The Courage to Pray

Courage is “the quality of being brave: the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.” I’m finding that prayer takes a lot of courage as I let go of the known and trust God. Facing all life brings and all God asks without fear takes courage. Praying not only takes courage, it also gives me courage. It’s a blessing to have wonderful friends who encourage and pray for me; I am very blessed when it comes to friends and family, and I thank God for surrounding me with so much love. Love makes fear flee and gives me courage. Courage and encouragement are derived from the Latin root for heart. I’ve learned that my courage has to come from God’s love. As I share His love with others, we are both encouraged.

God is calling me way out of my comfort zone. He does that when He wants me to get out of His way so He can do His work through me. I don’t understand all He has in mind, but I do know that He is calling me to leave the known and trust Him in the unknown. It’s what faith is all about, and I’m learning to be still and remember that He is God and knows what He’s doing. Once I stopped wrestling and arguing with Him, I found the sweetest peace I’ve ever known.

It’s difficult to explain to others what I don’t understand myself, but those who know and love me don’t need an explanation. I love that about connectedness; it doesn’t require words, just love. I’ve studied God’s Word for many years now, and that study has been intense during the past four and half years. God is bidding me to step out and serve those who are disconnected from Him and from society. He is using disconnection to teach me powerful lessons that I must learn before I can do what He’s asking me to do. His ways are higher than mine, and sometimes they go right over my head. That’s when faith becomes even more important. Painful is an understatement when it comes to making the changes He’s asking me to make, and uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe my angst. He has given me peace, and that gives me the courage to keep praying.

Living a praying life means more than praying more fervently or more often. It means having the courage to ask God to be honest, hearing His call, and answering it when I don’t have a clue where it will lead me. It also means dealing with those who don’t understand. Thanks be to God that it means feeling His sweet presence as never before and finding that those who love me dearly encourage me to keep listening. One friend said it sweetly, “I trust God, and I trust you.” That spurs me on and lifts my spirit when those who need concrete answers pull me down. When it comes to the praying life, nothing is set in stone. That makes some very nervous as they worry I’ll drift too far away. It makes others happy that I’ve pulled up my anchor and given God the wheel:)

The Cost of Obedience

Disobeying God comes at great cost, but obeying Him takes all I have. The lesson this week has been just that. He lets me do some of what He wants and some of what I want for as long as I want, but He refuses to give me the peace that comes when I surrender all, trust Him, and do exactly as He asks. I try to bargain with God and do a wonderful job of convincing myself that what I want is the really the same thing He wants. It makes perfect sense in my mind; but my heart doesn’t buy it, and neither does God. I gave up bargaining and put my persuasive techniques away this week.

Change is never easy, and a dear friend reminded me it’s what living is all about. As much as I would love to freeze a beautiful moment, I know I would not even if I could. God could leave us in those precious times, but He knows they would not be precious if He did. He doesn’t make me love Him or obey Him because He knows that only when I surrender and obey on my own will I find the peace and purpose He so wants for me. I cannot truly obey until my selfish tears and childish tantrums subside, and I surrender all to Him. Sometimes, I obey because I do not have a choice. The result is misery for me and for those I serve.

Obedience means being in God’s presence and living not only a praying life, but also a joy filled one. Change is part of the journey, and getting outside my comfort zone is the only way I can remember to surrender. I can refuse to change and stay where I’m comfortable, or I can trudge along in misery. It’s my choice. God will not make me go where He bids, but His peace stays with Him when I walk off on my own. The cost of His peace is obeying Him, and the cost of obeying Him is dying to self and trusting Him completely.

My heart breaks as He calls me away from my comfort zone and into His will. Fear causes me to hesitate, but my love for Him enables me to get past those fears and let those tears clear away all that is in His way. I know God will bless me as never before as I trust and obey. As the beautiful hymn by John H. Sammis says, “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.” I want to be happy in Jesus and find the joy He has for me. Obedience is expensive, but it is well worth the cost. Disobedience is a little cheaper, but it never satisfies and always leaves me wanting more.

A Glimpse of Glory:)

Last night, as I watched the sun set with awe, I wanted so badly to capture and hold on to the moment. I got a glimpse of His glory with the photos I took, but I learned an important lesson as the scriptures from this week took on new meaning.

Luke 9:28-36 describes Christ’s transfiguration. Hear God’s Word.

Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not realizing what he was saying. While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.” NASB

Like Peter, I want to design a tabernacle that captures a moment rather than live in a way that allows my heart to be His temple. It’s easier to build an arena for Him than to give Him my heart. Building tabernacles keeps me busy so I don’t have to worry about that temple:) The stillness that comes from seeing Christ’s glory is all I need to empty out the temple and give God all the space He needs, and He does need all the space! Like designers on HGTV or Clinton and Stacy on What Not to Wear, you gotta let go if you want to see a transformation. That butterfly can’t stay in the chrysilis and fly:) A glimpse of His glory gives me a glimpse of what eternity with Him will be like. That’s all I need to live the life He has in mind for me.

God blessed me with a special moment at sunset, showed me a breathtaking full moon at four, and woke me with a most amazing pink and blue sky with soft white fog snuggling in the mountains like a down comforter. I didn’t get a photo of the moon or the morning sky, and the picture I took of the sunset is a mere glimpse of the glory I saw, but the lesson I learned from those glimpses was a powerful one. I cannot capture or hold on to God’s glory. I can, however, see it and make sure all I do glorifies Christ because that is what the transfiguration is all about. I can make sure my body is His temple and forget about those tabernacles that draw more attention to me than to Him:)

A glimpse of glory:)
A glimpse of glory:)

So Much Easier to Just Talk

It’s much easier to talk than listen, and I’ve talked more than I’ve listened throughout my life. The need to fill empty space and the fear of what I will hear are at the root of my chattering. There was a doll named Chatty Cathy when I was young, and I ended up with the nickname myself because of my constant babbling. I noticed a difference in my praying this week as I stopped talking and heard God’s voice in the space I left unfilled.

For Lent this year, I decided to give up space to God. I was having a hard time being still until I came to the place of not knowing what to say this week. It wasn’t the same as being dumbfounded; I’ve been there many times. This was coming to a place of decision and not knowing what to do or say. When lost, it’s much easier to listen to directions. As I heard God saying what He’s been saying for a long while, I knew He would let me continue down my path if I wanted. He certainly knows I do that most of the time. I also knew that I was tired and lost and ready to hear and obey.

It’s easier to talk when it comes to praying for the same reason it’s easier to talk period. If I talk, I won’t run the risk of hearing what I don’t want to hear. If I talk, I might convince myself that my path is the right one. If I talk eloquently enough, I might just convince God. Well, that’s as silly as it sounds and never works. He’s been so patient with me, and I thank Him for letting me come to a place of obedience on my own. It’s the only way to obey. God and I both know that. God never forces me to love Him or obey Him because He knows that isn’t true love or obedience.

It’s easier to have someone tell you what to do, believe, be, etc. The trouble with being told or forced is that I get wistful and wonder what if? That leads to bitterness and then anger. When I decide for myself, I get heartbroken and hurt. That leads to brokenness and openness and enables me to grow and move on as God desires. The tears give way to resignation, and resignation turns to faith as I forget my own desires and understand He knows best. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NASB) 

Christ’s bids me to be like a child, and I’ve certainly felt like a contrite child this week as I have struggled to convince God I’m right. When I got finished talking and didn’t know what else to say, He quietly said what He’s said over and over again. This time, I listened, trusted, and obeyed. It’s hard to leave the known and step into the unknown, but it’s even harder trying to convince God I know better than He does when it comes to my heart. The good news is that when I obey, I feel a peace that is indescribable. It eases the pain and makes listening a little easier the next time I am lost.

It’s easier to talk than to listen. It’s easier to listen than to trust. It’s easier to trust than to obey, but it’s best to remember that God knows what He’s doing and obey in the first place. Maybe one day, I’ll take that advice to heart and use it myself:)

My Whole Heart

I love with my whole heart and have as long as I can remember. I cannot imagine loving any other way. I got the courage to love again five years after my divorce, and my heart was broken. Tyler held me and told me that the way I love is the right way to love and not to stop because I was hurt. Those words came back to me this evening as I spoke to a friend who was hurting deeply. I realized after our conversation ended that I needed the advice myself. I give great advice and tell the truth with love, but I have a hard time hearing that truth and following the advice myself. I told her that loving with your whole heart is the right way, but it is also a painful way to love.

I could feel her pain across the distance because that’s what love does to hearts, and I thank God for the way I love. Hurt and love go together, but never in an abusive way. When I love, I am going to hurt when those I love hurt or when they don’t love me back. God loves with His whole heart and is heartbroken every moment of every day as His love isn’t returned or when He is loved with a divided heart.

A divided heart isn’t capable of loving as God desires. He is a jealous God, and I can relate. Being loved part time is worse than not being loved at all. It’s a connection that leads to a deep and empty hurt. God wants all or nothing, and I agree whole heartedly:) Love and multitasking will never go together, and shared hearts go against the very nature of love. Seeing the one you love with someone else is a pain unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I don’t want to ever feel it again. God understands that pain better than anyone and wants more for my heart. Like Tyler, He holds me tenderly and bids me to follow His example by continuing to love with my whole heart and accepting nothing less in return. 

Under His Wings

When I’m feeling lost or disconnected, Psalm 91:4 comforts me with the beautiful image of being tucked lovingly under the very top of God’s wing. I wish I could find the photo a friend sent me years ago of a mother hen with a tiny little peep literally peeping out from under the top of her wing. I could barely see the fuzzy yellow head, but I knew that little chick was safe and loved. God had me right where that mama hen had her precious chick this morning, and it was a wonderful feeling.

Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”

Last night, I was feeling as disconnected as I’ve ever felt in my life, and I desperately needed the shelter of God’s wings. When I stopped wiggling, He tucked me safely under His wing until my heart stilled and my fear subsided. It’s funny how my perspective changes when I’m under His loving wing. I cannot stay underneath His powerful wing all the time because I would never grow or learn if I did, but it is comforting beyond words to know that His wing is there when I need refuge or a respite.

I am empowered by the rest God so graciously gives, and I also love that He knows when to tuck me under that wing and when to let me wiggle and run in circles. I sometimes need the exercise running in circles affords because it tires me out and gets me still enough to be tucked in:)

Remember When?

At worship on Sunday morning, I was asked to remember the time I first fell in love with Christ. My heart immediately went back to April 17th, 1964. I understood that Christ loved me enough to die for me, and wanted to love Him back with all of my heart. My journey took me away from His precious love for a long time, and I recalled that dark time as well yesterday as I found myself unable to pray or write. It was a terrible state very like hell. Hell is separation from God, and I had a bitter taste of that yesterday as I wallowed and whined in my own self pity.

I’m thankful my separation from God was only for a day, and I thank Him for reminding me of the time when we first fell in love. I found myself thinking of other times I had fallen in love. There were three, but I could only recall specific moments and dates for one. I know that’s because I’ve only experienced true love once. The memories brought both sadness and joy. I loved reliving those sweet moments of finding love, but my heart filled with excruciating pain as I thought of losing it. It was a taste of hell just as the love had been a taste of heaven. I don’t know if I will ever find true love again. I’m not sure if I can have that level of love more than once in this life. I am positive I don’t want my heart to go through that level of pain ever again, but I know God will help me sort it all out.

At the end of the service on Sunday, the invitation was to think again about that time I fell in love and accepted Christ’s love as my own. I do remember when, and I thank God that I have His love forever. Recalling the pain of losing love was a sobering reminder that I am the only one who can end my relationship with Christ. I know I can turn from Him because I’ve done that before, and I do not plan to ever do that again. My day away from Him yesterday was interminable as I found myself back in that terrible desert of separation.

God taught a beautiful lesson and brought much healing with the simple exercise of remembering when. Remembering when I met and fell in love with Him put all things into perspective. I marvel at how He gave me just what I needed just when I needed it. His love transcends and transforms in ways I cannot begin to understand, but I truly appreciate that love and the love He allowed me to experience while on this journey. There is joy as I remember my salvation, and that is beautiful hope in Psalm 51. I wasn’t surprised when He placed that particular psalm in my path this morning.

Hear God’s love and healing in verses 10-12. I pray I will have a willing and obedient spirit as His love leads me in His direction.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
 And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence 
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
 And sustain me with a willing spirit.”NASB