post

Learning to Be Thankful

“Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

DSC02015e“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”John 6:8-11, NIV

Recently, our family watched the movie, Son of God, which dramatizes the story of Jesus’ life powerfully. I was especially touched when the movie got to this scene, labelled in my Bible, Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand. With hungry people crowding all around them, the disciples hold a basket toward Jesus to show Him the two tiny fish and the little bit of bread. As I looked at the contents of the basket, the disciples’ question suddenly seemed quite valid, though we, with the benefit of historical record, often consider it foolish: “How far will they go among so many?”

But Jesus simply bowed His head and prayed, “Thank You, Father.”

The question struck me in that moment, “What if we were thankful, too?”

Just last night, I was overwhelmed by my schedule for the rest of this year. I was praying, “Lord, how will I ever get it all done? What must I sacrifice? I want to finish it all and enjoy it as I do!” Then I remembered the movie . . . the Bible story . . . the historical record . . . the thought. I fell asleep praying, “Thank You, Father, for the time that I have. Help me to use it wisely. I’m trusting You to provide more than enough! I know You can. If You’re leading me to do all of these things, then I know You will.”

God prompted me to change my attitude from despair and worry to thankfulness and trust. This was a great relief!

Other times we might need to do this:

  • Lord, I don’t have the money . . .
  • Lord, I don’t have the energy . . .
  • Lord, I don’t have anyone to help me . . .
  • Lord, I don’t have the know-how for this task . . .

Whatever the need, we can train ourselves, with God’s help, to approach the problem with thanksgiving and trust. We thank God for what He has provided. We ask Him to help us use what we have carefully. We trust Him to provide the rest, enough, maybe more, maybe more than we could have imagined—according to His perfect will for our lives! Our lack is His opportunity to shine. Let’s be thankful for what He’s given, then let’s see what He will do on our behalf.

Father, please forgive us when we lose sight of what we have, focusing instead on what we lack. You love us, and You know exactly what we need. So we thank You for all You have given, and we entrust our problems to You. Help us to use Your gifts well and to trust You to provide anything else that we will need as we live for You. You are good. You are all powerful. We love You! Amen.

post

Evidence That Our Prayers Matter

Azalea 'Hinodegiri'“The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”Psalm 121:7-8

I read this Psalm a few days ago during my morning quiet time. As I did, I felt deeply impressed to pray for my son Alex. I prayed that God would keep him from all harm and watch over his life, over his coming and going. Then I went on to pray for the rest of my family, but the impression that I needed to keep praying for Alex held firm. It was as if God were saying, “Go ahead and pray for those people, too, but today I want your focus on your middle son.”

Later that day, Alex called me. We talked about several events of his day, and he asked if he could join us for dinner. We made plans, then he said, “Oh, by the way, I was hit by a car today.”

Oh, by the way?! I probably would have led with that.

A lady making a right turn on red accelerated while looking to her left, not seeing my son entering the intersection to her right. One moment he was riding his bike, the next he was lying on the ground halfway underneath her car. Thankfully, he walked away from the accident with only a few bruises. He says the lady was pretty shaken up. (His mommy was, too, and, at first, she wanted to go shake the lady up more.)

The next morning I opened my Bible and saw the verses I’d been prompted to pray the day before. I’d highlighted them and written, “Pray for Alex” in the margin. I thanked God, again, for protecting my son.

Prayer is a mysterious gift. I don’t always understand it, but I know God calls us to it, and I know that when He gets specific, He means business. We don’t always get to see the why’s of such calls to prayer, but we must trust there is a reason and obey. I’d like to share a few thoughts born of this week’s experience:

1. If God knew that Alex was in danger and planned to protect him, as He evidently did in calling me to pray, was my prayer even necessary? Would the outcome have been different if I’d ignored His prompting? Personally, I don’t believe so, but I don’t really know for sure. All I know is that God wanted me to pray for Alex that morning. Then He answered that prayer. The why of it remains a mystery.

2. Whether or not it made a difference for Alex, I do know it made a difference for me! What a comfort for this mother’s heart not only to know by faith that God is watching over my son but also to see Him in action on that son’s behalf!

3. As I share it, this blessing is extended to you. Keep reading your Bible; God speaks through it to you. Keep praying for your loved ones; God loves them, too. Keep seeking Him, keep trusting; He is at work in our world. His ways are often mysterious, but they’re perfect–whether or not we understand. We can’t yet see His face, and people rarely hear an audible voice, but He communicates just the same. Psalm 121 tells us He’s watching, but He also wants a close relationship with us. The means for such is there–Bible reading and prayer. Our part is to practice these regularly, believing in faith that these really do matter to God, to our loved ones, to ourselves, to the whole world!

Father, thank You again and again and again for protecting Alex. I’m so thankful to know You are watching over his life and the lives of all my family and friends. You care about Your Creation. You communicate with us, too. Call me often to study my Bible and pray. I love living life with You! Amen.

post

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!

post

Psalm 18:34 on My Mind

NewOMM“He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”Psalm 18:34

Today we continue our five-week concentration on Psalm 18:32-36 with verse 34. I hope you’re memorizing this passage with me. If not, I pray you’re absorbing some truths from these verses that will firmly stick in your mind. That’s the goal when we meditate on God’s Word. We want to hear from Him and to remember His words to us.

When I first looked at verse 34 today, considering what I wanted to write about it, thoughts of spiritual warfare came to mind. Personally, I don’t need to know the fine points of hand-to-hand combat or how to bend a bow of bronze, but I do need to know how to pray when Satan attacks me, my family, my friends, or my community. We all do! If we ask God to train us for this, He most definitely will. Requests like that are pleasing to Him; He wants us involved in the unseen fight for the souls of all people. He’s their Creator, after all.

I think there’s a deeper truth to this verse, though. David, its author, was a warrior. He wrote Psalm 18 to praise God for delivering him from his enemies, most notably King Saul. David did need to know the fine points of hand-to-hand combat. His life depended on him being able to bend a bow of bronze. In today’s Bible verse, David is recognizing God’s provision for his specific need.

Psalm 18:34Not only did David need these skills at that time–they served him well throughout his life, from his role as a shepherd defending sheep from lions and bears to his role as the King defending God’s people placed in his care. David recognized the truth that God prepares his people to capably complete the tasks He calls Him to do.

God didn’t call me to be a warrior like David. Instead, He called me to read and write and study and teach. When I consider Psalm 18:34, I reflect on the preparation and training and guidance God has given me for this throughout my life. He has led me to jobs and projects and assignments and classes and through experiences that enable me to serve Him wherever I go. He trained me. He graciously gives me whatever skills I need. Reflecting on this, I’m filled with joy, contentment, thanksgiving, and praise.

As you consider Psalm 18:34 this week, I invite you to reflect on how and for what God has trained you. What is your calling? How has God trained you for it? Are you faithfully using the skills He’s granted to you? What work of God in your life are you most thankful for today?

Father, thank You for training us to face what is ahead. You prepare us to do whatever we must. You also grant us skills we need to serve in whatever capacity you’ve called us to. Help us to recognize Your work in our lives and to go, as soon as we’re able, to fulfill each day’s calling. Thank You, as always, for going with us. Without You, we’ve no hope. You are the God of Providence. We love You, Lord. Amen.

post

Counting Blessings

“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’” –Psalm 16:2

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings–name them one by one–
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

These words from the sweet, singsong hymn, “Count Your Blessings,” are still true today. When we’re feeling jumbled, tumbled, and tossed about, mixed-up and turned upside-down, remembering our blessings can help to calm our souls and turn us right side-up. This is true because our blessings are gifts from God. Remembering them reminds us that He cares, that He’s still active in our lives, that we can trust Him to provide all we need–and often so much more!

Just as a little child in a crowded mall will take his mother’s hand for security in the midst of many knees, we can count our blessings for assurance that God is still there. If things are so dark that we can’t see any good, we can call on God for help in that area, too. He is our Lord. Apart from Him, we have no good thing. With Him, though, we have everything.

Thank You, Father, for comfort in the midst of strife. I’ll look for the blessings and know they come from You. Amen.

post

When You Struggle to Find the Right Words

I don’t know how it is for you, but of all the elements of prayer, I struggle most with worship and praise. It’s not that I don’t feel worship and praise or believe that God deserves all worship and praise. All glory and honor and praise are His! I just sometimes struggle to find the words.

DSC01019eThat seems like kind of a strange comment for a writer to make.

Yet our almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God Who created the whole universe, Who exists in a realm we can only imagine for now, seems so far beyond any words I might be able to arrange as a loving offering to Him.

Thankfully, He doesn’t expect me to live up to my personal perception of what such an awesome God should expect. He gracefully accepts whatever I have to offer when I choose to offer Him my best.

Yet sometimes I still feel stumped. Prayer requests—I’ve got those. Confession—God’s Spirit lets me know what we need to discuss. Intercession—I’m aware of the needs of my friends and family, world, church, and community. Thanksgiving—This one is often mistaken for praise because it’s just so easy to slide from telling God how amazing He is into thanking Him for all He’s done. Thanksgiving is simply counting blessings and giving God due credit for each.

These elements of prayer (requests, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving) are essentially a matter of presenting the facts of each to God, anticipating His response when we have asked for one. Praise and worship, however, requires contemplation, creativity, even a touch of poetry. Praise and worship is a gift! God deserves to hear us express our deep love.

I wonder if David or Solomon or Asaph or any of the other psalmists ever struggled with this. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read some of their first psalm attempts? I wonder if they tried and tossed out some lines from first drafts, playing with the words until they sounded just right. I suspect they probably did!

We may not be able to read those first drafts, but God has given us a collection of their completed projects in the book of Psalms. When we struggle for words of our own, we can read these, pray along with them, and let them prompt words from us. Here’s an example, using the first four verses of Psalm 8 (The words in brackets are mine.):

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
[People all over the world can see your glory, Lord, just by looking up into the sky!]

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
[Your name alone is so powerful that even the most vulnerable find strength and courage when they praise You.]

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
[I can’t even begin to imagine how big You are, Lord! You’ve held planets in Your hands.]

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
[And yet You do care! You see each person You’ve created. You even know us intimately.]

DSC01029eWhen we pray this way, we’re agreeing with the psalmist’s words about God, offering extra praises as we think of them. We clarify the psalmist’s thoughts with our own words, cementing the understanding of our amazing God in our minds.

Since psalms are actually hymns or songs, we can also turn to the words in our hymnals for praise and worship words to agree with and expound upon, using the same technique:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” 
Blessed Assurance
[Jesus, Your Presence in my life gives me a taste of Heaven. I’m looking forward to living there with You someday!]

If you don’t own a hymnal of your own, you can Google the words to your favorite hymns and pray from your computer. Better yet, ask your pastor if there happen to be any retired hymnals hanging around in forgotten places at your church. As a pastor’s wife I know first-hand that most churches have some hiding somewhere where they aren’t doing anybody any good. Now that many churches have switched from traditional hymnals to overhead projectors there are even more! Your pastor may let you borrow one or have one to keep. (If your pastor lets you keep it, put a little extra in Sunday’s offering plate.)

[Dear churches that have no-longer-in-use hymnals lying around collecting dust in storage closets, please consider clearing out the clutter by giving them away to members of your congregation for personal worship and praise.]

I have one last praise and worship idea to share with you. This also comes from the Psalms. David wrote many of his psalms while sitting outside watching sheep. We may not have any sheep to watch, but perhaps we have children or pets we take outside from time to time. Or maybe we just like walking or running or sitting in the park and watching or flower hunting. If so, noticing the created world around us will fill our minds with words of worship and praise. If bowing your head and closing your eyes leaves you sitting in the dark with nothing to say, open your eyes and make note of all the wondrous sights around you that reveal the greatness of our amazing God.

Next thing you know, you’ll be writing psalms of your own. And God will be delighted to receive your worship and praise.

post

Psalm 73:25 on My Mind

NewOMM“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” –Psalm 73:25, NIV

I don’t know about you, but I can remember some pretty greedy Christmas moments from my childhood. I remember one in particular. I must have been four, maybe five. I’d asked Santa for a baby doll that year. But not just any baby doll. I wanted a very particular baby doll. And when that very particular baby doll did not show up under my family’s Christmas tree on Christmas morning, I was pretty angry with Santa for letting me down. In fact, while holding the new baby doll I’d received that wasn’t the particular baby doll I’d wanted, I pouted all the way to Grandma’s house and all through the first few hours of our extended-family Christmas celebration.

Imagine my surprise to learn, as we started the gift-opening portion of the day, that Santa had indeed brought that doll for me. As my grandma explained it, she’d wanted to see me receive it, and so, had asked Santa to bring it to her house instead of mine.

In hindsight, I think I should have caught on to the Santa scam that day. Instead, I felt sorry for being so angry with Santa for not bringing the baby doll I’d wanted when, in fact, he’d brought the one I’d wanted plus one more. I learned to be more patient in future years.

Such can be the drama of Christmas morning. Thankfully, I’ve outgrown those days. At least, I hope I have! I’m sure that you have, too. Now the joy of Christmas morning comes as we watch others open gifts we’ve carefully chosen for them: some they have requested, others meant to surprise and delight.

Why is it that brings us joy?

Because, in Christ, we have everything we need. His Presence fills every longing and promises so much more! For eternity! We celebrate this fullness by letting it flow over into others, generously, as God leads.

The tangible gifts are just a symbol of this, of course. The real celebration is the coming of Christ Who permanently meets the needs and desires of all the world. As we give and receive gifts this Christmas, let’s remember this verse—and be thankful indeed.

Jesus, thank You! You are the reason we celebrate, the reason we look forward to Heaven someday. Earth has nothing for us compared to the joy of being loved by You. Amen.

post

A Parachute Prayer for Postal Workers

Parachute PrayerI got a unique view of the post office the other day. Waiting for my son to apply for a passport, I was sitting in a back room just behind where what must have been all of our city was impatiently waiting in line in a frantic attempt to get last-minute packages sent. Every service window was open! It must have been the busiest day of the postal year.

Behind where I was sitting was another customer service window leading into a small back office. A sweet lady was sitting at her desk, talking with customers on the phone. I couldn’t help but hear her:

“Please don’t yell in my ear, ma’am.”

“We care about every single piece of mail that comes through this facility.”

“We know it’s important that packages get there for Christmas. We’re doing the best we can.”

“Sometimes things go wrong.”

I was amazed at this woman’s patience as she fielded angry call after angry call, always remaining calm. Between calls, she even managed to tease my son about his age, telling the passport representative to double-check to be sure he was really old enough to apply. Her light-hearted attitude encouraged everyone in the room.

Which gave me an idea for a Parachute Prayer: for the next few days, whenever you see a mail or package delivery truck or go to check your mail, please take time to whisper a prayer for the people who are working so hard to get your gifts to your loved ones and to you. By now, you’ve probably shopped for, packaged, and shipped everything. You’re relaxing and waiting for Christmas to come. But the delivery people are working harder than ever to get presents to people on time.

Let’s pray them through!

And while we’re at it, let’s make an earnest attempt to be patient and kind, calm and encouraging. Because they care about every piece of mail. But sometimes things go wrong.

Father, please bless the people who deliver our Christmas cards and packages. Keep them safe as they work quickly, yet strive to be efficient, too. Bless them with a calm presence and a sense of humor in the midst of great chaos. And help us to be kind and thankful—even if things go wrong. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Linking up today with Spiritual Sundays and The Weekend Brew.

post

Luke 2:7 on My Mind

NewOMM“She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” –Luke 2:7, NLT

Yesterday morning, we sang a hymn in church that I haven’t heard in so long it was almost new to me. My husband and I both struggled to follow the words while singing the right notes. More amazing, it’s a Christmas carol! I guess it’s one that’s sliding into obscurity, but I enjoyed the visit yesterday.

The name of the carol is Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne. The words ponder how it was possible that God’s own Son, King of Kings and Lord of Lords Himself, could have left the splendor of Heaven where He was celebrated by angels only to find no room on earth: no room in the inn, no place to lay His head, no acceptance by His own people, only their scorn and a crown of thorns.

In the words of the chorus, the grieving lyricist does her part to set things right with this invitation: O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; There is room in my heart for Thee. Then, after the final verse, she looks to her future in Heaven: My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, When Thou comest and callest for me.

So many aspects of Christianity have a past, present, future element to them. The first Sunday of Advent, celebrated yesterday, is one beautiful example of this. It’s a day of anticipation and expectation: we remember how God’s people were waiting for the first coming of their Messiah, our Lord, Jesus Christ. We celebrate that historical coming as we thank Jesus for it through this present season. Yet we also look forward with hope to the expected and much anticipated second coming of Christ to occur on some future day. (Or maybe even today!)

We see the same in Luke 2:7 combined with the words from this almost forgotten hymn. We remember there was no room available for Jesus when He first came—and we grieve the tragedy of that. We thank Him for preparing a place in Heaven for us someday, for making it possible for us to find room with Him. Finally, we examine our own hearts to be sure that right now in this moment, nothing is trying to push Him out of His rightful place. If we’ve invited Jesus to live in our hearts, to be Lord of our lives, we don’t want Him to have to compete with any other person, place, or thing.

Jesus, I’m sorry there was no lodging available when You came to earth as a baby so long ago. Thank You for not holding that against us, though. Thank You for completing Your mission, for fulfilling Your purpose, that You could offer us the promise of eternity in Your home. Please search our hearts now and point out anything You find there that may be crowding You. That space is Yours, Lord Jesus. Our hearts are Yours. Amen.

post

Thanksgiving Prayer Thoughts

“Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” –1 Chronicles 29:13

If ever we could think of nothing else to thank God for, we could thank Him for His Presence. He is with us always—wherever we are, whatever our circumstances.

That said, let’s be sure to thank God for His Presence today!

To do so, watch for an opportunity to slip away from the chaos and spend some time thanking God for Who He is. Make a list of every attribute and biblical name for Him you can think of. Reflect on what each means to you personally.

Next, thank Him for what He’s done. Think back over your life journey, and look for God’s fingerprints all over it. Thank Him for His work in and through your life.

Thank Him also for what He will do. This is an act of faith—anticipating His work in this world, in your life, and in the lives of your loved ones. We don’t know what this will look like when God’s finished, but we know we’ll be amazed when the work is done! Thank Him for this hope.

Finally, if the weather allows, take a walk outside. Thank God for everything you see that reminds you He is there.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” –Psalm 19:1

Thank God for revealing Himself to You through His creation and for drawing your attention to it this day, that you won’t take it for granted, but will hear the rocks cry out that God is here, that God is great beyond comprehension, that God is in control of everything.

“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” –Psalm 11:4b

In her book, The God of All Comfort, Hannah Whitall Smith says, “It is a fact that we see what we look at, and cannot see what we look away from; and we cannot look unto Jesus while we are looking at ourselves.”

It’s good to thank God for our blessings. Let’s continue to do that, especially today. But let’s start by thanking God for being God. Let’s take our eyes off of that which cannot last and thank God for the Presence we’ll enjoy through eternity!

Happy Thanksgiving! Bless God today!