Prayer & Decisions

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Several years ago, at a conference a woman asked me to pray with her.   She spent a few minutes telling me the details of what was happening in her life.  We bowed our head and prayed.   I prayed like I normally would, in an instance like this, and it went something along the lines of…

Lord, I come before you petitioning on behalf of  ________.  Lord, you know the burdens on her heart, her struggles, and her confusion.  I pray that you would give ________ a clear and direct answer on the issue of ______________.  Lord, I pray that your answer would be so clear to her that there would not be a seed of doubt in her mind that this is your will.  Close the doors that are a waste of her time, open the ones that you want her to walk through.  Make the path crystal clear, and give her strength and endurance to walk that path.  Let your desires become her desires as she is your hands and feet in this world.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

After we were done, she said something to me that stuck.  And, I must confess, I’ve heard it several times since.  She responded by saying “I’ve never heard someone pray like that before.”  She was caught off guard by my directness.  She was accustomed to the prayers that sort of danced around it… you know the type… very generic and not specific.

Lord, give me clarity and discernment about your will for my life.

You’ve probably prayed this way yourself.  I know have.  Is it sincere?  Sure, I really do what to know what God wants for my life.  But, I don’t have to ask in generic ways, but rather approach Him with very specific questions and concerns.

I can’t claim ownership to the prayer I shared.  Someone once prayed with me like that, and it was the first time I realized that I could just lay it out to God in such a way.  Let me explain why I still pray like this, and encourage others to do so.

  1.  God already knows the words in my heart and head, he doesn’t need me to sugar coat them when I pray.  I want my mouth and my heart to be in agreement.
  2.  God has seen me at my worst, I’m pretty sure He’s not going to be offended by the way I pray to Him… about His will… and my desire for obedience to Him.
  3.  He created me as a very direct person.  I’m certain that I’m not surprising him when I cut straight to the point even in prayer.
  4. God is pretty direct in His Word to me.  I believe He is big enough and strong enough to handle a firm prayer.

Look at Moses conversation with God in Exodus 32.

The people had made a golden calf and were worshiping it.  God had the right to be angry about this, and said to Moses to leave Him alone so that His anger may burn and He would destroy the people.  Moses responds in verses 11 & 12…

But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. (NIV)

That is a pretty direct conversation.   Especially considering he was seeking the favor of the Lord.  In many of the prayers of the Old Testament and New Testament, the petitions were pretty concise and direct.

This is not about trying to exercise my will over God’s will.  I’m not commanding Him to give me the desires of my heart.  Quite the contrary, it is a petition that asks for there to be no doubt about what God’s will is… an expression of our heart to be obedient to His will and call.  It is a plea of a heart that doesn’t want to step out of alignment.

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What is Your Legacy?

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Saturday,  I spoke at a church.

In that space, I was reminded of my grandmother. I literally choked up at the pickle relish tray on the divided glass serving tray… just like my grandmother would serve.

When I arrived home, I decided to go through a bin my mother gave me.

Inside were things that belonged to my great uncle, my grandmother’s brother. His Navy dress cap, his metals in a shadowbox … and this little black book.

Lord, that all men would have this type of little black book.

I cried the moment I began to flip through the pages.  What a precious gift.

Legacy.

What will you leave behind?

#The100DayProject

CreateSomething

Just this past week, I was introduced to #The100DayProject, the premise from what I understood at the time was to spend 15 minutes create a piece of art each day.   The idea was to instill a habit of creating each day, keeping those creative juiced primed.

A few days into the project, I realized it was much more than that.  First, is that it was about being creative… period.  Draw.  Paint.  Photograph.  Write.  Second, there were no rules on the how.  Some are creating new pieces each day, others are working on a progressive piece where they spend 15 minutes each day adding to the collective piece.  There are artists who have chosen a theme for the entire project, or others who have given into a daily muse.

Today is Day Eleven.  So, if you want to join the #The100DayProject… come on over… there is room enough for every creative mind.

To see what people are doing, search the hashtag #The100DayProject.

To see what I am posting, search the hashtag #100DaysMFA

Chronicling 40: The Bookshelf

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One thing about being sick is that you have plenty of time in bed to read.  Which allowed me to catch up on the pile that has been building.  If you are a voracious reader like me, you know the perils of the “too read pile”.  Too many books, too little time.  In full disclosure, these books were sent to me for the purpose of reading and reviewing, and while I received the books gratis this did not affect my opinions or review.

BecomingAWelcomingChurch

 

Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer

This is a short, but poignant read… which is right up my alley.  I’ve read some articles by Rainer on this topic before, so I knew what I was walking into with this book.  The first chapter title says it all “Are We as Welcoming as We Think We Are?”   It is really easy to lose sight of the visitor in a church where everyone knows how things are done, what certain terms mean, and who everyone is.

If we want to be a welcoming church, we can’t just consider the people who walk in our doors already.  Yes we want to make sure they continue to feel welcome in their church home, but we must not forget about our guests.  The person who is trying to navigate around our campus, or the non-believer who is hearing the Gospel for the first time.  Rainer does a great job of pointing out that friendly and welcoming are not the same thing, and also a matter of perception.  A long term member is going to see things very differently than the person viewing the church from fresh eyes.

Walking us through various points to consider… from signage to website information… Rainer helps us to shift ourselves into the mind of those we are trying to reach, and ends the book with a chapter of practical application.  I would recommend this book to church leaders, ministry leaders, organization leaders, as well as church plants.

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TheDreamOfYou

 

The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

So let me tell you a little bit about my book keeping habits.  I am VERY gentle with my books.  I don’t break spines, or fold over covers.  I am don’t dog ear corners, nor shove them carelessly in bags.  I will only write in a book if it is an AMAZING book.  Knowing this about me, the wear on the cover of this book should tell you immediately how I feel about this book.

This book took me a bit to get through.  It was tough.  I had to look some things square in the face.  Lies I have believed about myself, moments where I wondered if what I was doing was of any value or worth, confusion about God’s calling on my life, etc.  This book landed in my lap during a season of exhaustion where I wondered if I had any fight left in me.  Why?  Because my ministry work isn’t easy, isn’t always valued or appreciated, and there are times I have felt taken for granted.  This book was like a hot cup of coffee on a day when I was dragging.  I needed to read these words, they restored energy, and pointed me back to what was important.

It matters not what anyone things of me or my gifting.  What matters is that I am a daughter of the King, who has been gifted a calling, and I trust in His provision and guidance as I walk obediently in it.  It led to a sit down with my husband, a phone call that started a ministry partnership, and the Lord removed my doubt and grounded me in His promises.

I would recommend this book to anyone, male or female… leader or member.

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CourageousWomenOfTheBible

 

Courageous Women of the Bible by Latan Roland Murphy

This was a great book for follow The Dream of You with because it took real women from the Scriptures to inspire courage and purpose.  We see the parallels between the women of Biblical times and today.  Murphy illustrates how courage advances us into opportunities that God has appointed for us.  What I also really loved about this was how she helps us find our courage by identifying the source of it… which is obedience and trust/faith in God who is ordering our steps.

We learn from these women, how their past foraged the courage that led to their futures.  Which serves as a prompting to our hearts that indeed our story is not over, and there is a good work being done in us.  Helping us to rely on the power of God over the difficulty of our circumstances.  The final chapter of the book includes journal prompts to help explore these stories deeper and apply them to our lives.

I would recommend this book for personal growth and self discovery, for your Women’s Ministry, Bible Studies, or as a gift to any woman in your life.

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BookOfMistakes

 

The Book of Mistakes by Skip Prichard

I was actually really excited to get this book and really disappointed by it.  However, this could be a case of it being a matter of preference.  The lessons that Prichard wants to teach through this book were woven into a fictional story format.  As I began reading, I found that to be a turn off.  Don’t get me wrong, I love reading fiction.  I just don’t like my fiction mixed in with self improvement books.  It was really hard for me to enjoy the book, and honestly I found myself skipping forward to get to the big points.

I agree with every point Prichard makes in this book about the mistakes that we make and how they impact our success.  My problem was that none of his lessons were anything new or earth shattering, everything was something I had heard before.  I pretty much drew the conclusion that this was a book that gathered well known points and packaged them in a new way.  In that case, the style may actually appeal to a different kind of reader… the ones who don’t enjoy self improvement books.  Maybe Prichard was gearing for a particular audience, a new audience… and I’m just not that person.

Overall, I just can’t recommend this book.  I don’t think it is offering anything you couldn’t glean from an afternoon googling terms like “how to be a successful” or “mistakes to avoid for success”.

 

Chronicling 40: Heaping Ashes

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One of the hardest things I have had to deal with in ministry was not a conflict, but instead the talk after the conflict was over.  I’m not minimizing that conflict itself is hard, because it is.  However when you are in conflict with another person there is a lot you can do.  You can pray that God would convict their heart… and your own.  You can forgive what needs to be forgiven, and repent when you need to repent and seek forgiveness.  You can work to rebuild the relationship, you learn from your mistakes, there is growth.

There are occasions where others were present for the conflict directly, or brought into it indirectly… and it is very hard to reign in the talk that can come from it.   Even when we have done our best to keep people out of the conflict, those who can sense the tension may make assumptions to fill in the gaps… and they don’t always keep those assumptions to themselves.

Several years ago there was a large conflict that I was a part of.  It took time, but we all came to terms with what happened.  There was forgiveness and reconciliation.  It was a beautiful thing to see relationships being repaired and restored.  Two years later, after all the dust had settled, someone came to me because there was gossip being spread about me.  First, I want to say that I appreciate the fact the person told me… but even more so that when the person began to gossip in front of her she shut it down quickly.  She made sure the person and those who were listening understood that she didn’t know all of the fact, had no business speaking about it with anyone.

THESE KINDS OF FRIENDS ARE GIFTS FROM GOD!

She came to me, because she felt that I should know that this issue was still being discussed by people… what was said about me specifically… and how she handled it.

I was far more hurt by those who were spreading rumors with incomplete information than I ever was by the actual conflict itself.  In part,  I believe, because this person was tarnishing my reputation with others who had no knowledge of the conflict in the first place.  Not to mention I had considered this person as a friend, and couldn’t believe she was being so careless.

Yes, I was angry.  Yes, I wanted to confront her.  Yes, I wanted to talk to everyone she spread this gossip to and set the story straight.   Before acting, I took it to the cross.

In order to clear up her misinformation, I would have had to throw others under the bus.  I’ve always agreed with the quote: “What you say about others says more about you than those you are gossiping about”.    There was no way to improve my standing without casting a negative shadow on others, and I refused to do that.  Instead I had to take the high road.  Yes, I can confront the gossiper directly.  As for the rest, I had to make a decision to let my character speak for itself.

I would continue to walk out my faith, live my life, in accordance to my character and integrity.  If she continued to speak ill of me, eventually she would feel conviction.  If others chose to believe her, as they get to know me they too will feel conviction.  If they choose to not bother to get to know me, that’s more on them than it is on me.

Sometimes, in our flesh, we want to repay evil for evil… hurt for hurt.  But, that is not what God would have us do…

Proverbs 25:21-22

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

When we respond this way, we let our character and integrity speak for us vs. trying to be defensive.  When we respond this way, we are walking in the Spirit and not in our flesh.  When we respond this way, we are separating ourselves from the way the world does things and instead showing how Kingdom dwellers do things.

Chronicling 40: Day Something of 365

On theMend

I have no idea what day it is.

Between being sick for two weeks, spring break, then having Monday off, and my husband also have two weeks off… it’s been a sea of days.

I’m just now having the strength/energy to catch up on everything that has fallen behind.

It is crazy how quickly things can pile up and how long it takes to overcome it.  Rome may not have been built in a day, but surely it could be destroyed in one.

Some things I am thankful for:

  1.  Take out.  I am so thankful for people who make and sell food for those of us who are unable or unwilling to.
  2.  Walk in Clinic.  When your doc can’t get you in right away, being able to walk into a local clinic and get help, even if it is a bit more than your normal co-pay.
  3. Scheduled posts.  I don’t use them here because of the nature of what I write about, but it was a blessing to have been ahead of the game for our ministry site.  Those posts were written and scheduled before the first sign of illness headed my way.  I didn’t feel stressed to get something written.
  4. Understanding kids.  Bless these kids for being understanding and not whining when some of our Spring Break plans went awry.
  5. Medicine.  Because sometimes you need more than just orange juice and rest.
  6. Perspective.  When you are sick, and have to bow out of a lot of things, you really see what is most important.

I’ll be happy when I’m 100% better, that doesn’t mean I am going to return to 100% of the things that filled my schedule.  This spring, I need to do some pruning.