Around the Corner

One night I clicked off the light in one room and had about five seconds before I reached the hallway. The hallway light was on, but for a moment I was in the dark because I hadn’t yet turned the corner.

We are often heading toward the next life destination or well-lighted place. The trouble isn’t the well-lit spaces of our lives, but those dim places in between. Even the most faith-filled Believer struggles with those dim places of uncertainty. It’s easy to profess faith when our surroundings are bright. However, when we find ourselves in the dark, facing unwelcome situations or uncertain aspects of our future, we must remind ourselves that God’s bright, steady light is just around the corner. It exists even when we can’t see it. In the midst of dim situations, we must remember that:

  1. Nothing takes God by surprise – God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. When failure, rejection, or loss throw us off kilter, we must press toward the security that God provides. Psalm 46:1-2 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas.”
    Isaiah 40:28 says “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
    Job 42:2 says “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
  2. Trouble doesn’t last always – the enemy tries to convince us that our difficult circumstances are permanent. Even when situations pull us far out of our comfort zone and force us into a new normal, we can rest assured that if we ask, God can adjust our mindset and vision about the situation. 1 Peter 5:10 says “The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good.”
    Psalm 30:5 says “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
    2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
  3. We are light-bearers – we carry the light of Christ inside us. We possess joy based on our hope and belief in Jesus. As a result, we never walk in complete darkness. No matter what is going on in our lives or in the world, we can cling to the everlasting hope that lives within us and allows us to bring light to whatever dark places we encounter. Psalm 37:5-6 says “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.”
    John 8:12 says “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Audacity of Anti-Prayers

In our prayer lives, we tend to have conversations with God about what we want: wisdom, joy, peace, and favor to name a few. However, there is also power in explicitly praying about what we do NOT want: ignorance, pride, hard-heartedness, temptation, and shame to name a few. The more specific we are in our prayers, the more we invite God to unleash His power into our situations.

Over the weekend, I encountered a lady who was emotional and quite upset. A couple of other women were consoling her. I must admit that I initially hesitated about whether I should offer to pray with her. However, I’ve learned the hard way that just as it says in Samuel 15:22, obedience is better than sacrifice. These days, if I feel led by God’s Holy Spirit to do something, I act first and ask questions later. Typically, my obedience is almost immediately confirmed with positive outcomes and a sense of peace. After walking away initially and feeling a heaviness and sense of spiritual urgency, I circled back and offered to pray with her. The lady accepted provided some background, and the small group of us bowed our heads, our hair touching in this intimate circle, as I prayed. I didn’t pray very long, but I did pray for what I believed she needed. I continued on with my anti-prayer, asking God to block unwelcome vices. I’m sharing this principle with you in hopes that it will amplify your own prayerful conversations.

Anti-prayer statements are paramount because of Matthew 18:18 which tells us that “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Is there a spiritual battle going on in heavenly realms? Absolutely! Ephesians 6:12 clearly states that “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Praying and stating what evil aspects are NOT allowed in a situation limits the enemy’s available room to operate. It’s like adding a clause to a contract that closes loopholes that the enemy would otherwise try to maneuver around.

As you pray for yourself, people, and situations that touch your heart, I encourage you to fortify your prayer life by stating what is welcomed and unwelcomed. For example, if you pray for (loose) faith, pray against (bind) fear. Cultivating a prayer life is like learning to play an instrument – the more often you practice, the better you’ll become.

So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

 

Hospitable Heart

The holidays gave me multiple opportunities to be a guest as well as a host. In some instances, I visited someone for a few daylight hours. In others, I was an overnight guest for several days. The hosting aspect brought similar variation. I would like to think that I am a terrific guest and host. However, if I am either, it is the result of intentional effort because my natural state is that of a loner who is most comfortable alone in her own space.

Yet, there is a tremendous blessing in giving and receiving hospitality. In this age of high-tech (and often impersonal) communication, tremendous joy is possible through the basic ritual of sharing a common experience. Meals, games, or other activities can bring people together in delightful ways. Before it was a phone feature – FaceTime was a real experience where people saw you, expressed concern based on their observations moreso than your statements, cared for you, and was interested in something other than your hashtag. Simply put, hospitality provides a vehicle for fellowship. Extending or accepting an invitation is an act of trust and vulnerability. You are sharing yourself with someone, serving, or allowing yourself to be served. The very thought of someone doing anything for me used to make me feel terribly guilty. However, several years ago the Lord flooded my home, making it uninhabitable for several months. That experience forced me to do what I struggled with doing my entire life – depend on and admit my vulnerabilities to other people. Thank God for a dear couple that I count among my closest friends. They allowed me (and my cat) to be their impromptu, multi-month house guests. That experience restored far more than my home, it brought healing to my heart. People rallied around me and encouraged me in all sorts of unexpected ways.

In any event, being a guest or host is no easy task. There is a great deal of additional work involved in preparing for a guest. Who wants to do MORE cleaning, cooking, preparation, logistics, etc.? Even as a guest, there are compromises involved so that you don’t inconvenience your hosts. 1 Peter 4:8-10 says “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”

As I stayed with friends and family over the holidays and several stayed with me, I found myself becoming increasingly sensitive about and grateful for these wonderful snippets of opportunity. We enjoy being a guest or host because it is love in action! Hospitality is a spiritual gift and expression of love. Love is what motivates us to go the extra mile to make others feel welcome, comfortable, wanted, and appreciated. Romans 12:13 says “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

We do not have to wait until the holidays or securing our dream house to exercise the gift of hospitality. Every day, we have a divine opportunity to make space in our hearts for others, to be gracious, welcoming, thoughtful, and generous.  The more we exercise these acts of loving kindness, the more proficient we’ll become. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is.

 

This Time It’s Personal!

A couple of years ago, the Lord told me to start a prayer blog. I waited far longer than I should have, wanting to be certain that I was being led by God and not my own prideful ambition. I was concerned about readers misunderstanding my motives. After all, I am a disciple, but no biblical scholar. I don’t have any fancy theological credentials. I am just a woman who loves God and believes in the power of prayer because I’ve seen it work. Trusting that God knew my intentions to glorify Him and not myself, on January 1, 2017, I posted my very first prayer-related blog post.

I often joke about being a recovering control freak. I was concerned about the undefined nature of this blog. How often would I write? How long should the posts be? Would readers feel encouraged to pray? Would people relate to the various examples and analogies that I included in my post? The planning techniques that serve me so well professionally were useless for this spiritual assignment. The Lord wanted me to step out in faith and trust Him to address every need.

To my wondrous amazement, the Lord inspired me to publish a new post each week. I never planned the blog in advance. I operated in prayerful expectation each week that God would show me a new way to encourage others to pray. Without fail, each week, the Lord gave me a fresh perspective. My life experiences amplified my personal prayer life and provided practical examples of the importance of prayer.

As 2017 draws to a close, my soul looks back with gratitude and forward with hope. The Lord has been dealing with my heart this year. Where I used to be guarded, the Lord has softened my heart – making me more emotionally flexible and spiritually sensitive. I rely less on my intellect and more on the urging of God’s Holy Spirit. I realized that God was there and speaking all the time, I just needed to tune in to listen to His instructions. The tranquil inner voice that reassures me of God’s love confirmed that I am to continue this work in 2018. However, where I would previously try to distill and generalize my life lessons, the Lord has told me that the next dimension of this blog will be far more personal. Revelation 12:11 says “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” I won’t whine, but I won’t gloss over the ugly spots either.

In 2017, I experienced heartbreak, rejection, criticism, hardship, fear, sorrow, frustration, and crisis. John 16:33 says “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I was never without hope because I never held on to any particular problem for long. I outsourced my worry, fear, regret, rejection, depression, guilt, despair, and “disses” – distress, disease, discomfort, and discord – to the Lord. He allowed me to hold fast to hope and to never doubt His love for me.  Jeremiah 31:3 says “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” This blog may assume a different tone in 2018, but the constant will be my declarations of God’s goodness and the importance of prayer.

Praying that in 2018 you will live Psalm 27:13 which says “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

Happy New Year! “However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.” -1 Corinthians 2:9

Pause for the Cause

If we aren’t careful, the holiday season turns into an energy-draining, logistical nightmare. Life goes from busy to frenetic as seasonal obligations overlap schedules that are already bursting at the seams. The pace can be exhausting as we try to cram family, work, social, community, and all manner of commitments into a compressed schedule. Under the guise of celebration, we can take on multiple forms of stress.

In those moments where we find ourselves overwhelmed, irritated, or fatigued, we should remember that we have the option to enter into the tranquil mindset of the Lord’s rest whenever we choose. While every source of stress won’t instantaneously disappear,  seeking God’s face allows us to recalibrate and view our life events with a fresh perspective. When what lies ahead seems daunting or discouraging, it is helpful to take a pause for the cause – just a moment to whisper a prayer regarding whatever concerns us. When we remind ourselves of who we are and the power that lies within us, we reinforce our belief that we never have to bear any burden alone. When taking a pause for the cause, it is helpful to:

  1. Acknowledge the ways God actively works in your life – think about ways that you experience God. In which situations do you feel His presence the most? Do you know Him to be a healer, provider, protector, refuge, and creator? Whether it’s the seeing the beauty of a sunrise, hearing the laughter of children, the reassurance of holding a pay stub, the smell of a delicious meal, or simply a feeling of peace, declaring God’s various roles provides a level of reassurance. Reflecting on everyday miracles is a way to encourage yourself and attest to God’s goodness. Psalm 145:9 says “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.”
  2. Declare that you belong to God – you are God’s creation. Being part of His family entitles you to a host of eternal benefits. Remind yourself that you are never alone and your heavenly father delights in you. God is always watching and waiting for an opportunity to be glorified through your life. He never wastes a crisis. Even when situations seem discouraging, difficult, or dire – reminding yourself that you are part of a divine order can bring a sense of peace, courage, and confidence as you seek His will for your life. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
  3. Admit that you need help – prayer unleashes God’s power, bringing it from the heavenly to the physical realm. Let the Lord know what burdens your heart and what distracts or discourages you. Ask God to help you heal from life’s hurts so that they do not fester and harden your heart. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
  4. Give God room to work – it’s meaningless to acknowledge God, declare your identity, admit your need, then not allow God to move on your behalf. We often take our burdens to the Lord, then pick them up the moment our prayer ends. Releasing a burden is both a powerful and humbling exercise. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

In this joyous holiday season, continue to seek God and remind yourself to take a pause for the cause. Take a moment to breathe, relax, and meditate on The One who is as close as the breath you just took in. Psalm 46:10 says,“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

 

Rest Assured

Each of us wants to live our best possible life. To that end, we struggle to balance our academic or career, family, community, and personal pursuits. What starts off sounding exciting and worthwhile can leave us feeling drained and depleted. Busy is the new fine – when asked how we’re doing, we often reply with some comment eluding to our busyness. The assumption is that a schedule packed with activities, obligations, and commitments somehow reflects a more fulfilling life. The truth is, in modern society, we are in dire need of more space and opportunity to be still, quiet, reflect, and recharge.

Busyness can be a tool of the enemy – feeling overwhelmed and burdened builds fatigue, resentment, and stress. Galatians 6:9 says “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Every good thing is not a God thing. Voltaire wrote that “the enemy of the best is the good.” We need to ask God for wisdom and discernment – to show us which commitments align with His will for our lives. Luke 10 tells the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus visited the home of these sisters and while Martha was busy with her hostess duties, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching. I believe we are guilty of this today – sometimes we are so busy fulfilling what we believe are essential activities that we completely miss precious opportunities to spend time with Jesus.

A lot of us resemble Martha – putting our personal agenda and action items ahead of quality time with God. The issue is that our time with God needs to be a priority and not an afterthought. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The good news is that time with God can take a variety of forms. Any activity that permits us to focus on God can become an act of worship or opportunity for prayer. For example, gardening, cleaning, cooking, singing, working out, and driving are times that we can commune with God acknowledging who He is and inviting Him into any situation that concerns us. We can also revel in and express appreciation for the sensory experiences associated with that moment. Seeking God in that moment turns ordinary activities into extraordinary worship. Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

The Lord wants us to enjoy our lives by putting our faith in Him. He wants us to worship the Creator rather than the Creation. 1 Timothy 6:17 says “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” The Lord doesn’t want us distracted and stressed. He wants us to be liberated – in a place where we can focus on and delight in His goodness. The Lord is willing to take on every burden, hurt, or sorrow that we face. We need only to invite Him into the situation to receive the relief that we desire. Matthew 11:28 says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

A Clear Signal

In this technological age, losing your signal translates to immediate disaster. A dropped signal may mean losing the connection during an important phone call. A wi-fi lapse can completely suspend your work efforts. Satellite TV viewers are frustrated when weather interferes with receiving a signal and ruins the video display.

Yet in our Christian walk, we seem rarely upset about a failure to maintain a clear signal with God. If our signal is weak, scrambled, faded, or otherwise compromised, we must acknowledge that:

  1. the signal failure is on our part, not the Lord’s. If the signal has grown distant or faded, it is because of us, not the Lord’s.  James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  2. the Lord knows exactly how we’re wired and sends the appropriate signal. The Lord created us. He knows us intimately and individually. Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Since He knows exactly how he created us and who He created us to be, He also knows exactly how to speak to us – how to send signals in ways that we understand. Psalm 18:6 says “In my distress, I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”
  3. we receive signals at different rates. We may enviously observe someone else’s enthusiastic Christian walk, wanting to be tuned to their same frequency. But their frequency isn’t designed for us. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says For I know the plans that I  have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
  4. the signal is intended to optimize, not break you – the receiving device. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” Romans 8:28 says that “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

The good news is, even if your signal is inactive or weak – you are just a prayer away from activating or improving your signal. Ask God to make your connection strong and clear. Psalm 145:18 says “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”