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The Giving Prayer

Parachute PrayerI once read that Charles Spurgeon, a great Christian minister known for his amazing sermons, had an interesting practice of giving.* It was simple. Whenever he bought something, other than a necessity, for himself, he’d give an equal amount of money to someone else. For example, if he bought a book for himself with a cost of $13.00, he’d donate another $13.00 to charity. The purpose of the practice was to keep him from spending too much on himself while helping him remember to give generously to people in need.

Today, I’d like to suggest we turn the concept into a Parachute Prayer. Whenever we pray for ourselves, let’s take a little extra time to pray the same for someone else. For instance, if we’re praying about a personal health concern, let’s remember others with related concerns. If we’re praying about a financial need, let’s pray for people we know who are struggling financially. If we’re asking God to give us something or to help us solve a problem, let’s ask Him to do the same for someone else. If we’re praying for parenting wisdom, let’s pray for friends with kids.

God wants us to ask Him for the things we want and need. He also wants us to trust His wisdom in answering yes or no. He is our loving Father, Creator, and Provider. We show our confidence in Him when we take our concerns and desires to Him daily. But as we do, let’s take the concerns and desires of others to Him, too.

Father, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And so, we bring our daily requests to You, knowing You will provide generously and with our best interests in mind. As we trust You for the concerns of our own lives, please remind us to entrust You with the cares of others, too. You have more than enough for all of us. Thank You for Your love above all. Amen.

*Note: I read this story a few years ago. I’m not sure what book I found it in. My memory says it was Charles Spurgeon, but it may have been another well-known minister of the time. The idea is what’s most important. Please forgive me if I’ve given credit to the wrong person.

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Living Our Belief

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”Romans 8:1-2

When I read these verses today, I stopped to wonder how many people actually believe them. I had to stop and search my heart to be sure that I truly believe them. I say I believe them. I believe I believe them. But do my actions prove I do?

DSC01706eAs I prayed about this, asking God, “Do I really believe that there is now no condemnation for me? Or am I still trying to earn Your grace, so I can be certain there’s no condemnation for me?” the parable of the unmerciful servant came to mind. (If you are unfamiliar with this story, click here to read the NIV version at BibleGateway.com.)

In this parable told by Jesus, a man owes the king so much money that he will never in his lifetime be able to repay it all. The king, wanting to settle accounts, declares that the man and his entire family be sold into slavery to pay the debt. But the man falls at the king’s feet and begs for mercy, promising to somehow find a way to pay the debt. The king, feeling great compassion for the man and his family, chooses to do more than the man asked; he cancels the entire debt and sets the man free.

But the man response is puzzling. He immediately goes out, finds someone who owes him money, and throws that man in jail until the debt can be paid. Naturally, witnesses are upset about this. They tell the king, who becomes angry with the man. The king tells the man that, out of gratitude for his own forgiveness, he should have shown mercy to the man he needed to forgive. Then the king throws the man in jail to be tortured until he can pay his impossible debt in full.

I’ve never understood why someone who was forgiven such a huge debt would go out and treat someone who owed them just a little bit that way. After today’s reflections, however, I’m pretty sure these actions have something to do with whether or not that someone truly believes Romans 8:1-2.

You see, if the servant had truly believed that his entire debt was forgiven, he would have, I think, forgiven the one who owed him. I don’t think he believed this, though. He had asked for time. He wanted to pay his debt. He wanted to prove to the king that he was worthy of forgiveness, that he was able to repay in full without anyone’s grace. And so, as soon as the king set him free, he went out to collect funds to repay the debt. There was no gratitude in his heart because, though the king had indeed forgiven him, his pride had kept him from forgiving himself and convinced him that the king hadn’t really forgiven him either. This pride made him a prisoner who longed to be set free. It wrongly told him that collecting funds from others with debts would open the door of his cell.

The Pharisees were a lot like this unmerciful servant, imposing impossible-to-keep rules and regulations on others. By enforcing the law, they thought themselves worthy of the Kingdom of God. In their minds, they were proving themselves to God.

But the Bible is clear that we can never do enough to prove ourselves worthy of God’s Kingdom. We can’t do enough righteous deeds. We can’t keep the Law perfectly. Like the unmerciful servant, we can only throw ourselves at the feet of our King and beg for His mercy. And thanks to Jesus Christ, we have it! Praise His name!

All we have to do is believe. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! There’s nothing to earn. Nothing to prove. Nothing to demand or collect from our fellow servants. The King has set us free, and we are free indeed.

Once we truly believe this, our actions will show it. Instead of rushing out to throw our debtors in prison until they pay what they owe, we’ll tell them what the King did for us and point them toward freedom, too. Having freely received, we will want to freely give. We’ll live lives of grace and gratitude. We will love as the Spirit leads.

  • Do you believe?
  • What would help you to believe?
  • How must this belief impact your life?

Father, thank You for forgiveness, for freedom from condemnation. Thank You for new life in Christ. We believe! Help us live our belief. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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Praying about Angry Words

Parachute PrayerNot too long ago, my youngest son brought a blog post to my attention. It was written by a Christian entertainer who wanted to encourage Christians to do as Augustine and Wesley and others have encouraged: to be united in the essentials of our faith, but to show love in all else. This young artist simply wanted to see Christians love each other and get along in spite of different points of view.

Sadly, in offering examples of controversy among Christians, he made some vague statements that led some of his readers to question his personal beliefs. He didn’t actually come right out and say what he, personally, believed or didn’t believe about such things. But some of his readers, misunderstanding or misreading his intent chose to fill in the blanks themselves. Next thing he knew, this artist who had simply asked for peace found himself under attack. It was a great big, ugly mess.

It broke my heart.

This artist wrote one response to defend himself which only brought more painful comments from readers. Since then he has been quiet.

This breaks my heart, too. I fear he’s facing the temptation to build a wall, to hide his gift, to protect himself when he has so much to share with the world. This would be a tragedy.

How amazing could the situation have turned out if those who questioned this young man’s words would have taken the time, first, to try to see his heart, then, if necessary after gentle questioning, to prayerfully respond as Priscilla and Aquila did when Apollos didn’t quite have all of his facts straight? (See Acts 18:24-28.)

Today’s Parachute Prayer comes from this unfortunate situation. Knowing that behind every blog post, tweet, FaceBook update, news headline, and book is a flesh and blood human being created in the image of God, let’s pray fervently for those who come under attack for the words they write—especially for those who come under such attack for simply trying to say something helpful, encouraging, or good. When we see negative comments or hear verbal criticism about something we’ve seen in print or published on the internet, let’s pray both for the heart of the one receiving the criticism and of the one who delivers it. Let’s pray that God will give wisdom to both, that He’ll help the one who receives the negative words to hear anything necessary and to disregard the rest and that He’ll guide anyone tempted to deliver a painful blow to take a step back to prayerfully consider the most Christ-like response. If they’ve already delivered the painful blow, let’s ask God to open their eyes to the wounds they’ve inflicted and lead them to set things right, if possible, and learn a better way for the next time.

People are imperfect, and their words can be messy, jumbled up, and completely misunderstood. Let’s take the time to see the intent behind the words, to clarify what confuses, to show grace and compassion before jumping to judgment, and to correct (when it’s called for) only as Christ would. And when we see angry words appearing in the comments about what we’re reading on our computer screens, let’s always remember to pray.

Father, please help people remember that there are people behind words they see and to respond to those people with love instead of to words indiscriminately. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Praying as Things Change

Parachute PrayerAlways with Autumn comes an abundance of seasonal shopping displays: back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . One of our local stores got so carried away with this last year that they actually started putting out Valentines before the New Year! I guess they just couldn’t wait to start promoting the next big thing.

Personally, I love the Autumn displays. Except for when I’ve lived in climates where I knew Autumn leaves meant I was about to be buried in snow for months on end, I’ve always appreciated all signs of the end of Summer—including store displays.

When we notice these, let’s let them remind us to pray. Changing displays signal other changes, too: changes in season, changes in activities, changes in temperature, changes in clothing styles, changes in décor. So let’s pray for people we know who are going through some kind of life change. This list could include people who are moving or going to college for the first time, people who are changing jobs or struggling through divorce, and people who are adapting to changes brought on by illness or injury.

As we recognize changes in familiar store displays, let’s remember that lives all around us are ever-changing, too. Let’s ask God to help the people we love to adjust.

Father, change is inevitable. Some changes are welcome, but others bring pain. When we notice the subtle changes all around us, please remind us to pray for those who are struggling. Thank You, Lord, for caring. Please make us aware, so we’ll learn to be caring, too. Amen.

Note: If you struggle to find contentment whenever life begins to change, my book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway, is full of devotionals I wrote to encourage you. I wrote most specifically about the change that comes with a move, but I’ve discovered that these lessons are relevant to other life changes, too. Click here to purchase your own copy at Amazon.

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Isaiah 60:20 on My Mind

NewOMM“Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”Isaiah 60:20

This is a great verse to memorize for dark times. All may be well for you right now; I hope it is! Even so, this world tends to bring us trouble. I don’t say that to be negative. Just to plan ahead. Just in case. Of what we hope will never come to pass. If we commit Isaiah 60:20 to memory now, God’s Spirit will be able to help us recall it if then ever comes to be.

And if somehow it doesn’t, this verse will remind us to be thankful for that.

If you are going through a dark time now, I pray the words of this poetic promise will comfort you. This. Too. Shall. Pass. Keep hoping and trusting in Jesus. Your days of sorrow will eventually end.

Father, You know the needs of every person reading this today. Please comfort and encourage those who are going through dark times now. Fill their hearts with hope. Let them know You are with them now. And please help the rest of us to remember the words of Isaiah 60:20. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” He also promised He has overcome the world. Someday His everlasting Light will chase all darkness and shadow away. We can count on this. Amen.

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Book Review: “Never Ever Give Up”

NEGUAs I mentioned yesterday, Never Ever Give Up: the Inspiring Story of Jessie and her JoyJars® made quite an impression on me. It’s the story of Jessie Rees, her battle with an inoperable, incurable brain tumor, and what she did to change the world in her last ten months of life. Her father, Erik, tells the story.

When I got to the part of the book where the doctor gives Jessie’s parents the news, I was stunned. I closed the book, carried it in to where my husband was, showed him the cover with Jessie’s picture, summarized the story, and said, “This doesn’t happen. Not in this day and age. Not to children and their parents. No.” (I continued to give Mike updates as I read the book over the next three days. Now he probably feels as if he’s read the book, too.)

We hear so much about cancer research and progress made. I guess I thought that, at this point, there must always be some kind of treatment to try that may or may not work depending on how healthy the person is, how soon the cancer is caught, or how aggressive the cancer is. What I didn’t realize is that each kind of cancer must be researched; each needs its own treatment and cure. While researchers have made great strides with some, like breast cancer, others, like the kind that Jessie Rees had and many other forms of pediatric cancer, have hardly been looked at yet. These need attention and funding. The timing of this book’s release is no coincidence: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Jessie’s story opened my eyes to this great need.

It also inspired me. Jessie cared about other people and wanted to help them however she could. Her father says, “She didn’t wait for permission or instructions. She just thought to herself, ‘What can I do to make someone feel better today?’” The JoyJars® were one of her responses.

Can you imagine a world where everyone in it thought this way . . . then acted on their response?

Zondervan Publishing sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. It’s easily the most educational and inspirational book I’ve read this year. I hope everyone who reads this will go out and read Never Ever Give Up, too.

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Many Languages

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.”Acts 2:5-6

DSC02012eSince the time of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) people all over the globe have spoken different languages. Living in the Netherlands, our family experienced the confusion God promised first hand. People where we lived spoke Dutch. Ten minutes away in one direction, they spoke German. Twenty minutes in the other, they spoke French. And when we travelled, we encountered other languages as well. By the time we left Europe, I could order French fries from McDonald’s in six languages. But I’m only fluent in one, English–and the British people I’ve met sometimes question even that.

Dutch people, however, take great pride in their ability to speak several languages. Many can speak English, French, German, and others–even American! Since I knew very little Dutch, I usually depended on them to help me communicate. And they seemed to like it that way. “We understand your English better than your Dutch,” they’d proudly say. They were happy to use their knowledge to help out wherever mine lacked.

Beyond Europe is a whole big world full of many languages–some yet to be discovered. Friends of ours once completed a year of language training in Brazil, learning Portuguese in order to minister to the people of Mozambique. You’ve probably heard missionaries from exotic countries share bits of language from the places they’ve been. And even in America, I sometimes have to listen closely to understand the dialects of friends from Maine, Alabama, or New Jersey! When God promised confusion, He delivered.

But God is never confused. He understands every language, every dialect, every bit of slang, and even words that don’t transcend the generation gap. (I’m pretty sure He even speaks text.) And just as He helped the disciples communicate with the crowd “from every nation under heaven,” He can help us communicate His love wherever we go. We may have to study, use sign language, or ask a lot of questions, but Christian love goes a long way toward building understanding.

Will you have fritessaus with your fries?

All-Knowing Lord, help me to communicate with people around me today. Whether they speak another language or simply need to know I understand how they are feeling and what’s going on in their lives, remove the confusion. Replace it with love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Book Review: A Deadly Business

A Deadly BusinessIn the opening chapters of A Deadly Business by Lis Wiehl with April Henry, Seattle prosecutor Mia Quinn experiences one of the worst days of her life and embarks on two new investigations, one professional and one personal. The latter is forced on her when Detective Charlie Carlson discovers evidence that her husband’s death, seven months before, may not have been an accident. Charlie is determined to help Mia discover the truth, whether she wants to or not. The result is an emotional story that’s hard to put down.

A Deadly Business is the second book in the Mia Quinn Mystery series. Each of the mysteries is self-contained within each book; Mia solves her cases, making her boss and her readers happy. It’s her personal story that we get to follow from book to book. Mia is a strong character. She’s a newly widowed mother of two, forced to go back to work to provide for her family and to pay off debts discovered after her husband’s death. She has a lot to juggle, but she always fights for what is right for her family, for her community, for victims who need justice.

In this book, however, one thing Mia has to determine is who needs justice most. When a teenage prank goes horribly wrong, Mia must determine whether or not to try the boys as adults. This opens dialogue into one of the social justice themes of this book: at what point (if ever) does society give up on someone, lock them up, and throw away the key? Wiehl and Henry use other criminals in the book to add considerations to the debate. They also bring in other related issues for readers to think about as they enjoy the story: election integrity, media influence, society’s responsibility to care for those who can’t care for themselves—limitations and the overwhelming burden, the slippery path of seemingly harmless wrong choices. Wiehl and Henry don’t give clear answers, rather they explore the many facets of each issue, presenting angles of which readers may not be aware.

I’m looking forward to reading about Mia’s next case and to learning the outcome of some of the personal decisions she made in this book. If you enjoy a thought-provoking mystery, I recommend A Deadly Business. Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: All Right Here

All Right Here is a story that caught me by surprise–I love it when books do that! What I mean is that the story is unique, yet charming–and full of hope. I really enjoyed reading it.

All Right Here is the story of Ivy Darling and her family. She’s married to Nick, who has a mother who dotes on him and three sisters who refuse to accept Ivy as part of their family. Ivy also has three sisters. She also has an older brother. I believe we’ll be learning more about these siblings in future books about the Darling Family.

Ivy and Nick can’t have children of their own and are considering adoption. When Ivy discovers that the three children next door have been abandoned by their mother, however, she takes them into her home and convinces Nick to let them stay until the situation is resolved. Nick is willing to let them stay, but he refuses to even consider the possibility of accepting them into his family permanently. The situation forces first Ivy, and then Nick, to face truths about their marriage and within their own hearts that must be resolved for the existence of their love.

Personally, I loved the way that Ivy related to everyone in her world. She’s a character of patience, love, and grace. When circumstances tempt her to harden her heart, God confronts her and she responds in a beautiful way. Her insights in that climactic passage alone make the book worth reading, though the whole story is beautifully done. I’m looking forward to reading future books by Carre Armstrong Gardner and recommend this one to anyone who enjoys ordinary stories about ordinary people just learning to get along. I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a free copy of All Right Here in exchange for this review.

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Revelation 21:4 on My Mind

NewOMM“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:4, ESV

We’re memorizing this verse this week simply because of the hope it gives us. Someday the circumstances that cause us to grieve, cry, or suffer pain, whether physical or emotional, will cease to exist. And God Himself will wipe the last tears from our eyes. We need to remember this because in this world, we do have troubles and, sometimes, they cause us to mourn, cry, and feel pain.

Parachute PrayerICFor this reason, I’d like to use today’s verse as a trigger for Parachute Prayer. When tears come to our eyes, whether through our own hurts, out of compassion for someone else’s, or even because of a moving story in a book or movie, let’s pause to consider Revelation 21:4 and to thank God for what He promises to do someday. As we place our hope in Him, He’ll comfort us even now. That’s a truth worth remembering.

Father, thank You for the promise of Heaven. I look forward to seeing You face to face someday. I wonder if those last tears You wipe from our eyes will be tears of immense joy at finding hope fulfilled forever at last!