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

Testing…Testing…1,2,3?

 

Luke 4:1-13 offers the sweet reassurance that Christ passed all the tests the world and Satan put before Him. Hear God’s Word.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written,‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up,
 So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. NASB

It’s appropriate for this week’s lessons to be about temptation with this scripture in the path. God’s tests are never easy because He knows just what I need just when I need it. The good news is that they are never too difficult for me to pass with the help of His Holy Spirit. The teachers in this world don’t encourage assistance, but God insists upon it. When I attempt to follow Him alone, I fail. When I allow the Holy Spirit to help and keep me accountable, I am able to pass the tests before me. God’s ways and the world’s ways are different indeed, and that is never more obvious than with the lessons in temptation.

Temptation is a necessary part of my spiritual growth. Without it, I am a lukewarm Christian at best and a pious hypocrite at worst. I not saying to look for temptation, but when it appears, I must face it. I have to be tested, but the passage today makes it clear that God is never to be tested. When I test Him, He reminds me of Who He is and Who I am not. Those are lessons not easily forgotten, and I have had more than my share of them. I’m learning to go to God in earnest, honest supplication when I find myself in the throes of temptation. He sees what I do not and helps me find His truth. It’s never what I expect but always what I need.

I’m humbled by God’s lessons this week and thankful for His patience and love. Temptations are great for humbling, and they bring me to God’s presence with the proper attitude by reminding me that I am not only human but also a sinner. Knowing that brought me to the place of accepting His love 48 years ago, and God reminded me of that special time this morning in worship. He bid me to remember that special moment when I first realized I needed Him and know that I need Him all the more now:)

To Be Honest?

When I see “tbh” in my newsfeed on facebook, I have to smile. On Thursday morning, a friend described “to be honest” as fishing for compliments. I agree and think “tmwiwth” might be more appropriate. “Tell me what I want to hear” is at the heart of my shout out to others, and it is also at the heart of my cries to God. This morning, God’s lesson was about coming into His presence with a true “tbh” heart. The lesson was sobering, to say the least. My heart is never ready for God’s honesty or the honesty of loving friends when I have a “tell me what I want to hear” attitude.

The noisiness in my heart comes from Satan telling me what I want to hear and me chiming in and chattering right along. It’s very similar to those conversations I have when someone hits a raw nerve, and we both start telling each other what we want to hear. Seeking validation is easier than searching for the truth, and the resulting conversation is cacophony at it’s very best. I leave those noisy conversations having much more faith in myself as the truth fades into the background; but just as junk food leaves me hungry, so do conversations filled with what I want to hear.

A true “to be honest” is the most difficult of all conversations, and it takes my praying life to a whole new level. The truth is beautiful and will set me free, but it is a two-edged sword that cuts to the very center of my heart. La La Land is anywhere truth is avoided, and I’ve lived in many versions of it for too much of my life. Avoiding the truth keeps me from hearing, and faith is forfeited in the process. My faith depends upon hearing, and walking in God’s kingdom depends upon heeding. I cannot get to the truth unless I begin my prayers and conversations with a sincere “tbh.”

Honesty isn’t about judging, and I’m not saying that it’s up to me to tell others the truth. I do need to be honest, but God is more concerned with my hearing His truth than with my straightening out the world. Some folks feel it’s their calling to make sure they tell others what they should and should not be doing. God forbid that I do that. I’m guilty of judging far too often, and I have come to realize it’s a great indication that I’m avoiding the truth in my own life. When I find myself in those negative conversations or judging, I know it is time for a “tbh” with God.

It is vital that I say and hear the truth with love. Without love, the truth is a battering ram that knocks the breath out of me and breaks my heart. Satan uses that battering ram very well and even disguises himself as God the Smiter! I felt that smiting this morning, but God’s voice was there when the din subsided. He gently asked if those were terms I thought He would use to describe me. I knew they were not. He went on to tell me the beautiful truth that I am His daughter and He loves me. After my heart settled down, He told me the truth I needed to hear with love. Satan takes a tiny bit of truth and runs with it in his direction hoping to get me to follow along. God speaks the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, with love. Then, He picks me up, dusts me off, gives me a sweet embrace, and points me in His direction:)

Hard to Say:)

Mylah is adorable when she gets too excited to get her words out. This morning, when she first woke up, she really wanted to tell me about something, perhaps a dream. I didn’t understand a word she was saying, but I delighted in each syllable. She has so much she wants to say, and my heart goes out to her. I’m thankful God has the same attitude with me when I can’t find the words to speak my heart to Him.

Lillyann, Mylah, Tyler, and Gina went to see Yo Gabba Live this afternoon, so I was home alone. It was deafening quiet! I find it hard to write in the quiet but much easier with the sweet sounds of the girl’s laughter all around me. I talked to Cookie and Matza as I fed them earlier in an attempt to fill the empty space. Nothing fills the empty spaces in my heart better than praying, and I did a lot of that today too. Praying empties and fills me at the same time if I let go of my list and sit with God.

When praying, I’m like Mylah when she’s too excited to talk. The beauty of prayer is that I don’t have to get the words out because God already knows my heart. The less I say, the better:) I savor moments of connection and was privileged to have a sweet moment with a dear friend yesterday as we heard one another’s hearts without words. 

I have a long way to go before I live the praying life God has in mind for me, but yesterday’s sweet lesson reminded me that love speaks volumes without a single word. Love is the heart of prayer, and prayers without words are the most powerful ones. Love is best felt in a look or gentle touch, but my words get tangled up the way dear Mylah’s do when I want to say what is hard to say. That’s when I have to stop, be still, and let love speak for itself. God is love, and He knows just what to say if I let Him do the explaining:)

The girls just got in from the show. Mylah was tired and at a loss for words and didn’t even try to talk. She did, however, have a sweet grin on her face. Lillyann was worn out too, but she managed to tell me that she got to touch DJ Lance!! Tyler said they stayed right up front and danced the whole time. So much for Mylah being scared by the noise and lights:) So glad to have them home, and I love hearing the house come back to life with their little chatter. God loves my little chatter too, but He doesn’t need for me to say a word to know exactly what’s on my heart and mind. Telling Him is about my need to hear:)