Ouch! In a good way

When we lived in San Diego I became involved in prayer ministry. A group of us would meet an hour before church each Sunday and pray for the service, the pastor, the city, and any pressing needs we may have.

A lot was crammed into those hour prayer times. It formed a bond with many who were part of the team. Some of my favorite memories happened during the hour before church.

When we moved to South Carolina, I attempted a couple of times to pray before church. Some time while living in the low country and then once we moved upstate, here.

I became discouraged here as I truly didn’t know people of the church well. I could see the faces of those who sat in each seat, but I didn’t know the people. I prayed for the service, which I could figure out, and then I wasn’t familiar with the city to pray for the community.

San Diego was easy to pray. I knew that to the west was the Pacific, and I knew what suburbs were against the water. North was towards Los Angeles and so I could pray for the north county, for the marines on Camp Pendelton , and for the communities north of the church. East was the mountain towns that eventually lead to the desert. South were the communities close to the border of Mexico. I knew the direction to face and how to pray. I was confident in those times. I knew the city, I knew the people, I knew the church.

Change in location shifts your confidence. At least it did mine. I have always had the desire to pray and to lead prayer. I have been to prayer conferences where I have learned so much. Nothing in my desire has changed, nothing in my knowledge has shifted, yet, moving cross country disoriented my focus and confidence.

This morning at church our Pastor preached an incredible sermon. It was titled “When God’s People Pray”. The message was encouraging, and yet at the same time it produced an OUCH in me. I knew everything he was saying and in fact, I have said a lot of what he said at different times in my life. Prayer is important.

I felt it was time for me to return to what I had been doing long ago. That was the ouch part. But, it was a good ouch. More like a jab to the heart of me to prod me to do what I know how to.

The message was so encouraging also. For years I doubted why I liked to pray. Was I really called to lead and teach in this area? Or, was it vanity on my part for being asked to teach and lead so many years ago? Those two questions have plagued my thought process for a very long time.

I have not stopped praying. I wouldn’t know how to do that. Part of that stems from my Catholic roots and the prayers I learned as a child. I continue to pray for my Pastors, for my church, for the city we live in (although I still have no clue which direction is which)

Today our pastor talked about what the prayers of the saints are. They are incense to our Lord. The tears we cry while praying are put in a bottle with our name on it and written in the Lord’s book. God keeps track of our prayers. As I sat in my chair, I remembered all the tearful prayers I have prayed over the years. They have been perfume to the Lord and He takes notice of what we pray.

I have not relayed as well what was spoken today, but this is one sermon that will not leave me. It struck a chord deep within and something shifted back to me. The prodding that took place realigned what had shifted in the move across this country. I felt my confidence start to return in this area. I left church full. I received fresh bread in the words spoken. I was renewed.

I don’t know how I will put into practice what I relearned today, but I hope in the Lord to guide and direct me in His perfect way. We serve a great and mighty God. He cares for us. He listens to us. He hears our prayers.

“In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Jeremiah 29:12 (NLT)

Another Confession, (sigh…)

I am a human. I am learning. Most of the time, I am relearning because I didn’t learn the first time. I have often said that the Lord has a sledge hammer with my name on it beside His throne of grace. I often picture Him sighing, and leaning over and picking it up once more to whap me upside the head so that I will get the message. It is a well worn hammer, I picture it worn on both sides from use.

For years, I have opened my eyes in the morning and thanked the Lord for the new day. Often I will remember to put on the armor of God. I always say, ‘I give this day to You, Lord, it is Yours.’ That sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? I almost sound like I am in tune with God.

And then… (There is always that statement.) I begin to tell the Lord what I am going to do with my day. I like to be organized and fit as much as I can in each day. The same is true in walking. Each lap, I pray for particular people. I am regimented. There has to be order.

This morning I started my walk, one lap, two laps, and on the third lap I heard it. “STOP! You are doing it again. ” It took a few seconds for the message to get to my brain. Again, I am making certain that I am doing everything I THINK I need to do. I overcompensate in almost every area. I confess it.

Once more my Lord leaned over about to grab that sledge hammer. Like a dog learning obedience I stopped and gave a sad puppy look to heaven.

I often tell others that they are enough, just like they are. They don’t need to strive because our Lord loves them, knows the number of hairs on their head, and even those in the hairbrush, that our Lord sings for joy over them each morning. I can believe that for others.

After realizing that I was once more trying to ‘do’ what I felt was right. What I was doing was rote, I heard, “Just walk. You are missing Me in trying to accomplish your list.”

I spent the rest of the walk silently walking. I remembered how I have had conversations with so many where I couldn’t get a word in edgewise and yet, here I have been doing that with our Lord. Prayer is a conversation.

So, I end with this. Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for not listening. Forgive me for not allowing You to move in my day the way You desire. Forgive me for not seeing my worth in You. I love you Lord.

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118: 24 (NLT)

Clear the View

Last week Dale and our son-in-law cleared 150 feet into the woods surrounding our home. They cut down several dead trees, branches that were hanging down, shrubs that were growing and had no where to go. Our home is surrounded on three sides by trees and brush, so with our acreage we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

As they finished this process last week you could see the difference immediately. Our views into the woods was remarkable.

When you go through your daily life little things escape your attention. It is like seeing a child after a long time. You comment on their growth, and the parent sometimes replies, “have they really grown?” To the parent the difference is unnoticeable unless it is a major growth spurt.

In our case, we saw branches hanging down and saw the shrubs appearing in the woods. It became our view and we enjoyed it. As we began the process of clearing in June we became aware that we hadn’t truly seen into the woods the past couple of years. It was unhealthy for our woods. The brush and shrubs could not flourish, and the trees were vying for the sunlight and nourishment from the ground.

Of course, as I always do, I saw the relation of the woods to my spiritual walk. I can profess my Christianity, pray, read my Bible, and do all the “things” I am supposed to do. I can do this forever.

The question remains though, how many dead limbs am I carrying around? How many ‘shrubs’ are sprouting out of me that are not being nourished? What do I need to do to clear the view and truly see the Lord in my life?

Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” (NKJV) How can I seek my Lord when I have dead limbs hindering my view?

Lord, today, let me clear my view to You. Remove the stubble and weeds in my life. I ask for clarity of thought, mind and purpose. Let me search for You and find You. Amen.

A Little Man Lesson #1

“You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set.” Psalm 104:19(NLT)

(Reposted and reworked from Sept. 2013 on dearanonymousfriend, my other blog)

Last evening, after I had arrived at my precious daughter and son-in-law’s home, we took a walk.  It was a nice evening for a long walk and we covered a nice area.

We ended up at a park that they hadn’t explored.  We played on teeter totters and rocking horse type swings and slides and more swings.  There were gales of laughter and giggles (from me… the baby was laughing also).  We had a wonderful time.

As we were heading back to the stroller the baby bent down and picked up a leaf.  The leaf was starting to turn brown and was at the point of being able to be crunched, if stepped upon.  However this leaf was not meant to be crunched at this time.  My precious little man picked it up gently, and walked over to another tree and tried to put the leaf back onto the tree.

He looked a bit confused when the leaf refused to be put away, and his Momma explained that leaves fall and that is how it is.

I have thought of this all day long today.  First of all, we take for granted leaves on the ground.  Some may grumble that they have to be raked up and disposed of.  Others know that the leaves have abandoned their posts on the trees in preparation for winter.  These leaves are meant to be crunched on as a part of the passage from summer to fall.

“As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Genesis 8:22 (NLT)

But, this leaf was gently picked up and considered.

Then, there was the attempt to put the leaf back onto the tree.  It was a precious gesture.  The baby knew that leaves belong on trees and therefore, it needed to put back onto the branches where the green leaves were hanging.

This is what I got from watching this.  I too often pass situations up, people also.  I see them ‘laying on the ground’ and don’t notice them.  The situations or people don’t vie for attention.  So, they are left to be trodden underfoot and ignored. Quietly suffering alone.

That, in itself, is powerful enough.  But, no, my precious 13 1/2 month teacher went on to show me more.  How often do we try to put things back into place when the time for them there is over?  How many times do we try to keep doing something when the end date is weeks or months ago?

Sometimes it is wiser to let things lie, let them go and move on to a new season of life.  This can be difficult, but there are situations where change is not only necessary, but vital.

Today, my lesson was refreshed, look for the things in others and in situations that may need a gentle pick-up, some attention, some prayer.

 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

Ezekiel 16:60-63

Today in my quiet time, I read the 16th chapter of Ezekiel. As I have been reading the Old Testament prophets, I have thought of our country.

246 years ago our country declared it’s Independence. We stood strong and held closely to our beliefs. We wanted freedom of religion. We wanted to be able to worship our Lord without the dictates of how we should do that. We wanted freedom from taxation without representation. We wanted to be a sovereign country of our own.

There were many other reasons, and I cannot list them all as I am afraid I would not correctly list them. But, this I do know, our country was founded on God. Our forefathers depended upon Him. Their writings reflected Him. God was an integral part of the birth of this nation. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence did so knowing that their lives were on the line. Signing this document, could have meant signing their death warrants. The battle that followed also put men in direct path of death. They fought for what they believed in and held as truth in their hearts.

Now, 246 years later it is my belief that this country is like a petulant toddler. Generations have passed since the founding fathers put their life on the line. Our young country has grown, it has become powerful and yet our dependence on God has grown cold.

People often quote II Chronicles 7:14, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NLT) when they request prayer for our country. This is an excellent quote, but too often the phrase “and turn from their wicked ways” is not part of the prayer.

Our country is young. When children are young, they act out. Sometimes, toddlers are outright bad, hence the term ‘terrible twos’ or my favorite, ‘torturous threes’. Personally, I think our country needs more than a ‘time-out’, we need to receive direction and be accountable for our actions.

The sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel talks about the sin of Jerusalem. They had played the harlot and God was not pleased. He was angry. As I read the chapter I could see a similarity to our country. I prayed for our country for a return to God. To see a revival in this country.

The last part of the 16th chapter talks of God’s covenant with His people. His forgiveness. The shame of His people. “Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember with shame all the evil you have done. I will make your sisters, Samaria and Sodom, to be your daughters, even though they are not part of our covenant. 62 And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. 63 You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

May we, this long weekend leading up to the celebration of our country turn to God and away from the shame of our sins.

Yes, this is different from what I normally post, but, this is close to my heart. I love my country with an unending love. I am a proud American. I long for the day to come when, once more, we live by what our Founding Fathers lived by.

Prayer for My Country

“God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.” Proverbs 14:34 (MSG)

Dear Father, You led people here to establish a country for themselves. It has been a country that has given a safe haven for many. People see in the foundations of my country a place to worship freely without fear or fear of harm. People see this place as a place of opportunity, to pursue their God-given rights.

Father, lead this country back to You. May we drop to our knees and beg forgiveness of what we have allowed our homes to become. Forgive us for taking for granted what You alone have provided here. Turn us back, and lead us.

As we approach our Independence Day celebrations, let us remember what this country was founded and built on. Let us recall how many put their lives on the line to provide us with safety and security and freedom.

Let us truly be free in You, let us turn to You and You alone. Restore this country and restore this people. Amen

No Regrets

My mind has been scattered this afternoon. I sit here at my desk and ask the Lord what I should write. I do this each time I sit to write a post on my blog. To the right of me on the desktop are books, varied in interest. My desk is in our guest room so the books are there for whoever stays long enough to sit and read.

My thoughts are cluttered as I think about some conversations I have had, to what to take to the church potluck on Sunday, to wondering how our granddaughter is doing with her broken wrist. Like they say, women have spaghetti for brains, one thought touches another, touches another.

To the left of me on my desk are my journals. I go to them for ideas and memories many times.

Today I picked up one from 1993. I read an entry from November 8th. My Dad passed away suddenly on November 6th, 1993. The entry described the events leading up to Dad’s death, describing my last conversation with him. At the time, I felt it was important to chronicle this. I am so glad that I did. At the end of the passage I wrote the following, “I have no regrets”.

Family relationships are complicated. Even though my sisters and I were raised in the same house by the same father, we are each unique. We sometimes don’t understand one another, we can still squabble at times. But, there is a bond deeper than we can understand. It is the bond of family. We are knit together by something none of us can explain. The same holds true to our Dad. Each of us can see things so differently about him. We can remember things differently.

I knew at the time of my Dad’s death that there would come a time when I would question that last conversation with him. I would wonder if I had said enough, had I said too much or too little. I knew that regret may follow maybe not immediately, but time afterwards. That is why I wrote no regrets.

I have read that part of my journal many times. Sometimes they are just words. Today they hit me almost 29 years later. Again, I think it is that unexplained thread that holds families together.

My sisters and I each live in a different state. When we were little we thought that we would live close to one another, maybe next door or at least a block or two away. We have each settled miles from one another. We don’t see each other often. We talk, but not every day or even weekly. But, that bond. The bond that keeps us connected, keeps us together.

Father, I thank You today for my sisters. Thank You for the shared experiences and those that we went through alone. Father, I ask that You rain down blessing upon blessings for my sisters. May they find comfort, solace, courage and strength today. Keep them in the fold of Your arms. Thank you for placing our family together, You have had a plan and a purpose for all of us, let us live without regrets. Amen.

Shield of Faith

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT)

I love the 6th chapter of Ephesians, especially about the whole armor of God. For years I have dressed myself in this armor before getting out of bed. I know without that armor on me the day will be a long one.

For the most part I remember how I dressed in the morning. I feel confident in the Lord. I confess though, I recently feel like my feet are covered, my body is covered, but my sword is dragging behind me marking lines in the ground behind me. In my other hand the shield is flopping in rhythm as I trod along my day.

With each step the armor clanks against the ground and my shoes, almost tripping me. My head hangs down, not in total defeat, but lacking the energy to look ahead.

We all get this way from time to time. We get weary. The strength in our arms is depleted. The sword seems much too large to hold on. We look like a child playing dress up in an adult’s armor. Everything sags, droops and drops.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 43:5 (NKJV)

David felt like that. He probably remembered being dressed in armor to slay Goliath. He removed all the armor, tossed the sword aside and took smooth rocks and his sling. He conquered the giant. Yet, in his life, he was discouraged and distressed. He spoke to his soul, and turned his eyes heavenward.

Years ago I was encouraged by a fellow blogger. He encouraged me to say aloud, “The joy of the Lord is my strength, I have the joy of the Lord.” When we remind ourselves of Whose we are, our head begins to lift. We start to remember that the sword and the shield is custom made for us. It becomes easier to carry that Word in our hearts and our faith is renewed.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

Drought

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. Psalms 63:1 (NKJV)

I had read this scripture many times in my life and although I understood it, I didn’t really understand it until we lived in San Diego, CA. One year in particular, I remember the drought being very hard.

There had been no rain for several months that year. The grasses died, the ground was dusty. It is during these times that you realize that the area is mostly desert, although with all the yards and irrigation it is hard to see. This year was an exception. Watering had been stopped. Certain days of certain weeks you could water your lawn. The heat would cause rolling black outs. Running electrical things was limited for the evenings. So all laundry was done at night. Fires happened all around the county. It was a parched area that we lived in.

It was during this time that I reread the above verse. I prayed, like many that year, for rain. A nice soaking rain that would water not only the land, but would fill up the reservoirs and dams. I longed to see some soft, green grass.

In the course of praying I concluded that the land was not the only thing that was withered. Inside I screamed for refreshing and renewal. I needed a spiritual watering where I emerged restored. John 7:37-38 says, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (NKJV)

Thinking back on that time, I will never forget the feeling that came over me. The scriptures were brought alive to me. I had a visual of a dry and thirsty land and I could relate to the land. Often I return to that time and ask once more to be refreshed to be renewed, to be filled with the nourishing water for my thirsty soul.

Prayer

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” Unknown

We all enjoy conversations with one another. There are some conversations where the tone is light, airy and superficial. Other chats may become deep in revelation with one another. Exchanges with people can cover all areas or no areas at all. I think we have all experienced varieties of discussion.

I first learned about prayer that was not a rote prayer from a nun in my eighth grade year. Sister Kevin opened a class one day and introduced us to having a time of conversing with God. Growing up with reciting prayers from memory, this was a novel idea for me. But that lesson remained with me and still today I think back on that class.

Over the years I have been part of several courses on prayer. I often go back to the basic thought of conversation. When greeting someone, we do not carry on a one sided conversation. We allow the other person to respond and add to the exchange. (of course I have had those who don’t let you get a word in edge-wise also)

The same is true when starting a conversation with our Lord. He is not a jolly Santa who we come to and list our wants and desires and walk away with a treat. No, He is our Creator. He formed us in the wombs of our mothers. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He is intimately aware of how our body works and functions. And He longs to talk with us.

I am guilty of treating Him like a vending machine, expecting immediate results. That is one problem in this instant world of ours. Something breaks in the house? Go buy another. Hungry? Put something in the microwave and zap it. There are immediate answers for everything we set our eyes upon.

We just experienced a power outage at our home. In the seven years we have lived here, this has been the longest time without electricity. It was out for about an hour. It’s a very windy day. A tree had fallen on a line on the main road and that was the culprit. It is now fixed and things are once more humming in the house.

During that hour I went out to walk. The wind was whisking leaves around me, but there was a stillness I was aware of. Something was different.

As I was talking with the Lord while walking, I was impressed that sometimes our lives need to come to a halt. A time to quiet ourselves and listen. We may just hear the wind. We may hear a still small voice. Often, I hear a loud clearing of a throat and words telling me to stop and listen. Such was today on my walk. Our Lord wants to talk with us.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. Psalm 34:15 (NKJV)