentless, Christian love for Gin and Raine. I loved “seeing” God at work in their lives through these people and by other means. I enjoyed the dandelion analogy and was very pleased with the book’s perfect ending. I recommend this book!

Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy of The Dandelion Field in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: “Motherless”

MotherlessErin Healy’s newest book, Motherless, is one of her best yet—one wide-eyed revelation after another to the end. But how do I review it without giving too much away? It’s a story of parents protecting their children. It’s a story of choosing to forgive, to be forgiven, to live in grace. It’s a story of secrets and lies and temptation and sin and misunderstandings and choices that demand to be revealed and redeemed. It’s the story of serious mental illness and its lingering effects on one challenged Central California family.

MotherlessIt’s also the story of an unusual chocolate shop! (Though I’ll have to take Healy’s word for it that some of those concoctions are edible. Alas, I’m as skeptical as some of her characters—without the opportunity to taste for myself. I may need to go out and hunt for such a chocolate shop.)

Motherless is an emotional, supernatural suspense story that changes direction with each revelation until it coasts to a beautiful stop. The setting is one people dream of, yet the characters whom readers can’t help but care for dwell in mild peril and complete confusion. The compassionate message is one all people live to hear. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. It’s one I’m telling people to read.