Thanksgiving Week #3

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6- (NLT)

I grew up in a small town. It was an idyllic town, where everyone knew everyone and it was safe. I thought I always wanted to stay there and be content.

Then, I married a sailor. My life was transformed on that day, I left the security of my small hometown. I was literally plunged into strange environments. Being from the North, going to the South was confusing to me. I had no footing, nothing was familiar.

From the South, we moved to Japan. Now, that was really confusing to me, but somehow it was much more comforting than our first duty station together. The Lord began to work in me.

Eventually, we ended up in Southern California. We watched the city grow from a dirty navy town into a metropolitan area. With the growth came the influx of the homeless. I know there are many reasons for homelessness, and I am not going to go into that topic. I just mention this to make a point.

Upon seeing those who were destitute, I realized how fortunate I am. Too often we take for granted those things around us. A roof over our heads, heat that can be turned on and off, shoes for our feet, blankets to sleep under, beds to sleep on. I often remind myself of the blessings I have.

I may not have the best of all things, but, this Thanksgiving Day I am certain of this. For all that I do have, I am grateful. For the meal that I will eat, I am grateful. For the family around the table, I am grateful.

In this season of glitter and lists and shopping, I am thankful for what I will be able to do, who I will be able to bless in some way.

Lord, on this Thanksgiving Day, thank You for Your glorious provisions. You know that I have come to You many times asking for peace, for reassurance, for comfort. You also know that You remind me of the bountiful blessings that surround me. So, today, Lord, let those who are frightened, cold, and unsure be touched by those who will minister to them. Keep the cold warm, the discouraged, encouraged, and those without hope, shine into their lives. Help me to do what I can willingly. Let me reflect Your glory. Amen.

Prayer of Gratitude

Father, I thank You. You have blessed my life in ways that were unimaginable. You bless this earth with abundance.

The weather is under Your word. Father, please be with those who are suffering still from the effects of the hurricane. Supply what they need for their lives, for their homes, for their families. Let them see what all You are doing. Bless the workers who have given up time to be a help during this time.

For our country dear Lord, You established this glorious country. You have guided leaders to follow after You and You alone. Allow the vision of our Founding Fathers to be established once more in the hearts of Your people.

Oh Lord, How I praise You! The earth sings of Your glory. The sun shines brightly, illuminating the artistry of Your right hand. Revive our eyes to see the beauty of your palette. Let us rejoice in Your creation.

Today, especially, as we enter our houses of worship, let us hear Your word and respond. I am so thankful for all of this Lord. I am grateful for this life You have given me, Amen.

Be Quiet

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

Each Sunday morning our church is open for prayer before the service. Since Dale is on the worship team, and they practice before church, I naturally participate in the prayer time. It isn’t a structured prayer time, we have some of the classrooms open to use as a prayer room, or you can pray sitting in the sanctuary and listen to the practice at the same time.

I like to walk and pray. I need the movement and it keeps my mind alert. I was about to go my normal route today when I was stopped. Not by anyone, but by the voice I felt in my heart.

I felt like I was being told to sit down, and be quiet. Don’t say anything (that’s hard for me), but sit. I found a corner of one of my favorite rooms and sat still.

In the quiet a peace flowed over me. I had no great revelation. No angelic visitor. No thundering voice of God. Nothing dramatic. I sat in a chair in a corner of the room. I was still and I felt peace.

As I have mentioned before, and as anyone who knows me, it’s hard for me to be still. To just sit. I would love to say that I succeeded in being still for an hour just absorbing the quiet and peace, I would love to admit that, but I can’t. I think I sat for about 5 minutes. Those five minutes, though, exactly what I needed.

What God can accomplish in five minutes with someone who is willing to stop and listen is more than what any seminar or counselor can do in months. Sometimes we need to be told to “Be Quiet”.

In the Message the above scripture includes verses 8-10, as I read it, I knew what I needed today was to truly be quiet. Here it is,“Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:8-10 (MSG)

Sometimes we need to stop, not long, just long enough to be quiet before God.

Prayer

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” I Timothy 2:1 (NLT)

Father God, You see the whole world. Your eyes do not miss those who are ill or those who are weeping, those who are grieving, those who are frightened and unsure. Each person, each problem, each dilemma is being noticed by Your eyes.

Today I humbly ask that You allow those whose tears are falling to feel Your perfect presence. For those who are in lonely places, sit beside them and comfort them. For those in the hospital, speak healing and restoration to them. For those who are grieving, wrap Your arms of understanding around them.

Daily, Lord we hear of requests for prayer. Each one brought because of the weight that is being carried by those we love and care for. We can only offer ourselves as listeners, but You can resolve issues and pains.

Father, open our eyes to see Your glory, Your power, and Your presence. Alone we are nothing. Together, if we keep our eyes on You, we can stand, and hold one another up. Brace and embrace today Lord. I ask this in Your precious Name. Amen

“O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble and oppressed; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to hear,” Psalm 10:17 (AMP)

Humbled

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Several weeks ago, our pastor challenged the people in our church to come early on Sundays and pray. The challenged hit me hard, as I used to do this all the time while living in San Diego, and had not considered doing this here in South Carolina.

I started to do this while Dale was practicing with the worship team before church. Of course, while we visited Little Miss, I spent time with her. Yesterday was our first Sunday back in church. I started walking through the sanctuary and through the hallways. I like to walk while praying, it reminds me of the children of Israel going into the promised land. They took possession of the land with each step they took.

The church we are in has been dormant for years. Rooms that have not been used for decades stand open ready to be filled with people learning, teaching, sharing, and discovering the goodness of God. I walk to claim that these rooms be filled with people searching for God. We live in a hurting world where circumstances and situations are unbearable. As Christians, it is our honor to reach out to these people. To love them and understand them. Deuteronomy 11:23-24, is what I think of, “Then the Lord will drive out all the nations ahead of you, though they are much greater and stronger than you, and you will take over their land. 24 Wherever you set foot, that land will be yours. Your frontiers will stretch from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.” (NLT)

I don’t say this to brag, but to give you a basis of what I experienced Sunday morning. I walked through the sanctuary, the foyer, I looked out to the parking lot and prayed that it would be filled, that people would flock to the church. I went to the Children’s Church room, prayed for the leader, the children and that the room would be filled to capacity. In the hallways I prayed for laughter, giggles and children running rampant and parents yelling at kids for being too wild. In my mind I can hear the echoes of children.

I then went into the teen room. Our teen group is starting this Wednesday. I prayed for the teens. This is also where I am leading a Bible study next week for the ladies. This is what hit me. I felt the Lord overwhelm me with my inability to teach His words. It wasn’t a feeling of doom, dread or condemnation. It was a feeling of being honored and humble to do so. Humble like an undeserved honor to be able to share His word.

It reminded me, once more, of the gift of this blog, and my attempts that writing is to me. Thank you Lord for enabling me to put together words. They are Your words and I am grateful for the trust You have given me. Hide me as I write and teach, reveal Yourself through my attempts. May I always be aware of Your presence in my life. Amen.

He’s Got This

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)

I can either be a Pollyanna person, seeing just the best in all situations or a Scarlett O’Hara who will fiddle de de a situation into tomorrow when I will think about it. Neither one is a good solution permanently, there is a need for balance in all things.

I do love this scripture, though, for it’s beginning, be anxious for nothing. I need that reminder often. When I have something to pray for or about, I can find myself being anxious. Eventually, I am able to give over the situations to God. Place my cares, my anxieties, my doubts into the precious hands of our Lord and let Him take care of it.

There is time when I apply all parts of this scripture to a cause or person. I can honestly approach the throne of grace and lay out my concerns, my dilemma, or a loved one placing them at the feet of God. It is in those times that I am comfortable in my prayer and attitude.

Prayer is a tricky thing, I think. What we pray in the natural mind and for what we think is a viable prayer is one thing. Our God knows our heart. He sees beyond the words spoken and looks into our hearts and into the reason of prayer. It is often said that God answers prayer three ways, yes, no, or wait. I also think there is a fourth way that prayer is answered. This answer is beyond our expectations. As I said, God looks at what we praying for, and He sees the person, the situation that is the object of prayer. Our God sees it all. Our heart, our need, our situation. He is intimately aware of the entire situation.

What we may perceive as a wonderful answer for us, may not be wonderful for a situation or a person we are praying for. We tend to ask for a resolution and a positive action. We want it all tied up in a pretty package with a lovely bow on top. Sometimes that may not be the best thing. That is where faith and trust in God comes.

We see with our human eyes and imagine outcomes from our human brains. God is so much greater. He sees eternity. He sees the beginning, the middle and the end. It’s not that prayer is unnecessary, it’s just that in our human ways we can limit God, thinking we know what the best answer is.

When we entrust our prayers to God, we know that He will work all things out. That is who He is. It is then that we must remember to thank Him for all that He has done. How many times do we say, “that’s an answer to prayer”? Do we then stop and thank our Father in heaven for that answer? It is my belief that this is a vital part of prayer. Thanksgiving and thankfulness is a condition we need to clothe ourselves in. As a child I learned please and thank-you as good manners, with our God we can say please often, but is it followed with thank-you?

“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

Today I had news of an answered prayer I have brought before the Lord for years. It is a prayer close to my heart for someone I love. As I hung up from the phone call, I smiled and said, “Thank You Lord, this is above my wildest expectations. You are so great.” He is great and worthy to be praised.

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)