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How to Control Your Inner Cage Fighter

Have you ever felt like punching someone in the throat?

Sometimes, pain fills us up to the top of our tolerance. The excess has to go somewhere, right? This scene from the movie Steel Magnolias captures one of those ugly moments.

 

We can’t take it out on Weezer, friends. As good as punching someone may feel at the moment, it’s not a good idea. So how do we control our inner cage fighter?

1. Pause

The whole “count to 10″ thing has science behind it. Research indicates the brain’s anger response lasts less than two seconds. Think of all the regrets we could avoid if we determined in advance to pause  our verbal and physical responses for just a minute or two.

  • Pause to breathe. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Slow, deep breaths bring the heart rate back to normal and give that boiling blood time to cool down.
  • Pause to be. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). If we command our raging emotions to sit down and be still, we give the Holy Spirit time to remind us that His very “God-ness” trumps our rumpled circumstances every, single time.
  • Pause to boss our hearts around. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5 NIV). Emotions aren’t always trustworthy. It’s important to pause and to make sure they line up with truth.

2. Picture

When pain clouds our vision, it’s hard to see straight. Present circumstances have a sneaky way of crowding out God’s track record of faithfulness. A crucial step toward keeping that cage fighter caged up is to reframe our reality with His perspective.

  • Picture the previous. While dwelling on the past is unhealthy, remembering the ways God has been faithful is not only healthy but healing. When we think of all the dark valleys he led us through, it’s easier to picture Him leading us through our current challenges that have us fit-to-be-tied. “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” (Psalm 77:11 NIV).
  • Picture the present. Sometimes, painful moments are as distracting as a stubbed toe. A small circumstance suddenly becomes our whole focus. Anything good gets drowned out by the rushing waves of pain. The best way to keep our tender spots in perspective is to steady our gaze on the solid-rock right stuff. The people who love us, always. The provision straight from God’s grace grip. The presence of God right in the middle of our deepest need. “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6 NIV).
  • Picture the promises. What does God have to say about suffering? “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9 NIV). “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22 NIV). Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me” (Psalm 138:7 NIV).

3. Pray

When faced with unfair treatment, it’s second nature to gather reinforcements. When friends sympathize with our plight, our raw emotions feel validated and justified. While God made us to need the human touch in good times and bad, the first shoulder we need to lean on is God’s. He may use people to administer comfort and guidance, but He’s the source and He’s enough.

The hymnal speaks truth. “I must tell Jesus all of my trials; I cannot bear these burdens alone; In my distress He kindly will help me; He ever loves and cares for His own. I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone; I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

  • Pray honestly. Why do we try to hide our raw feelings from God? He knows everything already! Pouring out our pain will not take Him by surprise, but the healing properties of prayer will shock and soothe us every time. 
  • Pray with ears open. Listen for God’s quiet voice of reason, reconciliation and redemption. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice” (Psalm 95:6-8 NIV).
  • Pray often. One quick morning prayer doesn’t cut it. In order to really live, we need constant communication with our Creator Confidante. He wants to lead us through every leg of the race, even the ugly ones. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).

Lord,

This hurt is sucking the life out of me. My inner cage fighter really wants to come out kicking and swinging, but I hear Your voice calling me out of the cage and into Your lap. Please, Lord, soothe my frayed nerves and settle my soul. Show me how to bloom in the middle of this thorny patch. Keep my heart tender and open, ready to receive Your comfort, Your commands and even Your correction. I want my life defined by the fruit of the Spirit, not by my impulses. I need You, Lord, and I trust You. Amen

Do I Trust God?

I totally forgot about April Fools Day. Since I can’t fib convincingly to save my life, I seldom come out to play on April Fools Day. It wasn’t until I saw my FB feed full of fake pregnancy announcements that I realized what day it was.

As I scanned through all those “tee-hees” and “LOL’s”, I blurted out to the air, “I wish all this mess was a joke.”

My family is struggling, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I find myself preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

Amidst  lots of ugly cries and heavy sighs, I feel a foundation of strength and peace squaring up under my wobbly knees.

Last week, I prayed a “prove it” prayer, and God answered with a “prove it” of His own.

Do you trust me, Lee? Prove it.

Do I trust God? What does trust look like?

Lord,

I hear Your spirit whispering to mine, “Do you trust me?” The good Christian girl in me wants to say yes without hesitation. The pleaser in me wants to prove it with an award-winning demonstration that will give You pause and baffle those watching. The daughter of God in me simply wants to practice trust as I walk down this uncertain path.

I trust You to be my comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).

I can’t run to the fake comforts anymore. No more stuffing cream-filled donuts down my throat. No more guzzling beers until the pain stops. No more holding onto people with a death grip. I trust You because You are enough!

I trust You to continue working in me.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

I can’t sink into shame over my mistakes. No more rehashing a past I can’t adjust. No more calling myself names. No more believing the lie that I can’t change. I trust You because You are my maker and the keeper of my heart.

I trust You with my future, no matter what.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

I can’t refuse to move forward just because I can’t see the destination. No more grasping for control. No more defining my life by the roles I play. No more doing life my own way.

Yes, Lord, I trust You. Use this painful time to help me trust You more.

Amen

Do I trust God?

Photo Credit: Liz Etheridge

 

Do you trust God? How are you practicing trust today?

Prove it, Lord: Are God’s Promises True?

Like a good Bible should, my Bible is marked up with ink and highlighter.

Instructions for living the God life. Kick-in-the-tail reminders of changes I need to make. And the promises…lots and lots of promises from God’s heart to mine.

The other day, I ran across a humdinger of a promise from Isaiah shared on Facebook by my favorite Christian music station.

Prove it, Lord.

Photo Credit: Facebook.com/kloveradio

I thought it was such a good one, I shared it with my Prayer Gifts FB community and wrote, “Hear God speaking to you today.”
A few days later, that promise popped back on my screen, but my response was far from receptive. I saw the words, but I couldn’t claim them.
Choked by sobs, I said, “Prove it, Lord!”
  • When you feel like you’ve lost everything, are God’s promises still true?
  • When people don’t keep their promises, are God’s promises still true?
  • When they don’t feel like the truth, are God’s promises still true?
Lord,
It’s easy to “amen” Your promises  and share them with poor souls who need a word of hope. But right now, I’m one of those poor souls, and Your promises feel shallow and empty. I always thought my faith was better than this, but right now, I need proof Your promises are true.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. 
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you. 
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
I’m afraid, Lord, and I feel alone. I need to know You’re here. 
I’m discouraged, Lord, and I don’t see things getting any better. I need to know there’s hope.
I’m weak and helpless. I need to experience Your strength. I need to see how You’re helping me.
I’m lower than I’ve ever been. I need to feel Your strong arms holding me up.
I need “victory in Jesus” to be more than just a song on  Sundays. 
Will You make beauty from these ashes? (Isaiah 61:3)
Will You forgive my debts as I forgive my debtors? (Matthew 6:12)
Will You make everything beautiful in Your time? (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Right now, I don’t see it. I don’t feel it. I’m not sure I believe it.
Give me something…just a little hope to hold on to (Isaiah 40:31).
Just enough faith to believe You can redeem this mess I’ve made (Psalm 103:4).
Just enough strength to make baby step changes even if no one notices but You (Romans 12:1-3).
Just enough patience to wait quietly for Your merciful redemption (Lamentations 3:26).
Prove it, Lord

Is God big enough for our darkest moments?

Amen

Focus on Blessings

Nothing like a birthday to turn me as reflective as the bathroom mirror. I’m 44 now, and I have a choice. I can focus on all the things about me that still need changing, or I can focus on all the blessings God keeps pouring into my life.

Hmmm…I think I’ll pick Door Number TWO!  Happy birthday to me!

Get ready for it, friends! I’m about to do a gigantic brain and heart dump right here on this little ol’ blog. And, of course, it’ll be in the form of a prayer gift. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than by gifting my God with every bit of gratitude my heart holds.

Lord, Oh, how good You are to me! I could type out my blessings until the internet runs out of space, and I’d still have more to say. Where to start? I guess I’ll start at the beginning and see where my memories take me.

One thing I know…You’ve been with me from the beginning, and I know You’ll be with me ’til I’m with You in heaven. leebabypic You were there when a young teen found herself pregnant with her second child. With arms still aching for the baby boy she gifted through adoption, she faced another nine months of judgmental stares. Thank you, Lord, for my birth mother, who named me Kelly Ann and laid me in the arms of Bill and Mable Walker, who named me Elizabeth Lee.

Thank you for parents who made room for one more “squirt” and for a brother and sister who saw me as a precious gift and not a pest.

family picture

Thank you for dates with my cowboy daddy, for shopping days with my fancy momma, for baby dolls and Tonka trucks, for a pony named Cowboy and a collie named Bubba.

Thank you for our housekeeper, Pearl, who made me Coke floats for after-school snacks and who came to my wedding late and my daddy’s funeral early.

Thank you for Aunt Venia reading me hundreds of books and for giving me subscriptions to National Geographic Kids for my birthday, including the hardback, special edition bonus books. And for Uncle Joe whose gruff heart melted to mush when it came to his nieces and nephews.

Thank you for Aunt Neda calling me her “sweet potato bug” and for her daughter, Kathy, teaching me how to have a quiet time with Jesus.

Thank you for Granny Maxwell with her tight hugs and chocolate pies and for Mamaw Walker who let her last week of life be filled with my young teen ramblings.

granny hugging me

Thank you for cousins much older and for others just my size. For childhood friends…some I got back thanks to Facebook. For slumber parties and rodeos. For Marco Polo in the pool my daddy built and for cheesy pizza at Crystal Palace.

Thank you for teachers who pushed me and pampered me…whatever it took to help me thrive. For a special library aide who still remembers the utterings of my 12-year-old heart.

Thank you for the church on the corner of Bert Kouns and Mansfield Road where I gave my heart to Jesus and my hand to my sweetie.

For a Sunday school teacher who taught me to pray by kneeling beside her folding chair and speaking to God like a friend. For an Acteens leader who made me a bonus daughter and for a pastor who closed each service with the song, “He is Lord.”

Thank you for the piano lessons I hated that taught me to read music and for the singing lessons that added a new dimension to my contribution to this world.

Thank you for rodeos and songs made-up with my daddy as we treked from one race to another.

Little Miss Topps

Thank you for a first date ending with a handshake and for a mission trip giving me first glimpse of my sweetie.

For singing with the Continentals one summer and for being a Sigma Alpha sister the next fall.

Thank you for a white wedding dress and a honeymoon cruise.

LeeBird and her sweetie circa 1990

LeeBird and her sweetie circa 1990

 

For youth ministry in Ballinger and just scraping by in San Angelo. For jobs and college by day and Arsenio Hall episodes by night.

Thank you for a short stint in Dallas and five years in New Mexico. For Arizona heat waves and blue-sky winters.

For plane rides with blue-eyed wiggle worms and for others with just me and my thoughts.

flying with sons

Thank you for wearing out Barney and Pooh videos and for a thousand walks to the park with blonde-haired boys.

Thank you for pastor’s wives who were role models and friends and for children’s choirs who grew to have children of their own.

For next-door-neighbors with pools and patience for unkempt grass and for a special Mormon bishop with chicken-killing wiener dogs and a heart of gold.

Thank you for shihtzus named Winston, Alley and Riff and for other critters with fur, scales and feathers.

For family pictures at Olan Mills and in sunflower fields and for  family trips to San Diego and Slide Rock.

Merrill family 2000

Thank you for sons who trusted You as young children and who question everything now. For how they call me “Momma” just because I like it and for how they become better friends as the years go by.

boys then and now

Thank you for in-laws who are in-loves and who remain true to You and to family, even in their frailties.

Thank you for jobs at a jewelry store, day care centers, a home office and schools. For the passion to write words that represent You well and encourage others.

lee with book

For waiting and writer’s conferences, for listening and for letting it all hang out, for working through grief and whooping in triumph.

Thank you for childen carried in my belly and for bonus kids calling me Momma Merrill.

For pet names and inside jokes and for tender love and laughing fits. For friends who came and for friends who went. For those who live and for those who died.

To know her is to love her

 

For victory moments and for learning opportunities. Thank you for comfort zones and for living on the edge. For receiving more than I ever dreamed and for giving beyond my human means.

For marriage struggles and marriage triumphs and for holding hands no matter what, no matter who, no matter when.

caroling

For praying loved ones to heaven and for praying broken ones to wholeness.

Holding hands with my dad

Holding hands with my dad

Thank you for the power of prayer and the progress of the Christian life. For the Word of God and for my identity in Christ.

For sad goodbyes and grace-filled hellos. For hope for the future despite regrets from the past.

leebird bday

Lord, I. AM. BLESSED. And YOU…YOU are the One who deserves all my praise, all my thanks and all my devotion. Thank you for this 45th year of life, Lord!  Use me to represent You well.    In the name of Jesus, I pray, AMEN

Focus on Consistency

Consistency is NOT my middle name.

My family, friends and regular blog readers are probably saying, “No, really?” right about now.

It doesn’t take long for folks to catch wind of my pattern. I resolve to make a change and make lofty commitments to anyone who will listen. But, within a week or two, I’m back to my old ways.

Hmm…maybe I am consistent after all! Just not the kind of consistent I want to be.

My girlfriends and I are walking arm-in-arm through the Daniel plan. We’re choosing healthy foods and starting to move our bodies. We’re spending quality time with Jesus and with each other. We’re focusing on the kind of lives we want to lead.

And it’s going great! Not perfect…but great!

We’re learning to love our veggies and protein shakes. Our seaweed snacks and pure, clear water. Our lean meats and natural desserts (a.k.a. fruit).

We’re losing our taste for Dr. Peppers and Diet Cokes, and unhealthy choices are starting to upset our bellies.

We’re changing, slowly but surely, and that’s the right way to bring about lasting change.

That is consistency.

Consistency does not equal rigidity. Consistency does not equal perfection. Consistency equals steady progress in the right direction.

I’m done with lofty goals I have zero hope in reaching.

I want to keep on edging in the direction of health: body, mind and spirit.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (LisaW123)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (LisaW123)

When I slip a bit, I will not shrug and give up. I will stand up, dust myself off and keep on plugging away.

I won’t condemn myself for not getting it all right. I will cheer over my progress and learn from my struggles. Both victories and slip-ups contribute to lasting change. I’ll embrace it all. I’ll learn. I’ll grow. I’ll embrace consistency in a way that’s real and do-able.

What about you, friend? Are you throwing your baby steps in the trash because they had a few back steps in between? No more! Let’s keep on plugging away together with the strength of Jesus on our side!

Lord, I’m tired of being so mean to myself. Help me, Lord, to embrace imperfect progress in this crazy, silly life. I don’t want to be perfect, Lord. I want to be consistent. Trusting You for Your strength and guidance, Lord. And I love You!

 

 

Be Her Valentine

Is Valentine’s Day a day you dread? Does all the romance in the air choke your spirit and leave you in a pile of Hershey Kiss wrappers?

Don’t let it get you down, Sister! You have a valentine whose love never fails!

Receive this prayer gift from my heart, sweet sisters! Full of love and calorie-free.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (rkramer62)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (rkramer62)

Lord,

On this day that’s all about love and romance, I’m overwhelmed by Your unfailing love. I come to You today to pray for Your precious one who has no earthly valentine.

Convince her of Your love.

You chose her out of all the people on the earth to be Your treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6).

Before the beginning of time, You lovingly predestined for her to be Yours (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Out of Your great love and rich mercy, You made her alive when she was dead in her transgressions (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Your love for her reaches to the heavens; Your faithfulness to the skies  (Psalm 36:5).

“For [You] so greatly loved and dearly prized [her] that [You] [even] gave up [Your] only begotten (unique) Son, so [if she] believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) [You] shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life “(John 3:16 AMP).

Assure her that You will not take Your love from her, nor will You ever betray Your faithfulness (Psalm 89:33).

May she thoroughly believe that “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet [Your] unfailing love for [her] will not be shaken nor [Your] covenant of peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:10).

LORD God, may she sense You in her midst, mighty to save; rejoicing over her with gladness; quieting her by Your love; rejoicing over her with joyful serenades (Zephaniah 3:17).

Show her that nothing can separate her from Your love. Not trouble or sorrow or mistakes or sickness or human rejection. No, in all these things she is more than a conqueror through You who love her. May she be fully convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate her from Your love (Romans 8:35-39).

Capture her heart with Your perfect love.

Let Your face shine on your servant; save [her] in your unfailing love (Psalm 31:16).

May she sing of Your strength, in the morning a song of Your love on her sleepy lips; for You are her fortress, her refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 59:16).

Because Your love is better than life, may her lips glorify you (Psalm 63:3).

Satisfy her in the morning with Your unfailing love, that she may sing for joy and be glad all her days (Psalm 90:14).

Help her to take Your hand and allow You to lead her to Your banquet table where Your banner over her is love (Song of Solomon 2:4).

May she hear Your voice whisper to her spirit, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”(Jeremiah 31:3).

In love and compassion, make her Your bride; plant her for Yourself in a fertile land (Hosea 2:19,23).

Comfort her with Your sweet words of love.

Let Your beloved rest secure in You, for You shield her all day long, and the one You love rests between Your shoulders (Deuteronomy 33:12).

Surely Your goodness and love will follow her all the days of her life, and she will dwell in Your house forever (Psalm 23:6).

Surround her with Your unfailing love as she puts her trust in You (Psalm 32:10).

By day, direct Your love to shine on her; at night may Your sweet song sing her to sleep (Psalm 42:8).

Comfort her heart with the glorious truth that You never reject her prayers or withhold Your love (Psalm 66:20).

Though [You] bring grief, [You] will show compassion, so great is [Your] unfailing love. For [You do] not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone (Lamentations 3:32-33).

Cultivate her heart to receive Your healing love.

May she trust in your unfailing love; her heart rejoicing over Your salvation (Psalm 13:5).

May she be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You see her affliction and know the anguish of her soul (Psalm 31:7).  May her heart be like an olive tree flourishing in Your house; may she trust in Your unfailing love (Psalm 52:8).

May Your unfailing love keep her feet from slipping; be her constant source of support (Psalm 94:18). Redeem her life from the pit and crown her with love and compassion (Psalm 103:4).

Because of the [Your]great love [she will never be] consumed, for [Your] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Help Your precious one to abide, to remain, to make herself at home in the safety of Your love (John 15:9).

“I pray that out of [Your] glorious riches [You] may strengthen [her] with power through [Your] Spirit in [her] inner being, so that Christ may dwell in [her heart] through faith. And I pray that [she], being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the [Your] holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [she] may be filled to the measure of all [Your] fullness.

Now to [You] who are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to [Your] power that is at work within us, to [You] be glory in the church and in [Your beloved both now and forevermore]” (Ephesians 3:16-21).

In the name of the most beautiful man who ever walked this earth,

AMEN

In All This: Prayer Gifts from the Book of Job

Bible study was cancelled last week, and I sure missed it. I missed a mid-week helping of Pastor Gary’s passion for God’s Word. I missed authentic discussion from Believers who know lots about suffering. I missed unabashed questions from new Believers desperate to understand our mysterious God.

This week, Gary took us to Job 1:6-22 (NIV):

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has,and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Seems silly to tell you all about this passage and then pray about it, when I can just do both at the same time!

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (martha-Ann48)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (martha-Ann48)

 

Lord,

As I read about Job, I imagine how I’d respond to such intense loss. Job lost everything but his life and his unsupportive wife in two day’s time. I can’t even begin to imagine his pain. 

I’ll be honest, Lord. I hope You never allow me to land in Job’s position. But if You do, I want to be like Job. 

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8 NIV).

I want to be someone in whom You have full confidence, Lord. Someone whose faith and obedience are so strong that every trick Satan tries falls flat. 

I know Your eyes “range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to [You]” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV).

I want to be one of those people, Lord. “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11 NIV).

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.

I want to be someone who loves You just for You, Lord. When You allowed Satan to take pretty much everything from Job, he resolved to remain faithful to You. 

I want that same resolve, Lord. I want to be a woman after Your heart even when I don’t understand what You’re up to and even if You place me in Job’s shoes.

In the midst of my deepest suffering, I want to echo Job’s bold declaration:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21 NIV).

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22 NIV).

As we keep on with our digging into the Book of Job, we’ll see the brutally honest conversations You and Job had. 

Oh, Lord, here’s where the rubber meets the road. When troubles come, I’m such a whiner! I complain to my family, my friends and my dogs before I pour my pain into Your hands. Please forgive me, Lord, for seeking comfort and understanding from people before my Savior. 

Change my ways, Lord. I want my first response to be prayer and praise. You are the answer, Lord Jesus! You are my comfort, Lord Jesus! You are my safe place, Lord Jesus!

Yes, Lord, I want to be more like Job. Your devoted servant who shuns evil even if evil wreaks havoc on my life. Keep refining me, Lord. I am Your servant by the power of Jesus Christ, AMEN

Focus on Fitness

Do you recall the awkwardness of sixth grade? Not quite a teen but too big for our little kid britches.

When I was in sixth grade, my parents moved me from Forest Hill Elementary School to a private school, Agnew Town and Country Day School.

I left my comrades I’d had since 1st grade and entered a whole new universe. Uniforms and social class red-tape left me stifled and confused. Many of my classmates had been at Agnew since pre-K. It took time to find my niche.

agnew party pic 1

I managed to make a handful of friends, some of whom I’m still friends with today (thanks to Facebook), but I never felt at home there.

At Agnew, I had my first (and final) taste of team sports.

I joined the sixth grade basketball team knowing nothing about the sport. I can’t remember if it was my idea or my over-ambitious momma’s.

But there I was…clueless and uncoordinated…trying to pass myself off as a basketball player.

agnew basketball pic

One of the downsides of being a very, very white girl is my tendency to turn beet-red when I do anything active. Every practice and every game, I’d get so red coaches and parents would check on me to make sure I was ok.

I’ll just keep it real, friends…I was a terrible basketball player. I scored two points the whole season, and they were granny-shot free throws.

I never tried again.

My insecurities about my athletic skills, and my body in general, still plague me.

In many ways, I feel like that awkward sixth-grade girl with a beet-red face. That girl who was one of the last picked for kickball games on the playground. That girl who took beginning tennis lessons three summers in a row. That girl who made the sporty girls grumble when I missed an easy shot.

In mid-December, I got an offer from a new gym set to open January 1st. Right around the corner from my home, Desert Fitness has all the machines and stuff, but it specializes in fitness classes.

Every exercise plan I’ve tried (and failed) has been solitary. Walking the neighborhood alone. Work-out videos alone. Walking on the treadmill alone.

So, I thought to myself, “I’m a people person. My love language is words of affirmation. A fitness class may be just the thing to keep my focus on fitness.”

It took six whole weeks for me to work up the courage to attend my first class. Six weeks of dwelling on how unsporty I am.

But Monday night, I resolved to go to my first cardio kickboxing class. I put on my Lane Bryant yoga capris and my “Whole Women Win” t-shirt and marched my unsporty self into that gym.

And guess what?

Sweet folk with less-than-perfect coordination and body shape welcomed me warmly. The tiny Latina instructor cheered me on and gently corrected my kicks and punches.  And I, unsporty LeeBird, made it through the whole work-out without dying or tripping over my own feet.

I did it!

And as I drug my beet-red self to the car, the instructor shook my hand and said, “You did awesome!”

Her words felt like a gold medal, people! Felt like the cheers from a granny shot free thow! Felt like fitness.

Today, I’ll head back to cardio kickboxing even thought it’ll make me late for choir practice. I need to return to the same class and the same instructor to prove something to myself. I don’t have to be Miss Sporty to be fit.

As my friend, Jennifer Burt says, “Just show up, work hard and results will follow!”

Lord, thank you for giving me the courage to pursue fitness. My sore muscles both groan and cheer. Cause the cheers to drown out the groans. I want my body to be able to keep up with my spirit. I want my body to represent You well. Please give me the strength to show up, to work hard and to trust the results to follow. AMEN

Love Children the Jesus Way

Lord, give us active, hands-on love for all children.

Each week, I get to spend the Sunday school hour with a herd of quirky kindergarteners. I hate to brag, but the kindergarteners at the Heart of Mesa just happen to be the cutest, funniest, smartest kindergarteners in the history of kindergarteners.

I love watching them play and interact with each other.

I love how some of them think the answer to every Bible story question is, “Jesus!” (Hmmm…maybe they’re right on with that one).

I love their hugs and their giggles and their guilty grins when they knock over someone’s block tower.

So, when Pastor Gary took us to Mark 10:13-16, my sweet ones from the kinder class settled on my heart.

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Lord, give us active, hands-on love for all children.

Lord, give us active, hands-on love for all children.

Lord,

My arms still sense those sweet kindergarten hugs from Sunday school. My mind still sees wide eyes shining from the pride of block tower masterpieces. My ears still echo with their giggles and from one sweet girl’s tears from missing her traveling daddy.

But I wonder…

How many children are way overdue for a hug? How many children receive insults instead of praise? How many children don’t know how to laugh or cry because it’s safer to feel nothing?

Such children exist all over the world and in my neighborhood. Some may even be hiding in the shadows at my church.

Oh, Lord, this should not be! Forgive the Body of Christ for our passive ways. Help us to love children the Jesus way!

Jesus sees their need.

Lord, so often we’re like the careless disciples. We discount children’s value and minimize their need for Christ. Give us the mind and heart of Christ to see deep into children’s hearts. Help us to see them as they are now but also as the adults they’ll soon become. 

Jesus was busy with plenty of grown-up issues, but He didn’t let it distract Him from the little ones often lost in the crowd. He was never too busy for children.

Parents push for a touch from Jesus for their babies.

Lord, my heart crumbles over my lack of prayer for my own sons. Forgive me for not agonizing in prayer for a touch from You. Now, they’re almost grown and don’t understand why they need You. They don’t hunger and thirst for You. They think they can do life without You. 

I know it’s not too late. I renew my commitment to bring my boys to Your feet daily…even more than daily. Only Your touch and Your presence will make them whole and in line with Your glorious plans for them. Woo my babies to Your heart, Lord. Hound them until they surrender their everything to You.

Jesus holds each child and meets them in their personal reality.

Oh, Lord Jesus, use my arms to hold kids who need a tender touch. Anoint my words to speak life and encouragement into children who hear curses and death day-in and day-out. Enlarge my heart to feel compassion for children in my midst and children I’ll never meet. 

Help me to love children the Jesus way.

In the name of Jesus, my role model, I pray, AMEN

 

 

Focus on Healthy Choices

January sped by like a rabbit with a wolf on its tail.

I spent the month cleaning, purging and packing. As I sit here at my kitchen table, I see evidence of ”my word” for 2014.

It took FOCUS to get it all done. And boy did it feel good!

We’ll be moving into a smaller, more affordable place soon. I can’t wait!

Now, it’s time to shift focus to another biggie. My best buddies, who happen to be my co-workers, agreed to join me in my journey to make healthy choices.

We’re using Rick Warren’s new book, The Daniel Planas our guide. Rick calls the plan a “healthstyle.” I love that!

Friend, do you have some healthy choices to make? Less junk and more wholesome foods? Less liquid calories and more clean, fresh water? Less sitting and more moving? Less worry and more faith?

Less dead-end ruts and more destiny-bound roads?

Why not join my best girls and me and start making those healthy choices with The Daniel Plan or a plan of your choice!

Here's our official BEFORE pic! We're already cute, huh?

Here’s our official BEFORE pic! We’re already cute, huh?

Lord,

I feel a little sheepish coming to you, yet again, about my weight and all its baggage. I’ve been losing the same 20 pounds for 20 years. But I can’t stop trying…and this time I have two companions on Wellness Road. Thank you for Cyndi and Donna: my co-workers, my best friends and my sisters-in-Christ. What a gift they are!

Please walk with us as we make healthy choices until healthy is our habit.

Thank you for The Daniel Plan and its five F’s: faith, food, fitness, focus and friends.

FAITH

Faith is the cornerstone. The more we develop our relationship with You, the more prominent Your character and strength will be in us.  We need more of You in us, Lord! More of You and less of me!

“[We] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

FOOD

We’ve eaten whatever we want for a long, long time. It’s time to create a “healthstyle.” Help us, Lord, to start thinking of food as fuel. When we fill our bodies with the right fuel, we’ll feel better and more energized. If we fill our bodies with junk fuel, we’ll enjoy it for a bit and then feel like crud.

“So whether [we] eat or drink or whatever [we] do, [we’ll] do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

FITNESS

Lord, we don’t want to be just skinny. We want to be strong, flexible and fit. Exercise is a must if we’re going to get strong and have the energy to be our best. Help us, Lord, to push past the pain of getting started so we can experience the pleasure of those feel-good endorphins fit people always talk about.

“Do [we] not know that [our] bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit…? Therefore, [let’s] honor God with [our] bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV).

FOCUS

If we change our brains, we’ll change our lives. Show us how to replace our distractions with dedication. Help us to quit looking back at the ways we’ve slipped up and to focus on today’s opportunities and tomorrow’s hopes.

“[We will]not conform to the pattern of this world, but [we will] be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds” (Romans 12:2 NIV).

FRIENDS

My girls and I are in this together! We have our own strengths and struggles. We can spur each other on and hold each other up! But we need our ultimate Friend most of all. Help us, Lord, as we help each other.

“Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).

Thank you for new beginnings and for Your infinite patience and grace. I dedicate this season of making healthy a habit to You and ask for Your fingerprints to be all over it!

Amen

*****The winner of the signed copy of Prayer Gifts While You Wait is…..Carolyn Rodricks! Congratulations! 

Satan Sneaky Snake: Prayer Gifts from the Book of Job

The devil is a sneaky snake. I’ve known this for a while now, but he showed off his skills again this week.

A couple weeks ago, my pastor started a Wednesday study of the book of Job. After the first session, the Lord prompted me to write a series of prayer gifts based on Job.

Well, at the second session, Pastor Gary paused our excavation of Job to give us a “Satan 101″ lesson. Boy, did we learn lots about the old booger!

I got home from class and opened my laptop. “Hmm…how do I write a prayer gift about Satan?” I muttered. “I mean…there’s no point in praying for Satan. His fate is sealed. And I don’t want to write a big ol’ tirade against Satan because, frankly, he doesn’t deserve that much attention.”

I brainstormed a while until my mind drifted to other things. Facebook friends. A show on TV. My critters nuzzled against me. Next thing I knew, it was midnight or after and I had nothing.

Next day, I kept trying to get started on the post and just couldn’t get it going. Finally, Sunday night, I realized what was happening. That ol’ sneaky snake was at it again. He doesn’t want me telling folks about his sly, stinky ways. And he surely doesn’t want me praying about him.

Well, I see what he’s up to, and I’m not letting him distract me another minute. It’s time to pray. Will you join me?

Prayer Gifts

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (LadyDragonflyCC)

Lord,

Before You said, “Let there be light,” and created the heavens and the earth, Your creative juices already flowed freely. Heaven teemed with heavenly beings of immense beauty and devotion. Ezekiel 28 describes one of them in vivid detail.

You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of  God;  every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created (Ezekiel 28:12-15 NIV).

His glorious appearance reflected Your glory as he stood watch in Your throne room. From the moment he was created, his purpose was established. 

“[until] wickedness was found in [him]” (Ezekiel 28:15 NIV).

Expelled from heaven and from Your favor, the heavenly host  became a hell raiser we call Satan.  

Lord, Your word is clear about who Satan is and what he wants. 

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8 NIV).

Give us keen eyes to see through Satan sneaky snake tricks and sharp ears to hear through his lies.

Every morning, remind us to put on our armor to protect us from and to arm us against Satan’s attacks.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:12-18 NIV emphasis mine). 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

Satan messes with everything we leave unsecured. He’s right there to swipe our peace the minute we allow the cares of this world to pry  open a crack in our souls. He’s there to kill relationships left vulnerable by pride and neglect. He’s there to destroy our reputations when we let our old nature be the boss of us. 

Keep us focused on the most important part of John 10:10…You came to give us life! Forgive us, Lord, for letting the evil one swipe the grace gifts You died to give us.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV).

Our resistance is only as strong as our submission. Daily, Lord, help us to submit to Your will and Your ways. Give us the mind of Christ so we’ll be consumed with pleasing You. Compelled to represent You well, always.

As we grow stronger in faith, Satan will grow more desperate to silence or to discredit us. Like Peter, he’ll want to sift us as wheat (Luke 22:31). Use those seasons to purify us and to fill us with truth we won’t be able to keep to ourselves. 

Satan is a sneaky snake, but You are God, and You sent Christ to crush that serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). His days are numbered and our future is eternal. We win. Empower us to behave like it.

In the name of  Jesus, who calls Your throne room and my heart home, I pray, AMEN

The Dark Side of Super Bowl Sunday: A Prayer Against Human Trafficking

Super Bowl Sunday and other huge sporting events are not just about the sports. Such events are big-business for sex traffickers.

The thought of young women forced into prostitution to satisfy the ugly greed of their pimps and the putrid lust of their paying customers makes me sick. And furious. And, for just a minute, I felt helpless.

But no Believer is helpless against evil. We can pray.

human_trafficking_image_free

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (imagenevangelicas)

Lord,

When You look at the condition of this world, I wonder if it reminds You of the days of Noah.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled (Genesis 6:5-6 NIV).

We need help, Lord. 

Daily, young people sink into a dark world of captivity where their innocence is destroyed and their dignity is stripped.

Set the captives free.

Open the eyes of citizens everywhere, including me. Give us the compassion and courage we need to take action. To ask questions. To reach out. To pay attention.

Set the captives free.

Speak truth and hope into the minds and hearts of these broken, exploited human beings. No matter what kind of lies their captors spew, assure them they are worthy of love and freedom. Assure them they didn’t do anything to deserve their exploitation. Assure them that someone is searching for them and praying for their safe return.

Set the captives free.

Statistics say that runaways and foster children are especially vulnerable to falling into the clutches of human trafficking. Please, Lord, rescue them in advance. Bring loving people into their lives to help them see past their current pain so compounded pain can be avoided. May Your angels patrol the night, Lord, sending innocents to safety before evil can snatch them up.

Set the captives free.

The victims of human trafficking are not the only ones enslaved. The captors are shackled by sin. Many of them are so embroiled in the industry of evil that even if they wanted to get out, they wouldn’t know how. As long as they have breath in their lungs, there is hope for redemption. Open their eyes to see the ugliness of their thoughts, words, and actions. Whisper, “Come to me,” to their blackened, hardened souls. Just as the Apostle Paul went from murderer to missionary on dusty Damascus Road, these doers of evil can change (Acts 9). Pull them from their spiritual prison cells not just for their sakes but for the sakes of every exploited, enslaved person in the world. Transformed traffickers can be powerful soldiers in the battle against human enslavement.

Lord, please…by Your powerful hand…bring human trafficking to an end.

In the name of Jesus, who died to set our souls free,

AMEN

Focus on Waiting Well

We got an offer on our house! And now…we wait for the powers-that-be to tie a red tape bow on the deal to make it official.

I doubt the mortgage company shares my desire for the fast track. I’m ready to get on with it already! A new place with a clean slate.

Waiting is hard and downright annoying at times, but one thing I know from experience…God does some of His best work while we’re waiting.

In fact, I’ve learned so much from my waiting seasons that I made it the topic of my very first book! Prayer Gifts While You Wait: Grace for as Long as it Takesis a 14-day devotional full of my waiting stories and prayers inspired by them.

Grace is a common thread through every waiting season. Grace calms the restless soul and gently instructs the antsy heart.

As I lean hard on that grace during a new waiting season, I know I’m not the only one struggling to wait well.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Prayer Gifts While You WaitI hope it encourages you as you wait with grace.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ektogamat/2576038416/

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Anderson Mancini)

Waiting with Grace

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16 ESV).

You can tell a lot about people by how they wait in traffic. When I lived in Dallas, bumper-to-bumper traffic was the norm. I don’t remember many drives that didn’t include some idling on I-35. It seemed as if everyone was headed for the same green light I was. Just when I thought I’d make it through the left-turn arrow, someone would cut in front of me or, even worse, the person in front of me would get distracted by their drive-thru burger and forget to move.

For a long time, I let the rush hour tension well up in me and steal my joy. By the time I got home, I’d be grumpy and geared up to lash out at anyone who crossed my path.

Then, God changed my mind. He helped me see my extra car time as an opportunity to process my day with Him. I started asking Him questions and listening for His answers. I began really listening to the song lyrics on the Christian radio station and singing them straight to God’s heart. After a while, I quit fretting about who made it to the exit first. Instead of pulling into my driveway strung-out with stress, I pulled in refreshed and ready to greet my husband and neighbors with a smile.

Friend, are you feeling antsy and agitated as you wait on God? Do you see your frustration affecting your relationships with those you love most? Do you need God’s help to wait with grace? Let’s pray about it.

Lord,

I feel like I’ve been stuck in traffic forever. Folks in the fast lane zip by and leave me idling. They seem to have it so much better, Lord. At least they’re going somewhere. It’s hard to wait with grace when I really want to rev my engine and honk my horn. Help me, Lord. “Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace” (Psalm 86:6 ESV).

Give me the grace to “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

Give me the grace to live in a way that will always honor and please You, Lord. I want a fruitful life, a growing life and a Christ-like life. Strengthen me by Your glorious power so I will have all the endurance and patience I need. No matter what I face or how long I must wait, keep me full of joy and gratitude. I want to fully enjoy the inheritance that is mine because of the light of Christ (Colossians 1:10-12).

Give me the grace to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, [and] be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12 ESV).

Seeking Your grace, I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

If you enjoyed this entry from my book, leave a comment to be entered to win a free signed copy of Prayer Gifts While You Wait: Grace for as Long as it Takes. A winner will be chosen Wednesday, February 4th!

Remembering Who I Am

Since I’m a slow learner, God gave me the opportunity to facilitate the same Bible study twice a week.

On Sunday nights and Tuesday mornings, I’m leading two groups of ladies through Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.

My attendees range from moms of kindergarteners to retired grammies and everyone in-between, but no matter our season, we all have raw emotions we need help handling.

I love my ladies.

I love their increasing vulnerability and their constant support for their vulnerable leader.

I love hearing their challenges and triumphs, which give me comfort and hope.

I love their smiles, their laughter and their tears as we learn and grow together.

Just as we started the Unglued study, all kinds of opportunities to come unglued started happening for us. It’s up to my ladies to share their own stories, but here are mine.

We’re selling the home we’ve lived in for a decade to simplify and improve our financial situation. Packing, purging and proving our home’s amazingness to buyers has been rough. I’m more of a napper and a socializer than a homemaker.

One son is back to college living in his first house with a roommate rather than at the dorm. The neighborhood isn’t the safest, but a mariachi band lives across the street, so they never lack for entertainment.

Middle son is a senior, a bit behind on his credits. While working almost full-time and doting on his girlfriend of two years, he’s trying to finish school on-time. The growth he has shown is thrilling, but these last few months are nerve-wracking. Call me prideful, but I want my sweet, smart son to graduate on-time.

Baby son’s an eighth grader. He’s smart-as-a-whip and more creative than anyone I know other than his daddy. But he hates school. His grades droop and his motivation flatlines. He wants to fast-track through high school to get it over with and to get on with his life. What to do?

My sweetie and I live with constant concern for our aging parents who get more fragile by the day. Heart trouble, frequent falls and increased time just sitting and rocking disturb us as we live far away.

So, today, when I discovered a friend dropped me on Facebook…I crumbled. The rejection was just the thing to push me over to the ugly cry I knew was coming. I checked with her to apologize in advance if I offended her in some way. She promptly replied that I had not offended her…I just “self-promoted” too much, and she wanted her Facebook reserved for people who posted personal things, not the latest news about their books or their weight loss supplements.

At first, the old me jumped into action. I wanted to earn back her favor (and her Facebook friendship). I assured her that I quit selling the weight loss pills. Shoot…I even quit taking them.

But one little statement from this week’s Unglued study hit me between the eyes.

“Remember who you are.”

I don’t have to beg anyone to be my friend. I don’t have to guilt anyone to be my friend.

I am LeeBird, a girl deeply loved by Jesus. He sees my struggles, but He also sees my progress. He accepts me, and, ultimately, that’s all that matters.

If folks don’t like hearing about my life (which includes my book and my book-in-progress), that’s fine. It doesn’t make them  bad people, and it doesn’t make me self-absorbed.

So…while my former FB friend’s rejection released the ugly cry I’ve had coming on for a while, it really changed nothing.

I am who “I AM” says I am.

I will remember who I am and Whose I am.

Lord, thank you for loving me enough to embrace me “as-is” while nudging me to the one You created me to be. I am Yours, and I love You. AMEN

Is life heavy and heart-achy for you, my friend? Talk to Jesus and ask  Him to help you make imperfect progress toward the you He designed you to be.

Lord, help us. We hurt each other without even trying. We get hurt by things that should just make us shrug. We hurt Your heart by not keeping focused on who we are in You. Forgive us, and help us, Lord, as we refocus our eyes on You.

 

 

 

Suffering Strong: Prayer Gifts from the Book of Job

I almost skipped Bible study last night. It’s been a stressful week, and, honestly, I didn’t feel like being nice. I just wanted to hide in my room under my comfy quilts and to play Candy Crush.

But my devoted-momma self won out. If I stayed home, so would my 14-year old son, Jacob, and he needs connection with Jesus and Jesus people.

So…I went, and I’m so glad I did. Let me describe the scene.

A room full of grown-ups with Bibles on their laps ready to rumble with the Book of Job. As we dug in to Job, the Bible study for Spanish speakers went on in the room next door. Worship songs in their heart language wafted through sheet rock and made me think of heaven where every tribe and tongue will worship God together in spirit and in truth.

Sheer bliss I would’ve missed had I stayed home.

Wednesday nights, you’ll find my chubby bum parked in a Sunday school room studying the Book of Job, a book about Satan and suffering, fair-weather friends and flustered faith, gut-wrenching questions and God being God.

Meet me here on Thursdays to hear all about it!

Suffering Strong

Join me on Thursdays as I pray through the Book of Job.

 

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East (Job 1:1-3 NIV).

Lord,

The Book of Job begins like a bedtime story…a story about a man esteemed by God and men. A hero among men living to please his Hero in heaven.

In the world’s eyes, he had everything. Land, livestock, a loving family. But he held it all with open hands. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NASB).

Lord, as I study this ancient book, I pray You’ll use the time to refine me, so the bedtime story about me will begin just like Job’s. 

Blameless

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14 NIV). I’m not asking for perfection, Lord. I know I’ll slip and stumble. But I don’t want anything ugly to take up housekeeping in my life. 

Upright

I want to be the real deal, Lord. Open and honest about the up’s and down’s of the journey. No more church lady disguises, Lord. Just me…a woman after Your heart making imperfect progress in this life. “May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in You” (Psalm 25:21 NIV).

Fearing God

Just as my little girl heart thrived under my daddy’s praise, I want to blossom under your tender watch. I want to please You, Lord, even when no one else is looking. You have shown me what is good and what it will take to please You. “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [my] God” (Micah 6:8 NIV).

Shunning Evil

Show me, Lord, how to shun evil without shunning people. Job was the greatest man in the land without compromising Your pleasure. I want the world to see something peculiar about me…something worth investigating…something they want for themselves. You, Lord. I want them to see You. I want my behavior to point every one I meet to Your beautiful heart. 

I’ve read enough of Job’s story to know it gets ugly. He loses his babies, his wealth, his prestige and his health. But he knows his true treasure is You. I want to know that, too, Lord. Use this journey through Job to woo me closer to Your faithful heart.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, Amen

Focus on the True Mirror

I should buy stock in Windex.

We’re trying to sell our home so we can downgrade into something smaller and more affordable. I’ve been scrubbing baseboards and shining surfaces like a mad woman!

Bathrooms are the hardest because of the mirrors. Everytime I turn around, my worn-out reflection stares me down.

You wouldn’t have to work so hard if you’d work a little bit each day.

See what laziness gets you? Lots of sweat and stress.

Have you stepped on the scale lately? You better hope all this house cleaning is burning calories.

Oh…is it just my mirror that speaks? Strange…

A mirror tells it like it is, that’s for sure, but it can be a little one-sided.

I want to see myself the way God sees me. He sees where I am now, but He also sees who I can become. No shame. Only grace.

Friend, are you unhappy with your mirror’s opinion of you? Me too. Let’s pray.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (tuchodi)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (tuchodi)

Lord,

My mirror accuses me with solid evidence. 

Dark circles and blemishes confirm my worry-wart ways. Extra chins prove my emotional eating. Background clutter screams, “Lazy!”

My mirror says “MESS!”

Here I stand, Lord, laid bare and barely hanging on.

What do You say? Be my true mirror.

Hear God assure your soul.

Hear God assure your soul.

My precious child,

“See what great love [I've] lavished on [you], that [you] should be called [a child] of God! And that is what [you] are” (1 John 3:1 NIV). I created you with tender genius, and the sight of you thrills my heart (Psalm 139:13,17).

Every speck of rubble in your life is an opportunity for redemption. Let me refresh Your soul and bring beauty from your ashes (Psalm 23:3; Isaiah 61:3).

I have plans…big plans (Ephesians 2:10; Jeremiah 29:11). 

You are the apple of My eye…a treasure I purchased at great cost (Psalm 17:8; 1 Corinthians 6:20).

Though the people who matter most may forsake you, I never will. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NIV).

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV). Let me say it again, “You are mine.” And don’t let the bathroom mirror or anyone else tell you otherwise.

Love, Me…Your Father, Your Savior, Your Creator, Your Friend

     

Someone needs to embrace this truth as badly as I do. Is it you? Read it aloud again and again until your heart’s convinced. You are His, and He treasures you.

 

 

 

Focus on Getting Things Done

The other morning, I woke up with filthy, black fingernails. I stared at them with disgust and said to myself, “What the heck? Did I do bare-handed gardening in the night or what?”

Then, I remembered. I used newspaper to pack up some breakables before collapsing in bed in utter exhaustion.

The Merrills have been busy cleaning, packing and decluttering. We decided to sell our big ol’ house and get into something smaller, simpler, and more affordable.

Our oldest son is off to college, and our middle son is nipping at his heels. The baby boy is 14 and done with needing space to romp and roam. We don’t need tons of space anymore. We don’t need the backyard pool. We don’t need two stories with two air conditioning units and the electric bill that goes with them.

It’s time to simplify.

Did you know simplifying requires lots of sweat equity?

My sweetie has made at least five trips to Goodwill in the last two weeks dropping off excess stuff. Plus, we packed boxes and boxes of stuff we can live without for a little while that he hauled off to a storage unit.

I’m having a battle with my nostalgic self and my bare-bones self. Do I hang on to that box of baby clothes so the boys can have a few items to put on their babies one day? Do I keep all those loose photos I’ve never done anything with? What about my books? How many bookshelves full of books still qualifies as simple?

Since the new year dawned, we’ve been all about getting the house ready to sell. My gym membership remains unused, and I keep forgetting to start my pomodoro timer before starting on my tasks.

We just had a meeting with our precious realtor, Cherie. After the walk-through and the talk about the paperwork, guess what we did? We prayed. We prayed for God to guide us in this process. We prayed for supernatural trust in His ways and His provision. We prayed for the faith to walk this road of simplification with faith and grace. There’s something to be said about having a Christian realtor!

This week, there is still MUCH to be done. One of my bonus daughters is coming tomorrow to help me give the house a thorough cleaning. Dusting, de-griming, disinfecting. Poor girl doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into. I promised her I’d spare her the danger of cleaning the boys’ bathroom.

Saturday, Cliff will load up the utility trailer to deliver our college boy’s bed, dresser and desk leaving one room empty and this momma a bit sad. I like having my sweet fellas all under one roof.

But, for the most part, I’m excited! I’m ready to start fresh in a smaller house with less square footage to clean. I’m ready to sit down to pay bills without wondering if I’ll have to sell my firstborn to pay them all. I’m ready to get things done to make the Merrill life simpler!

Please pray for just the right buyer for our house. The sooner the better! And pray that we keep our eyes on the prize…a simpler life that frees us up to love God and people unhindered.

Lord, sometimes, life is complicated, but no matter what, You are everything we need. Please guide us as we let go of the excess that has held us back for so, so long. Help us to let go of the stuff so we can take hold of simplicity. Amen

 

 

My One Word: Focus on Pomodoros

My Android phone bit the dust well before I’m eligible for an upgrade, so I’m now the proud owner of my sweetie’s hand-me-down iPhone 4.

Well, let me tell you…the Apple App Store has lots of tools to help me focus!

Last night, I downloaded two apps: Strides and Promodoro.

Strides is the easiest way to track all your goals and habits in one place, with custom reminders and beautiful charts to keep you motivated and on track (Apple App Store Description).

With Strides, I can keep track of my progress on habits I’d like to form or goals I’d like to achieve.  Last night, I set up one goal and two habits on the Strides app.

The goal is to lose 4% of my body weight this month…that’s about 10 pounds.

Habit One is to drink 100 ounces of water per day. I drink way too much Diet Coke and Michelob Ultra and way too little water.  I’m not gonna lie…I don’t like the stuff. Any suggestions on getting more water in me?

Habit Two is an overall productivity habit. I’m going to give the Pomodoro Method a try. Have you heard of it? You can read about it here, but here’s the LeeBird gist: You make a to-do list of work tasks that can be completed in 25 minutes increments. Set the timer for 25 minutes and hit one of those tasks hard. After a 25-minute work session, you take a five-minute break. After four Pomodoros (25-minutes of work plus a five minute break), you take a slightly longer break…maybe 15 minutes or a half hour. The goal is to pomodoro yourself to a productive day!

Since my attention span is pretty much non-existent, I think the Pomodoro method may be a good plan for me. Twenty-five minutes of focused effort on a task and a short brain break. I like it, and I’m going to give it a full 30 days before I decide if it’s right for me.

The Promodoro app for iPhone is a simple, flexible pomodoro timer that will help me track my productivity. As I develop the habit of working in pomodoros, the Promodoro app will keep track for me and monitor when I’m most productive. Maybe I’ll be able to study my high productivity periods and discover a way to shift some of it to my laggy times.

Pomodoro focus

I’m excited to use technology to help me achieve my goals and form new habits.

Do you have any secret weapons you’d like to share? We’re all in this together, friends! We’re all trying to make the most of each day. 

Lord, thank you for these new tools I can use to support my quest for focus. Empower me, Lord, to form powerful habits that will help me be the LeeBird You designed me to be. New tools are a blessing, Lord, but the sweetest blessing of all is Your new mercy waiting on me each morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

 

Focus: My One Word 2014

I love new things.

New journals. New outfits. New jars of peanut butter.

Oh, and don’t get me started about mornings, Mondays and new years.

New beginnings are the best kind of new.

Happy New Year, friends!

As much as I love new years, I completely stink at new year resolutions.

For the past few years, I asked God to give me a theme word, but just like resolutions, my theme words fizzled after a week or two.

Here’s the thing…I lack focus, and it seems to be getting worse with age.

I’m turning 44 soon, and I’m not exaggerating, friends…I think I’ve wasted half my life on false starts and unfinished tasks.

My sweetie says one of the best things about me is my resilience. No matter how many times I fall down, I always get back up.

I’m up, people. I’m ready to start 2014 with my focus on FOCUS!

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Focus, Focus, Focus!

I can’t just decide to be focused. I need help and lots of it.

This year, I’ll be working with my doctor to deal with physical causes for my flitty, foggy head. I’ll continue meeting with my counselor to keep chipping away at my “stuff.” I’m excited to get back to my weekly phone calls with my sweet life coach, Amanda  Chance who will cheer me on and challenge me to stick with it.

Join me here each Wednesday where I’ll share my progress no matter what kind of week I had.

Do you have a theme word or a resolution list for the year? I’d love to hear about it and pray for you! Share your hopes and intentions for 2014 in the comments, and I’ll reply with a prayer to our Savior’s heart just for you.

Lord, Keep my eyes focused and clear, so I can see exactly what You are calling me to do and so I can grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life You have for me—oh, the utter extravagance of Your work in us who trust You—endless energy, boundless strength! ( based on Ephesians 1:16-19 MSG)

Amen

 

When Christmas Feels Like Chaos

While sitting in a waiting room, a mother and son attracted my attention.

Both of their faces illuminated by handheld electronics, the mom watched a Christmas video and the son played a video game. The sight seemed typical, but the sounds gave me pause.

From the mom’s phone wafted a piano rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” She was probably watching this lovely Apple commercial where a teen boy uses his i-phone to create a video of his family’s Christmas that earns him tears and tight hugs from his grandma and mother.

From the son’s tablet blared karate chops and punches to the gut. I couldn’t see his screen, but I’m pretty sure he was getting high scores.

The mom didn’t notice me staring because she was entranced by the video full of Christmas perfection. Tight hugs in Grandma’s driveway. Cousins sledding and making snowmen and angels. Christmas morning where even Grandpa has the eyes of a child.

Truth is…lots of homes sound more like the boy’s video game during the holidays and all year long.

Families feuding and forgetting to forgive. Cutting words and cold shoulders. Grudges growing and tears flowing. No laughter, no smiles. No peace on earth, good will toward men.

Do you know a family whose Christmas feels like chaos? Perhaps that family lives at your address. Only Jesus can rebuild family ruins. Let’s call out to Him.

When Christmas Feels Like Chaos

Christmas is the perfect time to receive Christ’s grace gift for our families.

Lord Jesus,

If I know You at all, I know Your heart breaks for broken families. You see us “confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 NLT). Your compassion compels You to “gather Your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37 NIV). But just like Jerusalem in days of old, so many families try to do life on their own. So many families are unwilling to let You lead them. Give us willing hearts, Lord Jesus. We need You.

Christmas is the perfect time to fully receive Your grace gift for our families.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).

Be our Wonderful Counselor, full of compassion and wisdom.

As we pour out our troubles on Your listening heart, You promise to give us wisdom without shaming us for trusting in our own wisdom for so, so long (James 1:5). We ask You to redeem our families from the pit and crown us with Your love and compassion (Psalm 103:4).

Let the sunrise bring us word of your unfailing love as we entrust our families to You. Rescue us from our pride that holds us back from doing whatever it takes to seek wholeness for our families. Deliver us from the evil one who knows that broken families equals a broken society (Psalm 143:8-9).

Be our Mighty God, full of power and provision.

You are “the Mighty One, God, the Lord, [who] speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets” (Psalm 50:1 NIV). May we hear Your confident declaration, ““I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NIV).

Salvation belongs to You, Lord Jesus. Save us from our sin and ourselves, so our families will have hope to revive and to thrive (Revelation 7:10). May the same power that You used to rise up from the grave be at work in our families, Lord (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Be our Everlasting Father, full of guidance and compassion.

Give us holy fear, Lord, for “as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

Be the patriarch of our families, Lord, from generation-to-generation, so we’ll be known for wholeness and holiness, not brokenness and dysfunction.

Be our Prince of Peace, full of reconciliation and restoration.

Crown our families with peace that settles every argument and restores every rift. Give us Your perspective, Lord, as we consider the ways we’ve been hurt and held back.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB). You suffered at the hands of friends and strangers, yet You said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NASB).

Forgiveness is the foundation of peace. Empower us, Lord, to see every hurt we’ve suffered through the filter of the Cross. Every abuse and every betrayal had a place on that cross. The ones we’ve suffered and the ones we’ve committed.

You are everything our families need, Lord, to come back to life, to laughter. to love.

Restore our homes, Lord, for the glory of Your name. AMEN

Mary’s Prayer

Does anyone else have a stinkin’ case of the December Doldrums?

As the calendar flipped from autumn leaves to jingle bells, a heavy cloud eased in to hover over my happy.

My blahs stem from a few sources.

  • It’s the end of 2013 and many of my goals remain unmet. I’m still overweight, still disorganized, and still too concerned with what other folks think of me.
  • Several friends and family are going through intense trials. When my people hurt, I hurt.
  • And it may seem silly, but losing my quirky backyard chickens to the hungry dachshunds next door really threw me for a loop. I can’t believe how attached Cliff and I got to potential poultry. I miss my ladies terribly.

missing my ladies

 

Here’s the thing…when I get down and out, I tend to retreat into my sad little bubble and shut the Lord out. Silly, huh? The one thing sure to deliver hope, I return to sender. You’d think I’d learn.

You’d think I’d learn to stand still so He can swoop me into His arms. You’d think I’d learn to talk to God instead of getting all full of woe. You’d think I’d remember He’s everything I need, no matter what comes my way.

But I’m stubborn and even a tad bit stupid sometimes.

Sunday, Pastor Gary took us to Luke 1 where a messenger delivered a divine message to a regular girl named Mary.

How many times have you read Mary’s story?  For me…probably hundreds, but this time was the first time I went past the story and embraced the message. A message that could change everything.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Mindsay Mohan)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Mindsay Mohan)

 

She was just a regular girl with the simplest of plans.

Marriage, children, an honest life.

In the midst of her normal, Your messenger came,

and normal flew away in the angel breeze.

The angel’s words seemed strange…even scary.

But Mary kept listening ’til her mind and heart held hands.

“How can this be?” she asked.

“Nothing’s impossible with God.”

With her “yes,” she transformed

from a simple girl to a holy vessel

pregnant with Your glory.

Like Mary,

I’m just a regular girl with the simplest of plans.

Marriage, children, an honest life.

No angel brought my message.

You whispered straight into my soul.

“Give me your heart. I’ll heal it and fill it.”

“How can this be? I’m too broken,” I asked.

“I’m God. All things are possible with me.”

With my “yes,” I became brand-new

with a glorious future,

pregnant with purpose.

Unlike Mary, I’m stingy with my “yes.”

I clutch it in sweaty fists,

afraid to let You have it for keeps.

I hear You say,

“Sweet Daughter, you can trust Me with your yes.”

Like Mary, help me say it and mean it,

“I am Your servant. May all You have planned come true.”

Yes, Lord, Amen

The Sparkle Box: A Review and Giveaway

Are you looking for a way to foster compassion and generosity in your children during the Christmas holidays and all year ’round?

Well, I have the perfect tool to help you do just that. A brand-new Christmas book is out this year, and its message has the power to change Christmas for your family forever.

A Gift with the power to change Christmas

Visit the website at www.thesparklebox.com for all kinds of motivtional ideas!

The Sparkle Box, written by Jill Hardie and illustrated by Christine Kornacki, is an heirloom quality picture book with an eternal message.

Young Sam is excited about Christmas with all the gifts, celebrations and holiday treats. This Christmas, he sees a sparkly box on the mantle and wonders whose it could be. His parents explain the box will be opened with the other Christmas gifts but that it still needed some things placed inside. Throughout the season, Sam and his family reach out to the needy with offerings of food and warm blankets for the poor and money to dig a clean water well in Africa. Then, Sam gives an offering from his own money to give mittens and candy to a homeless man he encounters. On Christmas morning, Sam is pleased to discover that the acts of kindness his family performed over the holidays were on slips of paper inside the box. Sam’s parents explain that when they are kind and generous to those in need, it’s like giving Jesus a birthday gift.

Jill Hardie based the book on a family tradition her family instituted years ago. She saw the tradition transform her family’s Christmas focus, and she wanted other families to experience the same job.

Tucked in the back cover of the beautifully illustrated picture book, is your very own sparkle box ready to be placed on your mantle.

The Sparkle Box is a modern-day example of Christ’s words from Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV).

The author’s message to the reader says it all: “Dear reader, you are the light of the world. Make it sparkle.”

To win a copy of The Sparkle Boxleave a comment sharing a way your family blesses  Christ’s heart on His birthday. Commenters will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of The Sparkle Box, perfect for your own Christmas book collection or for a gift to a young family building theirs.

The author and PR By the Book provided me with this review copy free of charge. I wish it had been around when my boys were little because I know they would have loved it! I can’t wait to get it into the hands of a family with children who will no-doubt be delighted by the powerful story and the Norman Rockwell-inspired illustrations.

Drawing will take place Monday, December 9, so be sure to get your comments shared this weekend! Good luck!

Waiting on Jesus: A Collection of Advent Prayer Gifts: Days Five and Six

I told you I have a hard time sticking to a schedule. See…I’m already playing catch-up.

Waiting on Jesus

Join me on an advent journey.

Play catch-up with me by reading selections about Abraham here and here:

Lord,

Oh, to have the faith and obedience of Abraham. You said go, and he went. You said he’d father a nation, and he believed You. No matter he was old, and his wife was, too.

He heard Your promise, but it took 25 years before he saw the first glimpse of its fulfillment. When Isaac belted out his first cry, he was a herald announcing, “This is only the beginning!” 

And Abraham and Sarah laughed. They laughed over the tiny bundle of hope in their arms. I wonder, Lord, did they see the future in Isaac’s shining eyes? Did they see how their family tree would produce a Savior? 

Thank you, Lord, blessing an old woman and a young virgin with miracle boys. 

Waiting for Jesus, Amen

Waiting on Jesus: A Collection of Advent Prayer Gifts: Day Four

Waiting on Jesus

Join me on an advent journey.

 

Read the story of Noah and the Flood here.

Lord, 

Noah and the great flood…another story I’ve heard and read since childhood. The picture books make it look so tidy with the animals lining up two-by-two. But it was messy, Lord. Horribly messy. Jeers from evil onlookers slashed at Noah’s heart. The animals and all that poop and noise. Condemned sinners screaming and clawing the sides of the ark until floodwaters silenced them. Yes…it’s a messy story.

Sin is messy. It muddies hearts. It destroys relationships. It quakes a cavern between God and man.

“The Lord’s eyes scan the whole world to find those whose hearts are committed to him and to strengthen them” (2 Chronicles 16:9 GW). You searched and searched through a sea of darkened hearts and found one ray of light.

“But Noah pleased the Lord. Noah was a good man, the most innocent man of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:8 NCV).

You tucked Noah and his family in a floating zoo while You washed the earth clean. A new beginning for humankind. 

You are the God of new beginnings.

The God of all things new. You used a flood to destroy a multitude of sins. You used Christ to erase the penalty of sin for all who believe.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2  Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

You are the God who keeps His promises.

Rainbows color the skies with Your promise to never destroy the earth by flood again. The rising sun brightens our eyes with Your new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

And another sun rose…”the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16 NIV). 

You are the God who loves us.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

Lord, thank you for making me new. Keep me walking with You for Your pleasure and my good.

Waiting on Jesus, Amen

 

Waiting on Jesus: A Collection of Advent Prayer Gifts: Day Three

Waiting on Jesus

Join me on an advent journey.

Read today’s Bible reading: Genesis 3:1-21

Lord, 

It’s easy to be hard on ol’ Adam and Eve. They threw it all away for a bite of fruit and the empty promises of the very first con artist. But I know I would have fallen for that serpent’s lies. Probably faster than Eve did.

My heart twists when I think of their fingers shaking with shame as they sewed fig leaf clothes.

Sin destroys innocence and beauty.

It shrivels our confidence in God’s presence.

It severs our fellowship with our Creator.

You knew how it would go down. You’re God. You could have walked away, but You pursued Your image bearers hidden in the trees. The cool breeze of Your neverending love rustled their fig leaves. 

They made excuses, and You administered justice with an undercurrent of grace. And that grace was Jesus. That first taste of sin for Adam and Eve led to Christ taking our sin on His shoulders.

Christ rebuilds our ruins and turns ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:3-4).

He empowers us to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).

He restores sweet fellowship with God both here and in heaven (1 Corinthians 1:-8-9).

Thank you, Lord, for pursuing us even though we don’t deserve it. Thank you for making a way for us to stand after the fall.

Waiting on Jesus, AMEN

 

Waiting on Jesus: A Collection of Advent Prayer Gifts: Day Two

Waiting on Jesus

Join me on an advent journey.

 

Read today’s Bible passage: Genesis 1.

Lord,

How many times have I read those first verses in Genesis? Hundreds, I’m sure. Thank you for giving me fresh eyes to see Christ connections through advent.

Before God spoke those first words, “Let there be light,” there was nothing but darkness (Genesis 1:3 NLT). Before Jesus spoke his final words, “It is finished,” there was nothing but darkness in human hearts (John 19:30 NLT). Thank you for the light of Christ burning in me.

With just a few words, You made everything, Lord! From the sun and stars to the lowest bottom dwellers and everything in between. You said it, “and that is what happened” (Genesis 1:7 NLT). Your Word made the world and everything in it. Centuries later, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV).

I see Your glory, Lord, in the way You created a world full of beauty and bounty where we were designed to thrive. 

I see Your glory, Lord, in how all facets of Your personhood put heads together to create men and women in Your image. “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us” (Genesis 1:26 NLT emphasis mine).

I see Your glory, Lord, in how You made a way for us to be like You again, despite our sin. Through Christ, we can “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 ESV).

Thank you, Lord, for evidence of Christ’s coming throughout Scripture. 

Waiting on Jesus,

Amen

 

Waiting on Jesus: A Collection of Advent Prayer Gifts: Day One

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never participated in an advent celebration.

My family doesn’t own an advent calendar with tiny doors to open each day in December. We have no special advent wreath or a Jesse tree. I’ve no clue what the colored candles stand for.

It’s not that I don’t think religious observances are important. I see their value, and I appreciate the way they remind us of the most important things: the hope of Christ present through the ages and the sacrificial love of God available to everyone who receives it.

Truth is, I’ve never participated in advent because I have a hard time sticking to any kind of schedule for more than three days.

Observing advent takes discipline I don’t seem to possess.

But this year…I’m thinking of advent differently. I’m thinking of it as a gift I can give Him. No…maybe the better word would be “offering.”

An offering of my sustained attention for the next 25 days. 

An offering of daily appointments with Him that are non-negotiable.

An offering of my wonder and awe as I both walk with Him and wait for Him.

I invite you to come along with me on this journey. If we lay these offerings before the Christ Child, the true gift will be ours.

Since it’s almost 9 p.m. on December 1, I’m already running behind. I suspect I’m not the only one. Good thing God’s grace is well acquainted with our ways.

As a guide, I’ll be using the daily readings from Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Journey I downloaded from her site, A Holy Experience. First chance I get, I’ll pick up her new Christmas book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.

Enough prefacing. Time to start waiting on Jesus.

Waiting on Jesus

Join me on an advent journey.

Lord,

When I think of this sacred wait called “advent,” a solemn tune settles on my soul like an early morning fog.

O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

That song seems so out-of-place among the jolly carols of the season. But there’d be no joy had You not come. There’d be no hope had You not come. There’d be nothing to celebrate had You not come.

This month, I’ll walk a dusty road of history between God and man. I’ll begin with “let there be light” and end with Jesus, Light of the World. Hold my hand, Lord God. Point out the truth my distracted glances miss. 

“I pray that [my heart] will be flooded with light so that [I] can understand the confident hope [You have] given to those [You] called—[Your] holy people who are [Your] rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that [I]will understand the incredible greatness of [Your] power for us who believe [Your]” (Ephesians 1:18-19 NLT).

I want to know You better, Lord. I want to love You better.

Amen

 

When the Holidays Hurt

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s pretty much the only time my inner Martha Stewart comes out of hibernation. I love preparing a huge meal for my family, especially now that the boys are older and like to eat more than Happy Meals and pepperoni pizza.

In the midst of my personal contentment today, a burden rests on my heart.

Tragedy and turmoil don’t take vacation time during the holidays. Just this week, I’ve heard about a half dozen friends losing loved ones. One lost her dad, two lost cousins, one comforts her best friend whose fiance died in a car crash, two others lost friends who were more like sisters.

I think of other loved ones dealing with discord in their families. Mothers and daughters at odds. Spouses estranged. Families both disjointed and tied in knots.

Sometimes, the holidays hurt. Sometimes, they aren’t full of laughter and warm tradition. Sometimes, they are full of tears and cold shoulders.

Do you wish you could just skip the holidays so you can get back to your normal everyday pain rather than the super strength holiday pain?

I’m so sorry, friend. I can’t fix it, but I do care. And I can pray.

 A prayer for when the holiday hurt

Lord,

I know You see them, for You are the Lord who sees (Genesis 16:13).

You see parents with empty arms and shattered hearts. Their babies won’t be coming home again.

You see couples with arms crossed and backs turned and their kids watching it all and blaming themselves.

You see warriors fighting illness in hospital beds and terrorism on foreign soil.

Folks are hurting all over, Lord. 

I know You hear them, for You are the Lord who never sleeps (Psalm 121:3-4).

Just as you heard the groaning of the Israelites weighted down by their slavery (Exodus 3:7), You hear the cries of those bearing heart-buckling burdens. Oh, Lord, whisper to their shaky spirits, “I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand…Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

I know You have what they need, for You are Almighty God, and nothing is too difficult for You (Jeremiah 32:17).

Be their peace, Lord, so they can rest from their worries.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal (Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV). In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8 NIV).

Be their power, Lord, so they can lean on Your strength.

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure (Psalm 18:1-3; 30-32 NIV).

Be their provider, Lord, so they can say with assurance: 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let [my] foot slip—he who watches over [me] will not slumber. The Lord watches over [me]—the Lord is [my] shade at [my] right hand. The Lord will keep [me] from all harm—he will watch over [my] life; the Lord will watch over [my] coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:1-3,5,7-8 NIV).

I know You care, for You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6).

God of all comfort, do what You do best:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,so also our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV).

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4 NIV).

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones (Isaiah 49:13 NIV).

Lord, for the hurting ones, I lift up this prayer to Your strong but tender heart. Meet every one of them right where they are and just be You, Lord. You are what they need.

In the name of Jesus, who knows suffering best of all, I pray, AMEN

 

Full Circle: Rejection Isn’t Fatal

Full Circle Moments

“Can you message someone for me?” a young Facebook friend asked.

“Why can’t you message her?” I asked.

“She blocked me.”

“Ohhh…Well, Sweetie, if she blocked you, it would probably be best to just leave her alone.”

While I waited for my young friend’s response, I found myself fighting a bashful grin. I was having a full circle moment.

Over the last few years, I lost a couple friends, and, believe me, I did not take it well. I pestered them and begged them to take me back, which only intensified their determination to keep their distance.

Some of you are probably surprised I’d find myself in such a predicament, but it’s the truth. While I tend to do just fine in the people department, there were a few times I latched on to people and wanted more from them than they were willing to give…more attention, more appreciation, more time. When they didn’t meet my unrealistic expectations, I felt rejected and more needy than ever.

Not my best moments, that’s for sure.

I’m sad to say it took losing friends to convince me to get help with my approval addiction and fear of rejection, but it did.

And while I did apologize to these people for my behavior, the friendships were not restored. The shame of it all used to slay me. I’d dream up ways to make things right and earn their trust once again.

I can’t waste anymore time looking back with regret. I have to focus on now. On all God is teaching me about His love and its capacity to heal my deepest hurts. On the family who loves me and needs me to be strong and whole. On the healthy relationships I have now and the fight to keep them that way.

Full Circle Moments

“Sweetie, I know it’s hard to accept someone doesn’t want to be your friend. I’ve been there. It hurts!”

“It sure does,” my young friend said.

“One thing I’ve learned is that God removes people from our lives to help us, not hurt us.”

“But I just want to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving,” my friend reasoned.

“Well, wish her well in your mind and let her go, Sweetheart. It’s for the best. Trust me.”

“Ok, I will.”

And I hope she does. I hope it doesn’t take her ’til her 40′s to understand rejection isn’t fatal.

Lord,

Thank you for full circle moments when my hard lessons become gentle ones for others. 

Amen

 

F-Words Worth Saying

The F-words were flying in church yesterday…and they’re still bouncing around in my heart and mind today.

Pastor Gary took us to the Book of Colossians and introduced us to a Believer named Epaphras. Paul thought a lot of Epaphras…enough to point him out as an example of how a vibrant Believer should be.

As I reflect on Pastor Gary’s sermon about this man of deep faith, I think I’ll put my thoughts in the form of a prayer gift: a prayer gift full of F-words worth saying. I think you’ll agree…every Believer wants these adjectives to describe them.

fellowship, faithfulness, focused

Sermons Notes from Colossians 1 and 4

Lord,

Thank you for the role models of the faith scrawled all across Scripture. The big ones like Abraham, Moses, Peter and Paul get lots of press, but today, Pastor Gary shined his flashlight on Epaphras. Only mentioned in Colossians and Philemon, he’s easy to overlook, Lord, but the few verses that bear his name pack a powerful, faith-filled punch. Oh, Lord, I want to be an Epaphras.

Fellow Bondservant

“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant” (Colossians 1:7 NIV).

Lord, I see how Paul, Epaphras and the early church bonded themselves first to Christ and then to each other. Together, they hungered and thirsted after You, seeking to know You better and to live out their faith with courage. Epaphras lived every moment as a teacher/cheerleader/brother/friend as he shared with the early church the “true message of the Gospel,” which is faith and love springing up from hope straight from heaven (Colossians 1:3-6). Even in Epaphras’s absence due to imprisonment, Paul could see evidence of his influence as the Colossians demonstrated faith in Christ and love for all people. 

Oh, Lord, help me to embrace every member of the Body of Christ with complete love and acceptance. We’re all on the same team, Lord! There’s no time for comparisons or contentions of any kind. Only love and mutual commitment to the cause of Christ!

Faithful to God and to God’s People

“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ” (Colossians 1:7 NIV).

All together, these early church members lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with Christ to take on Christ’s burden…to see all people find redemption and real hope. Whether in prison or free to lock eyes with his beloved people, Epaphras was faithful.

Circumstances meant nothing to Epaphras. When was with his people, he taught them, loved them and spurred them on toward the God life. When he was chained to a godless guard in a dank prison cell, his thoughts seldom strayed from the same cause. While he couldn’t be with his people, the power of God reached them through his faithful prayers. 

Focused in Purpose and Prayer

“Epaphras…is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you” (Colossians 4:12-13).

Epaphras didn’t let prison bar stifle his faithfulness. Even in chains, he maintained laser focus on what really mattered. His burden for the cause of Christ and Christ’s people brought him to his knees. He didn’t say a pat prayer or two; he wrestled in prayer. He labored in prayer. He agonized in prayer. And those prayers released God’s power on earth to empower and to expand the Body of Christ.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for letting silly distractions sidetrack me from what really matters in life. It’s so easy to grow cold…even numb to the darkness in this world. I can’t remember the last time I wept in prayer or fell to my knees in desperate pleas. I need my burden back…Your burden I took on my shoulders when I gave my heart to you. Compassion for the hurting, the hungry and the helpless is an ache I need in my life. It’s an ache that helps me know I’m alive and I’m Yours. It’s an ache that reminds me that not everyone has received Your grace gift. It’s an ache that reminds me that it’s not all about me.

Lord, I want to be more like Epaphras: connected at a soul level with my fellow servants of Christ, faithful to Christ and the people He loves and focused in purpose and prayer so much that it hurts.

In Christ’s Name I pray, Amen

Tender Prayer Before a Tough Love Talk

Life can be prickly sometimes. Even in the best relationships, there comes a time where hard conversations must happen.

Sometimes, we have to…

  • say “no” when it would be easier to say “yes.”
  • bring reality into someone’s fantasy.
  • build a fence for someone used to free rein.
  • let go of someone holding on for dear life.

Just like bitter medicine, truth can be hard to swallow. But without it, the sick get sicker and infect others.

The only thing worse than putting off difficult (but necessary) discussions is rushing into them without God’s wisdom and guidance.

Tender prayer is the perfect preface for a tough love talk.

Are you dreading a conversation you know you must have?

This prayer gift is for you.

 

Tender prayer for before a tough love talk.

Tender prayer is the perfect preface for a tough love talk.

Lord,

The thought of talking to _________________ about ____________________ grieves my heart. I’m scared, Lord. Scared I’ll hurt her. Scared she’ll misunderstand me. Scared I’ll lose her. 

I don’t want to do this. I feel sick just thinking about it. 

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV).

Prepare my heart, Lord.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).

Replace any pride with humility and any judgment with grace. May the truth of Your Word judge the thoughts and actions of my heart before I speak one word (Hebrews 4:12).

Prepare my voice, Lord.

I feel like Moses shaking in his sandals at the burning bush. I’m afraid my words won’t measure up. What if I say it all wrong? But I hear Your words to Moses, and I know they are for me, too.

“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12 NIV).

Prepare her heart, Lord.

As I place myself in _______________’s shoes, I know this conversation will sting. Cushion her heart with assurance of Your love and mine, too. Like a momma blows relief on her child’s stinging wound, be right there to breathe comfort on her wounded heart. 

Help her understand “wounds from a friend can be trusted,” and my words come from nothing but love and respect (Proverbs 27:6 NIV).

I still dread the hard conversation before me, Lord, but I feel Your encouragement and help. I trust You to walk _____________ and me through this prickly, but none-the-less holy, experience. I set my heart and my lips before You and trust the proverb is true: “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend” (Proverbs 22:11 NIV).

Trusting You to go before me, I pray in the name of Jesus,

AMEN

 

Smoking on the Church Fence: Come Just as You Are

Sunday, I saw a man perched on the church fence catching a smoke before he went in for the worship service.

Smoking at Church

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Salah alarbash)

The sight made me smile.

I remember the day when something like that would have made my inner church lady come out with her tongue clicking and her finger wagging. Not anymore.

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:16-17 ESV).

The church is not a club full of cleaned up people.

It’s a hospital for folks in various stages of healing.

We’d never expect hospital admissions to say, “Sorry Sir, but you are too sick for admittance. Go heal up a bit and come back to see us.”

Nor would we expect them to diagnose someone based her outward appearance. “Giirrrl, you’re lookin’ good! You must be all good on the inside, too!”

I say again, the church is a hospital for folks in various stages of healing.

It’s a place for addicts to find the answer to their emptiness and the strength to live free.

It’s a place for “good” girls to admit they don’t have it all together and to learn they don’t have to.

It’s a place for the outcasts to shed their stigma and to find a family.

Just as Jesus dined with notorious sinners and sinners-in-disguise, He welcomes all of us to His table. He beckons us, “Come just as you are.”

So shouldn’t we, as Christ followers, do the same?

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls]” (Matthew 11:28 AMP).

The church is a place for people–all people–to come to Jesus and to find their rest.

If they need to sneak a smoke on the church fence until they find it, I’m ok with that.

Lord, give the Body of Christ open arms and accepting hearts for all seekers to find what they’re looking for. We have so much to learn from each other. 

When You Can’t Find Work: A Prayer for the Unemployed

At the grocery store last night, I overheard an employee belly aching to a couple of his buddies about how awful his job is. The irony is that his buddies were in the process of loading their trunk with pumpkins for some kind of autumn activity.

To me, this time of year with the fall colors and pumpkin spice lattes is all about gratitude.

Facebook pals post about big and small things for which they’re thankful. November is just a warm and fuzzy month, I tell ya.

But what about the ones dealing with the financial and emotional strain of unemployment? It’s hard to keep the positive vibes coming when the bank account balance is redder than the reddest fall leaf.

Unemployment is a challenge any time of year, but I can only imagine it’s especially hard during the holidays.

If you are struggling through a season of unemployment, please accept this prayer gift of encouragement and hope. God sees. A Prayer for the Unemployed

Help Wanted

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (gottgraphicdesign)

Lord,

My heart is heavy with concern over my sweet friends who so desperately need employment. They are such faithful servants of Yours…people who seek to represent You well everywhere they go. I know Your heart must swell with pride when You think of them. I come to You today to stand in the gap for my brothers and sisters-in-Christ who need work. 

I imagine their hearts feel conflicted; they desire to rest in complete peace trusting that You will meet their needs, yet the urgency of their need for income must loom heavily on their minds and hearts. Settle the conflict, Lord. You promise in Your word that You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds rest on You (Isaiah 26:3). Those with no hope in Christ will not be able to understand that peace, for it’s a peace that passes all understanding…a peace that stands guard over a Believer’s heart like the Secret Service guards the President (Phil. 4:7). Let Your peace guard these precious families and “take the bullets” the evil one would seek to sink into their confidence.

During this time of transition, the prayer “give us this day our daily bread” must really hit home for my friends. I pray they would see daily evidence of your faithful provision (Matt 6:11). Empower them to truly “seek first” Your kingdom and Your righteousness trusting that You will take care of their needs (Matt 6:25-34).

I  once saw a clip of an evangelist on a Christian TV program. He was describing God’s call on his life and how He distinctly heard the Lord say to him, “Give away everything you own so that I can reposition you.” Are You getting ready to reposition these families, Lord? Please give them a glimpse of Your bigger plan for them, Lord. Give them a taste of what You are doing…just a small taste that will fill their hearts with hope and excitement. Without any doubt, I know that you have an amazing plan in store for them…plans to prosper them and to give them a glorious, hopeful future (Jer.29:11). I can’t wait to see what You will do, Lord!

I ask that you will richly provide my unemployed brothers and sisters with just the right employment….not just a job to pay the bills, but a divine assignment where they can truly make a difference. Provide them with job duties that will be a joy for them to perform. Give them supernatural wisdom to know the doors upon which they should knock. When they get to the correct door, let the door fly open so that the light of victory will shine through. Give them complete assurance about where You want them, Lord. Let no time be wasted on dead ends; give them a divine sense of direction. In fact, I’d love to see a job come looking for them. Provide in such a way that they will have no doubt it is a gift from You.

As they patiently wait on You, remind these families that You understand their suffering. You had no place to lay Your head when you lived on this earth (Matt 8:20). You are fully acquainted with the grief we suffer (Isa. 53:3). You understand, and you care much more deeply than any human ever could. Let them feel Your warm embrace and hear Your whispers of encouragement every moment. And may their prayer be, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lam 3:24-25).

Lord, I thank you for all You have done so far, and I thank You in advance for what You will do. I adore You, and I trust You. In the faithful and precious name of Jesus I pray, AMEN and AMEN!

If you’ve been through a season of unemployment and made it to the other side, share a word of encouragement or a practical tip for someone going through it right now. With whom can you share this prayer for the unemployed?

A Place at the Table

If you’re visiting from Tracy’s place, One Degree Ministries, welcome! Don’t you just love her? I’m excited to give one of her readers a copy of Prayer Gifts While You Wait!

I love how her pastor’s sermon this weekend “just happened” to be about waiting. Nothing every “just happens” with Jesus, does it?

………………………………………….

At my house, we have two black and white puppy dogs named Alley and Riff. While they look a lot alike, their personalities are as opposite as can be.

Alley’s a grouchy old lady with an attitude. She only wants affection on her terms, and if you try to love on her against her will, she growls like a guard dog.

Riff is half Alley’s age and the biggest cuddler ever. The instant you say his name, Riff stops, drops and rolls on his back for some belly scratching.

At dinner time, though, their roles reverse. Alley turns into a pitiful begging fool, and Riff sits back and chills.

Begging for a place at the table

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (waffries)

 I know I’m not supposed to feed my dogs people food, but I do. [Don't judge...there's a spiritual application to this post :)]

With Alley begging and Riff just sitting there looking cute, Riff gets the first bite. It’s the principle of the thing, right?

Sometimes, I feel like Alley. Pitiful. Desperate for morsels of approval.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true.

I write funny stuff on Facebook hoping people will look forward to my posts.

I send prayers and encouraging  words to folks hoping  they’ll think I’m a priceless gift.

I come to people’s rescue so they’ll feel like I’m someone they can’t live without.

Pitiful, huh?

When I think about my desperate ways, my first instinct is to bury my head in the sands of shame.

But then I realized something important. Something huge.

We’re all pitiful.

Everyone has challenges. We all feel vulnerable in some way. Every one of us falls short.

 We all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23 NLT).

We have a choice.

We can focus on our faults and crumble into a pathetic pile of self-condemnation.

OR

We can identify with Jesus and let His character and His sacrifice change everything. I mean, everything!

Jesus died because of sin.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners (Romans 5:6 NLT).

Christians are called to die to sin.

Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? (Romans 6:2 NLT).

Death sounds pretty rough…somber at best. But here’s the hope. If we identify with Christ’s death, we have a free pass to identify with his resurrection!

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:5-11 NLT).

As Christians, we have a constant place at the table. We don’t have to grovel to get a teensy taste from God’s plate. We have our own place, our own plate and our own hefty helping of His grace, mercy and resurrection power!

We don’t have to beg for a place at the table. Jesus set the table.

Lord, Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with shame over my sin. I don’t deserve a place at Your table. I know it, and so do You. But Jesus…Jesus secured my place. Because of His grace gift, I’ll never, ever lose my place at the table. Help me, Lord, not to make a mockery of my hard-earned place at Your banquet table. I didn’t earn it, Lord. You did. And I don’t want to make light of Your sacrifice. I don’t want to take Your mercy for granted. I don’t want my choices to spit in the face of Your grace.

Jesus placecard

In the name of the place card at the Head of the Table, Jesus, I pray, AMEN

 

Worship Leaders are Lucky

Worship leaders are lucky. We get to stand on the platform and hold mics and stuff. Just kidding.

We get to witness pure worship of unhindered people. As I stand on that platform facing my church family each week, God always pinpoints my worship leader.

Today, my worship leader was Melody, a cancer survivor fighting the monster once again.

The doctors aren’t hopeful, but Melody’s hope is in Christ.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12 ESV).

With her bald head wrapped in a stylish scarf and her bone-thin arms raised to heaven, Melody poured out her soul to her Savior.

Her voice worshiped. Her tears worshiped. Her broken body worshiped.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Melody trusts God. The End.

She doesn’t need to know all the answers because she knows The Answer.

The peace in her countenance and the glint in her eyes both inspire and challenge me. Her faith stands firm despite her pain. Despite her grim prognosis. Despite her feelings.

[She] is not afraid of bad news; [her] heart is firm, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7 ESV).

How firm is my faith? I shudder to think of all the lame stuff I allow to distract me.

Who cares if so-and-so rejected me? I’m accepted and secure in Christ.
So what if money’s tight? My treasure isn’t housed at Wells Fargo.
Whoop-ti-doo! My plans didn’t pan out the way I wanted. God has big plans for me!

Lord, 

Thank you for Melody and the beauty of her faith. Hold her tight against Your chest so she can hear Your heart and feel Your compassion. Work wonders in her body, mind, and spirit so Your light will shine brighter by the day. Use her present journey to point seekers to eternity and believers to deeper faith. All for Your glory, AMEN

Prayer Gifts While You Wait

I feel like a proud momma showing off her new baby girl! May I present to you my first book.

Prayer Gifts While You Wait

Available in paperback and on Kindle!

 

Isn’t the cover beautiful? My firstborn son, Garrett, designed it for me. What a blessing to have tech-savvy fellas under my roof! And even sweeter that my guys support my dreams.

Prayer Gifts While You Wait is a 14-day devotional packed with encouragement for anyone struggling with waiting on God.

One thing I’ve learned is God’s timing rarely meshes with ours. He never gets in a hurry, and He won’t be rushed.

Where should we place our trust? In our flawed game plans or in God’s perfect will?

Of course, God’s way is best, but that doesn’t make the waiting any easier. We’ve been groomed for impatience by a “get it now” culture. Waiting with grace feels awkward when everyone around us is moving in fast forward.

In Prayer Gifts While You Wait, I share stories from my own seasons of waiting and wisdom I learned along the way. Each story is paired with a Scripture-rich prayer gift to help readers get to the heart of the matter with the only One who can help them learn to wait with grace: Jesus.

Head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of Prayer Gifts While You Wait: Grace for as Long as it Takes. I’d love to hear how you like it. Available in paperback here and in the Kindle store.

Lord, thank you for the opportunity to share part of my story through this little book. I trust You to put it in the hands of the ones who need its message. Help us, Lord, to learn how to wait with grace. AMEN

*Affiliate link is associated with this post.

Walking Through the Haunted House: Facing Fear

I had a major breakthrough in my counselor’s office this afternoon.

A few years ago, my sweet counselor, Wendy, helped me pick through some serious rubble when my family suffered a string of sudden losses. Well, grief has a way of bringing long-buried wounds to the surface.

With her caring, Christ-like guidance, I took some giant steps toward wholeness.

Later, when my cowboy daddy left for heaven, Wendy was there to help me process.

Recently, I returned to Wendy’s place to move forward even more. I’m grateful we can pick up where we left off. She’s a safe place to get real and to get truly, truly well.

Everyone has their thing, you know? That one ugly thing they battle again and again.

Desperation for approval/fear of rejection is my thing. And it’s like a big fat stinky onion with a foul stench and lots of layers.

Wendy and I keep peeling and peeling. I feel like, one day, I’ll walk out of her office without even a trace of onion breath.

When I walked into Wendy’s office, all I had on my mind was my throbbing arm from a midnight scorpion sting. I remember thinking to myself, “Not sure if there’s anything to talk about today.”

After we swapped scorpion sting stories, I remembered a dream I was having before the scorpion woke me up. In the dream, I had a nasty confrontation with someone. I was all up in this person’s face telling her how much she hurt me and how every bad thing in my life came from her. I remember lots of screaming, lots of cursing and lots of door slamming.

I hate confrontation of any kind. Screaming and yelling makes me cry and flee. It would be safe to say that I would never behave the way I behaved in that dream.

When Wendy suggested I process the anger from my dream, I almost refused. I don’t like feeling angry, especially not uncontrollably angry.

Reluctantly, I agreed to give it a try. Wendy uses a method called EMDR to help me reprocess negative feelings. As I think about certain experiences or feelings, my eyes follow a dot moving side-to-side on a small monitor. You can read more about it here. It may seem kind of strange, but it works for me.

As I thought about the anger, my face flushed and my eyes felt heavy and lifeless. The corners of my mouth drew downward. I don’t think I could have smiled even if I tried. My arms and legs felt like lead. My spirit felt dark and gloomy. Ugly.

After a few minutes, I felt my spirit start protesting. “I don’t want it. I don’t want it. I don’t want it.”

“Lee, what is it you don’t want?” Wendy asked.

“I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want anyone to feel this way. I don’t want the hurts from the past to mess with my happiness anymore. I’m done with it.”

I stomped my foot and threw my arms forward as if pushing away a big bully.

Wendy and I sat for a bit and took in the significance of the moment.

She asked, “Lee, do you feel like you walked into the darkness of those feelings and then turned around and went out the way you came? Or did you walk all that way through to the other side?”

My eyebrows lifted with a big a-ha. “I definitely walked through to the other side.”

All my life, I’ve approached painful feelings like a little girl walking into a carnival haunted house.

Enter at your own risk

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Kenziehutch)

At the first sense of discomfort, I’d turn tail and run back to the entrance. Too scary. Too hard. Too much for me.

Today, I walked through that haunted house and came out laughing on the other side. I’m not afraid anymore.

Faced my fear and lived!

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (scion_cho)

 Lord, I feel a sense of courage that’s brand-new to me. Thank you for helping me shed another layer of the fear I’ve carried for so, so long. My heart feels unburdened and light. I’m so grateful, Lord. So grateful. Thank you for helping me face my fear. Amen

Is it time for you to walk through your own haunted house of fears? 

 

Out on a Limb

My cowboy daddy’s picture is next to the word “accident-prone” in the dictionary.

Dad and Dean

Dad and Dean at the beach in Galveston. Both in heaven now.

If there was a way to get hurt, he found it.

Once, he caught himself on fire trying to light the gas grill…with gasoline.

I have a picture of my mom plucking porcupine quills from the seat of Dad’s Wranglers. While trying to save me from harm, Dad tripped and fell on the prickly critter.

And then there was the time he climbed a tree with chainsaw in hand to trim some limbs. His idea would have been genius if he hadn’t cut off the limb he was sitting upon!

Poor Dad.

Out on a Limb

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (anthony_dcp)

Going out on a limb is always a little risky, isn’t it?

There’s no guarantee you’ll get back to solid ground unscathed. The blustery winds of rejection and objection threaten to knock you off your perch to the “I told you so’s” below.

Opposing voices in your head say, “Go for it!” and “What? Are you crazy?” until you have mental whiplash.

Sometimes, self-sabotaging thoughts and actions cut the limb right out from under you.

It can be lonely out on a limb because few people dare to try it.

After losing several loved ones way too young, I realize the adage, “Life’s too short” is full of truth.

Life’s too short to let fear keep my feet nailed to the ground.

Life’s too short to let the naysayers drown out the cheerleaders.

Life’s too short to wait around for opportunities to come to me.

I have strong arms and legs, a mind bursting with creativity and a heart pulsing with passion to make a difference in a God-honoring way.

So, here I sit out on a limb. Ready to risk rejection and ridicule to see my purpose fulfilled. Who’s with me?

Lord,

I’m ready to make the most of this life You so graciously gave me. Too often, I let fear hold me down, but, I say right now, “No more!”  A spirit of fear is not on your gift list. You are all about power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Fill me with courage to go out on the limbs where my purpose is ripe for the picking. And thank you for going out on a limb for me. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN

Like Going Hungry in Granny’s Kitchen | Garden of Grace

My Granny Maxwell was a Southern cook Paula Deen would admire. Seems like her stove always had something simmering. Turnip greens and ham. Fried chicken with mashed ‘taters. Fresh-picked peas and corn bread. My personal favorite was her made-from-scratch chocolate pie. Oh my goodness, my memory is licking its lips.

Granny gave great hugs, too.

Granny loved with food and the tightest hugs ever!

If you came within 100 yards of Granny’s house, you got fed. Of course, her favorite guests were her children, grandchildren, and her two best friends, Tommie and Ruby.

But she didn’t have to know you to feed you. Her Mississippi Delta farmhouse was surrounded by soybean fields. Farm hands grew accustomed to sweet Miss Maxwell flagging them down from the tractor with a cookie or a sandwich and a cold “Co-cola.”

Shoot, even her barn cats knew they had it good. She’d walk out to her back stoop just a hollerin’, “Whaaaaare’s my tom cats?” And they’d come running for whatever savory leftovers she had to offer.

The idea of going hungry at Granny’s house was ludicrous!

And so is choosing not to receive every bit of God’s grace.

So often, we live in a spiritual famine. We try to fill our hungry souls with all kinds of fake food: people pleasing, overeating and drinking, money and the stuff it buys, falling in love, hobbies, or sports. None of that stuff satisfies the hollow ache of a hungry heart.

Only Jesus satisfies.

Jesus [said], “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35 NLT).

Millions of people all over this world have never had a taste of what Jesus has to offer. They know something’s missing, but they may not realize that it’s not a what but a Who they seek.

But what about all of us who say we’re Christians? What’s our excuse? Look at what Paul says about us.

Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God (Romans 5:2 AMP)

We stand in the middle of a garden of grace! Everywhere we look, grace is ripe for the picking.

In her study of the Beatitudes, Lord, Only You Can Change Me, Kay Arthur says, “Grace is all that Christ is, made available to me.”

She goes on to say we are “standing in God’s adequacy” for every situation of our lives. Whoa.

So, what’s our problem? If we’re standing smack-dab in the middle of God’s grace, which holds everything we need to flourish, then why are so many Believers living in that spiritual famine?

Kay says, all we have to do is “stoop and scoop” up the grace right in our midst.

No one in her right mind would stand in the middle of my Granny’s kitchen and choose to go hungry.

I pray Christ’s people will start partaking of the produce of grace we hold through Christ. The rest of the world needs to see us talking with our spiritual mouths full, fat and happy in Christ. Only then, will they join the feast.

Lord,

My heart smiles and aches at the same time when I think of my sweet granny feeding everyone she could get her hands on. Oh, how I miss her! But thinking of the garden of grace available to me makes my heart hungry for everything You’ve got. I’m digging in, Lord. And I’ll share the bounty with everyone I can.

Sometimes, Awful is a Blessing in Disguise| Wellness Wednesdays

Have you ever had something awful happen only to discover later that it was a blessing in disguise?

At the time, you thought you’d flat-out die from the pain. But, eventually, you saw things clearly and realized God had a wonderful plan all along.

In April, my awful happened. After working at the same school for close to a decade, I found myself in a place that forced me to resign. I won’t go into details because it really doesn’t matter.

beauty from pain

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (michalmana)

I see the wonderfulness now!

God knew what He was doing (Duh…He always does!).

He made a way for me to work part-time while still making the same I made working full-time. Between my part-time job as a special education case manager and my little side business selling ACE, I don’t miss my full-time salary from the old place.

Plus, I have Tuesdays and Thursdays off to write. And that’s enough for me right now. At this point, I don’t have the personal discipline to write full-time. Again, God knows what He’s doing.

My old job had beautiful qualities.

I miss my colleagues-turned-friends something fierce. But you know what? The ones who are truly friends still reach out to me by phone and on Facebook. They are still in my life, but now it’s by choice not by convenience.

My old job had big district procedures in place that make some things way easier. But, guess what? My new boss is as open to suggestions as my Shihtzu is to a belly rub.

My students stole my heart and gave me cause to smile every, single day. But, believe it or not, my new students are just as precious.

I LOVE my new job!

My boss appreciates me, respects me, and listens to me.

My colleagues are kind, funny, and creative. We work hard all day long, but we find so many reasons to laugh and to smile.

Because the company is small, we are all about supporting each other and the students. No politics. No power plays. No pushing each other under the proverbial bus when things go wrong. We are a team. A family.

And I am so thankful.

Lord,

Thank you for the awful experience of leaving my old job. I didn’t think I’d survive the hurt. When my pals started school without me, I thought I’d die. But now, I see what You were up to. You knew a small company needed a special ed teacher with Southern charm and big district experience. You knew I needed less hours, less stress, and less politics. You knew, Lord. Why do I fail to trust You? You are faithful ALL THE TIME! Blessed be Your name.

Job satisfaction is HUGE for wellness. Do you have a dream job? I’d love to hear about it!

*The winners of a week’s supply of ACE are: Gail Morris, Cynthia McCutcheon, and Angela Wilson! Woot! (I won’t mention that they were the only three people who commented).

Gals, as soon as my next shipment of ACE comes, your prizes will be in the mail.

 

The Imperfect Women’s Fellowship

A year or two ago, my pastor’s wife and my youth minister’s wife found something missing at our church, the Heart of Mesa.

Other than a once-a-year Mother’s Day tea, we had nothing going on in the women’s ministry department.

The Second Wednesday Club was born. Nothing fancy. Just a time to get to know each other better. A little food and fellowship and lots of laughter.

Ladies of all ages came and bonded like the sisters we are.

It’s amazing how much sharing and loving can happen over coffee and sweet treats.

Well, after a while, Wednesday evenings didn’t work for the Second Wednesday Club. The leaders changed the date and time to second Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. But we never changed the name.

Can you imagine the confusion of this invitation?

What: Second Wednesday Club

When: Saturday, September 14 at 10:30 a.m.

Where: At the home of the lovely Lenora Bradshaw

Lenora’s cooking taco soup! Bring your favorite cracker or dessert. Let’s see if we can bring a little autumn to Arizona!

Yep…it’s time for a new name, and Second Saturday Club won’t work. Who knows when we’ll have to change it to Tuesdays?

Effective this very moment…our name shall be, “Imperfect Women’s Fellowship.”

Imperfect Women's Fellowship

That’s who we are, after all.

We fall on our faces and get back up again.

We say the wrong things and ask for forgiveness.

We get frumpy, frazzled, and frustrated and receive God’s new mercies every morning.

We are imperfect women who need Jesus. Sound like a club you’d join? Well, if you’re ever east of Phoenix on a second Saturday, come join us!

I’ll let you know if we change to Tuesdays. :)

Lord, thank you for the Imperfect Women’s Fellowship…a place where I’ll always fit in.  Amen

Looking Up

Have you ever gotten so focused on your troubles that you can’t seem to see anything else?

Me too.

A couple of months ago, I let my issues get the best of me. With my mind consumed with questions and self-pity, I sunk into depression like a brick in a bath tub.

Fortunately, I had enough sense to share my funk with my “keeping it real” friend, Kristy. She is not big on whining and excuse making. Her response to me was, “GROW UP!”

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (laurenprofeta)

Looking up

Before you think to yourself, Well, that’s awfully harsh, read the rest of her counsel.

Grow up…meaning face upward, not inward. This isn’t the time to focus on self. Your gloom and doom and self loathing is not helpful. Every time you recognize you are doing it, immediately change your focus to HIM. Cry. Get it out. And move on. Release it. If there’s something to learn, then figure it out and move on. Ain’t nobody got time for this!

If you don’t have a friend willing to tell you the truth, pray without ceasing for God to bring you one. (Tweet this)

I thought of Kristy’s wise advice when I was doing some reading in Daniel.

King Nebuchadnezzar had a little focus problem, and the Lord took drastic measures to clear up his vision.

After giving him a warning nightmare and providing Daniel with a clear explanation of the dream, King Neb kept on looking everywhere but to God.

His nightmare became reality.

That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws (Daniel 4:33 NLT).

Wow. Can you imagine how his wife explained that to the kids?

“Uh, kids, your daddy won’t be coming home tonight. He’s eating all those wild oats he sowed.”

In keeping with His new mercies, God didn’t leave Neb like that forever.

After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever (Daniel 4:34 NLT).

When we look up, God brings us back to our senses. (Tweet this)

Neb had plenty of time to “self-reflect” while he picked grass out of his teeth. But when he looked to God, he knew the truth. The truth of who God was. The truth of who he was. The truth of Who holds the power and the keys to everything.

In her study, Let. It. GoKaren Ehman says we should glance at our problems and gaze at the Problem Solver. I choose looking up Jesus. Looking down at my issues for too long is a royal waste of time.

Kristy’s right. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Lord,

Forgive me for the time I’ve wasted letting my problems and hyper-sensitive emotions blur my vision. See me crane my neck toward heaven? I love you, Lord. Thank you for bringing me back to my senses. And thank you for wise sisters-in-Christ who remind me of what’s true when I forget. Amen

ACE by Saba | Appetite Control and Energy

Off and on over my blogging years, I’ve posted about my weightloss journey. Honestly, I stopped because I was so tired of going one step forward and two steps back and then having to post about it. No one likes to broadcast repeated failures for everyone and her uncle to read.

But since June, I’ve experienced a transformation in the weightloss department. In three months, I’ve lost 20 pounds. Now, I know that’s not worthy of a headline on one of those check-out counter magazines, but it works for me! And the weight is still coming off.

In June, I started taking a food supplement called ACE (Appetite Control and Energy) by Saba. For months, my sister kept telling me about how great ACE is, but I just shrugged and went on with my overeating ways.

I’ve tried so many diet plans and fallen for so many diet schemes that I wasn’t willing to spend one more penny on anything like that.

But when I went to Louisiana to visit my sister, I came face-to-face with what ACE by Saba can do. My sister lost 20 pounds. My brother-in-love lost 40 pounds. My nephew lost 30 pounds. My niece lost 20 pounds.

None of them ate any special foods or increased their exercise. All they did was take ACE by Saba.

So, I decided to try it while I was there. Normally, when I go “home” for a visit, I gain five to ten pounds from eating all my favorite Southern cuisine. When I returned from my trip, I was down five pounds!

I still indulged in fried catfish and Southern Maid donuts. I just didn’t eat as much. My sister and I shared entrees each time we went out, and we always left food on our plate.

Please understand my track record…usually, I order my own entree and eat every bite. Plus, I sneak bites off other people’s plates.

Not since taking ACE. I don’t know how it does it, but ACE by Saba puts food in proper perspective. I don’t even think about food until my stomach gives off a full-blown growl. When I get hungry, I eat whatever sounds good. Sometimes, it’s a healthy smoothie from my Nutribullet machine. Other times, it’s a cheese enchilada (not three like I used to). It may be a plate of stir-fried veggies or a couple slices of pizza (not five slices like I used to).

ACE by Saba works! I’m so blown away by how well it is working for me that I signed up to be a distributor.

ACE by Saba

Contact me to order ACE today!

 

If you’d like to try ACE for yourself, let me know. I’m so sold on it that I’m giving away a free week’s supply of ACE by Saba to three of my readers. If you’d like to try ACE for free, leave a comment below. Next Wednesday, I’ll choose three winners.

Head over to my ACE website and read about ACE for yourself! ACE helps LeeBird eat like a bird instead of a horse. I’m confident that it can help you, too.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered for the free week’s supply of ACE!

A Prayer for the Miley Generation

Tonight, as I scanned my Facebook feed, my heart shriveled as I read jokes and ridicule directed toward Miley Cyrus, a young woman we’ve watched grow up on the big and small screens. I feel like shrieking across the world-wide web: “This is NOT a joke, people!”

And then my mind drifted to another young woman I know. Read this post from last year. I dare to say, deep down inside, Miley and Erin (and all girls) want the same things.

Little girl don't feel sleepy

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (djvirus)

Last weekend, I received a love gift from Jesus.

He gave me the blessing of spending time with my Twitter friend, Erin Taylor, who was in Arizona on vacation with her family.

We flopped down in some cozy hotel lobby chairs and gabbed for a good two hours.

I doubt any of the lobby lurkers had a clue that we had never met before. Put it this way…we had no awkward silences or bashful glances.

Don’t you just love the sisterhood of faith?

Love my buddy, Erin!

As I listened to Erin’s 20-something heart, my 40-something heart really heard her.

I heard her wonderings about God’s plan for her life and what step to take next.

I heard her deep, deep desire to live a life that makes an eternal imprint.

I heard her frustrations over the way many churches fail to effectively minister to young adults.
Jesus heard her, too, and I just know He will hear and respond to this prayer gift for my 20-something sisters.

Lord,

Even though I’m in my 40′s, I still feel like that 20-something girl I once was. Oh, how I wanted my life to matter…for Your glory and for the good of other people. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to hear the heart of a 20-something from a different generation. Her story is different from mine, but what she wants is the same.

For my 20-something sisters, I pray for clear direction, a heart like Yours and a place to call home.

Show them the way.

Lord, from Adam’s first heartbeat, You’ve had all the answers. When we do things Your way…oh my goodness… it’s beautiful!

“Show [them] your ways, LORD, teach [them] your paths. Guide [them] in your truth and teach [them], for you are God [their] Savior, and [their] hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:3-5 NIV).

“[Wake them] each morning with the sound of your loving voice, [so they'll] go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road [they]must travel. Teach [them] how to live to please you, because You’re God. Lead [them] by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland” (Psalm 143:8-9 MSG).

Young adults of today are full of talent, creativity, and potential. They have access to so many opportunities, so many influences, and so many promising paths.

But Your path…Your way is the most excellent way. It’s all about loving You and loving people.

If [they] speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, [they're] nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If [they] speak [Your]Word with power, revealing all [Your] mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if [they] have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but don’t love, [they are] nothing. If [they] give everything [they] own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but don’t love, [they've] gotten nowhere. So, no matter what [they] say, what [they] believe, and what [they] do, [they're] bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut,    doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG).

Give them Your heart.

Lord, I sometimes wonder if You weep over the condition of this world. All the ugliness. All the darkness. All the pain.

Many of my 20-something sisters know pain personally. The pain of shattered worth. The pain of fractured relationships. The pain of too much too soon.

Please, Lord, lay Your wounded and scarred heart right on theirs. Remind them of how much they are understood and loved. You are a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV). You see their pain and are concerned over their suffering (Exodus 3:7). You bind up their wounds and heal their broken places (Psalm 147:3).

As You heal and restore, their hearts will have Your fingerprints all over them. With every touch, their hearts will resemble Yours all the more. And they will love with Your love and act with Your compassion.

Oh, Lord, this world needs Your love and compassion. How humbling and heartening that You choose to let us be Your hands, Your feet, and Your heart.

Thanks to the shrinking of our world due to media, my 20-something sisters grew up so much more aware of what’s going on “out there.” Poverty. Disease. Exploitation.

Give my sisters courage to go where the need is. To touch the untouchable. To stand firm when others turn tail and run.

Give them a place to call home.

Churches are pretty good at growing little girls into high school graduates, and they do just fine at training up wives and mommas. But those in-between ones…the 20-somethings…tend to be neglected and ignored.

Lord, our churches can’t ignore these precious creatures any longer. Give us wisdom in how to reach out in loving acceptance to our 20-somethings. Show us how to anticipate their unique needs and to be prepared with what they need from us.

In every congregation, plant women with a passion for 20-somethings. Women with arms quick to hug and hearts quick to love. Women with wisdom and instruction without judgement and nagging.  Women without masks who will lovingly help “their girls” peel off theirs.

 Thank You, Lord, for opening my eyes to the 20-something heart as I reclined in a comfy hotel lobby chair.

Please, Lord, give all these things to Your young ones who need to know how adored and cherished they are by You and by Your people. I pray this for Erin and all the rest. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN

 ***Here’s a challenge. After you pray this prayer for the 20-somethings in your life, ask the Lord how He wants you to demonstrate His love to this neglected group. Are there 20-somethings in your church? Talk to them. Love on them. Pray for them. Spend time with them. I’d love to hear how it goes!***

Oily Hands: A Guest Post by Dr. Laurel Shaler

I’m please to have a special guest on the Prayer Gifts blog today! Dr. Laurel Shaler wears lots of hats! She’s a licensed social worker, an adjunct professor, and a Christian counselor with extensive experience working with military veterans. Her Christian speaking and writing ministry focuses on intersecting faith with emotional wellbeing. As someone who struggles with bouts of depression, I think that’s a pretty timely intersection, how ’bout you?

Be sure to visit Laural at all of “her places” listed below! And enjoy reading about a time God stretched her faith by taking her out of her prayer comfort zone. Thanks, Laurel!

                          laurel shaler
Laurel Shaler, PhD, LISW-CP (SC), LCSW (MO)
“Intersecting Faith and Emotional Well-Being”

As the rough, oil covered hands began to rub my belly, I had no strength to ask her to stop. Even if I could, I am not sure I would have wanted to. Why? Because the oily hands were accompanied by powerful prayers.

Here’s the rest of the story…

Several years ago, I was in Jamaica on a mission trip. Our agenda was to help lay persons, pastors, and counselors better understand trauma and how to help those who had experienced it.

Mission pic laurel shaler

While on this trip, about half of the group members became very ill. A number of individuals even wound up in the local emergency room. After diagnoses from Meningitis to Gastroenteritis, it was concluded that the ailment was indeed some severe form of an intestinal infection.  Because it could not be determined if this was viral or bacterial, some individuals received antibiotics and some did not.

When I became ill that Wednesday morning on a HOT October day, I chose not to go to the hospital. At the moment I was helping to teach a group of precious elementary children some sign language to interpret Christian songs. Praise the Lord all of my other official duties for the week were complete. And I am also so thankful that a dear friend in the group stepped in and helped with the students when I was too weak to stand.

After a while, I could no longer even sit and went into the open air sanctuary to lie down. I was not sitting very close to the group of church members praying that morning, but they sensed I was in need and came over. This is when the prayers began. The prayers for healing. The prayers for strength. Although the oily hands covering my body were slightly out of my comfort zone, I knew the prayers were sincere. So, so, so sincere.

James 5:24 says that if we are sick we should call for the elders of the church to pray over us and anoint us with oil in the name of the Lord. These older adults of this precious body of believers did that for me without my asking. Really, without my consent. But what a blessing!

For the next several days, I lay on a couch in a beautiful house that had no air conditioning and no hot water. Even the slightest sip of fluids would send my body into excruciating convulsions. I did make it home on a flight the Sunday after the illness began thanks to some heavy duty immodium. I arrived home safe and sound, and 10 pounds lighter.

I have no doubt that the prayers offered by these beautiful Jamaican people were heard by our Savior and that the Lord intervened as a result. Although miserable, He provided me a path to full recovery.

So, yeah, I’ll take those oily hands any day…as long as they come with heartfelt words lifted up to our Heavenly Father.

Have you ever been out of your prayer comfort zone? How did it stretch your faith?

Holding Hands with Jesus

Wyatt held my hand at Sunday school. While Miss Robin told the story of Priscilla and Aquilla working with Paul to make tents and disciples, five-year-old Wyatt gave me a sideways glance and clutched my hand like he’s been doing it his whole life.

He’s never done it before, and I don’t know if he’ll ever do it again, but I’m glad my hand was “handy” to give him that little smidge of reassurance he needed.

I’m “just the helper” in the kindergarten Sunday school class. Miss Robin is the lead teacher with the giant ziplock bag of resources and the dog-eared teacher book. I just come for crowd control and comedy relief. Or so I thought before today.

Before Wyatt held my hand.

A little moment

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (tan8b)

Today, I realized that I’m not “just the helper.” I am God’s hands for those sweet children to hold.

I confess I haven’t taken my time with the little ones seriously. Most weeks, I show up late and leave early–something I’d never dream of doing to my ladies Bible study on Sunday nights.

Are the well-behaved women I serve on Sunday nights more significant than the rowdy bunch of five-year-olds I serve on Sunday mornings? Of course not!

“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” (Colossians 3:17 ESV).

Lord, please forgive me for not seeing the significance of being Your helper in the kindergarten class. Help me to take seriously every opportunity to be Your hands and to share Your heart.

 

 

Man Child

My firstborn turns 19 today. I was engaged to his daddy at 19!  How did this happen already?

garrett19fullsize

My handsome man child

Garrett moved back home after living in the dorm at Northern AZ University for a school year. I missed him.

I enjoy seeing his face and watching him do life. I cherish our conversations and omelet dates. I admire his creativity and intellect.

I just plain like my kid.

Like most young men his age, Garrett is in the middle of figuring out what he wants to do with his life. He has so many directions he could go–all of them exciting and honorable. When I look at Garrett, I can see his wheels turning all the time. He wants to get it right.

Will you join me in prayer for Garrett and other young adults like him? When all that’s left of us are fond memories, they will be the world changers.

Lord,

Garrett and his generation live in an era of opportunity and innovation. New technologies and ideologies peek around every corner, giving them so much to sort through and figure out. 

They’re a new breed, so different from their parents and grandparents. 

They are truth seekers and seek their own answers to life’s questions.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NLT).

Oh, Lord, You are the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Convince them, Lord, with evidence that makes sense to their hungry minds. “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth” (John 17:17 GW).

They are hungry for meaning and refuse to fall for useless ritual.

Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot. This most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe he’ll do it now, maybe he’ll turn around and show pity. Maybe, when all’s said and done, there’ll be blessings full and robust for your God! (Joel 2:13-14 MSG)

As a whole, we have failed to show our children that a relationship with You is worth pursuing. Forgive us, Lord, for our lack of surrender and our lack of authentic faith. Without a game-changing relationship with You, this generation will lose. Your kindness, Lord, leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). May Garrett’s generation lead the way to radical life change for their elders and for their children. 

They are difference makers and embrace diversity as a gift.

Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. You’re God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! (1 Thessalonians 4:9 MSG).

Again, Lord, this generation can lead us with their natural bent toward acceptance. Use them to show us how to love everyone, even those with whom we don’t agree.

Lord, I’m grateful for Garrett and other young people like him. They refuse to believe anything just because their parents say it’s true. They want to experience the satisfaction of discovery. They want to learn for themselves. They want the real thing.

Meet them where they are, Lord. Do whatever You must to open their eyes to Your relevance and Your unchanging brilliance.

We pray with gratitude and expectation in the name of Jesus, AMEN 

Leave a birthday message for my sweet boy! It’ll make his momma oh, so happy!

A First Day of School Prayer

Most of the schools in my area start back this week. The stores are packed with back-to-school shoppers and school supply addicts who can’t pass up the smokin’ deals on Crayola markers.

Free Two Happy Girls Holding Hands Walking to School at Sunrise Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons(pinksherbet)

For all the parents out there ready to send their cherubs into brand-new classrooms with fresh bulletin boards and crisp stacks of worksheets, I share this back-to-school prayer.

Lord,

There’s something special about the first day of school. Kids of all ages with new backpacks full of virgin crayons, notebooks, and pencils. Self-conscious students in squeaky new shoes with nary a scuff mark and well-thought-out outfits for a cool first impression. Teachers with Welcome Back bulletin boards and brand-new class rosters full of young minds.

I come to You as both a momma and a teacher to ask for Your blessing on this new school year.

Bless my children with focus, friendships, and fun.

Help my kids to consider their school work as an act of worship. “Whatever [they] do in word or deed,  [I pray they do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17 NASB). May they forget past mistakes and press on toward the goal of honoring You (Philippians 3:13-14). As they go throughout their days, may their words and their thoughts be pleasing in Your sight (Psalm 19:14).

You’ve blessed them with loyal friends who bring out the best in them. I pray You will foster their existing friendships and bring new ones into their lives. Give them friends who will spur them on to love You and serve You with all their hearts. (Hebrews 10:24) Give my sons memories with friends and family that will make them laugh out loud for years to come. Use my children to point others to a relationship with You. May they take up their cross and follow You, even down those school hallways (Matthew 16:24).

Bless my students with confidence and consistent, caring leadership.

As a special education teacher, so many of my students come to me with a spirit of defeat. Their learning challenges make learning so difficult that by the time they reach junior high, they’ve almost given up. I believe You’ve placed me at my school to change their minds. To help them believe in themselves again.

I pray my new cherubs will wake up each morning with a sense of excitement and not dread. Use me and the other teachers at my school to empower and encourage these fragile ones. Use us to infuse strength, determination, and confidence.

The students aren’t the only ones who need encouragement. I pray parents will guide with consistency and care. Give them the strength to have a balance of high expectations and grace. Help the teachers and parents to create a seamless partnership with one goal in mind: the best for the learners.

Bless teachers with a peaceful, productive, and positive school year.

Teachers surely don’t choose the profession for the money. We want to make an impact on young lives and, in turn, this world. We want to help our students grow in knowledge, responsibility, and character. Help us, Lord, to keep the main thing in focus at all times. It’s so easy to get distracted by paperwork and state tests. Help us to never reduce our students to a test score or a letter grade. Help us to treat our students in the same manner we’d want our own children to be treated (Matthew 7:12).

I’m hopeful, Lord. Hopeful for a beautiful school year for us all. Walk with us, moment-by-moment, and my hope will be fully realized.

In the name of Jesus I gratefully pray, AMEN

What’s your favorite thing about the start of the school year?

New Beginnings

Is it weird that I love Mondays?

There’s something so new and fresh about them. To me, Monday means “new beginning.”

new beginnings

Today, I have a lot going on. A new job. A new Bible study. A new writing project.

God provided me with a part-time job with an educational firm that provides special education services to charter schools. I’ll be working two days a week  for them writing education plans,  consulting with teachers and students, and holding parent meetings.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to wear my school teacher hat part-time, so I can wear my writer hat the rest of the time!

Last night, my Bible study ladies and I kicked off a new study…well, new to us anyway. We’ll be spending the next eight weeks working through Kay Arthur’s Lord, Only You Can Change Me. We’ll be digging deep into Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount” from Matthew 5. In my preparation for the introductory lesson, I stumbled upon a post by my friend Rachel Wojo about what was happening “before the beatitudes.” You can read it here.

Before Jesus sat on the mountainside and taught his disciples and anyone else who happened to be listening, he found himself in the middle of a multitude of broken people. People who needed healing and deliverance only Christ could provide.

My ladies and I spent time in prayer over our personal brokenness. We admitted that we can only be who God designed us to be if we let Christ do His perfecting work in us. I can’t wait to see how God uses our study time to make us more like Him!

Last week, I sent a draft of my current writing project to some ladies who agreed to read it with a critical eye. It’s a 14-day devotional prayer guide called Prayer Gifts for While You Wait. In it, I share stories about waiting with spiritual applications about waiting on God. Each story is followed by a Scripture-based prayer gift to help Christians wait on God with grace.

While I wait on my beta readers to give me their feedback, I feel the Lord telling me to jump right in to the next project: a collection of prayer gifts based on the famed Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians Chapter 5. This project will become my “freebie” I’ll give away to my blog subscribers, and I couldn’t be more excited about it if I was getting paid $1000 bucks a copy.

Yes, I have lots of new things on this beautiful Monday! I feel the Lord telling me to dig in deep to His presence and to clear out the fluff that wastes so much of my time. I hear Him telling me to quit playing around to get serious about making every day count for Him. I see Him paving the way for His perfect path for my life.

Will you pray for me? Pray I listen to His voice and do what He says. Pray I become a wise steward of the time, the relationships, and the giftings He has given me. Pray I say NO to myself and YES to Him in all things.

How can I pray for you today, friend?

Lord, thank you for new beginnings, whether they fall on Mondays or some other day of the week. Truly, every moment can be a new beginning if we seize it! I commit the new things in my life to You…for Your glory and Your fame. Help me, Lord, to make the most of today.

In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN

An Interview with Eva Piper (and a Giveaway!)

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a deep darkness so black you thought you’d never see daylight again? Sometimes, the trials of life feel that way. My season of darkness occurred when I lost several family members in a short span of time. Grief stifled the light in my soul, and every time I thought I was on my way back to the light, someone else would die.

It was horrible, but somehow, God did something beautiful through it. He not only lifted the heaviness of grief, He healed broken places in me I didn’t know existed.

Eva Piper knows darkness. When her husband, Don, was mangled in a car accident, darkness hung heavy over her heart for months. At first, she didn’t know whether he’d survive his injuries. Then, she worried he didn’t have the will to endure the pain of his recovery. Would life ever get back to the way it was?

Don Piper’s best-selling book, 90 Minutes in Heavendetails Don’s side of the story: his death, his brief visit to heaven, and his return to a life on earth mixed with both pain and joy.

Eva-Piper-BookEva-Piper

A Walk Through the Dark is Eva’s story, and it touched me more than I ever thought it would. When I was first approached about reviewing Eva’s book, I almost declined because my book reviewing experiences haven’t boosted my readership.

But God said, “Read this book, Lee.” So I did. All night long. Eva’s story of supporting her husband through his journey while enduring her own challenged and inspired me in a way I never expected.

Yes, I got my copy of the book in exchange of an honest review. But I’m saying to you now: read this book. God will use it to change you. Perhaps it will help you learn how to lean hard on God during your own season of darkness. Or maybe it will help you better support others when they are in a “black-out.”

Eva Piper graciously agreed to answer a few questions I had. I know you’ll be encouraged by her answers as much as I was.

LeeBird: As I read your book (all night long because I couldn’t put it down!), I felt like I watched your faith dig deep into the soil of your soul and take strong root. How did your experience deepen your faith?

Eva: In many ways,  I took my faith for granted prior to Don’s accident. I prayed but mainly out of obligation and routine. I went to church on a regular basis; after all, I was a pastor’s wife. The words “I trust God” came out of my mouth easily. I really thought I was doing everything right. But on the day of Don’s accident, for the very first time I realized I had absolutely no control over what happened. It was in God’s hands. I learned prayer was more than thanks you and wishes. Prayer became a real, honest communication with God, and it was not confined to my devotional time. I found I could talk to God anytime, anywhere. There was such freedom in finding prayer did not always require folded hands and bowed head. I could pray while driving! The transformation of my prayer life led me to a deepened relationship with God. All relationships take time and energy, including the one between God and us. I had not spent much time building and strengthening my walk with God up until then. While I would never wish for Don’s accident to occur, I would also never want to go back to the surface relationship I had with God before then.

LeeBird: What role did intercessory prayer from others play in your “walk through the dark”?

Eva: For those who have read Don’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, you may remember the story of the first time he went back to church. The congregation was standing and clapping when a deacon handed Don the microphone. He said four words, and everyone in the sanctuary that day can repeat them. “You prayed, I’m here.” Without the prayers of others I would not have my husband today. Their prayers brought him back to earth, they brought healing to his broken body, and they restored his will to live. For me, those prayers gave me strength to make difficult decisions such as allowing my parents to take our sons home to live with them while Don recovered, to sign the consent form allowing Dr. Greider to install the bone growth device on Don’s leg, to comfort me when I was distraught and weary. The intercessory prayers of others took our names to God’s throne when we were too tired to pray ourselves. Those prayers saved our family.

LeeBird: How did your personal prayer life change because of your experience?

Eva: Through this experience, I found God really wants to hear from His children. Although I didn’t often share with friends and family my feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, and anger, I did share them with God. Sometimes it was a quiet conversation, but sometimes, I yelled, screamed, and beat on the steering wheel of the car talking to God. He never failed to send me an answer. That answer might come in a particular verse, a song, or a friend’s counsel. More often than not, it was a feeling of peace that would come over me. I also learned that prayer is as much listening as it is talking. God is still speaking to His children today. That didn’t just happen in Bible times. Communication is a two-way street. I would not take anything for the change in my prayer life. It is one of the best things to come out of Don’s accident.

LeeBird: In the book, you mentioned that you started keeping a journal when Don was in the hospital. (I was sick to read that first journal was lost in hurricane damage!) How did going back and reading your prayers from your journey impact your faith?

Eva: It was a written testament to answered prayers. I could see where God had provided an answer, and, in that, I learned another lesson. Sometimes, the answer to our prayers is “no”. No may not be the answer you want, but it is an answer, and if that is the answer God gives, you have to trust He knows what’s best for you. I was there when Dr. Greider came out and said the bone growth device had done its job. Because I’d written in my journal my prayer for the device to work, I could go back, read, and praise God for answering my prayer. I love to provide things for my children, but I always appreciate hearing a thank you. God feels the same way.

LeeBird: Have you ever received written prayers from others? If so, how did they help you during your journey? If not, how do you think you would have felt receiving a “prayer gift”?

Eva: It just so happens, while I was going through some boxes of old photographs. I came across an envelope addressed to me. When I opened it, I found two sheets of paper filled with written prayers from some of our church family during the time of Don’s accident. The prayers were not long, only a sentence or two, but as I read them, they had the same impact as when I was handed that envelope almost 25 years ago. They touched my heart. Prayer is not regulated to one format. Prayers can be silent, spoken, sung, or written. The form it takes is not important; what is significant is the love behind the prayer. When my friends took the time to write a simple prayer for me, their hearts were seeking God’s power in my life. I’m grateful for all prayers said, written, or typed. They are an incredible gift.

LeeBird: Who do you feel is your primary audience for your book, and what do you hope the book’s message will accomplish?

Eva: My original audience was for those who found themselves in a caretaking role. I wanted to offer hope and encouragement. No one can really understand what it’s like to be a caregiver until you walk in those shoes. I think it will also give insight into how to minister to caregivers. People want to help, but are not sure how. My book will give them some practical ideas on how to minister to someone in need. As the book took shape, I realized everyone needs to be prepared for those dark times. Jesus told us the world is full of trouble. We never know when a tragedy or crisis may occur, and we need to be prepared. I believe my book can be of help to everyone looking for ways to be ready for those trials of life.

After hearing Eva Piper’s heart in the answers to my questions, aren’t you dying to read her book? Well, one of my readers will win a free copy of A Walk Through the Dark by Eva Piper.

The winner can choose an electronic or hard copy provided by the publisher. To be entered, just leave a comment on this post. A winner will be chosen a week from now on August 7.

Lord,

Thank you for being with us  night and day. Your presence, peace, and provision make all the difference. Please meet with the heart of every caregiver today. You, the ultimate caregiver, understand better than anyone.

In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN

 

Out of the Briar Patch

Have you ever had one of those weeks when it feels like you’re stuck in the middle of an emotional briar patch? No matter which direction you turn, your heart gets poked by prickly circumstances. Next thing you know, you’re a bloody, scratched-up mess.

Among the Thorns

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (sarrobi)

 That was me last week.

My colleagues started back to work without me. The enemy jabbed, You think they’ll miss you, but they are glad to be rid of you. You were stupid to quit your teaching job. 

My mom announced that she’s thinking about moving back to Shreveport. The enemy judged, You aren’t a good enough daughter. That’s why she’s leaving. She’s scared you won’t be there for her when she needs you. 

My husband has been distant. The enemy jeered, You drive him nuts. He spends so much time in the garage because power tools don’t talk all the time.

And I believed every word.

Overnight, I went from hopeful to hopeless, determined to defeated, focused to frazzled.

It got pretty ugly for a couple days. I gave my insecurity control of my mind and my mouth. I hid in my bed for three days. I said hurtful things to people I love.

But I didn’t let the enemy have the last jab. He scratched me up good, but I didn’t bleed to death.

Since my mom is out-of-town visiting her sisters, I stole away to her empty home where I could get alone with God and allow Him to administer anti-venom to combat the poisonous lies.

I wish I had gone straight to Him at the first thorn prick, but I can’t go back. I can only move forward and ask Him to help me do better next time.

Do you allow insecurity to rip you to shreds before you go to God for help? Let’s ask God to help us never to let the enemy get the best of us again.

Lord,

I know you see me here, all scratched up and bloody. I got caught in the briar patch of insecurity once again. Every time it happens, I vow it’ll never happen again, but all my scars say different.

I’m tired of letting the evil one scratch and scrape me with his vicious lies. I’m tired of wasting my time feeling paranoid and desperate for human reassurance. I’m just tired, Lord.

Remind me of Your constant presence and protection.

Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:1-3 NLT).

Remind me to tell my soul what to do.

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God (Psalm 42:5 MSG).

Remind me to fix my mind only on truth.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8 VOICE).

Lord, thanks for the way You use our scrapes and scars to call us close to Your heart. Just like briar patches hold sweet berries, You sweeten our struggles by using them for good. You say to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NET). And I say to You, “Perfect your power in me.”

In the faithful and true name of Jesus I pray, AMEN

When insecure thoughts try to scratch you up, what promises to you use to protect your heart? Let’s create a list of promises we can all use!

New Hallelujah: A Prayer Gift for a New Believer

If you’re visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! If not, be sure to head over to read my devotional about prayer gifts. I guess you could say prayer gifts are my thing. But I don’t want to be the only prayer gifter out there! I want YOU to experience the joy of prayer gifts, too.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Sunday morning, the 11 a.m. service got off to a rip-roaring start. A young man, Ray, gave his heart to Jesus during the Sunday school hour, and he wanted to get baptized right then and there. Pastor Gary didn’t bring his baptizing shorts, so he tried to put Ray off ’til next week, but Ray would have none of that.

Well, it just so happened the baptistry was filled up and ready to go. You see, Silent Hope, a church for deaf Believers and their families, has a service at 3:00 p.m, and they had baptisms to do. Needless to say, Gary ran home and got his baptizing shorts.

All baptisms are exciting because they symbolize people dying to the old life and beginning a new life in Christ. It’s a beautiful statement that says, “I am new because of Jesus! Now, help me grow!”

Now, my sweet little church is a warm and friendly one, but most folks who get baptized are a little bit nervous and usually pretty quiet. Not Ray. He was fired up, and the instant he came up out of the water, he yelled, “Hallelujah!!!” loud enough for the Lutherans next door to hear!

What a way to start a service, and what a way for Ray to begin his new life in Christ! In honor of Ray and other new believers, I am reposting a prayer gift I shared last year. One thing about prayer gifts…they never grow stale. And now that I finally figured out how to change the toner in my printer, I will print out this prayer gift to give to Ray. I hope he’ll like it.

Ray Baptism

A New Hallelujah!

Lord,

When darkness dies and light bursts forth, Your heart must soar! “[You are] light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in [You]” (1 John 1:5 MSG).

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 NIV).

Thank you for the miracle of Ray’s new life in Christ!

A new birth

“…[he has] been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23 ESV).

A new faith.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen [Ray] with power through his Spirit in [his] inner being, so that Christ may dwell in [his heart] through faith” (Ephesians 3:14-17 NIV).

A new hope.

“I pray that the eyes of [his heart] may be enlightened in order that [he] may know the hope to which [You have called him]” (Ephesians 1:18 NIV).

A new love.

“I pray that [Ray], being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [he] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV).

A new freedom.

 ”It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. [May Ray] stand firm, then, and not let [himself] be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NIV).

A new life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

His blessings are endless; his purpose is established; his adventure is just beginning.

May Ray take hold of all that is him, in the name of Christ Jesus! AMEN

 

 

Earning My Keep

Can I tell you a secret?

I have a little issue with laziness.

It’s true.

If I let my nature have its way, I’d be perfectly content being the proverbial bon-bon eater.

Relaxation

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Pandabob)

 Easily, I could stay in my jammies all day long snoozing and surfing around on the TV and Facebook.

So, here I am at this new chapter of my life without the structure of a full-time job. While I do have a part-time job in the works, I will be spending most of my time at home. It’s up to me to spend my days carefully.

If I let my lazy gene have its way, my life will fall to pieces. My marriage will suffer. My children will suffer. My relationship with God will suffer.

I refuse to let that happen. I will earn my keep.

If I depend on MY will and determination, I will fail. I need the power and provision of my Savior. Only He can transform me from a lazy girl to a girl who lives each day to the fullest.

Pray for me, please?

Lord,

As I enter this new chapter of my life with no 9-5 work hours to structure my days, I’m feeling both thrilled and scared. I know this opportunity is a gift straight from Your hand. I know You have plans for me–big plans beyond what I can imagine. And I know I’ll screw it up apart from Your divine help.

Help me, Lord.

Help me to let You be my day guide.

I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:23-26 ESV).

Help me to say YES to Your spirit and NO to my flesh.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:5-6 ESV).

Help me to spend each day doing what truly matters.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV).

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV).

I commit this new adventure to You, Lord Jesus. “All for Your glory” is my creed and my song.

In the name of Jesus, the One who showed us how to really live, I pray, AMEN and AMEN

A Prayer Gift for Single Moms

As I type this post, my sweet hubby of 23 years is sleeping away in the bed next to me. I know how blessed I am to have him here with me as my husband and as co-parent to our three boys. I can’t imagine doing life without him by my side.

As I thank God for the blessing of my Cliff, my mind wanders to countless women I adore who are single moms. These brave women astound me. While motherhood is a blessing, it is also blasted hard!

Here are just a few of the single moms in my life!

Single Mom Collage

Pray for these precious moms today!

We can support the single moms around us in lots of practical ways.

We can invite the kids over and send mom for a mani/pedi (or a nap). We can bring them a hearty meal or have the whole family over for a barbecue. We can help out with car repairs or changing A/C filters or putting up (and taking down) Christmas lights.

But one of the best and most important ways we can love on single moms is through prayer. They need God’s strength, wisdom, and grace to thrive as women and mothers.

Will you take the time to pray for the single moms in your life today? Here’s a prayer gift to get you started.

Lord,

I’m not a single woman. My sweetie and I married at the tender age of 20, so I can’t pray from my own experience. I need you to show me how to pray. You, the creator of the universe, know each and every woman who will receive this prayer. You know the inner longings of her heart. You know the broken places no one can see. You know what makes her smile and what makes her cry. You know.

You know her need to be loved, no matter what.

Speak to her soul, Lord.

The LORD appeared to her saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).


My love reaches to the heavens, my faithfulness to the skies (Psalm 36:5).


I am forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to me (Psalm 86:5).


I will maintain my love to you forever, and my covenant with you will never fail (Psalm 89:28).


You know her need to be cherished.


I, the LORD your God am with you, I am mighty to save. I take great delight in you, I will quiet you with my love, I will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).


I delight in those who fear me, who put their hope in my unfailing love (Psalm 147:11)


I tend my flock like a shepherd: I gather the lambs in my arms and carry them close to my heart; I gently lead those that have young (Isaiah 40:11).


You know her need to feel safe.


You can lie down and sleep in peace for I, Your Lord, will make you dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).


Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm (Proverbs 1:33).

Trust in Me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Me, and I will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

You know her need to feel beautiful.


Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor me, for I am your Lord (Psalm 45:10-11).


Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised  (Proverbs 31:30).


Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in My sight (I Peter 3:3-4).


Lord, for the precious woman holding this prayer, I ask for her eyes to be opened to see herself through the lens of Your sacrificial love (Ephesians 1:18). May she hear Your voice singing over her with great delight (Zephaniah 3:17). May she grasp how great Your love is for her…so much that you gave your only son to die for her sins (Ephesians 3:18; John 3:16). May she rest in the shelter of your wings knowing that you have incredible plans for her life, plans to give her a hope and a future (Psalm 61:4; Jeremiah 29:11).


I pray all of this in the precious name of Jesus,

AMEN

Share ways you encourage the single moms in your life. And if you’re a single mom, tell us how we can love on you best!

Nest in the Driveway: A Lesson in Letting Go

I got a speeding ticket on I-20.

After driving eight hours through Texas, I got stopped one mile from the Louisiana line and ten miles from my sister’s house, my destination. Sigh. Story of my life.

After the country cop handed over the ticket, I got back on the road and called Karla.

“I’ll be there soon,” I said.

“Yippee!” said my sis.  ”Hey, when you pull in the driveway, be sure to stay off the grass in the middle. There’s a bird’s nest in there.”

“A bird’s nest in the middle of the driveway?” I asked.

“Yep…just stay off the grass and it’s all good.”

I pulled in the driveway, and sure enough, I saw a bird sitting there as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

As my car approached, the bird flitted away. With flapping wings and loud warnings, she watched as I carefully straddled her nest and parked the car.

I couldn’t help myself…I had to see the nest. Momma Bird did her best to distract me by pretending to have a broken wing about ten feet from the nest. Nestled in sparse grass and gravel were three speckled eggs.

bird and eggs

I’ve been here over a week, and every time I go outside, Momma Bird is sitting there guarding her eggs from cars and barn cats.

The other night, I pulled in to find a fat yellow cat crouched over the eggs with Momma Bird chirping loudly from a distance. My son, Logan,  jumped out of the car and chased the cat off, but not before she swiped one of the eggs and had a tasty snack.

Poor Momma Bird.

Sometimes, it feels like my nest is in a busy driveway, too. I run myself ragged trying to make sure my babies stay safe and secure. I feel like I’m always squawking, “Do this! Don’t do that! Use your head. What were you thinking?” I hover close-by trying to chase off anything that might endanger them, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t be an iron-clad protector. I have to let them try out their wings and live life, even though they could get hurt.

A week ago today, my middle son and his girlfriend took the car for a quick run to Wal-mart and ended up spinning into a muddy ditch between a natural gas pipe and a razor-sharp brush cutter.

wrecked car

The accident scared us all half to death and banged up the kids (and the car) pretty good.

My first thought was, Why did I let them take the car? If I had said no, the accident wouldn’t have happened.

But my Father whispered a gentle response to my inner accusations. LeeBird, the kids will be fine, and so will the car. Chalk it up to a lesson learned. You know I’ll use it for good.

Within hours, I heard hard-earned words of wisdom coming from the kids’ lips. Words of gratitude for God’s protection. Words of love toward family members prone to friction. Words of caution about driving more carefully next time.

My industrious nephew, Matthew, took on my car as a project. He repainted a salvage yard driver’s door I found, knocked out the bulk of the dents, and replaced the broken grille with a new one I found on Ebay.

We’ll be able to start the journey home as scheduled with just a few dents and creaks to show for it.

This won’t be the last time my sons’ growing independence will open them up to trouble, but I can’t keep them safe from everyone and everything.

Letting the boys fly on their own is a lesson in faith and trust. Do I believe God loves them even more than I do? Yes. Do I trust God to take care of them His way? Yes. Do I acknowledge that God’s provision sometimes includes pain and difficulty. Yes. I’ve seen it and lived it.

Do you have a hard time letting go of the ones you love? Do you tend to blame yourself when things go wrong? Do you trust God?

Lord, 

Thank you for Your shepherd heart that gently tends to Your flock with love. You know how difficult parenting can be, so You gently lead us as we fuss over our children (Isaiah 40:11). You get it, Lord. You get the hard lessons. You get the heartache of letting them stumble, fall, and rise again. You get the love. And you have us on Your heart and in Your hands.

 

 

A Giveaway for Mommas of Little Ones

If you’re visiting from the Encouragement Cafe, welcome! If not, head on over there to read a story from my stay-at-home momma days.

These days, my three sweet sons are taller than I am, but the 10 years of staying home with them when they were young feels as fresh as this morning.

mom and three boys baby jake

No doubt…God built my lap to hold three precious sons.

I remember the sweet kisses and the sleepless nights. I remember the giggles and the mommy guilt. I remember the perfect days and the prison days (with cute, blonde wardens).

Momma friends, if you’re struggling with the hard stuff of raising your babies, don’t feel alone or guilty. Every mom struggles, whether they choose to admit it or not.

In the middle of one of my seasons of struggle, the Lord led my cousin Kathy to send me an autographed copy of a book by Angela Thomas Guffey, a stay-at-home momma from her church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reading Tender Mercy for a Mother’s Soul felt like a tall glass of cold water on an Arizona summer day. Her depth of understanding lightened my discouraged momma heart and gave me hope.

Nowadays, Angela Thomas is a well-known Christian speaker and author. She has many books to her credit that are better sellers than Tender Mercy.

But it’s still available and still applies to mommas today. I believe so strongly in the power of Angela’s message in this book that I’m giving away three copies. Do you need encouragement today, sweet momma friends?

Hop on down to the Rafflecopter link below and enter. There are lots of ways to earn extra entries to increase your chances of winning.

Lord, thank you for Angela Thomas and other moms who not only admit their momma struggles but also come alongside other moms to spur us on and to help us feel understood. Help us to help each other through the wild but wonderful adventure of motherhood. And may we always sense Your tender mercy and timeless love. Amen

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Key

Day 11 - Key

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (butlercorey)

I turned in the key yesterday.

The key that unlocks the B-building and the classroom I shared with sweet Lorine all year.

The key connected to the black and red lanyard that hung ’round my neck day-after-day for eight years.

Teacher at PJHS is no longer part of my present.

I hugged my friends goodbye and changed my FB employment status before I left the school parking lot. It seemed a little silly, but it was an important statement.

There’s no turning back. It’s time to move forward.

The bank account says, “Are you flippin’ crazy???”

But God says, “Trust me.”

I’m trying, Lord…we’re trying.

June and July are seeking months. Seeking confirmation. Seeking direction. Seeking answers to many questions.

Should I get a part-time teaching job to supplement the family income? Or does God have other plans in mind?

Should we sell our home and move into a smaller, more affordable place? Or does God have other plans in mind?

Is this dream of being a writer and speaker truly a God thing? Or does God have other plans in mind?

I want God’s plans. Period. Nothing else will do.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV). I want what You want, Lord. If my heart’s desires are steeped in impure motives, change my heart! (James 4:3). Your plan for me is the key to my future. AMEN

Friends, will you pray for us? Will you pray for God’s plan to reign in the Merrill home?

I know we’re not the only ones going through scary changes. How can I pray for you?

I’ll Stand By You: Relationship is What Matters

Does your church feel like home? If not, I’m so sorry to hear that.

When my car wheels touch the pavement at the Heart of Mesa, I experience the same sense of comfort I feel in my driveway. I know I will walk through the doors to acceptance and unconditional love.

Today, Pastor Gary took us to the book of I Samuel and helped us look at the epitome of friendship: the relationship between David and Jonathan.

David, the son of a shepherd, and Jonathan, the son of a king, came together by the hand of God. Their relationship weathered sunshine and storms and became a model of godly friendship for all of us.

Looking back, I smile the biggest when I think of the people God placed in my life. Some hang on the same family tree, and others carved their initials on it, forever leaving their marks.

Relationship is all that matters. Relationship with our Savior God and relationship with other fallible people.

Join me in praying for Jonathan friends. To be one and to cherish the ones God places in our lives.

Best Friends Are Huggable

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (stuseeger)

Lord,

The lyrics of an old song by 4 Him keep drifting through my mind.  ”To love God, love people. That’s the center of the mark.” The secret to life in ten simple words.

The friendship of David and Jonathan shows us how Your people are meant to love each other. I want to be that kind of friend, Lord. I want to be a Jonathan.

The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David (I Samuel 18:1 ESV).

I’m not a knitter, Lord, but I appreciate the handiwork of others. A solid-colored scarf is nice, but I love the look of a multi-hued piece. Blues and reds, yellows and greens all intertwined until I can’t tell where one color stops and another begins. 

Take our yarn, Lord, all frayed and faded, and knit something beautiful out of us. Something warm and comfortable in a world that’s often so, so cold. 

Jonathan loved him as his own soul (I Samuel 18:1 ESV).

That kind of love is beyond us, Lord. Only You can help us lay down our selfishness and put others before ourselves. But that is who we’re called to be…imitators of  God walking in love just as Christ loved and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

Then Jonathan made a covenant with David (I Samuel 18:3).

Promises don’t mean what they used to, Lord. This world is marred by betrayal, bitterness, and broken relationships. Help us to back up our covenants with action. May our relationships be founded on love and fashioned with forgiveness. Give us stubborn love that isn’t easily chased away by hurt feelings and unfulfilled expectations.

And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 And David went out and was successful (I Samuel 18:4-5)

When Jonathan gave David his robe, he wasn’t just sharing clothes. He was saying to his soul brother, “I see the calling God has on your life, and your success matters more to me than my own.” No jealousy. No competition. Just genuine support. Help us, Lord, to step back so the ones we love can move forward. With Your favor and the loving support of our “Jonathans,” success is assured.

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David (I Samuel 19:1).

True friendship isn’t easily swayed by naysayers. Just as Jonathan’s heart delighted in David despite his father’s hatred, may our delight remain even when popular opinion differs.

Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you” (I Samuel 20:4).

God-breathed friendship is a bright flame in the darkest of circumstances. When David’s life was threatened by Saul, David had no doubt in the trustworthiness of Jonathan, for he had proven himself again and again. Help us, Lord, to put hands and feet to our love by serving selflessly when our friends need us most. 

And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most (I Samuel 20:41).

True friends don’t have to hide how they feel. They say it and show it, unashamed. With hearts knit together, they share both laughter and tears. Help us, Lord, to feel each other’s joy and pain because neither are meant to be experienced alone.

And Jonathan went to David at Horesh and strengthened his hand in God (I Samuel 23:16).

When David was at his lowest, Jonathan showed up to lift his gaze back up to God’s face. Give us intuitive hearts so we never miss those moments in life. Pointing people to the One who loves them most is the greatest expression of love. 

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me has been extraordinary (II Samuel 1:26).

When Jonathan died, David knew he lost something irreplaceable. A friendship unlike any other relationship he had or ever would have. Sometimes, we hold back from loving large because we fear the pain of loss. While the pain of loss is real, it can’t compare to the joy of authentic relationships. Help us, Lord, to take the risk and allow You to knit our hearts to the ones we were born to love. Make us Jonathans, Lord.

Amen

A Prayer for a High School Graduate

When the teacher’s lounge phone rings, no one wants it to be for them.

It’s usually the office staff asking you to pause your already-too-short lunch to go do something for someone.

“Lee, you have a visitor in the front office.”

My lunchmates cocked their heads in wonder as I shrugged and said, “It’s probably one of my sons here for money.”

But it wasn’t. It was a former student named Jake who I haven’t seen for more than four years.

He looked the same…just taller and even more handsome. His voice was deeper, and he had diamond studs in both ears.

“Mrs. Merrill, I just wanted to stop by and tell you that I finished. I graduated.”

I couldn’t help myself. I gave him a full-on bear hug right in the school office.

School wasn’t easy for Jake. He fought for every credit. He earned that diploma because he refused to give up. And I find it fitting that his ever-supportive mom earned her bachelors degree the very same week! Way to go, Toireasa!

Eyes glowing with pride, Jake shared his future goals for college and career. He has big ol’ whopper goals, friends. And you know what? I believe he’ll achieve them. You go, Jake!

Graduation Day

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commonas (produksimasi)

In honor of Jake and the other graduates out there, here’s a prayer gift. Feel free to share it with the graduate in your life!

Lord,

High school graduation is a tricky transition. To the graduate, it feels like the gateway to adulthood, but often, the graduate isn’t quite ready to be full-grown. It’s hard to figure out the right balance, Lord. Hard for the graduates and hard for their parents.

As diplomas land in the hands of tasselled teens, I pray for a smooth transition marked by divine direction, pristine purpose, and solid support. (Tweet This)

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (Psalm 143:8).

Oh, Lord, guide graduates “along the right paths for [Your] name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). There are so many ways they can go, Lord. May they “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). May they be among the few.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

Lord, reveal the plans You have for these graduates—plans for them to thrive and to spend their lives for good (Jeremiah 29:11). Help them to discover true success in this life—”to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [their] God” (Micah 6:8). If their plans won’t lead to true joy and soul satisfaction, change their minds, Lord. Help them to “trust in [You] with all [their] heart and lean not on [their] own understanding; in all [their] ways [may they] submit to [You], [so You] will make [their] paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray (Proverbs 12:26).

As graduates leave the safety of childhood, their newfound freedom can be dangerous. So many people are up to no good. Please, Lord, surround these young adults with people full of wisdom and understanding straight from heaven (James 3:17-18). People who will love them enough to give of their time, their experience, and their resources. People willing to speak the truth in love, even when it’s hard, for “wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6).

Lord, You see these precious ones shaking hands and receiving the keys to their futures. You see them, and You love them best. May their futures be marked by Your favor and blessing, Lord, for Your glory and their good.

Amen

What are your hopes for the grads in your life?

Fake Food Meals and a My-One-Word Update

How many fake food meals have you eaten?

Every Sunday, my kindergarten Sunday school students feed me a smorgasbord of creative culinary creations from the pretend kitchen.

Usually, they bring me triple-decker steak burgers with a watermelon wedge on the side. With gusto, I admire their offerings and make the loudest chomping sounds I can as I “eat” them.

This morning, my darling Sofia presented me with a plate of plastic green beans and lettuce leaves.

“Why thank you, Sweetie! Do you think I need to eat more veggies?”

She grinned and nodded.

A few minutes later, she brought me a wedge of watermelon on a sesame seed bun.

I guess that was her idea of a compromise.

Sofia didn’t know she’d be my teacher today, but she was.

This year, my theme word is CHOOSE.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a big ol’ whopper of a choice. I resigned from my full-time teaching job in anticipation of a new adventure from God.

Now, it’s time to make another one.

It’s time to get healthy and fit. It’s time to release the 100 extra pounds with which my fearfully and wonderfully made body is burdened.

alice and me

This is me with my friend Alice who graduated with her masters degree this weekend.

It’s time.

I won’t be buying the latest and greatest weight-loss book. I won’t be paying the big bucks for special foods or a diet program. I won’t be rising at 4:00 a.m. to go to skinny butt boot camp.

I will eat a reasonable diet with a wide variety of foods. I will lace up my walking shoes and resume my prayer walking. I will, with the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, stop attaching food and drink to comfort.

He is my comfort. His arms are my escape. His power is my self-control. (Click to tweet this)

Lord,

I’ve done this weight-loss thing so many times I could write my own book. Yet, here I am bigger than I’ve ever been. I’m not too worried about my limited fashion choices or how close I am to needing a seat belt extender on an airplane. I’m concerned with my lack of energy and my lack of restraint when it comes to food and drink. I’m weary of not letting Holy Spirit power be the boss of my appetite. It’s so much better to do things Your way, Jesus. I say I love you with my words. I want to show you how much I love You with my choices. I choose You. Amen

Biding My Time

I’ve never been a fan of surprises. One year, I had a feeling Cliff was going to throw me a surprise party, and I snooped up a storm until I figured out all the details. Not my finest moment.  The waiting and wondering just slays me!

In 22 days, my tenure as a teacher at my junior high will end.

My heart feels swirly, shaky, and somewhat scared.

What comes next?

I hear the Spirit whispering, “Wait and see. Trust. Pray. Follow me.”

I hear my deep need for security squawking, “You need a back-up plan, a game plan, some kind of plan.”

I hear my sweetie’s patient but cautious voice saying, “I’m not sure about this.”

And I hear you, my friends. “I’m so excited for you!” “I’ve been waiting for this to happen!” “I can’t wait to see what God will do!” “I’m praying hard!”

Oh, friends, please pray. And after you pray, if you feel the Lord whispering a word of advice in your ear, please share.

waiting room read

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (ladytaz) Text added by Lee Merrill via ipiccy

One thing about being in God’s waiting room—there’s always something good to read.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV).

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14 NIV).

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:3-7 NIV).

I know what I want, but what I want isn’t always in sync with what God wants. So, I guess the prayer to pray is:

Lord, please either give me the desires of my heart, or change my heart. I get confused easily, Lord, so please make it all clear. Make it clear to me and clear to my sweetie, because we are in this thing together. Have I thanked You for him lately? We’re listening, Lord. We’re waiting, Lord. We trust You, Lord. AMEN

A Prayer Gift for a Teacher

Not that I’m tooting my own horn, but it’s Teacher Appreciation Week!

Not only am I a teacher, I’m the daughter of two retired teachers. Back in the day, my mom and dad would come home with every kind of apple-themed desk accessory known to man.

Today, the gift of choice seems to be Starbucks cards and sweet goodies.

Special education teachers are often overlooked, but the best gift I ever received from a student/parent was a $50 American Express card. I was shocked! I think that mom thought her son was more work than he actually was!

With the economy the way it is, it’s hard to afford gifts, especially if multiple students are involved.

A heart-felt prayergift is free and priceless at the same time. Here’s an example to get some ideas flowing through your mind.

Teachers need prayer, especially in May when everyone is worn out from a long school year. As a teacher, I thank you for being a supportive parent focused on your child’s success.

Here’s a prayer gift I gave to my youngest son’s favorite teacher, his fifth grade teacher, Amy Hoffman. She was a major answer to prayer that year.

amyhoffmanqueenteacher

Here’s a current pic of Amy…looks like her students still think she’s THE BEST!

Lord,
Thank you! You knew exactly who my Jacob needed as a teacher this year. He needed someone who would appreciate his quirks and encourage him to be his true self. He needed someone to push him to do his very best and to allow him to make mistakes without shame. He needed someone full of patience, humor, and compassion. Jacob got everything he needed in one beautiful person: Amy Hoffman.

As this school year draws to a close, I ask You to fill her with patience, to flood her with creativity, and  to free her from burn-out.

 Fill her with patience

As summer vacation approaches, squirrely behavior is at its peak. Restless kids are ready to run and romp. Swimming and sleeping in sounds so much better than spelling tests. I pray Amy will be able to handle unruly behavior with extreme patience. Give her the strength “to warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, [and] be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:14 NIV). As she responds to students, remind her that “a gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire” (Proverbs 15:1 The Message). Clothe Amy with patient endurance, gentle compassion, and unconditional love.

Flood her with creativity

It’s so easy to resort to auto-pilot during the last weeks of school. I pray Amy’s mind will be flooded with all kinds of fun, creative ways to keep her teaching fresh and her students’ learning alive. Give her the motivation to make a careful exploration of the work she has been given, and then sink herself into that. Each of us must take responsibility for doing the creative best we can with our lives (Galatians 6:4-5 The Message).

Free her from burn-out

I know Amy is weary. I know these last weeks of school tend to drag on and on. I ask You to free her from end-of-school burn-out. Give her restful sleep that will leave her feeling refreshed and ready for each day. When her eyes open each morning, may she be inspired with new ways to make learning come alive for her students. Give her divine inspiration on how to handle difficult behaviors or difficult learning challenges. And, Lord, I know this may sound trite, but I ask You to inspire the students with sweet ways to make Mrs. Hoffman feel appreciated. As the students think of all the ways their dear teacher has cared for them this year, motivate them to give her their best on this final stretch of the year.

Again, Lord, I thank you for blessing my son with such a loving teacher. I have no doubt he is ready for sixth grade because of her steady influence. Bless her in amazing ways. In the name of Christ I pray, AMEN

 

Lord, Help Us: A Prayer for America

If you are visiting from Blog Talk Radio, welcome! On this National Day of Prayer, I’m tickled to be a guest on “My Journey of Faith,” hosted by my dear friend, Cynthia McCutcheon. If you haven’t listened to the episode, pop on over anytime!

Listen to internet radio with CWA Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Anytime I get to talk about prayer gifts, I’m a happy girl. Prayer gifts are my heart song, my favorite way to love on people, and a calling from God I can’t (and don’t want to) ignore.

Today, I write a prayer gift for my country and every heart that pledges allegiance to her. Will you join me in praying this prayer gift for America?

Pelham Memorial Day Parade - Fleet Week 2010

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (nycmarines)

Lord,

When I think of America, I see a wayward daughter—wild and reckless but beautiful and beloved.

We need You, Father. Heal our waywardness and lavishly love Your daughter, America (Hosea 14:4 MSG).

We need boundaries.

We’re spoiled-rotten, rebellious and raucous. With our sin displayed like neon signs, we stray further and further from the safety of Your arms. Then we blame You when we get waylaid by the organic repercussions. 

Your patience astounds me, Lord. Our country deserves harsh judgment, yet You extend mercy and grace. You are a God of second chances, but You are also a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18).

[You are] compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, abounding in love. [You] will not always accuse, nor will [You] harbor [Your] anger forever (Psalm 103:8-9 NIV).

Please, Lord, tell us, “That’s enough!” for our own good. (Click to Tweet This)

We need brokenness.

Comfort our frenzied spirits with the tough love of Your rod and staff (Psalm 23:4). Break our hearts over our sin and all the time we’ve wasted wallowing in it. Break our stubborn wills until all we care to do is obey Your every word. (Click to Tweet This)

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin Psalm 32:3-5 NIV).

We need believing hearts.

But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? (Romans 10:14-15 MSG)

May every member of the Body of Christ be like Jeremiah when he said:

So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:8-9 NIV).

May we herald truth swaddled in love and compassion. Open every American heart so Your Spirit wind can hurricane away all the lies disguised as truth. May Your truth be the foundation of this country once again—not just on paper but on souls.

Father God, do whatever You must do to save Your wayward daughter, America. (Click to Tweet This)

In the name of Jesus who died in our place, I pray, AMEN

King of All Days and Shepherd of our Darkest Night

The Spirit of God rested heavy and sure on the Heart of Mesa today.

From the Sunday school hour with the kinders to the 11:00 worship service to the prayer meeting at suppertime.

In Sunday school, our lesson was on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came just as Christ promised He would. Have you ever tried to explain the Holy Spirit to four and five-year-olds? Ms. Robin said the Holy Spirit is like the wind…we can’t see it but we can feel it and see it at work. As we ate Teddy Grahams around the snack table, I talked to the cuties about how the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts guiding us to do what’s right and telling us important messages.

I walked around the table and whispered a special message in each child’s ear.

To one, I whispered, “I love you.” To another, I whispered, “I’m proud of you for being a helper during circle time.” To another, I whispered, “Your mommy needs an extra tight hug today.”

Later, as I stood together with my church family during prayer time, Ms. Robin was standing behind me. She stepped up and whispered in my ear, “This is the Holy Spirit talking…I love you!”

I needed to hear that, Ms. Robin!

And I needed to hear Pastor Gary’s sermon, too. Rather than pound out the sermon notes I scrawled in my prayer journal, I think I’ll just pray about it. Are you experiencing a season of darkness? Do you feel alone, friend? Are you afraid the sun will never shine on you again? If so, this prayer gift is for you.

darkness into light

 

Lord,

This world gets darker by the day. The news bears one tragedy after another and our personal lives aren’t much better. Sometimes, life is just plain hard.

During daylight hours, we distract ourselves with overflowing to-do lists and frazzling schedules. But when the sun sleeps and the silence seeps, the weight of our problems settle stifling on our worn-out souls.

Hope hides at night, and the enemy tries to convince us that You hide, too. 

But You don’t.

You meet us right there in the blackness and build a campfire of hope in our souls. 

The Apostle Paul knew darkness. In the name of Christ, he suffered brutal abuse and constant hardship. Sometimes, the darkness got the best of him, and that’s when You came to him just when he needed You most.

“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent, for I am with you” (Acts 18:9-10 NIV).

It’s hard to keep speaking up when the world shoots us down. By the power of Your Spirit, Lord, help us to speak the Word of God boldly, no matter the opposition.

The Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11 NIV).

Stand near to us, Lord Jesus. Hold out cheerful courage for us to take for our own. Courage to testify about You to a world who doesn’t have a clue how desperate and destitute it is. Courage to speak truth to a world content with ugly lies. Courage to love the haters no matter how much they despise us.

Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me (Acts 27:23-25 NIV).

When You breathe courage into us, we get to share it with others. May generosity and grace mark our actions toward the Body of Christ and the hurting world. We have such a gift to share, Lord. We have You!

Oh, Lord, be the king of our days and the shepherd of our darkest nights. You are all we need.

Amen

Kenny Rogers Wisdom (and a Big Announcement)

Has your life ever played out like a country song?

As I drove to work yesterday morning, an old ballad by Kenny Rogers settled on my mind.

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em,

Know when to fold ‘em,

Know when to walk away

and know when to run.

~from The Gambler

 

Go Fish

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (jessiehart)

Yesterday, I made a decision I’ve needed to make for a long time.

I resigned from my teaching job.

For eight years, I poured my heart into the lives of junior high students with learning differences. I taught them how to think and how to believe in themselves. I cheered them on every day and chewed them out when they needed it. I wore the letters off my computer keyboard writing education plans and sending reminder emails to parents.

Some of my colleagues feel like family. We supported each other through work stresses and personal losses. We laughed in the teacher’s lounge over way too many Lean Cuisines and leftovers. We butted heads and bonded hearts.

It was hard to slide that letter of resignation across my principal’s desk.

But it’s time. It’s way past time to leave the safety of the known and to walk by faith into the unknown.

I can’t pursue my ministry calling and work full-time as a teacher. Believe me, I’ve tried. Both take a huge heart investment, and even a big ol’ southern girl heart like mine isn’t big enough for that.

I told my principal I feel like I’ve been torn between two lovers for a while now. I adore my students and find deep satisfaction in helping them thrive, but my passion to serve the Body of Christ grows stronger by the day.

I want to spend the rest of my life writing and speaking words of truth to everyone I can.

Could it be I’ll still be helping students thrive by helping their mommas thrive?

Pray for Cliff and me as we take the next couple months to prayerfully decide the next steps for our family. Surely, my income will be missed, but I’m dreaming big, friends. I believe God will provide me a way to work from home part-time while I develop my writing and speaking ministry.

I believe God is up to something, and I can’t wait to see what it is!

Lord,

You know my heart. I’m scared to death right now, but at the same time, I’m beyond excited! What are you up to, Lord? Please give my sweetie and me wisdom as we seek Your perfect plan for me and for our family. You promise to give wisdom to anyone who asks in firm faith (James 1:5-6). Again…You know my heart. My faith is firm because You prove Your faithfulness again and again. Empower me to finish this school year strong and joyful. Thank you for every life You’ve allowed me to touch at Payne Junior High because every, single one of them touched mine. Trusting You completely for my present and my future, AMEN

When Murphy’s Law Seems Way Too True

All alone

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (wonderferret)

If you’re visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! If not, pop on over there and read the devotion I have running there. It’s good for both a laugh and some perspective, and it goes perfectly with this prayer gift.

Does it feel as if your life is crumbling around you? I’m so sorry, my sister. I’ve been there…in fact, I’m there right now. I know what it feels like to fall asleep defeated and wake up crushed.

It’s so easy to get bogged down with all the wrong and completely overlook the right. If you are struggling with holding onto your hope, this prayergift is for you. Love, Bird

Lord,

My sister is having one of those days when everything that could go wrong is. On days like this, the agony of the soul cries out, “Why does everything have to be so hard??” Frustrations pile up until everything tumbles into a jumbled up mess. Today, my sister needs you to settle her soul, smooth her pot-holed perspective, and sanctify her with truth.

Settle her soul

This world is a pretty shaky place, Lord. I know you didn’t create it to be that way. You had plans for sweet communion in the cool of the day, not the heartbreak of rejection. You had plans for Your children to walk in confidence, not cower in shame. But sin ruined that. We get hurt, and we hurt others. We get lost, and we lead others astray. In the midst of all of the wrong, settle my sister’s heart on what’s right. Keep her eyes always on You, for with You at her right hand, she will never be shaken (Psalm 16:8). When the earth and all its people quake, it is You who holds its pillars firm (Psalm 75:3). Give my sister the wisdom to encourage her own soul by saying, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).

Smooth her pot-holed perspective

Why is it so much easier be downcast than uplifted? The enemy of our soul loves to magnify every pot-hole to make it seem as if the path You’ve laid for us is nothing short of treacherous. May my sister see the road of Your will for exactly what it is: sure, safe, and so-o-o-o-o worth the journey! Whisper in her ear: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic” (Isaiah 28:16). When the evil one tries to make mountains out of mole hills with tricks and lies, give my sister the strength to say, “In the name of Jesus, leave me alone. My God has plans for me! Plans for prosperity and not for harm. Plans to give me a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sanctify her with truth

Open my sister’s eyes to the lies that mar her vision. Sanctify her with truth; Your word is truth (John 17:17). I know, without a doubt, it is Your will for us to be sanctified…set apart… by Your truth because those words in John 17 are straight from Your mouth. You desire for every one of us to be so full of truth that there’s no room for lies to sneak in. Flood my sister’s mind and heart with what is ‘true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. [May she] put into practice what [she] learned from [you], what [she] heard and saw and realized. [May she] do that, [so You], who make everything work together, will work [her] into [Your] most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8 MSG). Lift her downcast eyes to see the beauty that will come from these ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Open her distracted ears to hear the masterpiece bursting from the dissonance. Overwhelm her with Your beautiful, masterful truth: she is Yours and is always in the palm of Your hand (Isaiah 43:1; Psalm 18:35).

In the steady, sure name of Jesus I pray, AMEN

This prayer gift was for me this week…how ’bout you?

When the Unthinkable Happens

These Burdens

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (fallingwater123)

The tragic death of Rick and Kay Warren’s son is all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Oh, how my heart aches over their suffering. The thought of losing one of my boys slays me.

But losing one to suicide? My heart won’t let my mind go there.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with one of my sons after one of his friends attempted suicide. (Unsuccessfully, praise God. Please pray for “A.”)

“Momma, I’ve gotten down before, but I can’t imagine the level of pain someone has to be in to consider suicide. It’s just so sad, Mom.”

Yes.

Rick and Kay Warren aren’t the first parents to lose a child to suicide, and they won’t be the last. More than 100 people take their lives every, single day, and 22 of those are white males.

What do we do when the unthinkable happens? Do we try to make sense of senseless death? No. Do we offer unsolicited advice? No. Do we speculate over what could have been? Heck, no!

I’ll tell you what we do. We love them with tight hugs and tender tears. We cook meals and make sure the house is well-stocked with tissues and toilet paper. We mow the grass and walk the dog. We sit there in silence and just grieve with them and over them.

And most of all, we pray.

Lord,

I don’t know what to say. 

I can try to understand what they are going through, but, really, I can’t, and I hope I never do.

But You, Lord. You understand. Your Spirit is right there in the middle of their pain. Like a sweet momma blowing on her child’s skinned knee, Your Spirit breathes deep comfort where no human consolation can reach.

Father of mercies and God of all comfort, their affliction is immense, but Your grace is greater.

Your grace is greater than their searing grief. Your grace is greater than the wounds they suffer at the words of insensitive friends and hateful enemies. Your grace is greater than every excruciating step they must take until the first hint of healing appears.

You are “close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NIV).

Hold them so close they can hear Your heart beating in perfect rhythm to their broken hearts.

Save every sliver of their crushed spirits, sweet Lord. Gently, tenderly put them back together again. 

In the hope-filled name of Christ I pray, AMEN

 

Friend or Fan

friends

Sometimes, I long for what was.

Before I dipped my timid toe into the Christian blogging/writing/ministry pond, I had two sets of friends: my locals and my lifers.

I do life with my locals. We serve Jesus side-by-side. We are second moms to each other’s children. We hug necks and wipe tears and laugh loud.

My lifers still love me after all these years. When I go home to Louisiana, we resume a sweet song of friendship as if we just sang it yesterday. We reminisce and catch up. We soak up each other’s presence because who knows when we’ll see each other next.

Life was much simpler back in the day of locals and lifers.

Now, I have Facebook and Twitter friends I adore but have never met. It’s difficult to know who’s the real deal. If we were neighbors, would they be one of my locals?

I have writers conference comrades with whom I’ve bonded over common ground and common graces. Some of them feel like lifers even though I’ve only laid eyes on them a time or two. But many feel more like our relationship is more about marketing our ministries. Review my book and I’ll guest post on your blog. You retweet my stuff and I’ll retweet yours.

Then there’s the “famous” ones. The conference speakers and popular bloggers and book authors. Because they are in Christian ministry, they “have” to be gracious and everyone’s sisterly friend. That can get pretty confusing for a one-part encourager and two-parts people pleaser like me. When I get to know people, I just want to love on them. Whether they are next-door neighbors or best-selling authors, they are people who need love, and I have lots of it.

But I’m also a people pleaser, hungry for approval. So when I reach out in friendship and get handed platitudes, it hurts me.

I am not a Christian groupie girl trying to gather up a passel of well-knowns to throw into my friendship pack. I’m not a marketing mastermind trying to ease my way into the good graces of influential people.

I am a friend who prays and cares. I am a sister who listens and loves. I am an equal opportunity encourager who just wants to make life a little bit better for folks.

I know the famous ones get lots of messages from fans and foes alike. The strain of keeping a sense of balance must be brutal. I get it.

What I don’t get is how to love liberally without getting my feelings hurt when I get treated like a fawning fan instead of a faithful friend.

Am I the only one have a little trouble picking my way through the friendship maze?

Lord, relationships are tricky. Help me navigate the friendship maze and get to the other side. And show me how to love each friend I meet along the way.

Digging In

I’m worn slap out.

It always happens after any kind of Christian women’s event.

This weekend, I joined five of my friends (and close to 5000 sisters-in-Christ) at Living Proof Live with Beth Moore.

Beth was fired up over the word God gave her for Phoenix. But let’s face it…Beth is fired up over the transformative power of God’s Word all the time.

As Beth gushed over all God revealed to her during her word study of the word “marked,” I thought to myself:

Why have I never done a word study?

What is the point of having so many Bible study tools if I’m not going to use them?

When will I quit depending on folks like Beth and my pastor to feed truth to me when I have my own fork and knife collecting dust on my bedside table?

/yum

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (striatic)

Tomorrow, I’ll share my reflection on Beth’s message, but tonight, my belly churns with a challenge from my Lord and my God in Psalm 119.

How can [I keep my way] pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:9-16 ESV).

May this be my testimony, Lord. A woman hungry to study Your Word, to understand Your Word, to live out Your Word, and to teach Your Word. For Your glory and the good of the Body of Christ, AMEN

 

 

Hold My Hand

If you’re visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome to Prayer Gifts! I hope you’ll take a few minutes to search around and see what I’m all about.

My devotional post at Encouragement Cafe is about prayer walking, an activity I enjoy but can’t seem to turn into a regular habit. The prayer part is no problem…it’s the walking part that trips me up (terrible pun intended).

I’ll keep working on the exercise thing, but, today, I want to focus on the most important thing—my walk with Christ.

If you, too, want a sweeter walk with Jesus, perhaps you’d like to join me in praying this prayer gift.

Baby's hand.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (gilesrcook)

Lord, 

I’m a clumsy one. I’ve been known to trip over my own two feet. My spirit’s clumsy, too. I need You, Jesus. Take my hand and lead me down the path of purpose prepared just for me. 

“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 NIV). I love You, Lord, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly (Psalm 5:3). 

Help me, Lord, to wake up with a sense of urgency to begin my day with You. “Satisfy [me] in the morning with your unfailing love, that [I] may sing for joy and be glad all [my] days” (Psalm 90:14). ”Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life” (Psalm 143:8). 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it (Luke 9:23-24).

I know, Lord, if I begin my day by emptying myself of me, Your Spirit will have plenty of room to work in me, through me, and in spite of me. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain” (Psalm 119:36). “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11)

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long (Psalm 25:5).

“Whether [I] turn to the right or to the left, [may my] ears hear a voice behind [me], saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).

Help me, Lord to keep Your wisdom and understanding always in sight. May sound judgment and discretion grace my life like priceless jewels. “Then [I] will go on [my] way in safety, and [my] foot will not stumble. When [I] lie down, [I] will not be afraid; when [I] lie down, [my] sleep will be sweet. [I'll] have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for [You] will be at [my] side and will keep [my] foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:21-26).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22 NASB)

May the fruit of the spirit influence everything I do, say, and think. As I love You and receive Your love, the overflow can pour out on everyone I encounter—from my family and friends to the rude customer behind me in  the grocery line.  Your joy and peace will keep my soul content regardless what challenges come. When difficult people or situations try my patience, I’ll remember how patient You are with me and respond with kindness and goodness. This will snuff out both my short fuse and, more than likely, the frayed fuses of others. I will be known as a woman of my word—faithful to my commitments to both God and man. I will follow Your lead with a spirit of gentleness—submissive, settled, and certain. Self-control will compel me to say no to the temporary and yes to the eternal.  

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7).

 As I lay my head on the pillow at night, help me to process my day—confessing the stumbles and rejoicing over the small steps in the right direction. “You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

And since Your mercies are new every morning, I will wake up and do it all again, with Your hand in mine (Lamentations 3:21-23).

All for Your glory, Lord, Amen

Prayer Gifts is Moving Forward

Blog Girl, after Norman Rockwell (detail)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (notionscapital)

I’ve done a lot of thinking lately. Why do I blog?

What’s my motive? What’s my mission? What’s my message?

Well, here it is.

Motive: I love God, and I love people. Prayer Gifts is a place where I can do both.

Mission: My mission is three-fold: 1. To honor God and to make Him known. 2. To encourage the body of Christ and seekers through my posts. 3. To inspire and to challenge readers to incorporate written prayers into their personal walks with God and to turn them into gifts by giving them to others.

Message: I want as many folks as possible to understand prayer gifts are a double blessing: they touch the heart of God and encourage the hearts of people. Their reach is untrackable; once shared the first time, they can be passed on and on to countless others who will also be encouraged.

In keeping with my motive, mission, and message, I’m adding a new facet to my prayer gifts ministry: a monthly newsletter.

Each newsletter will include a brand-new prayer gift, prayer tips, and a personal story that goes along with whatever the theme is for the month.

The first newsletter will go out to subscribers on Monday, March 25. The theme: Resurrection Hope.

If you find this blog site beneficial, I urge you to sign up for the newsletter and to share it with others.

You can sign up by clicking HERE. There’s also a sign up tab on the home page and on my Prayer Gifts Facebook page.

Spread the word! Prayer Gifts is moving forward!

Lord, I believe this newsletter idea was inspired by You. Please use it to build up the Body of Christ. I can think of no greater blessing than to be used by You. I’m a broken but willing vessel. Use me, Lord. Amen

 

Deflated but Determined

Deflated

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (crdot)

 

Well, foot. (That’s what my momma says when she gets disappointed)

After months of waiting, I got a rejection email from an editor who showed some strong interest in my Prayer Gifts book proposal.

Truly, I trust God to open the doors He wants me to walk through, but boy, the rejection feels like a punch in the gut.

Doesn’t help matters when I keep seeing snapshots of publishing contracts on writer friends’ Facebook pages. I’m thrilled for them; I really am, but I struggle with those nagging questions.

Why not me? 

A while back, I sent a birthday prayer gift to a friend in ministry.

This was her response:

Lee,

This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much.

I really felt impressed to tell you that although I know it’s your desire to get published, there is rich value in what you are doing to invest in others by sending these prayergifts. Who knows? If you got a book deal you might be too busy to send personal ones anymore. And that would be a tragedy because they bless. :)

Hope you are well. Thank you, again.

I feel confused and frustrated, and both of those emotions rob me of my contentment.

I could sit here and rant about it all, but I think my time would be better spent talking to God about it. I post my heart here to encourage you, fellow frustrated dreamer.

Lord,

I thought this time was it. The editor seemed genuinely interested…even invested. But the review team passed on Prayer Gifts. My soul rests in the truth of Your perfect plan, but my heart and mind are deflated like a worn-out pool float.

Is that ok? Is it ok to need a little time to get over a “no” I was so hoping was a “yes”?

I want to be content with what I have right now, Lord. You use my prayer gifts to encourage and bless people. You use the process of writing them to draw me close to Your heart. 

Is my publishing dream a pride thing? Show me, Lord. Show me.

I want to want what You want for me and nothing more. 

Trusting You for wisdom and wind for my flopping sails,

AMEN

 

 

The Strength in Surrender

My February 25 birthday sort of sprawled through a whole week! All that love and attention can go to a girl’s head.

Maybe that’s why the Lord bombarded my heart with the same message all weekend long.

Deny yourself. Take up your cross, daily, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).

I am more concerned with your character than your comfort (Oswald Chambers).

Serve others. Serve Jesus (stamp on my right hand from kinder Sunday school class).

God does this kind of thing all the time. He knows I’m a stubborn one and need lots of repetition before the truth sinks in.

I had to grin when Pastor Gary introduced his sermon about “the surrendered saint.”

Same story from the preacher man. It’s not about me! It’s about Christ in me!

White Flags

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (evamay)

“I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (Colossians 1:24-29 NLT).

Lord,

Somehow, I’ve grown to believe life should be as easy as possible, but I know that’s a bunch of malarkey.

As Bible teacher Lysa TerKeurst said, “Easy isn’t the new good. Just because the world waves a big banner that we ‘deserve’ easy… do what feels easy… why stress yourself when there’s an easier way… doesn’t mean it’s good. Keep your eyes on the Lord for that instruction, not the world.” 

The Christian life is not easy. You said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). I don’t want easy. I want You.

“And what does the LORD require of [us]? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8).

You expect us to behave ourselves (act justly), but You know we’ll mess up, and so will everyone else (love mercy). The only way to lead a good life is to keep in step with You (walk humbly with our God).

Oh, Lord, how You suffered, how You served, and how You struggled to redeem us.

Lord, like Paul, may I suffer with joy, knowing that I’m sharing in Your suffering. Suffering because of my faith is a tell-tale sign that I’m walking the path You prepared for me. Give me the courage to stand firm in my faith, even if it gets me in trouble with the “P.C.” crowd. I’d rather be right in Your eyes, Lord. 

Give me the heart and hands of a servant, Lord, willing to do everything I can to serve You and the Body of Christ.

Make me like a table waiter, ever on-the-ready to meet big and small needs around me. Help me to notice when others have empty emotional water glasses, so I can pour in Your living water from the abundance of what You’ve given me. Help me to treat even the most “difficult customers” with grace and unconditional love. Help me to know the menu of truth so well that I always have the perfect recommendation when asked.

Oh, Lord, may my heart revere You as the Lord of my life and the motive behind my service. May I always “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [me] to give the reason for the hope that [I] have.” But help me to “do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against [my] good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:14-16 NIV).

Lord, Your years on this earth and Your time on the cross epitomized struggle. When Satan tempted You in the desert, he spoke the truth when he said You could call for angels to protect You from harm (Matthew 4:6). You could have silenced the conniving religious leaders. You could have halted the physical blows from the whip and the emotional blows from the taunts. You could have avoided the cross and let us get what we deserve.

But You didn’t. You struggled to save me; the least I can do is struggle to live a life that represents You well.

I can struggle through the discomfort of saying a determined “no” to my will and an emphatic “yes” to Yours.

I can struggle through the frustration of pointing people to You even when their souls seem to be covering their ears and saying, “Blah, blah, blah.”

I can struggle to love, to forgive, and to serve without condition or ulterior motives.

When I am faced with the temptation to take the easy way, give me the strength to embrace the struggle. May I hear James’ earnest plea:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NIV).

I want to be mature and complete, not lacking anything, Lord. And I want to help others get there, too. 

Change me and use me, Lord! Give me the courage to live for You full throttle. Help me to find the strength in surrender…a life relinquished to You.

Amen and amen.

A Prayer Gift to Me

As my phone pings and rings with Happy Birthday wishes, my love tank is filling up to the point of bursting. It was already plumb full from the love I received all weekend from my family.

Saturday, my mom took me out to lunch; Garrett and Logan tagged along for charm factor.

I got my birthday present early from my Sweetie. Last weekend, he sent me to a comfy hotel for three nights of “me time.” And every day, he blesses me with “he time.” I love my man; he lives up to his pet name.

My firstborn came home from college for the weekend, just for me. His Gare Bear hugs flat out make me happy.

My baby boy was mighty generous with his hugs and “I love you s,” also. AND…he cleaned the kitchen and living room without the normal required nagging!

My middle son and his sweetpea girlfriend went all out for me last night by giving the kitchen some extra shining up and by baking me a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and a little blue birdie on top. They spared my lungs by not putting 43 candles on it. They just spelled out “43″ in royal blue candles. Royal blue balloons decorated my chair. I felt so loved I thought those balloons might lift me up and carry me straight to the moon. (Royal blue’s my favorite color, in case you didn’t figure that one out.)

Logan got me writing pens, and Sabrina got me a jar of babyfood to poke fun about me getting older. I love that she feels comfortable enough to pick at me! Some girlfriends are scared to death of “the mother.”

And now, before I head to work, I want to pause and pray to the Giver of all gifts. Taking the time to quiet my soul is a gift I give to myself.

Prayer Gifts Button

Lord,

I am one blessed woman.

Thank you for everything. For the people who love me and who I get to love right back. For a healthy body and a happy home. For a job that enables me to use my gifts to truly make a difference. For a church where I can worship, serve, and learn. For the daily opportunities to shine for you. 

Yes, Lord, thank you for everything.

The enemy of my soul is working hard to shift my focus from thanksgiving to shame. He’s been reminding me of all the lifelong struggles I still contend with. Just last night, I scarfed down more than 1/2 a large pizza. The emotional overeating battle still rages in me. Today, the birthday wishes on Facebook will likely mean a little too much. The desire for approval battle still wars for top spot in my heart. My laundry pile is looming, and the staircase needs vacuuming something fierce. Laziness and lack of time management are an up-and-down battle, still.

But rather than throw myself an “I stink” themed birthday party, I choose to see the blessing in my struggles. Thank you, Lord, for the daily challenges that keep me desperate for You. I need You, Lord! Today and always.

You’ve kept me here to celebrate another birthday. So, here I am, Your messy but loveable LeeBird, asking for more than I deserve.

Give me strength to put down the pizza box and to put on my prayer walking shoes. I want to honor You with my body, Lord.

Lord, give me an undivided heart all about loving You and loving people with “no-strings” love. Rid my soul of the striving for approval from people. Your grace-filled embrace is all I need.

Give me the discipline to set appointments for soul care, self care, family care, and home care and keep them.

Give me the grace to forgive myself when I mess up and the gumption to lovingly kick myself in the tail when I need it.

I give this day to You, Lord. I give this 43rd year to You. What kind of adventures will we have together? I can’t wait to find out!

I love You, and I’m so grateful for Your never-ending love.

In the name of the greatest gift of all, Jesus, I pray, AMEN and AMEN

Made Me Think of You

The weather here is downright nutty!

phxsnow07

It snowed in Phoenix!

I never thought I’d throw a snowball in Phoenix, but I did it last night!

My Texas friend, Amy, left me this message on Facebook.

“I saw on the news that y’all were getting snow. It made me think of you.”

Don’t you just love being thought of? There’s something all warm and fuzzy about knowing someone had me on her mind—even if wonky weather inspired it.

How many times a day do folks pop into your mind?

Happens to me at least a dozen times a day.

State Farm commercials always remind me of my best high school pal, Kristy, who works for State Farm as a fraud investigator. (Funny…the song, “Bad Boys” on COPS makes me think of her, too.)

Circle K signs make me think of my buddy, Terri, who is such a Circle K coffee fan that her husband got her a Circle K gift card for Valentine’s Day.

Coming home from work, I always pass Oxford Street where the Trujillo family lives. I can’t seem to stop myself from glancing toward the two-story home that holds a family I dearly love.

Songs on the radio, cars in traffic, favorite restaurants—all kinds of things remind me of people. What about you?

Now, here’s a crazy thought.

What if I turned those seemingly random reminders into prayers?

When I hear that timeless jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” rather than just letting Kristy’s grinning face skid through my mind, I could pause and pray, “Lord, thank you for lifelong friends like Kristy. Encourage and inspire her as she leads her ladies Bible study group this weekend and wrangles her precious kids all week long.”

When I pull into Circle K for my carbonated caffeine in a styrofoam cup and sweet Terri’s image appears on the shine of the coffee pot, I could pray, “Lord, Thanks so much for giving me the same lunch break as Terri this year. Spending time with her encourages me so much. Please give her wisdom as she tries to figure out how to help that struggling student she was telling me about.”

When my neck gets a mind of its own and points my eyes toward the Trujillo family’s house, I could pray, “Lord, thank you for my ‘brown family.’ Please give Elia a day free of heart episodes, and help Tom as he works to keep our church’s books balanced. Please give Michelle strength to get through a marathon of meetings this week. And, Lord, please help Mariah to start sleeping better.”

I wonder if that’s what Paul meant by “pray without ceasing?” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Lord, when folks I love float through my mind, help me to make the most of those moments. Fond thoughts are nice, but fervent prayer is powerful, purposeful, and a priceless gift. Help me to pray without ceasing.

Do certain places or things make you think of someone special? What do you think about turning those quick thoughts into thoughtful prayers? 

A Prayer for the Time Wasters

I just returned from my first weekend writer’s retreat. You know…just me, my laptop, and Jesus.

Well, the good news is I got some writing done, and I spent some time digging through the 2013 Christian Writer’s Market Guide and Mary DeMuth’s book, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published.

But I wasted so much time. Between the Wide World Web and social media, I do believe I have the attention span of a gnat.

I see it at home and at work. I can’t seem to keep my mind focused on one task for more than 10 minutes.

I keep asking God to broaden my ministry opportunities. I want my writing to reach more people, and I want to start speaking.

This weekend, as I waffled back and forth between editing a friend’s poems, writing prayer gifts, and playing Candy Crush Saga, I heard the Lord say, “Have you ever noticed you have some time management issues?”

Can anyone say, “Understatement?”

I need to make some changes, but I haven’t had much luck in the change department. I get all gung-ho about losing weight or keeping the house clean or, in this case, managing my time better. Then, when I slip up, I chew myself out and give up.

Or maybe I just let myself off the hook too easy? I don’t know…but I do know this.

I can’t change without God’s help. Maybe you have some time management issues, too? Let’s pray about this together. Prayer is always, always the right first step.

Time

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (anycolouryoulike)

Lord,

Every morning, when my eyes strain against the heaviness of sleep, I receive a gift–another day to live, to love, and to let my light shine for You. Please, forgive me for all those diamond moments I let slip away. I can’t go back and redeem those wasted , but I can start again right now.

Meet me in the morning.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3 NIV). 

“I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble [and my constant companion, no matter the circumstances]. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (Psalm 59:16-17 NIV).

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you” (Psalm 143:8-9 NIV). The enemy of my soul wants me distracted, discouraged, and defeated.  I’m tired of giving him his way, Lord.

Guide me through my day.

Guide me along the right path for the glory of Your name (Psalm 23:3).

Lord, I love this line from the song of Moses and Miriam. “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling” (Exodus 15:13 NIV). Just as You led the Israelites from captivity to freedom, I know You are there to lead me. And I know I’ll behave just like the Israelites did: I’ll whine, I’ll rebel, and I’ll obey. Help me to follow Your lead a little better each day.

“I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life—when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile” (Psalm 101:1-3 NIV).

Sing me to sleep each night.

I want to be able to lay my head on the pillow at night with a satisfied sigh, knowing I was an effective steward of the day. I want to see the results of time well spent. I want to do better, Lord. Help, please?

“Let the light of your face shine on [me]. Fill my heart with joy when [my] grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:6-8 NIV).

Thank you, Lord, that Your mercy is new every morning…and every moment (Lamentations 3:22-23).

AMEN

Are you a former time waster? Feel free to share your time management tips.

Because You Have Prayed: Guest Post by Shelly Hollis

I’m tickled to death to have my She Speaks sister, Shelly Hollis, on Prayer Gifts today. Shelly is the heart behind Shine Ministries where she studies the glorious truth of God’s word, puts it into practice in her own life, and teaches others how they, too, can have a vibrant friendship with Jesus Christ.

In addition to being a passionate teacher, Shelly is a loving wife, a proud momma, and a giddy grandma.

Go check out her blog where she shares all kinds of exciting truth from God’s Word, including some in-depth study of the book of Hebrews!

shelly hollis

praying

Do you ever wonder if your prayers make a difference?

Consider this story from the life of Hezekiah…

King Hezekiah had a problem, and his name was King Sennacherib. Sennacherib was an Assyrian king who had been on the war path with Israel and Judah for some time. The Northern Kingdom (Israel) at this point had already been conquered by Assyria because they would not listen to God (2 Kings 18:11-12). Now Sennacherib was ready to take on the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

The Bible describes Hezekiah like this: he clung to the LORD, he removed the idols from Judah, and he did right in the sight of the LORD. These are important things to remember as we look at the transaction between these two kings.

In chapter 18, Sennacherib asked Hezekiah a question: What is this confidence that you have in your God? The Assyrians were calling into question the ability of God to protect Judah and His very character. They named off a whole list of nations they had captured as an example of their military might and asked, “Where were their gods?”

Friends – don’t believe the lies of the enemy when he calls into question the faithfulness of Jehovah. The very name – Jehovah – is a reminder that He is a covenant-keeping God.

Immediately upon hearing the threats, Hezekiah sent messengers to Isaiah the prophet with a prayer request! Listen to what the messengers told Isaiah in 2 Kings 19:3. “This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection.” They begged Isaiah to offer a prayer for the remnant in Judah.

Listen to those words…a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection. Have you ever had a day that you could describe that way? Have you ever received news so mind-blowing that it drove you to your knees?

Child, run to your God, just like Hezekiah did in difficult circumstances. Hezekiah knew that if anything could change the outcome of this terrible situation, his LORD God could!

King Sennacherib subsequently sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14). This time, Hezekiah cut out the middle man and went straight to God in prayer for himself. I love what he did – he went to the house of the LORD, spread out that letter, and prayed all over it!

Wow – what a lesson! When that bad health report comes, when you get that bill that you can’t pay, or when you get a letter announcing bad news – spread it out before God and just pray all over it! God knows we have days of distress, rebuke, and rejection. Let God take care of you through the situation.

I just have to put the prayer from 2 Kings 19 in this post because it is so beautiful:
Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God… Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.”

2 Kings 19:20 tells us that Isaiah sent word back to Hezekiah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.’”(2 Kings 19:35-37).

Go read the rest of the story for yourself to see how God delivered Hezekiah and the Kingdom of Judah! Prayer changes things…no telling what might happen in your life because you have prayed.

Shining Behind the Scenes: A Guest Post by Dianne W. Bailey

I love prayer.

I love doing it, I love writing about it, and I love hearing from other’s about it!

Meet my She Speaks friend, Dianne W. Bailey. I love her take on how prayer is a way to shine for Christ behind the scenes.

Diane W. Bailey is the author of String of Pears – Tears to Treasure.  She is the mother of two adult children and the stepmother of two college children.  She and Doc are the proud grandparents of three, and call them, the Reward, for not quitting when parenting was difficult. Doc and Diane live in the Deep South with their black lab, Charcoal, and their cat, lil girl. You can find her at www.dianewbailey.net , twitter @dewbailey , and Facebook Diane W. Bailey.

diane bailey

William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women, merely players”.

I love the theater!  We go every time we get the chance.

This week we have been at our son’s college play, and I have been observing all that it takes to put on a play.  So many lines to memorize, and be able to say with great expression and conviction before an audience; and, so many songs to be mastered, with all of the harmony and timing worked out perfectly.

I get so excited when I hear the director call out to the cast of many, “Okay, Lights – Camera – Action!” Well, those may not be his exact words…but something like that!

Tonight, for the first time, I noticed all it takes to make the play run well for the actors.  All of the stage construction, light coordination, and people working the props are called the “People in Black.”

People in Black, are the behind the scenes, wearing black, and making it happen.  The mighty force behind the play that no one ever sees.

That is how it is with prayer, the mighty force behind the scenes – the ones you never see, on their hands and knees; the ones who are in their prayer closets pouring out before the Lord for others.  Pouring out for the ones in the spot light.

 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for this friends”  (John 15:13 NAS).

Isn’t that what we do when we pray for others?  We stop our lives, we lay down our agendas, and we pray for others.  At that point we are like the People in Black, behind the scenes, going before the play and praying a path, laying a foundation, and praying for safety and success.

Through prayer, an amazing thing begins to happen. As we pour out our heart and release our fears for family and friends, we inadvertently begin to change.  A light in us begins to appear to the people around us.  The light in us begins to grow.  A light that no one can put their finger on at first, but “something”  draws their eyes toward you.

This is when God places you in the spotlight, still dressed in your backstage black.  You are the main character in the story, giving an explanation of the light that they are seeing and a testimony of Christ Jesus.

I am one of the People in Black in the life of my family and friends, ever-ready for when God says, “Lights – Camera – Action!”

 

 

 

 

Stirring in Hope

Since I’m a Southern girl (and a Southern Baptist), my inner Paula Deen comes out anytime one of my local pals gets sick, has a baby, or just needs a little pick-me-up.

Chicken and dumplings is my specialty.

chicken-and-dumplings

What better comfort food than chicken and dumplings? Chicken soup with Southern charm.

When the giant stock pot comes out to give a roasting hen a slow, simmering soak, one of my sons usually quips, “Who’s sick?”

Dumplins aren’t hard to make; they just take a lot of time and attention, neither of which I have much.

The hen has to simmer for several hours until the chicken is tender and the broth is rich. I usually let the broth cool on the stove to let the chicken leave as much goodness behind as possible.

My little dogs stand begging at my feet as I remove the chicken from the bone. They get a bite or two, but most of the chicken makes it back into the broth that is slowly returning to a rolling boil.

Once the broth is bubbling, it’s time to add my super-simple dumplings: flour tortillas, torn into decent sized pieces.

And here’s where things can go terribly wrong if I’m not on my A game.

If I don’t stir the chicken and dumplings almost constantly during the last few minutes of cooking, the chicken settles to the bottom of the pot  where it sticks and burns within minutes. If that happens, the entire pot of dumplings has a charred taste.

Charred chicken and dumplings is not comfort food.

I thought of those wasted pots of chicken and dumplins when my friend Gretchen made an insightful comment at Bible study last night.

In our study of Karen Ehman’s Let. It. Go. How to Stop Running the Show and to Start Walking in Faith, we’re learning to practice the art of soul control. When circumstances get hairy, we must make a deliberate choice to focus on the truth of God’s word and character.

Gretchen said, “When we speak God’s truth into our circumstances, it’s like stirring in hope.”

Stirring in hope. 

I love that!

I suppose, if you think about it, life is like a pot of dumplins.

When life heats up, we have two choices.

We can get stuck at rock-bottom and let our circumstances ruin us or we can constantly stir in the hope of God.

When we feel mistreated or threatened, we can stir in:

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe (Proverbs 29:25 NIV).

When we’re struggling with doing the right thing, we can stir in:

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11 NIV).

When we’re worried about the future, we can stir in:

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands (Psalm 31:14-15 NIV).

I don’t want to ruin another moment feeling stuck and charred by my circumstances.

Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve allowed myself to get stuck. Please help me to stir in the hope of Your Word so that even the hardest circumstances nourish my soul.

What about you?

Do you stir God’s hope into your circumstances? Leave a comment and share your favorite “ingredients.”

*Congratulations to Rebecca Evans for winning my “Perks of Being a Prayer Blogger” giveaway! :)

The Perks of Being a Prayer Blogger (and a Giveaway!)

I don’t know why God saw fit to give me a heart for prayer, but I sure am glad He did.

don't pray in the rain if you don't pray when the sun shines... Satchel Paige

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (angel_ina)

I love everything about it.

Prayer is a portable passion.

Whether I’m in the church pew or soaking in the tub, God hears me. We have the best chats when I’m driving to work and when I’m folding clothes. When I shake my head over the news headlines, he hears my heart sigh. When I’m ready to pull up  stakes and run away from my troubles, He walks with me down the block until I come to my senses and head back home. No special equipment is required…just a heart for God and a heart for people.

Prayer is purposeful and packed with power.

The time I spend in prayer is never wasted. It helps me keep my soul in tune with my Savior’s heart. When I pray for others, I know God will meet them in the center of their need. And because many of my prayers are written out, the folks I pray for get a hefty dose of encouragement to boot. That’s why I call my written prayers “prayer gifts.”

Prayer is appreciated.

Even folks who don’t have a friendship with Christ appreciate prayer. In my almost 30 years of faith, I’ve only met two people who refused my prayers: Dustin and Lloyd, my two atheist friends who recently visited my Prayer Gifts page on Facebook. When I told them their visit to my page earned them a spot on my make-up mirror prayer list, they weren’t too happy. (Shhh…don’t tell them, but I’m praying for them whether they like it or not).

You know what’s extra fun about having a prayer-themed blog and Facebook page? Ninety-five percent of my feedback is in the form of one glorious word: AMEN!

Do you know what AMEN means? It means “so be it,” “truly, truly,” “fixed and sure,” and “YESSSSSSSS!”

Pretty sweet feedback, huh?

If you’ve never visited my Prayer Gifts page on Facebook, come on over and join me. Daily, I post encouraging prayers that prompt a sweeter communion with God. More than 3700 friends from all over the globe lend hearty AMENS, and some even share their own prayer gifts.

I’m so excited about you joining the Prayer Gifts community that I’m hosting a giveaway! Want to win a $20 Amazon gift card? See ways to enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Bossy

My heart is pretty gullible sometimes.

Some days, it falls for every lie the enemy spews.

You’re destined for fatness.

Your husband doesn’t love you enough to stick around for the long haul.

Every struggle your sons face is your fault.

Your writer dreams are nothing but a pipe dream. 

Sheesh! It’s time for my heart to get bossy.

Checked Out

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (kevinshorter)

David had his share of struggles.

When he did the right things, people wanted him dead.

And when he did the wrong things, innocent people ended up dead.

But there’s one thing David got right lots of times.

He got bossy with his soul.

When life circumstances became a little too much, David bossed his soul right back to hope, rest, and peace.

See if his words inspire you.

When discouragement is an anvil around your neck, speak hope to your soul.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5 NIV).

When fear shakes your heart down to your toes, demand it to return to a steady rhythm.

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples (Psalm 57:7-9 NIV).

When the trials of life cause your soul to huff and puff from exhaustion, snuggle it up in a safe nook with God.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:5-6 NIV).

When your health is iffy and your sin knocked your halo crooked, remind yourself just Who God is.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1-5 NIV).

When the deceiver tries to convince you God is nowhere to be found, tell your soul to chill out.

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you (Psalm 116:7 NIV).

Here’s the deal, friends.

Our souls are fickle. They fall for lies as quickly as my shopaholic momma says, “Shoe sale!”

As long as we’re breathing, Christians will battle accusations and bold-face lies from the enemy.

He wants us powerless and purposeless. Hapless and hopeless. Downcast and derailed.

But we don’t have to listen. We can be like David…a flawed man but a man after God’s heart.

Lord, I can’t trust my heart or my soul. They tend to fall for the evil one’s lies. Remind me to boss them around by reminding them of Who You are and what You have done in my life thus far. You are faithful even when my heart won’t believe it. You are faithful.

AMEN

My Love Affair with Mr. Sandman

Relentless. Irresistible. Mesmerizing.

I can’t seem to refuse his wooing.

Each morning, as the alarm clock attempts to lure me from my slumber, I hear the Holy Spirit call my name.

“Come to me, My child. I know you are weary, but I want to give you true rest. Spend time with me.”

But someone else competes with the Spirit’s gentle wooing.

“You need your rest, my love, soothes Mr. Sandman. The covers are warm and your puppies are all snuggled up against you. Come back to bed….just 10 more minutes.”

Mr. Sandman seems to be the victor in this sunrise love triangle. What does that say about me?

I love sleep more than I love Jesus. I could sugar coat it, and I could justify it, but it would be an ugly lie.

One Sunday, Pastor Gary made a bold and spiritual-toe-stomping statement.

“When Christians spend hours each week watching TV and state they can’t find the time to spend time with God, they don’t have a time management problem; they have an idolatry problem.”

Ouch!! See what I mean about the spiritual toes being stomped??? No wonder my feet hurt when I got home!

I can add Facebook to my list of late night distractions. I stay up way too late, which makes getting up early even more difficult.

My bed is my favorite place on earth.

my bed

Alley and Riff keeping my spot warm.

I crave the coolness of the sheets and the warmth of my shihtzus snuggled up against my leg.

I have a pillow my boys labeled, “Momma’s special pillow.” It rests on my chest as I drift off to sleep. When it gets warm, I flip it over to the cool side and bury my face in it.

I have my alarm set to play Mandisa’s song, “Good Morning.” The back up alarm plays Avalon’s “It’s a New Day.”

Despite the cheery songs, I still tend to push the snooze button to steal a few more moments of slumber.

Steal is a perfect word to use; I am stealing time from God each time I press that snooze button.

When I succeed in fighting off Mr. Sandman, my time with Him is precious and rejuvenating. I love sipping coffee with my Bible and journal in my lap. God never fails to speak to my deepest heart need.

So why can’t I consistently heed the Lord’s gentle call?

Self. Self rules supreme. I know it makes Satan so happy when his disguise as Mr. Sandman does the trick!

I desperately want to break off this illicit rendezvous. I want my heart to be true to the lover of my soul.

Please pray for me to resist the temptation to return to bed after my alarm sounds.

Pray for me to stay true to my first love.

Are you having your own love affair with Mr. Sandman?

Lord Jesus, I truly want you to be LORD of my heart, LORD of my time, and LORD of my life! Please, help me, Lord. Sing me to sleep at a decent hour, and wake me up with an expectant heart. I want You to be my number one love.

No More Counting the Cost

What a Sunday!

My time at the Heart of Mesa started a little earlier than usual. I went to the early service “to sing a special,” but I got the special blessing. I loved spending time in prayer and worship with my early bird church family. I should join them more often. They are a sweet, sweet bunch.

In Sunday school, Ms. Robin and I reenacted the Red Sea experience for our five-year-old Bible students. The Red Sea rose by God’s mighty power (a.k.a. Ms. Lee and Ms. Robin’s long arms), and the Israelites crossed on dry ground. Then the Egyptians tried their hand at crossing, only to be drowned by a deluge of sea returning to its place (a.k.a. Ms. Lee and Ms. Robin let the sheet we were using fall and cover a bunch of giggling Egyptians).

I’m not sure how much the kids learned, but we sure had fun! And when they left the classroom, they knew God would take care of them, just like God took care of the Israelites. I think they left knowing that Ms. Lee and Ms. Robin love them a bunch, too.

The 11:00 service began with a beautiful baptism and just kept on with the beauty all the way through.

The Silent Hope worship team led the music. I can learn a lot from those incredible believers who happen to be deaf.

They worshiped with their whole bodies, and their adoration of their Savior radiated from their faces.

They chose to focus on the reality of God rather than the reality of their challenges.

They led us to the heart of God, so we could love on Him together.

Pastor Gary took us on a camp-out in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I’ll be honest–I’ve never lingered long in that garden because it just plain hurts to think of Jesus in such agony.

But if Jesus loved us enough to go through it, the least we can do is spend some time reflecting on it.

I think I’ll reflect in the form of a prayer. Feel free to join me.

Olive grove sunset

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (toolmantim)

Lord,

It has been a while since I said thank you.

Thank you for clothing your Divinity with humanity. Thank you for living a life we can model. Thank you for the redemptive sacrifice that didn’t start on the cross.

It started in the garden.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:32-42 NIV).

When You walked into that garden, You knew the bitter cup You were about to drink. Within the hour, You’d be betrayed by a friend and arrested by soldiers. Within eight hours, You’d be abandoned by Your closest friends, beaten to the edge of death, and nailed to a cross  between two thieves. By 3 p.m., You’d be utterly alone tasting Your first moments estranged from Your Father.

Yes, the sacrifice began in that garden.

The terror of what was to come assaulted Your body, Your mind, and Your spirit. 

Though You were best known for praying on Your feet with eyes lifted toward heaven, Your legs could not hold You as You poured out Your anguish to Your Abba Father. The stress was so intense that You sweat drops of blood. Your tears poured and Your heart broke as You asked Your Father, “Is there any other way?” (Luke 22:44).

More than Your personal comfort, You wanted God’s will. You didn’t count the cost because no cost was too high when it came to Your Father (and to us).

Your Father didn’t deliver You from that cup.

But He brought You to the other side. Yes, You suffered the worst kind of mental, spiritual, and physical pain.

But God was there to receive You when it was finished.

What can I take from spending time with You in the garden?

I can take Your dogged determination to do the will of God and make it my own, for Your Spirit lives in me.

I can take drink every cup You give me, even the bitter ones, for I know You will be there on the other side.

I can stop counting the cost and start counting the blessings because there is no life more priceless than a life spent for You.

All for You,

Amen

Choosing to See the Gift in Disguise

This year, I have the biggest caseload I’ve ever had as a special education teacher.

Overseeing the education of such a diverse group of learners keeps me hopping all day long.

Therefore, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when my supervisor informed me that I’d be getting another student to support…a student on a different team of teachers with different rules, different lesson plans, and different everything.

I grumbled to my co-teacher. I grumbled to my sweetie. I grumbled to God.

I’m already overloaded! Why couldn’t they give the job to someone else? Whyyyyyyyy?

And then I made a momentous choice. I chose to listen to God’s answer to my whiny why.

Lee, you should know me well enough to know I don’t put anything on your plate that isn’t on my master menu. I didn’t let this happen to stress you out; I let it happen to help you with one of your most important callings…the effective parenting of your own seventh grade son, Jacob. Don’t you like my gift?

You see…my son Jacob just transferred to my school so I can keep a better eye on him. Just like many of the students on my caseload, Jacob struggles with organization and timely work completion. He’s easily distracted and not too motivated.

And guess what? He’s on the same team of teachers as the new kid on my caseload! In my efforts to keep that student on-track, I’ll get the information I need to keep my Jacob on-track.

What I thought was an unfair inconvenience was really a gift from God. I’m glad God helped me unwrap it.

Gifts in disguise

What’s going on in your life that has you grumbling and whining?

Will you choose to see the gift in disguise?

Unhindered

I have the blessing of leading a women’s bible study on Sunday nights. Oh, how I love my ladies!

We are so different, yet we are all handmade by the same Creator.

Our backgrounds are diverse, yet God’s presence hovers over each of us.

Myriad circumstances wound our hearts, yet the One, True God works tirelessly to heal us.

Currently, we are working through Karen Ehman’s wonderful study, Let. It. Go. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.

One of the questions we pondered together was a doozy. Wanna hear it?

How do you hope your children or others in your life will remember you when it comes to your relationship with God?

As the women shared their hopes, they spoke of faith and faithfulness, authenticity, and a lifestyle of prayer.

Then came the next question.

What is standing in the way of you living out that kind of relationship with God?

The answers to that question are the inspiration for this prayer gift.

Fun lookin' Boulder

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (ryanjagar)

 Lord,

Your girls want to make You proud. 

We want to live lives marked by faith, authenticity, and prayer, but it feels like giant stones block our path.

Fortunately, You have experience at moving stones.

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away (Mark 16:2-4 NIV).

With You, we can live unhindered.

Roll away the ruins of past hurts.

Lift the yoke of oppression off our weary necks. Grasp our pointing fingers cramped from placing blame, and lift them heavenward to receive Your healing grace. 

Turn our attention away from our hurts and toward the hungry and oppressed among us, for then our “light will rise in the darkness and [our] night will become like the noonday. [You] will guide [us] always; [You] will satisfy [our] needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen [our frames]. [We] will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:9-12 NIV).

Open our hearts to forgive those who hurt us, for we can’t move forward until we let go of the past. Help us to understand that holding on to the sins of others only doubles our burden, since we, too, are sinners. We, too, need forgiveness for so many reasons (Mark 11:25).

Roll away the confusion of false religion.

Lord, some of us grew up in homes, communities, and churches that fed us three squares a day of spiritual junk food. Deceived and conditioned, we gobbled it up and even tried to feed it to others.

Give us fresh vision to distinguish between truth and lies. Unblock our ears to hear the glorious sound Your freedom words drowning out the words of condemnation we’re so used to hearing. Release our tied-up tongues to speak the truth we do know, for when Truth shows up, the Deceiver must flee (James 4:7).

Luke 11:52 proves You are the defender of the truth seekers: “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (NIV).

Roll away the sins that trip us up.

Your precepts are pure radiance, Lord and more precious than gold.

“By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. But who can discern their own errors? Forgive [our] hidden faults. Keep [us] also from willful sins; may they not rule over [us]. Then [we] will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of [our mouths] and this meditation our [our hearts] be pleasing in your sight, Lord, [our] Rock and [our] Redeemer” (Psalm 19:7-14 NIV).

 Hanging on to our sin saps our strength and leaves us stuck (Psalm 32:3-5), but with repentance comes relief and a lifting to solid ground. “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you” (Psalm 130:3-4 NIV).

With the faith of little children, we seek You, Lord, and we know You receive us. “Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (Luke 18:16 NIV).

We know Your wish is for us to live free and unhindered so we can truly live out the faith we claim and can leave a legacy for those in our influence. Help us, Lord. Roll away those stones.

In the name of Jesus we pray, AMEN

Now the questions are yours:

How do you hope your children or others in your life will remember you when it comes to your relationship with God?

What is standing in the way of you living out that kind of relationship with God?

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