What’s on your card?

“It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.” Jeremy Taylor

I have a former colleague who’s caring for his father who suffers from dementia. He describes a recent morning this way:

“I woke up at 4:30 this morning to find Dad already dressed, with his winter coat and gloves on, just standing in the kitchen, staring off into space. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he was ‘ready to go.’ I asked him where, but he had no idea. I told him he didn’t need to be anyplace for another five hours.

“He was clearly distraught, confused, and tense. I got him into his easy chair, gave him a bright green, 3×5 note card and told him to hold onto it. On it, I wrote, ‘Relax, everything is fine,’ then signed my name. He read it, and I watched him smile as the tension melted away, but he still held onto that card. Dad trusts that I’m watching out for him. 

“As I pondered this, now unable to go back to sleep myself, I thought of God’s note to me, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). What a loving Father! God’s got this!”

Do you trust that God is watching out for you? That he gives you messages to hold in your heart to reassure you when you get anxious or distraught? What message do you need to hear today? Ask God to give you a verse for this time in your life, then write it on a 3×5 card and carry it with you. Let his words melt your tension away.

Here’s mine:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
– 2 Timothy 1:7

Assumptions

“None knows the weight of another’s burden.” – George Herbert

There is so much to learn from the biblical book of Job! What I’m thinking about today is all the assumptions Job’s friends made about him. They thought he was proud, dishonest, uncompassionate, and hiding some terrible sin. They kept telling him if he’d just repent, God would stop punishing him and everything would be OK. The problem is Job can’t think of anything he’s done wrong. And what he doesn’t know is that God agrees with him. God, in talking to Satan, describes Job as totally “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8b).

So what do we learn from Job’s friends? Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t give the easy answer. If you do, you most likely will be wrong! I can’t help thinking about times when I’ve done just that. I see a mom struggling with a defiant child (needs some parenting skills) or a person who is overweight (lack of self-control) or underweight (psychological problems). Or I know of someone always short on money (bad financial decisions) or who loudly spouts his own opinions (arrogant): Negative judgments based on outward appearances and nothing more. What we don’t know is that the child has special needs, the heavy person and the thin one have significant health problems, the money is being spent to care for an elderly parent, or the loudmouth is insecure. Until we know, maybe we should withhold judgment. Why?

Because once we open ourselves to empathetic understanding, our negative view often melts away and we are able to respond with God’s wisdom and love. That kind of attitude will take down barriers and create bridges. Maybe then we can actually help!

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – John 7:24

 

 

 

 

Pray for me.

” . . . far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

(1 Samuel 12:23a)

Last week, I had a friend ask me to pray for a specific thing to happen in her life. I did. When she called me a few days later, letting me know that our prayers had been answered, I was just as happy as she was and we both gave our thanks to God for his intervention.

I’ve wondered why we ask people to pray for us. Do we think if we have enough voices storming heaven on our behalf, God will be convinced to answer our prayers? I don’t think it really works that way. I believe even one prayer has enough power to move the hand of God. So, then, why do we ask for help in our prayers?

I think the reason is identified for us by Paul when said, On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:10b-11). Paul certainly would have had God’s listening ear if he had prayed for himself. But here he says he had asked other Christians to pray for him, so they could all thank God when the answer came. The goal is more than accomplishing something for ourselves. It is giving glory to God. And when many pray, many give him praise. 

We all have needs. Let’s ask one person, maybe more,  to pray for us, so we can all give thanks to God for his answers!

No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.” – Charles Spurgeon

In the Desert?

“Where there is sorrow there is holy ground. Some day people will realize what that means. They will know nothing of life till they do.” – Oscar Wilde

Nobody signs up for suffering, but it happens to us all: sickness, tragedy, loss, and pain. The hardest of all is the struggle that just keeps hanging on and day after day we feel alone in a hot, dry desert.

If you are there, be encouraged! God uses desert time to make us strong, to help us learn dependence on him, and, often, to prepare us for something he wants us to do. Think about Moses who spent years there tending sheep before God called him to lead his people out of slavery. The Israelites spent four decades in the desert learning to trust God alone to meet their needs. Jesus was in the desert for forty days of fasting and prayer before beginning his public ministry. His wilderness time included direct confrontations with Satan. The desert can be a difficult and dangerous place!

Desert experiences tend to strip away the trappings of life so we can see what is truly essential. It is then that God can reach down, touch our souls, and feed us with food that will satisfy: Manna, refreshment for the spirit, just enough until we are healthy and strong and ready to be led out of the wilds into a more abundant life.

The desert truly is holy ground. If you are suffering today, be as open as you can to God and his Spirit within you. Over time, his healing touch will come.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever. –
Psalm 30:11-12

From Generation to Generation

“However many blessings we expect from God, his infinite liberality will always exceed our wishes and our thoughts.” – John Calvin

On a recent trip to a South Asian country, my hustand and I attended worship services in a language we couldn’t understand. What we did understand, though, was the loving hearts of parents who brought us their children, asking that we pray for them. They trusted our prayers would be heard and their children would be blessed.

When Jesus was here on earth, there were mothers and fathers who brought their young ones to him for the same reason. If you are a parent, you understand. Who would not want his/her child to be blessed by God?

I remember, years ago now, sitting in the rocking chair, soothing my babies to sleep and praying over their fuzzy heads that God would bless them. I’m sure many of you have done the same. You know what? We can still bring our children to Jesus for blessing even if they’re not babies anymore

One of my favorite signs of God’s blessing was on his own Son – no longer a child, but all grown up. Can you imagine the joy in Jesus’ heart when he heard from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased”? As a young man, Jesus was experiencing his father’s blessing because he was was making him proud.

God doesn’t stop blessing us just because we’re grown up. We’re still his kids! So, let’s not stop asking for God to bless our children. And let’s ask him to bless us, too. We never outgrow our need for his goodness toward us.






“Give thanks to him and bless his name! For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4b-5

Give me your life.

“It’s not those in prison for the sake of the gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.” – Brother Yun

When God commands us to have no other gods before him, it doesn’t mean he wants to be highest on our list of priorities. It means he wants to be our only priority. He doesn’t force himself on us, though. Instead, he waits for us to decide whether or not to make him our one-and-only God, the Lord of our lives.

It’s risky business to make him our Lord because sometimes he asks big things of us. Christians throughout history have been persecuted for their faith, some have been imprisoned or even martyred. Others have been marginalized in their jobs or ridiculed by neighbors. Many of us don’t ever experience that kind of persecution, but the question is the same: Is God first in our lives? Would he still be first even if it cost us everything to serve him? Or are there still some lesser “gods” that interfere with our total devotion to him? 

Maybe our home? Family? Health? Reputation? Or even more obscure things like exercise, favorite foods, hobbies, or activities. As we examine our hearts, let’s ask God to show us if anything might be in the way of our total commitment to him.

Making God first doesn’t necessarily mean we will suffer, but it means we will be willing to. Willing to sacrifice everything for him if that’s what he calls us to do. But in return, we gain his favor, direction, and intimate presence. God asks that we not live our life and make him part of it, but that we give him our life and let him lead it. 




“I am the Lord your God.” – Ezekiel 19:20a

How’s it going?

“Help me to live awake.” Macrina Wiederkehr

How many times have you had this pseudo-conversation?

“How’s it going?”

“Great, thanks.”

Really? Are you sure it’s great? We tend to go through life without really thinking about how it’s going, don’t we? We move from one task to the next, one conversation (digital or personal) to the next, just hoping we’ll get everything done so we can get to bed at a reasonable hour and rise to do it all again tomorrow.

Maybe there’s a better way. What if we took a few minutes at the end of each day to think about the conversations, encounters, actions, reactions, joys, and sorrows of the day? Then we could move on to confessing as sin any thing we did, said, or thought, that didn’t please God. Finally, we could pick one specific thing from the day for which to thank him.

If we practice this, even on occasion, we’ll begin to learn something about ourselves and how we are using our hours and days. There may be some patterns of life we need to change. There may be relationships we need to be less invested in and others we should nurture. There may be an awareness of God leading us in a new direction in our work or our service to him.

The point is to pay attention to our lives. We don’t often have time to do that during the rush of the day. But, before we close our eyes in sleep, maybe a few minutes of reflection would enrich us and give God a chance to take us deeper into him. Let’s really know how it’s going!


. . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”. – Colossians 1:10