More of a Mess than a Manuscript

As the New Year arrives and it seems everyone is thinking resolutions,lightstock_142968_small_helena_ I am doing something completely different.  A few days ago I decided to go back and read my prayer journal for 2015.  The journal is nothing fancy… an old fashioned college rule COMPOSITION BOOK.  When I write in it I use one writing instrument exclusively… an extra fine mechanical pencil and only one brand of those is acceptable.  I guess that is part of my quirky nature that makes me a writer.  God doesn’t care what I write with or what my handwriting looks like… He is oblivious to spelling and grammar and punctuation?  But He does like it that I actually focus my attention on what I’m writing to Him… the cell phone is put down, the TV is turned off, even the dogs have to make their nests somewhere besides my lap.

Reading the journal confirmed that I do not spend time with God everyday… perfectly; never missing a day 365 days each year.  In fact it exposed a haphazard, inconsistent totally unscheduled pattern of prayer entries.  4 days, skip 1, 1 day, skip 3, 7 days, skip 2 yeah… pretty much like that all year long.  In fact I had one month that had not a single prayer entry… my silent absence screamed off the page to me when I realized that.

In the midst of my unfaithfulness I experienced His grace for me… that He wanted me to return no matter how long it had been, no matter how far I had strayed, no matter the condition I was in when I finally turned back.  Those entries began by thanking Him for always being there.  Eventually I realized that I had wandered but I was never alone in my wanderings for He would never leave me or forsake me.  Where I went, Christ went also; gently and persistently reminding me of His love, His forgiveness and His grace.  As the year progressed the absences grew shorter and less frequent.

The prayer entries varied in length as well.  A paragraph or two; four pages of anxious, scribbled slashing; two sheets of calm, neat penmanship; a page of joyful, loopy words with underlines, hearts, smiley faces and exclamation points for emphasis!  I just lay it all out there… my frustrations, my hopes, my fears all tumble onto the page in an attempt to reach His heart.  I never follow a format… at times praise happened, thankfulness happened, joy was expressed.  But my prayer journal is more of a mess than a manuscript… and in 2015 God used it tremendously in my life!

I rarely read my journal entries after I write them.  I’m usually afraid to read it… afraid of it in the same way a close look in the mirror can cause great discomfort.  All the extra pounds, gray hair, wrinkles; every imperfection shows up… how will I go on in life after seeing myself like that?  Reading my prayer journal exposed it all!

On those pages…

I trembled in anxiety and fear… for my family, my finances, my future!

God listened.

I railed at God… my heart full of anger, doubt and questioning.

God listened.

I wept in self-pity.

God listened.

I approached God as almighty, all knowing, all powerful… basically seeing Him through the eyes of an abandoned, frightened, wide-eyed little girl who crept into the room with God and hid behind a chair whispering her prayers.

God listened.

I sat before him buried in shame from my past.

God listened.

Several months into my 2015 prayer journal my focus shifted… it was less about me and more about Him.  I sampled different names for God… Almighty, Heavenly Father, Father God, Daddy God… then one day I called him Papa and our hearts connected.  I told Him all about stuff… the hurts, failures and the forgiveness I craved.  I spewed out all the lies I hear in my head, the accusations and condemnation, my vulnerability showed and so did my pride and critical spirit.  Papa came through with His truth!

I began to write a while… and then listen… write some more.

I poured out my love, concerns and desires for my family, my friends, other women I knew were hurting, confused, suffering from loss and destruction in their lives.  I searched the Word for just the right words to pray… I began to forget about me for a time and focus on them.  Breathing got easier and time seemed to fly by whenever I sat with that composition book and bible in my lap.

Flair-ups came, emotions got triggered, and old habits reappeared that are difficult to stop… it’s all there on the pages of my prayer journal.  But inside me… fear and anxiety are being replaced with peace and assurance; lies are replaced with truth; bitterness and rejection are being replaced with forgiveness and concern for others; sadness and loss are replaced with comfort and love.

Because God listened… and I listened to Him.

2016… I’m a few days into the year and I’ve missed a day or two with my prayer journal.  But it’s there… waiting for me.  And as I pour my heart out onto the pages God listens.

A Prayer

Almighty God… Heavenly Father… Papa,

In the midst of all that is happening in this world today, billions of people, political, economic and social upheaval and destruction; monumental needs… still you listen to me, Your child.  Personal, present and compassionate You sit with me every time I return to You.  You nurture, counsel, comfort and guide me with all wisdom and grace.  Your patience for me is boundless… Your love for me is everlasting! Thank you that in 2016 You will draw me… beckon me… wait for me to return to You in prayer and then You will listen. 

In Jesus Name,  Amen

 

Just As If Nothing Ever Happened

I’ve made a new friend recently.  That’s not altogether unusual… I think we all continue to acquire friendships throughout our livelightstock_181315_small_helena_s as we engage in new activities or jobs; relocate to new communities or finally have a conversation with someone we had as an acquaintance for many years.  But making this new friend is something rather special.  Something that taught me again that…

  • God’s Way Works

Several months ago I attended a ministry meeting at church.  During the meeting the group facilitator asked a question and I gave a heartfelt answer stemming from my personal experience and relationship with God.  Within moments a woman sitting next to me intervened.  She said for those in the group who had not had the “spiritual experiences” I had, she needed to restate the answer… give an answer she felt was more suitable to the group.  Her comments stung!  They felt critical, sarcastic and embarrassing.    And I was confused… this woman had never actually met me.  Why was she so critical of what I had said?  She didn’t even know me. If I could have escaped the room I would have run and hid.

I ruminated on the words the woman said for several days.  The incident had taken me by surprise.  I was also frustrated because I had been so shocked by her comments I no longer remembered what I had said that sparked them.  Had I really been so obnoxious about my “spiritual experiences” that a round “put down” was called for?  Why did someone who didn’t even know me lash out… especially at a ministry meeting in front of a group of people?

  • God’s Instructions

As I listening to God’s still small voice I wanted to ignore Him.  I felt hurt and angry.  But His instructions were so clear and direct and compelling…

“Go on interacting with her just as if nothing had ever happened.  There’s more going on than you see… trust me, forgive and treat her as a friend.”

I wondered at the time about going to her… sharing with her that her words had offended me, possibly asking what it was all about.  Doesn’t the Word instruct us to go to the other person when we are offended?  But that was not what I felt God was telling me to do in this case… he wanted forgiveness without explanation or confrontation of any kind.  His instructions said to let go of the offense and release any hard feelings I had toward this person.  He wanted me to be ready to greet her warmly, as if she had not given me any occasion to complain about her; to treat her kindly as if she had not injured me… He reminded me that is how He treats me when He forgives me.  It was a tall request God was asking… one I was not sure I could fulfill.

It was a couple of weeks before I saw the woman again at church… I thought to slip by her and act as though I never saw her… but the catch in my spirit said, “NO… go greet her!”  I complied and greeted her warmly then moved on.  Nothing happened; it didn’t fix anything.  Her words still stung but I reminded myself of God’s instructions… “Just as if nothing had ever happened… treat her as a friend!” Time went by… I refused to nurse the offense as much as I actually wanted to.  The Lord had just been so clear, so compelling and somehow at the same time comforting.  So I put the offense out of my mind… “Just as if nothing had ever happened.”

Fast forward several months…

I had occasion to spend several days in close proximity with this nice lady… and that’s exactly what she was – Nice!  We chatted and got to know each other… found we had some things in common.  In the next couple weeks I invited her to my home and we talked and prayed together… found even more common ground and I experienced the powerful ways God uses this new friend to minister to others, including me.  I asked God, “What’s up with this?  She’s really nice!  I want her as a friend for many years to come Lord!”

  • A real, biblical friendship is born…

Just a few weeks ago I finally shared with my friend the struggle I had with our first encounter.  Honest and tender feelings were talked about; prayed about; forgiveness was cemented in my heart.    I openly admitted that in the time since the incident I realized that deep down I knew my friend had not meant to be critical or in any way hurtful… it was my bruised and defensive ego that had gotten offended when it really didn’t need to be.  My friend openly admitted that sarcasm is a problem she struggles with… she was quick to ask forgiveness and I felt her deep sorrow for what had happened.   We both understood that we have a real spiritual enemy out there and from the first time we met he did not want this relationship to happen.  But now the victory was ours.  We walked away from each other full of peace and joy.

So I have a new, wonderful and precious friend.  And in my heart and in my mind… Nothing ever happened!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Col 3:12-14

A Prayer

Father God I thank you for my precious friend and her soft and caring heart.  I thank you for your instructions… for your comfort and for your love.  Show me when my bruised and defensive ego chooses offense over forgiveness.  Continue to teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me… pure, simple forgiveness just as if nothing had ever happened.  And above all help me to put on love, which binds us together in perfect harmony.  Without You Lord just think of the friendship I would have missed. 

Tarnished Reality… Glorious Light

Its Christmas time and I am struggling with a bruised and battered heart.  As the season unfolds; my thinking bounces around… from the hurts of my past – to my inadequacy in the present – to the uncertainty of my future.  I run a gauntlet of thoughts that recount my failures… point out my broken relationships… remind me of all that is lost.

I’m struck by how our culture’s “Christmas decorum” is entrenched in my thinking. Images of Christmas perfection are projected unto the screen in my head.  While I cower among shadowy accusers… fingers point at me and then at the screen; voices call out and compare my tarnished reality with the angelic rejoicing I see there. I find myself trying to inject sparkle, glimmer and glitz in an effort to oust the darkness that has settled in my heart.

The battle is real… it rages quietly under the surface as I plan our family gathering, shop for presents and decorate my home.  It’s not new… or profound… or uncommon.  That’s why, in the middle of this season of joy I’m sharing with you the struggle within.

Because…

This Christmas, God is doing what God does… sending Jesus time and time again into my life to be the light that pierces the darkness of my thinking. He sends Jesus through my precious husband and son and daughters and through sisters in Christ who listen… and pray with me and for mBright lights with mangere.  He sends Jesus through his Word that speaks the truth I need to hear.

What do I need to hear in the midst of this Christmas struggle?

Jesus comes to me even when I am cowering in the darkness.  He shows me that tenderness and love overcomes offense and failure every time.  His poverty and frailty exposes the ugly pride and gaudy excesses that the devil uses to destroy me.  There is nothing more tender and helpless than a newborn baby.  He doesn’t point to a false perfection… He gently and tenderly heals and reshapes my broken heart.  God uses the birth of a baby to scatter my accusers and bring me into His glorious light!

A Prayer

Thank you Father for the gift of your son Jesus. You have fought the devils lies and accusations with the mighty force of a frail and tiny baby.  His light defeats the darkness… His comfort heals my broken heart… His love restores my soul.  All Glory to the newborn King!

S.U.R.E.

Has God ever given you a promise?  Something you heard gently
whispered in your heart that brought with it anticipation and joy every time you remember… God promised me.  Or maybe the word of the Lord fell heavy, reducing you to tears and flooding you with questions and doubt.  With the announcement of God’s promise life suddenly is tilted; the precarious incline has you searching for something firm to grasp and right yourself again.  Perhaps the universal promises of God proclaimed in His word feel hallow; you wonder at your own lack of excitement and anticipation when you hear them.

I was recently reading the gospel of Luke… the New Testament writer states his purpose for writing the book clearly and concisely in his opening greeting ~

…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:4

After stating his purpose Luke launches directly into the story of Zechariah.  When an angel tells Zechariah he is going to conceive a child Zechariah responds with the question we all ask at times ~

“How can I be sure of this?” Luke 1:18

God had sent an angel to personally deliver His message of hope and lightstock_41804_small_helena_promise to an old man who had prayed to God and served God faithfully since he was young.  The promise of a son.  Still, Zachariah struggled with the promise… was it really a promise that God would keep?

Perhaps Zachariah’s uncertainty was due to his age… life experience tends to bring skepticism and doubt when disappointments, failures and outright tragedy mount over time.  Personally I know this is true.  The cliche, “there’s no such thing as a sure thing” lurks around the corner of my thinking… eroding my certainty in my God.

There are promises of God I hold close to my heart, promises that involve those I love and cherish in this world; promises about my own identity and purpose in God’s kingdom.  Some are the universal promises God declares to all His children born again through Jesus… others are specific, intimate and potentially life altering for Steve and me.  Like Zachariah, I want to fall to my knees and question – how can I be sure of this?

Do you share in this struggle?  No matter how God has proclaimed His promises in your life… gently or with boldness, personally or corporately… there is only one thing you crave – Certainty!

S…    start with obedience.

Luke tells us that Zachariah and his wife were “upright in the sight of God”   even before the promise of a son was given to them.  Their attitude of seeking and obeying God was established in loving service that came from their hearts.   No promise is fulfilled outside of our relationship with Jesus and His church.  A heart surrendered to Him will worship Him passionately, seek him constantly, share Him boldly, and serve others freely.

If you are waiting on a promise of God as I am… don’t sit still.  Take the steps necessary to see something happen… even when you are uncertain.  Reconcile with that friend or family member you had a falling out with; give generously to the needs you see around you… even out of your own need; witness the salvation of Jesus to your unsaved loved ones by your loving, kind attitudes towards them.  Certainty starts with our obedience.

U…     uncover the fear.

Zechariah stated it best… “I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”  Zechariah knew God well enough to recognize the angel as His messenger… but he chose to look at the circumstances instead.  Why did the promise arouse so much fear?  Even the promise held aspects that were uncomfortable… he was an old man, too old to finally have a child.  Why was God giving him so much more than he expected?  There would be challenges and effort required?  But most of all… what would it be like if the promise was not fulfilled?  He didn’t want his hopes raised only to be smashed again.

Fear must be uncovered and brought to light whenever it causes us to doubt God.  The fulfillment of a promise often requires us to change something in our lives… to mature in our attitudes, to exercise patience and perseverance, and possibly to suffer discomfort and embarrassment while we stand on God’s truth.  Certainty requires us to surrender our unpleasant feelings no matter what problems God’s promise stirs up.

R…     replace the lies.

Certainty repeatedly and consistently replaces the lies of the enemy with the truth of God!  Elizabeth said it best, “The Lord has done this for me.”  When we consider God’s promises… consider the one who makes the promise.  In Him there is no wavering, no backing down, no giving up.

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised.  Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.    2 Kings 8:56

Not one word has failed… we are assured of his love and acceptance; our eternal salvation is firm and secure.  Certainty grows as we stand on God’s truth.

E…     express your faith.

The fulfillment of a promise brings great joy!  Look back in your life and recount God’s many blessings… the health of your loved ones, the job he has provided, the home that shelters you and your family.  Focus on His promises kept.  Phrase every request you make of God with certainty… thanking Him for His faithfulness.  Profess the truth God states in His Word… even when you don’t feel the emotions of that truth.

As I look back I see God’s promises unfolding in my life.  His timing for things has not always agreed with my level of patience.  His way of providing the promise has not always been as I wished it would be.  At times, his promise has demanded much of me, changing me, maturing me, strengthening my certainty in Jesus.

Has God ever given you a promise?  Be sure!

Scripture: Luke 1: 1:25; II Corinthians 1:20; 1 Kings 8:56; Rom 8:38; John 6:37; II Corinthians 5:1; Heb 6:19

A Prayer

 Father God I thank you that all your promises are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus!  As I wait on your promise I thank you for faithfully bringing that promise to completion in my life… a certainty that your love and goodness carries me every step of the way.  I anticipate with joy… proclaim with assurance… celebrate with thanksgiving… all your promises for my life.  In Jesus name, Amen

 

 

Goodness

I crack my eyes open to the dusty light… stretch beneath the comforter and yawn, filling my lungs with the cool, crisp air of an early morning.  Slowly, I become aware of the creaking, murmuring noises my husband makes as he brews coffee and tends our wood-burning stove.  I’m not alone… glancing at my canine companion I see her stretch… and roll… stretch again in her own fleece lined dog bed.  I’d like to remain there… snuggled in sweetness and warmth.  Thank you Jesus, for the goodness of the morning!

Not all my days begin with sweetness.  The alarm clangs; the dogs whine and bark; the phone shatters the stillness or the door slams shut as my husband exists for work.  Instead of the gradual stirring of thankfulness, my thoughts assault me with expectations.  The day looms with tasks to be completed, frustrations to be faced, and temptations to be resisted.  I must rise and sort out all the “what’s next… what if… why does it have to be this way” questions that din around in my head.  I’d like to bury my head beneath the covers and shut out the day… sometimes my heart prefers darkness to light, foolishly thinking I’ll find refuge there. Help me Jesus, to face this morning!

  • The goodness of Jesus prevails

No matter how I experience the morning, God promises His childlightstock_251401_small_helena_

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)

God’s goodness is simple and awesome; majestic and comforting all at the same time.  God’s goodness has poured out of Him from the beginning of time; His goodness is the essence of all creation.  Goodness inhabits the starry sky, towering mountains and massive seas… all because He called them good.  Overcoming our sin, Jesus is the redemption of that good.  Bright sunshine and moonlit nights proclaim… the goodness of the Lord will prevail.

  • Goodness is intentional… not accidental or natural

Too often I forget the goodness of Jesus living within me.  My view of Him is clouded and distorted by… well, by me!  I’m focused on my past failures or my present circumstances.  I remember the false excuse I gave, the food I couldn’t resist and the anger I unleashed… it’s easy to see I’ve been anything but good.  The moment I forget about His goodness and begin relying on my own I’m in trouble… there is only one who is good, Jesus.  His goodness and His love are intentional and he demonstrates them to us every moment of every day.  No failure or disappointment will cause Jesus to remove it.

  • God’s goodness leads us to repentance.

It’s easy to see the turmoil in every part of the world today… it’s all over the news.  I experience fear and uncertainty, anger and frustration, greed and lust splattered everywhere around me.  Sometimes I want to tuck my head under whatever is handy and shut out the day… maybe I can find refuge in food, drink or Facebook… only to have my heavy heart get heavier and my dim spirit struggle against the darkness.  But Jesus is light.  If instead I focus on Jesus goodness He warms my heart and comforts my soul.

Jesus was focused and intentional when He suffered and died for the everyday sins that I commit.  The mark of His life within me is His goodness.  Goodness deliberately, intentionally prefers right and resists wrong.  There is always the opportunity for wrong… goodness is the choice to reject wrong in favor of good.  An easy example… it’s my choice to reject the hurtful words I want to say in favor of good, uplifting or forgiving ones.  When I focus on all the ways Jesus has been good to me today I have the opportunity to allow the goodness of Christ to reign in my heart.

  • The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble…

Without a sense of God’s goodness I struggle to experience His love – that’s why the devil uses my bad to convince me how unlovable I am.  It is the realization that even when I’m not good enough… “Jesus in me” is my good enough.

Every evening we have a routine… my little, aging Chihuahua needs to be placed in her spot to sleep.  It has to happen or she will wander, whine and create a fuss.  For a tiny dog her yowl can be ear piercing.  She demands our attention, refuses to settle herself and shows no appreciation for anything we have provided that day.  No one is going to rest in the house until she is tucked securely in her spot.  First we lay a polar fleece baby blanket at the foot of the bed, place her gently on top of one half and fold the other half over her.  Then, a second fleece is laid over her to form a cave… a refuge from the night air… a place she can burrow and tuck her nose for warmth.  Quiet and goodness rest there all night.

That is the picture of God’s goodness caring for you.  It is goodness and love coming together in you… to create your relationship with Jesus.  He is your refuge… your goodness… and every day you can trust in Him.  In the midst of your busyness, frustration or pain; God’s goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Scripture: Psalm 23:6; Nahum 1:7; 2 Peter 1:5

A Prayer

 Thank you Father, that your goodness and love truly follow me all the days of my life.  In Christ I find refuge from the struggles of life; His goodness reigns in my heart.  You pour out your love and comfort; you quiet me and give good gifts to me.  Help me open my eyes to see you are the source of all good things… every morning.  Help me rest in the power of your great love forever.

Please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a public comment below and post it to this blog.

 

Rest

lightstock_81985_small_helena_ (1)   (excerpt from Boot Camp Workbook)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30

Not many people use innter_athlete_stresswords like “weary” and “burdened” in their everyday conversations these days. But what about a word like “stress?” I’ll bet you can’t find a popular magazine without at least one article about stress – how to cope with it, manage it, survive it. We can stress about our stress, which often leads us to another frequently used word in our society – “depression.” Anti-depressant medications are one of the most often prescribed drugs in the United States right now. Depression is all too common. How about “anxiety,” “hopelessness” and feeling just plain “down?” Have you gone home recently and decided to just “veg” on the couch because you were exhausted from your day, or do you often wish you didn’t have to get up in the morning?

When Jesus was speaking the words in Matthew 11:28-30, was he speaking to us?   Of course He was. We all need rest. There is no one living, so at peace with God, himself and others that they are not “heavy laden and overburdened” at times. For many, this is the case most of the time. We all need rest… How do we find it?

How do we find rest?

The book of Hebrews states that the work of a Christian is to enter into God’s rest. lightstock_136893_small_helena_(Hebrews 4:1-9) For many of us this seems an impossible contradiction. How do we enter or find God’s rest? Do we stumble across it or strive for it? Is it something we must create or manufacture for ourselves?

“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.

Rest…ease and relief and refreshment of our souls. Wow, are we ready for some of that? Jesus wants to “give” it to us. In fact, the Amplified Bible indicates that the direct outcome of coming to Jesus is REST! Jesus says He will cause the rest – we don’t manufacture it ourselves. As we receive His gift, we rest.

As we explore Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus invites us to join Him in that place of rest.  The entire teaching of this verse in found on the resource page under Boot Camp WorkbookRest.  Learning to enter into God’s rest will bring tremendous change in our lives… one that only Jesus brings.