Because you asked . . .

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” – Psalm 112:4

Sometimes we labor in prayer, pleading with God for answers to pressing issues, waiting anxiously to see what He will do.

At other times, we simply mention something to Him, and He seems to respond – maybe just because we brought it up. For unexplainable reasons, God has chosen to use our prayers to change things in our world. And on some amazing occasions, He uses our prayers to bring blessings to others.

When God told Abraham he and Sarah would have a son, Abraham laughed because he was 99 years old and Sarah was 90! Not seeing how God could pull this one off, Abraham suggested his son Ishmael be the chosen one instead. But God made it clear that the new baby would be born and this son would be the one to carry on the covenant between God and Abraham.

God doesn’t stop there. He says, “. . . as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him. . .” (Genesis 17:20a). We know God had a plan for Ishmael, too, but I love that He seemed to respond specifically to Abraham’s concern. It’s almost as if God said, “I will bless him because you asked.”

Doesn’t that motivate you to ask? It does me. If we’re concerned about some person or situation, God wants to hear about it. Sometimes He gives us peace while we wait and sometimes He intervenes just because we thought it was important enough to talk to Him about. He allows us and our prayers to be the conduit of His blessing to others. What a privilege. What a responsibility! Let’s pray more.

“When we experience the love of God, we feel possibilities for newness on every side.” – Lewis Smedes

 

Moving It Up a Notch

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“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4a

I think we should move thanksgiving up a notch this year – from being thankful to being delighted. Delight means to take pleasure in, appreciate, relish, enjoy, savor, and bask in. Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than just being thankful? It is!

Puppies and small children are the best at being intrigued by everything they see. Delight just seems to come naturally to them! But those of us who’ve lived awhile may have to rediscover that art. How?

Mostly by paying attention, just noticing, not so quickly moving past the truly wonderful all around us. And if we are going to delight ourselves in the Lord as the psalmist writes, then we should give the most attention to the things God has made, done, and said.

So, here’s the list of things I am going to take time to notice, particularly in this season of thanks:

  • Creation
  • People
  • God’s Word
  • His involvement in my life

I plan to pay attention, then stop to thank the One who looks for special ways to delight me. You’re invited to join in the fun, too!

“The things we love tell us what we are.” – Thomas Aquinas

Content?

"Godliness with contentment is great gain." - 1 Timothy 6:6

“I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.” – Philippians 4:11 (Amplified Bible)

“Dear God, it seems I am never satisfied. Instead I always have a new goal to pursue or want one more thing to change – a relationship, a habit, or an attitude. I am getting tired of always reaching. Instead, I sense You calling me to contentment, to quit looking for more or better. Sometimes just to stop and enjoy what is.”

“My child, My desire is that you live free of worries about appearances, clothing, finances, and food. Live, instead, close to the earth, close to Me, My name easily on your lips and always in your heart.

Slow down.

Simplify.

Contemplate.

Share.

Serve.

Love.

And always give thanks.

Oh, and one more thing: Just for today, put down your notepad, stop making lists, and simply enjoy being in My presence and walking wherever I take you. Contentment always follows when you are on the path with Me.”

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.” – George Macdonald

 

Boring Prayers?

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“He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile.” – A. W. Tozer

It’s OK to admit it: Sometimes we are tired of hearing our own prayers. We have a routine of thanking God, asking Him for general blessings in our lives, and praying for specific requests, some of which we have been praying about for years. Important stuff, but maybe getting boring.

The writer of Psalm 92 has an idea that can change all that. He says, “It it good to praise the Lord . . . to proclaim Your love in the morning and Your faithfulness by night.” (Psalm 92:1-2). See the pattern? One prayer emphasis in the morning and a different one at night.

In the morning, it’s all about God’s love. When we get up (or even before) we can think about God, become aware of how much He loves us and, then invite Him into our day. As we carry His loving presence with us, we move with confidence, realizing all the good that comes our way just because He loves us.

At night, we prayerfully think back on all that happened that day: appointments, meetings, conversations, projects. Do we see how He was with us in everything we did? Even when we knew we let Him down? The response that will become natural in our nighttime prayers is to thank God for His grace, mercy, and faithfulness. Recognizing His faithfulness today makes it easier for us to trust Him again tomorrow.

With the psalmist’s morning and evening rhythm, our prayers will be fresh and new every day. And God will be both pleased and praised!

“It is good to praise the Lord . . . to proclaim Your love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night.” – Psalm 92:1-2

Some of His Best Work

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“I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”Psalm 146:2b

My husband and I are in Colorado at this writing, having arrived a few days ago from our home in Michigan. It is an amazing retreat for us to come here surrounded by several Fourteeners, (14,000+ foot mountain peaks), adjacent to the Arkansas River (known here as the “Mighty Ark”), and under a canopy of sky that is sunny and blue most days.

So why was I so bummed out yesterday? I kind of got on a downward spiral of “If only”s.

• If only it were warmer.
• If only the storm hadn’t rained on the outdoor concert we had planned to attend.
• If only my email account hadn’t jammed.
• If only . . .

For no good reason, I ended the day feeling dissatisfied.

Then this morning, I opened my day with this prayer, as I usually do, “Good morning, heavenly Father. I worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.”

It was as if He said in return, “Do you mean that? Creator? Have you looked around lately? You are sitting here among some of My best work saying ‘if only’. Really?”

Busted! Immediately something came into my mind I could say “thank You” for and I did that. Then another and another and another until a deep sense of satisfaction came over me. From frowns to smiles in about two minutes! God’s way is much better than my way.

And there’s nothing like seeing, really seeing, His creation to remind us of how great our God is. I bet there is some of His best work around you, too. Take a look!

“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.” (Anonymous source)

 

Thanksgiving Continued

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Now our challenge is carrying the attitude of thankfulness day-to-day. After all, God places great value on gratitude.

"I have never been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day." - A. J. Jacobs from The Year of Living Biblically

“I have never been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.” – A. J. Jacobs from The Year of Living Biblically

He is the penultimate Giver and, as such, He deserves and expects our thanks. Besides, being thankful is good for us. It makes us more positive, more loving, more generous in spirit.

With that in mind, let’s think about just two ways we might learn to make gratitude a natural outflow of our lives:

1. Invite the senses: We can live with more intensity when we consciously engage the senses. It’s like jumping into the lake instead of skimming over it in a sailboat. Jump into your sensory life. Feel the sun on your skin, really taste the food you eat, drink in the beauty of a single bloom. Our bodies need to be part of our experience of God’s gifts. Swim, don’t skim.

2. Savor the moment: Some of us tend to go through life on auto pilot, doing things without even thinking. But taking a little more time (a) to connect with someone, (b) to experience that emotion we are running from, or (c) to pause to ask for God’s insight develops awareness of the moments and not just the passing of the days.

Why are senses and savoring important? They help us become more attuned to the many gifts we are constantly being given. And then, we begin to realize we have Someone to thank. Gratitude naturally flows out of a life lived mindfully. Try it.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

 

Trust Happens

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Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” – Anonymous proverb

One day I was fussing around trying to get everything done, worrying about this and that – just restless, I guess. I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge: “Don’t you have something you want to thank Me for?” Of course I did. I stopped my whirlwind and gave Him thanks for several things that came immediately to mind. As soon as I did, I felt my spirit move from restless to restful. It was amazing.

So what really happened? God’s reminder to thank Him was not for His benefit, it was for mine. A gratefulness pause made me realize all that God does for me every day and how much He must love me to remind me of that even when I was “toiling and spinning” like the biblical lilies of the field. Recognizing His character, His faithfulness, and His consistent drawing of me to Himself helped me to trust Him even in the middle of what felt like chaos.

Trusting is not an act of the will. Rather, it is an emotion that grows out of a confident relationship with God as we discover that He loves, protects, teaches, and rescues us – and has been doing it for years. Even brief moments of remembering His never-failing consistency nurtures the emotion of trust in my spirit. Over time, I am finding that trust is more often my first response to struggle instead of my second, third, or fourth.

Maybe we need to stop telling ourselves to trust God and, instead, start realizing who He is and what He does for us. As we make gratefulness a habit, trust happens. Understanding that has made a big difference for me. It can for you, too. Don’t you have something to thank Him for right now?

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” – Jeremiah 17:7