Night School

IMG00045

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” – Psalm 63:5-8

When I was in college, I had a Christian professor who told us that when she went to bed at night, she prayed God would use the nighttime hours to speak to her. I thought that was a little “far out” at the time, but was intrigued because it seemed efficient –seriously! Over time, though, I realized that nighttime may be the only time when I have relinquished control of my brain. Maybe, it is the best time for God to be able to talk to me without my interference. Then I began to find Bible verses showing that God wants to relate to us even while we are in bed, sleeping or awake.

So, I have learned to fall asleep with a Bible verse, a prayer, or a hymn in my mind. That way, I feel I am leaving my subconscious self open to the Spirit of God as I rest. Then I say something like this to God: “I pray that my heart will be so fully yielded to You and my mind so saturated in Your Word that the nighttime processing will be instructive. I never want to be outside of Your teaching, correction, guidance, wisdom – even while my body sleeps”.

And, He answers that prayer. How?
• Sometimes I wake up with a solution to a problem that seemed unsolvable the night before.
• Or I will remember a dream that seems to give me direction or comfort.
• Or I will have a Bible verse come to mind that was just what I needed to hear.
• Or I simply feel His loving presence with me as I sleep.

You may want to ask Him to speak to you in the nighttime hours, too. He might just be waiting for your invitation.

“I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” (Psalm 16:7)

Stressed or Blessed?

DSCN1123

“A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.” – George MacDonald

The question haunted me: How could I say I was living a life of faith when I was anxious so much of the time?  I began to ask God to deliver me from worry and grow my faith in His character and His Word. As He answers my request, here is what I am learning:

Listen first.
Before I pray, I listen to God in order to try to understand His will in the matter I am concerned about. Then I pray a prayer that, to the best of my ability, is in keeping with His will. Partnering with God this way engenders faith.

Pray boldly.
I try to ask honestly and boldly for what I need from God and what I have discerned He wants to give me. No more wimpy prayers.

• Testify confidently.
When God answers my prayers, I share the good news with others. My faith nurtures theirs and their faith nurtures mine.

• Respond thankfully.
Whether my faith is big or small, I commit to giving God the all the credit and praise for what He does.

• Persevere patiently. 
My faith is growing, but I have far to go.  So, I remain committed to following God’s faith-building plan and am thrilled with every evidence of progress.

And, here’s the good news: I am finding that worry and faith cannot exist in my mind at the same time. If I worry, faith disappears. If I exercise faith, worry flees. I get to choose which of the two I want to live with. By God’s grace, I am learning to choose faith and my life is changing gradually from anxious to peaceful. Yours can, too. Ask Him to help you grow your faith in Him. That is a prayer He is eager to answer!

“So not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Sh-h-h, My Child

One day, I was discouraged with my behavior and my attitude. I felt I was letting God down and needed to know that He wasn’t giving up on me. As I sat in His presence, I could almost hear Him say,

“I am not angry at you, not impatient with you, not disappointed in you. I love you. I am proud of you. I am pleased with the person you are becoming. Accept that.”

The deepest motive for believing is the awareness of being loved by God - Lewis Smedes

The deepest motive for believing is the awareness of being loved by God – Lewis Smedes

“Sit with Me, talk to Me.

I will show you things you have not seen, teach you things you want to know, give you My wisdom, and help you to understand Who I am.

Now, let Me love you. I am drawing you to Myself, closer and closer. The difficulties along the way are designed to show you how far you’ve come and how far you have to go.

• I am teaching you to trust Me.
• I am teaching you to focus on Me, not on yourself.
• I am teaching you that anything you accomplish of value is really done by Me, not you.

I am inviting you to an easy yoke, to walking with Me, to rest.

Everything in your life is under control. My control. Rest in Me.”

That message was for me – but it’s for you, too. He wants you to know, really know, how much He loves you. Sit with Him. Talk to Him. Let Him tell you Himself.

The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Tougher Tests

“Consider it a sheer gift, friend, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way”. James 1:2-3 (The Message)

My dear friend and mentor had pancreatic cancer. She was living a very full life and one that had been unusually healthy. She had always taken such good care of her mind, body, and soul! Now this. It didn’t seem possible.

Never alone

You are never alone.

But when I talked to her, she was calm, joyful, and looking forward to whatever was to come next. She said things like, “I am never alone” and she led me into worship as never before. When I talked to her a few months ago about one of my own struggles, we compared notes. That’s when she said, “As we grow spiritually, the tests get tougher.”

Really? The tough test I was facing related to the fact that God was challenging me to spiritual growth? I was actually pleased to think that He loved me enough to invite me to go deeper with Him. Then I looked back at Marge and saw the real peace and sustained joy that she had in her trial and realized that she was up for the challenge. I would be, too. God will not give me a test that I cannot handle, but He will give me a test that will make me stronger and will increase my intimacy with Him.

If that’s what it takes to draw me closer to You, bring it on, Lord. I am grateful that You care enough to give me new opportunities to grow.

“Do not let me waste the trial You send me. It is a gold mine I must exploit.” – St. Therese 

 

Obsession

. . . I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8a)

I remember recognizing that there were obsessions in my life that should not be there. It became clear that I should not obsess about anyone or anything except Jesus – not family, not weight, not work, not world events, not health, not “to do” lists, not money, not clothes – just Jesus. I committed to making Him my magnificent obsession from that day forward. When I asked Him how to actually put that lofty ideal into practice, here are the things that came to mind:

The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. - Irenaeus

The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. – Irenaeus

Pray without ceasing: Acknowledging God’s presence with me always. Not necessarily engaging in verbal communication all the time, but having heart talk that never ends.

Always be thankful: Discovering the amazing power of gratefulness – the way it can turn me around from sad to glad in about 30 seconds, the way it takes my focus off the problems and onto Him.

Confess sin: Learning that confession is a privilege. It is a way of making sure there is nothing between me and God and that surety allows me to live constantly in a state of forgiving and being forgiven. I love it when He reminds me that I have something to confess; it is His way of showing me how much He values the relationship that we have developed together.

Don’t run ahead of God: Taking my time, slowing down. This is a command designed especially for me and people like me who want to take charge. God reminds me that my “taking charge” sometimes interferes with His bigger plan. So I have to stop to listen and to make sure I move forward when, and only when, He says to do so.

These healthy habits are helping me remain connected to my true Obsession, the only safe one I can have. Maybe they will help you, too.

Delightful Saints

As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. (Psalm 16:3)

God delights in saints – those who are committed to relating to Him and living out that relationship in their day-to-day lives. I do, too.

I have many saints who bring cheer, support, and joy into my life: My husband, my spiritual mentor (who is now with Jesus), my ministry mentor, my lifelong friend, my book-reading friend, my compassionate friend, my hospitality friend, my “I’ll do anything to help” friend, my psychologist friend, my praying friend, my friend who is a light in a dark place, my daughters.

Who are the “saints who are in the land” for you? I hope you have a long list. They are the ones who make our lives rich, full, interesting, challenging, and fun. Thank you, Lord, for putting some special saints on life’s path with me!

Crumbs

Looking beyond the here and now

Looking beyond the here and now

What is the biggest thing you have asked God to do for you? Sometimes our focus is on the here and now, so we ask for things that we think will satisfy us. Maybe they do, for awhile at least.

The gospel writers tell the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus (Matthew 15) asking Him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Remember that? He told her that He came for the Jews, not the Gentiles and it was not right to take the bread meant for the children and give it to dogs. Her answer is bold, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Her request was immediate and desperate but, in light of the power and magnitude of Jesus, it was just a crumb. He gave it to her because of her faith.

When it comes to situations with family, demons, finances, health, and so on, I will take crumbs, too. Those are important and often heart-wrenching requests. But internally, Jesus reminds me, “Don’t be satisfied with crumbs. Pursue Me until you have full revelation of who I am. Don’t be satisfied with anything less.” I need Jesus more than I need quick answers to my desperate prayers. I need Him, not just the gifts He gives. I don’t want to be satisfied with crumbs when Jesus gives me Himself in full as the living bread!

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory