Posted in Wildflower Thoughts

Learning to Chew

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” -Psalm 34:8

On a day when I felt overwhelmed, I had the idea during my quiet time to search the Word I was reading for a deeper understanding of Who God Is as opposed to seeking how I should live. Both are important, but I wanted to draw closer to God—to let His bigness, His Presence assure me all is well and will be well. I wanted to intentionally put my focus on Him. To do this, I started listing the attributes I saw or remembered as I read, completing the sentence, “God is . . .”

My first list read like this:

God is—

  • bigger than all my troubles.
  • in complete control.
  • the purest, truest love.
  • always available.
  • patient.
  • merciful.
  • compassionate.
  • creative.
  • my safe place.
  • perfect, perfection.
  • here.

I made several more such lists, but they soon started to feel more like an academic exercise than devotional time with God. I told Him so.

“Emulate Me” was the thought that popped into my head, followed by the recent memory of a moment with my granddaughter.

Our family had stopped at a fast food restaurant on a day trip. Aspen isn’t eating solid food just yet, so her mother fed her while we ordered, then I held her while everyone ate. (There are more important things than food, you know.) I watched her darling face as she looked around at everyone, forehead scrunched in concentration. Slowly she opened her lips and began making chewing motions as she continued to study the moving mouths all around her. It was the cutest thing! What a proud moment for our little prodigy!

The sheer delight on her parents’ faces when they saw what she was doing was priceless, too. Grandparents get to watch as two generations grow.

The memory helped me see that our growth into a deeper relationship with God is somewhat like what I witnessed in Aspen that day. God is our heavenly Father. We can watch Him to learn His nature by reading His Word just as Aspen watched her family to learn how to chew. As we meditate on different attributes the Spirit calls to our attention, we can begin to try to emulate some of them, while letting ourselves be awed by the ones we’ll never be able to attain.

For example, I’ll never know everything like God knows everything. He’s God. Omniscience belongs to Him alone. When I think of this and realize He knows things we’re not even aware are able to be known, I am amazed by Him. This is just one of many reasons He is worthy of worship, and worship draws me closer to Him. I know wisdom is important to Him, though, so I can ask Him to provide it for me and do my part to gain it. I also know God uses His wisdom to help all people find Him and grow to know Him better. I can ask His Spirit to guide me to the wisdom I need to help the people He brings into my life draw closer to Him as well. My efforts are miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but God will use them because He loves me. This gives me even more reason to praise Him.

Through our poor attempts to imitate the God we love (for His glory and our own good), we’ll gain greater understanding of and appreciation for Who God Is and how He works in this world. We’ll be drawn to worship, to praise, to love Him more. And because God Is our Father watching us, He will delight in our baby steps to be more like Him. He’ll respond as a Father to a child He deeply loves.

Father, there is nothing academic about growing to know more of You. Pair Your Word with our experiences in order to help us see with our own eyes what You are like. We want to know You more. We want a deeper relationship. Thank You for making this possible. We love You, Lord. Amen.

Posted in On My Mind Meditations

Living in Awe; Living Praise

“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.” -from the hymn, Blessed Assurance, by Fanny Crosby

I’ve mentioned before that of all kinds of prayer, praise most often perplexes me. When I determine to dedicate a part of my prayer time to praise, it often feels more contrived than sincere, though my heart is sincerely full of praise, awe, and wonder at the incomprehensible greatness of our God. I feel I praise Him best by praying the songs of David as I read my Bible or by singing worship songs at church or along with the radio in my car. Those are good things to do, but I want to learn to give God more. It’s kind of like the difference between buying a greeting card with just the right words or writing the sentiment yourself. The words on the card may perfectly express what’s in my heart, but the message would be more meaningful if I could give my own words.

So often, though, I feel my attempts fall short of what’s in my heart. When I pray, “Lord, You know all things,” I’m reciting a fact, not offering praise. How does one find words worthy of a praise offering to God? How does one dig so deep?

I’ve been thinking on this a lot this week, and I have a few ideas:

1. Praise begins with noticing. We need to ask God to make us aware of His work in our world, all around us everywhere. As we learn to see what He is doing, His work will inspire us to live in awe of Him. Talking to Him about the things we notice He is doing, things only He can do, is offering praise.

Notice the hair on the plant in the picture above, for example. God’s attention to detail is amazing! And those little hairs that we rarely notice have a job to do, helping to keep the plant healthy. Our God is incredibly detail-oriented, providing for the needs of everything He creates. Noticing this leads us to praise.

2. Praise is born of passion and personal experience. The worship songs we sing and the Psalms that resonate most deeply are the ones we can relate to personally; we recognize the truth of the words because we’ve experienced their truth for ourselves. Therefore, we can draw on our past experiences and current circumstances, proclaiming God’s work in them, in order to offer our own praise.

For example, instead of praying, “Lord, You know all things,” I can pray about something specific I know He knows: “Lord, You know how I feel about this situation. Someone is treating me unfairly, yet You know her heart and her motivations as well as mine. You love both of us and want what’s best for us. You are able to bring resolution to this situation. Help us both to see what we need to about the other, so we can understand each other and get along.” This prayer is a request, but it’s a request full of sincere praise, recognizing God’s work in our lives and offering trust, one of the greatest forms of praise.

Another example: “Lord, I am feeling pressed for time – so many demands on my life! But You are the very Creator of time. When Joshua needed more time to win a battle, You made the sun stand still for him! Because I know You are able to do that, I know You have given me all the time I need as well. I will trust You to guide me in using this resource wisely because I know You love me and want me to accomplish Your good purpose for my life, also a gift from You. All of this world’s resources – even time – are Yours. You give Your children everything they need.”

To praise God sincerely, we don’t have to sit down for this purpose and struggle to find words to say. Instead we live our praise, noticing God at work as we go about our day, giving Him credit and naming His attributes in action. As Fanny Crosby proclaimed, our stories give Him praise; they praise Him throughout every day.

Father, please help us to live aware of Your Presence and work in our lives. We want to notice, so we can proclaim praise! You are worthy and we love You. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Posted in Parachute Prayers, This Morning's Message

Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do

My name is Janet. I am a perfectionist. I wish I could say I were a recovering perfectionist, but that would only be wishful thinking. It isn’t for lack of trying, though. I’ve read many books on the subject. Perhaps you have too? If so, you know escape from this, um, malady is quite elusive.

God’s been talking to me about this today, though. Bombarding me with thoughts from every source. I think maybe I’m starting to catch on. Perhaps if I share some of these thoughts with you, one or two will stick with me . . . so someday I can be perfect! (You see how defeating this tendency is?!) But someday I will be because God is perfecting me. He just isn’t done yet, and I keep trying to hurry Him up.

Today’s barrage began with these verses:

“The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them, and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” -1 Samuel 10:6-7

These were Samuel’s words to Saul as he prepared to crown him Israel’s new king. Saul wasn’t anybody, and he was far from perfect, but God chose him, and God’s Spirit changed him. Had Saul embraced this change, God’s Spirit within him – God’s guiding Presence all around him, he would have done no wrong by doing whatever his hand found to do! Unfortunately, he let being a king go to his head and chose to go his own way. Things went badly for him after that. But for a longing-to-recover-perfectionist, these words are quite freeing. So long as God is with me, His Spirit within me, my heart devoted to Him, I don’t have to fear making mistakes. I can do whatever my hand finds to do for Him, and God will use it somehow. In fact, I trust that even if my attempt is misguided, He’ll recognize my heart in the right place, redeem the intent, and use it anyway! He is able to do that because He is God.

After reading that passage in Samuel’s first book, I found these words in a devotional:

“God’s grace changed me, so over time I stopped thinking about all the things that were wrong with me and I started thinking more about all the things that were right with Jesus. I have since discovered that we become what we behold, and as I beheld Jesus, I started to become more like Him because God’s Spirit was at work in me.” -Christine Caine, Unshakeable, p. 46

God’s Spirit changed Saul. God’s grace changed Christine. God changes you and me, too! But when grace changed Christine, it taught her to refocus her thoughts. I love that she learned to stop thinking about all the things that were wrong with her, thinking about all the things that are right with Jesus instead. To me, this sounded like a new Parachute Prayer. Let’s call it the Parachute Prayer for the Perfectionist! Whenever we catch ourselves trying to fix ourselves, we can praise God for Who He Is instead. In time, He’ll do the fixing. Our job is to behold Him and wait.

Next, I came across this verse:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

I gave myself this lecture in my journal:

“Get off the performance treadmill and embrace grace! Focus on Who God Is and all He has done. Worship Him instead of berating yourself. He will gently change you. Let Him do the work while you wait and worship and do whatever He leads you to do. ‘Wax on. Wax off.’ Some day it will all make sense.”

For those who don’t understand the waxy reference, it’s from the movie, The Karate Kid. The kid wanted to learn karate. His teacher had him wax his car. He didn’t understand, but he obeyed. Later, it proved to be a valuable part of his training. Sometimes God works with us in the same way. We do whatever he leads us to do; He does His mysterious work in us.

And finally, our pastor preached from this verse as he wrapped up his Trust Issues series from Psalm 23:

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23:6

Now I’ve really enjoyed this series and took careful notes all the way through, even today! But God was still talking to me about perfectionism, so I got two messages this morning at church. I’m mostly going to write about what God was saying to me. To illustrate his message, our pastor chose a picture of a girl hiking up a mountain. The photographer focused on the back of her head, shoulders, and backpack, so it felt as if we were following her. All morning, God had been telling me to focus on Him instead of my imperfections, to do whatever he led me to do. That picture and verse made everything clear to me in a unique way.

Because my husband is in the military, we’ve moved many times. This means there have been many times that I have gotten into a fully loaded car, pulled out behind my husband driving a fully loaded truck, and followed him across the country, always with a child or two or three, and sometimes a dog in the seats surrounding me. And when we started doing this more than twenty years ago, we didn’t have phones with GPS’s on them to tell us where to go. My husband had the map; I followed him. In fact, because I wanted to get where we were going and have a terrible fear of getting lost, I followed closely. I matched his speed. I stayed in the same lane. I got off the road if he got off the road. I focused on the back of his vehicle, knowing it would lead me where I wanted to go.

When we follow Jesus, our Shepherd, this way, His goodness and love follow us. In fact, our pastor said the Hebrew word means they literally chase us. In my mind, being perfect is being Christlike which is being perfectly loving and good in every circumstance. Therefore, instead of me pursuing perfection, I follow Christ – with the intensity of one who does not want to get lost! – and then the very thing that’s been eluding me all of my life will begin to chase me – as Jesus leads me home.

If I try to be perfect, I will fail. If I follow Jesus wherever He leads, God will eventually perfect me. And I will dwell in His Presence forever. You can, too!

My name is Janet. I’m a child of God. I want to be whatever He wants me to be, so I’m watching to see what He’s doing and where He will lead. I know He’s working through all things for good, to benefit His Kingdom and glorify His Name. I am thankful He’s invited me – just as I am – to be part of His work.

Father, You’ve given us so many reasons to take our eyes off of ourselves and to put them on You. You are worthy of our worship and of all of our thoughts. Please help me to remember today’s lessons. Expand on them as You will. And use them to help others who struggle as I do. I thank You, Lord. Amen.


You can read more lessons I learned from moving in my book, Home Is Where God Sends You, available from Amazon. My book on Parachute Prayer is available there as well.

 

Posted in This Morning's Message

What’s Your Hurry?

“Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lord and the priests came to the other side while the people watched.” -Joshua 4:10-11

I have to be honest. Technically, this isn’t this morning’s message. It’s a message from a few days ago. I’ve just been too busy to write out my thoughts. This is kind of funny considering what the message is. Read on to learn why.

As I read the account of Israel crossing the Jordan to enter the Promised Land at last, my thoughts were snagged on the phrase hurried over. I pictured myself taking my children by their hands and urging them to cross the street quickly so impatient drivers on either side of the crosswalk wouldn’t have to wait . . . you know, in case they decided not to.

Then I wondered why the Israelites felt a need to hurry. After all, God was the One holding the water back. I’m pretty sure He could have done so for eternity if He had wanted to, accomplishing everything else He wanted to all at the same time. And since holding the water back so His people could cross safely was His idea in the first place, there was no reason for the people to hurry across. I wondered if hurry meant something else like they immediately did what God told them to do. I decided to look it up.

According to the Key Word Bible, though, the Hebrew word translated here as hurried over means ran, as in raced. The Israelites were not immediately obeying; they were running to get across that river as fast as they could!

But why? Only Joshua, Caleb, and adults who were children at the time of the Exodus could possibly have remembered their first miraculous river crossing as God’s people, but perhaps recalling what happened to the Egyptians who tried to follow them gave them incentive to hurry everyone across.

Or maybe the sight of all that water piling up and towering over them made them nervous.

Or maybe they didn’t trust in God’s ability to hold the water back for however long it would take.

The Bible doesn’t give us their motivation, so we can only speculate. But my takeaway for today is that when God gives me a task to complete, I can trust Him to help me complete it. He offers all the resources I need, even time, so if I feel pressured to hurry, I’m not trusting Him to provide.

Yes. God wants me, and you, to obey immediately. But He also wants us to give Him our best work. Pulling our kids along by the hand as fast as we can is not necessary when God says, “Time to cross.” In fact, if a sea shell catches my eye, God will probably be delighted if I stop for a moment to stoop down and examine it, especially if I take the time to thank Him for pointing it out and then share my find with my kids. Better yet, we can stop right in the middle and look up at the awesome wall of water God is holding right over our heads, knowing we are safe because God is the One Who Is holding it back. Taking the time to praise Him at the busiest time of day is a powerful way to worship and practice trust.

Father, sometimes I get into such a hurry that I lose sight of what’s most important. Frantic in my own efforts, I carry an unnecessary burden while You do the real work. Help me to remember that You are all-powerful; You are in control. I can go about my business, the business You’ve given me, in the confidence that You will provide all I need. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Posted in Parachute Prayers

A Parachute Prayer for the Frazzled and Harassed

Ever have one of those days when every piece of mail, every e-mail or text message, and every phone call seems to contain an urgent demand, a problem to fix immediately? Days like that can leave one feeling frazzled and harassed. So can some people or circumstances if they keep coming at us day after day with some perceived need or complaint. Not being able to soothe them or fix things can fill us with unrest and stress.

This is a call for prayer. I have two suggestions for you today.

First, at the moment of harassment, as you open the letter or read the text, pray. Say, “God, I know You are seeing this right along with me. Please give me the wisdom, strength, and help I need. I commit this to Your care right now.” We are not alone in our struggles, and God is able to handle them for us, to grant us His grace, His favor, and His peace.

Second, whenever you feel overwhelming agitation, panic, or stress, find a quiet place alone and simply stop. Be still in God’s Presence. In fact, if your smart phone, watch, or fitness device has a stop watch feature, set it for 1 to 5 minutes. Sit where you won’t be distracted and pray until the timer goes off. Devote those minutes exclusively to God.

How you pray during these devoted minutes is important, though. You may be tempted to spend the whole time complaining about everything in your life that is pressuring you, but that will only increase your agitation, panic, and stress. Instead, give these to God quickly, as you did in the above first step, then spend the rest of the time praising God for everything You know about Him that makes Him able and willing to care for you, enjoy His Presence, and thank Him for His good gifts. If you have time, look for the gifts contained in the people or circumstances that are causing you stress. Thank God for these especially.

Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble, but then He told us to take heart (have courage) because He has overcome the world. Sitting in His Presence reminds us that He is in charge and fills us with His peace. This gives us the strength we need to move forward through whatever tries to frazzle; Jesus will provide the self-control and calm spirit we need.

Father, please teach us to come to You when our spirits need soothing. Thank You for knowing who or what is harassing us in the course of a day. Thank You for being in control and able to handle it all! We’re so blessed to be Your children. We’re so thankful You are our God.


If you’d like to learn more about Parachute Prayer, perhaps develop a new habit in the coming year, my book on the subject is available on Amazon. To find it, click here.

Posted in Wildflower Thoughts

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.

Posted in Random Reflections

On Choice: a Psalm of Sorts

psalm-9-1-2

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” -Psalm 9:1-2

I will thank, tell, rejoice, sing praise.

I choose to do so; this is a choice I make.

God is worthy—worthy of more than I can offer.

When I think, when I write, when I move, I can choose to offer my thoughts and words to Him instead of to past and present concerns. Or maybe in sync with these, letting Him align it all.

I can choose to focus on His never-ending Presence, the most priceless gift, and enjoy it as fully as I can—soaking it all in, though I may feel duty-drawn away. My energy, both physical and mental, it all belongs to Him.

I will choose to surrender it in thanksgiving, in stories, in joy, in praise—I love You, Lord! Amen.

Sometimes I treat spending time with God like an extravagance—a luxury instead of a necessity. I feel responsible to do so many other things first. But my relationship with God matters most. He is my life—my strength—my purpose. God first—essential to my spiritual and emotional health . . . His right as Lord of my life. I enter His Presence every morning—I try to remain there always. This is how I trust Him with the details of each day.

Posted in Lingering with the Word

Prowling Devil, Crouching Sin

abel“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” -Genesis 4:7

The Bible doesn’t tell us, specifically, why God looked with favor on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s. It only hints that perhaps Cain gave less than his best, a token offering of obligation, in place of a gift of worship from a fully grateful heart. In contrast, Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock, showing thanksgiving for all he’d received and trust that God would continue to give more.

Cain became angry, though he probably knew what he’d done. But God responded with kindness and grace, gently letting Cain know that he could have favor, too. He only had to choose to do right. Instead, Cain followed the path he’d set out on when he chose to give God less than his best. He received God’s response to his gift with an angry heart. Then he made his situation worse, murdering his brother in a field. (See Genesis 4:8.)

When we do what is right, following God obediently with love and gratitude, He blesses us with everything we need to live out His plan for our lives. We enjoy His Presence, the knowledge that our lives honor Him, and His Spirit within. This Spirit gives us guidance and strength as we continue to walk with God.

If we choose not to do right, though, making selfish choices and holding back from God what is His, sin crouches at our door. We give the devil an opportunity to tempt us even further from God. Peter warns us just as God warned Cain:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8

It works like this:

If we think of life as a journey toward greater knowledge of and a closer relationship with God, every right choice is a step toward that end. Our obedient choices draw us closer to God Who makes us more like Christ, developing strong character and a healthy heart. Every wrong choice, though, is a step away from this that gives the devil an opportunity to lead us further away. Too many steps away, steps we might not even realize we’re taking, can leave us wandering like Cain, a lion’s meal in the making.

This is why we must live alert and keep a sober (as in contemplative or restrained) mind. As we make daily decisions, we must ask what draws us closer to God, what makes us more like Him, what honors His name, what helps His Kingdom grow?

Though Abel’s life was cut short, he earned a place in Hebrews’ Faith Hall of Fame:

“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” -Hebrews 11:4

He didn’t set out to do anything special, he simply lived to honor God and offered his best to Him. We can choose to live this way, too.

Father, help us to remember that our choices matter. Open our eyes to clearly see which decisions honor You, draw us closer to You. We choose to live by faith, with gratitude. You are our God, and we love You. Amen.

Posted in Random Reflections

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.

Posted in Lingering with the Word

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.