Category Archives: Prayer

Take a Look

Take-a-look-660x330

When I was a young teenager desperate to do everything my friends were doing, my parents often asked the question, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Well, of course not, but I did want to do some bridge-jumping, despite the dangers of going along with the crowd.

Admit it. That was you, too, once upon a time.

As a matter of fact, we’ve grown up now and we’re still those crowd-following bridge-jumpers.

We live in a world where we carelessly rush into things before we’ve stopped to take a look at where we’re going and why. The general masses are headed in a particular direction, adhering to particular social norms, and behaving in a similar manner; so much so that you can hardly distinguish one personality from another. And we don’t dare disagree. But we keep going along with it because they must be right. Right? Because breaking away from that crowd would make us different. And we don’t want to be different.

It’s hard to be different.

It’s hard to stop and take a look around while you’re in the middle of a crowd that’s moving along at a rather alarming pace. You put yourself in danger of being trampled. Or yelled at. Or mocked. There is a strong likelihood that your friends and/or family won’t stop with you. They’ll probably urge you to get moving so you won’t be left behind.

So, we continue along, not even bothering to question why we do what we do. We see everything changing and we might even protest a little, but it’s hard to be different, remember.

This even happens in the Church.

Yup, I said it.

We really don’t want to stop to take a look while we’re in the middle of the Church crowd because in that context, the backlash could be even greater. We don’t want to say anything to rock the boat because the Church crowd can be harsh.  And it’s Church, after all. God must be in it, right?

Right . . ?

At this point, you’re probably wondering what the point of my point is. I can’t possibly get into it all in one blog post, but I will say that I am stopping more frequently to take a look – to take a look at how Church is being “done”, to take a look at the people around me who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ (not crowd-following bridge-jumpers), and most importantly, to take a look at my own relationship with Him. Why? Because there seems to be a big disconnect between what the Bible says and what I see around me – and what I see in myself.

I have been on a personal journey (that word has been so overused, but I can’t think of a better one right now) for the past few years, and I am convinced that we Christians are missing way, way, WAY too much because we are allowing the crowd to tell us what we believe and how to believe it instead of listening to what God says. Spiritual deafness, is that a term?

Time to pop the cork on your crowd-following. You’re not going to jump off the bridge with the rest of them. You’re going to stop and take a look, regardless of the consequences, and find out how deep and wide is the love our Father has for you. His plan has always been for you to follow Him, not the crowd filled with people who haven’t got time for Him.

Take a look in the Bible. Take a look at the Father in prayer. Take a look at where you’re going with Him.

It’s quite a ride.

Want to come with me?

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Fulfill Your Vision Despite Opposition

You’ve finally decided to go for it. The Vision. The Dream. The God-given Plan. You’ve thought about it for months, maybe even years, and now you’re ready and excited.

But the people in your life aren’t.

In fact, you get the feeling your family and friends would rather have  you stay right where you are. You try to convince them that this path is your true calling, but they remain skeptical. Their doubts sap your passion and resolve, and deep down you start to wonder if they are right.

Maybe you’re not cut out to be whatever it is you believe you’re cut out to be at all.

Instead of cheering you on in your quest to fulfill your vision, those closest to you may:

  • tell you that your dreams are unrealistic or even crazy
  • stress that a safe, reliable job is more important
  • remind you of past failures and warn against taking future risks
  • urge you to consider your dream a hobby, not a serious pursuit

These are common reactions. Because people feel threatened by change and uncertainty. Your new direction can be unsettling and worrisome for your friends and family. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed; they just don’t want to leave the familiar behind.

Whenever you embark upon something new, skepticism and doubt will follow. It’s inevitable.

But deep inside, you know that God has shown you exactly where He wants you to go, what He wants you to do, and how He wants you to do it. He has placed within you the dream, the VISION, to do that which only you can do.

It’s big. It’s scary. It’s just plain exciting!

It will take tenacity, focus, and determination to keep you from giving up.

Learning to press forward in faith, with God providing the direction, will make you stronger, more committed to succeed, and ultimately, the very person you were always meant to be.

When your favorite people aren’t supportive, moving forward with your plans can feel like trekking the outback with nothing but a rope and a knife on your belt. You’re attempting something you’ve never done before and you’ll face real dangers – possible financial struggles, work/life balance issues, and more. Yet you must press on. You can’t afford to let other people’s good intentions hold you back.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

1. Craft concise responses to questions about what you’re doing. Find simple, clear ways to explain what you do when asked. Create some basic scripts in advance if you have to. It’s great that your family and friends care about you, so tell them that. Give them general updates, but don’t get into a lot of detail. Volunteering too much information can create a slippery slope that invites interference.

2. Choose your confidants wisely. Pray about who would be the right people to ask for help, or just to lend a listening ear. These people will give it to you straight, but also make you feel encouraged and uplifted. They are the few with whom you can confidently share everything – even your fears and failures.

3. Prepare for negativity. If you have a particularly skeptical person in your life, try preparing some kind but firm responses in advance. Something like, “I appreciate your concern, and you’re right, things might be tough for a while, but I have help and a plan, and I’m confident that everything will be alright.”

4. Be on a mission. Keep your goal front and center. Write it down. Memorize it. Get a solid vision and purpose for yourself, strong enough to help you plow through on tough days. Don’t underestimate the importance of your “why”. And don’t be afraid to communicate your mission through everything you do. Passion is contagious and will draw supporters to you.

4. Find good mentors and teachers. Stick close to the people who believe in you and what you’re doing.

6. Find supportive groups and communities. Get involved in a good church. Join a small bible study group. Ask God to show you where you can plug in. Some of the relationships you build will benefit you for years to come.

7. Keep looking for and trying new avenues for learning and growth. You will outgrow learning opportunities. Give yourself permission to move on when you feel a particular person, program, approach or activity is not the right fit for you, or isn’t working any longer. Don’t waste valuable time due to indecision. Don’t feel bad about moving on, either. Keep the good connections you made and lessons you learned, and let go of the rest.

8. Defend your boundaries. Fiercely protect your attitude and your vision. If you can’t avoid vampires (the people who suck the life out of you), be nice to them, but not open or forthcoming. Remember that negative comments can ruin your confidence and mood for hours or even days. You owe it to yourself to avoid such comments so you can do your best work.

9. Take excellent care of yourself. Get enough sleep, revive that exercise routine, and be sure to eat healthily. Your physical and emotional state will benefit, and it’ll be great for your outlook and stamina.

10. Help someone else. Reach out to others, either through your work or otherwise. Unexpected blessings come when you put aside self-interest and focus on those who need you.

11. Pray. Be in the Word. Spend time with our loving Father who wants above all else for you to succeed.

When you shake things up in your own life, the people around you are bound to react. Don’t let their fears and frustrations hold you back from achieving your dreams. Persistence in the face of skepticism will strengthen you, and as you continue on the journey to your dreams.

The world needs your contribution. For every person who feels threatened when you step up your game, 20 to 100 others will likely be inspired.

Maybe, like me, you are blessed with family and friends who are on board with your vision. If that’s the case, stop right now and thank God for those wonderful people in your life. They are rare.

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Breaking Out

Desk

Yesterday, I prayed.

Well, I pray every day. But yesterday was different. Because I was desperate. You know, the kind of desperate when you’re at the there’s no way this is going to work without Divine intervention and if that doesn’t happen, I’m done. Yup, that was the motivation behind my pleading, whining, begging prayer. And I’m pretty sure that once again, God rolled His eyes.

There’s this story, you see, that I’ve been working on for what seems like a hundred years, but since I am not even close to that old, I might be exaggerating just a little. In reality, it’s been at least five years. My Word doc drafts only go back to 2009, so I know it’s been that long for sure. Some of the initial ideas have been on the back burner since 1990. Yeah, a long time.

The day has come to write the thing and get it out there.

There’s been a little issue with that. I got stuck in a boring part and couldn’t find a way out. Every time I sat down to work on it, I ended up staring into space and thinking that if I thought was dull, why in the world would anyone want to read it? So I’d close the file and do something else. Like crochet a doily. Or bake cookies. Or read Stephen King.

People would ask, “How’s the book coming?” and I’d smile and nod and act like it was all good. Ha! If they only knew.

Hence the prayer of desperation.

After I explained the situation to God (as if He didn’t already know), I asked Him for words. Yes, words. Words to get through the fog. Words to flow together in harmony. Words to excite and enthrall and elate. Words to create scenes. Word to write the story the way it needs to be written.

Then I sat in front of my computer for three hours, staring at a blank screen.

So, I cleaned up my office. Unpacked a couple of boxes (I know, I know, it’s been six months since we moved). Sorted my pens and paper clips. And all the while, that darn blank screen just glared at me. Mocking me. Taunting me.

Finally, in a fit of frustration, I pulled out my journal and started to write. And write. And write. I ended up with four pages of much needed revision and new ideas for said story. The plot fell into place. The questions got answered. And some very interesting twists appeared.

Did God come through? ABSOLUTELY!

But not until I actually picked up my pen, opened my book and began to write. He was there all along, waiting for me while I was waiting for Him. He just wanted me to go first. Then He joined in and we took turns coming up with a great bunch of pages – I wrote, He spoke, then I wrote some more, and He told me more. It was so fun!

I’m breaking out.

Breaking out of old writing habits that hardly ever work. Breaking out of trying to do this by myself. Breaking out of a box that I put myself in.

It’s going to take some serious work to get this story back on the right track, but oh, it will be worth it.

Now I’m kind of giddy!

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The Numbers Business

Have you ever noticed how occupied with numbers we are?

For example: This is my 554th blog post. As of this moment, there are 302 followers. And  probably another time as many on Facebook and Twitter. Today, January 9th, is my birthday. I am 59 years old. I have 1 husband, 4 + 2 children, and 8 grandchildren.  The computer in my car told me this morning that I can drive another 603 kilometers before the gas tank is empty. My cell phone battery is at 69%. In 4 hours, choir rehearsal begins. I have written 4,762 words since Monday.

Get the picture?

We base much of our day to day living on numbers. Time. Distance. Measurements. And what does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, I’m glad you did. Ask, that is.

God is in the numbers business. He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head (Luke 12:7). He makes promises based on numbers (Matthew 13:3-23). He talks about numbers in church growth (Acts 16:5). And numbers are everywhere through the book of Revelation. Throughout the entire Bible, in fact.

So what?

This tells me that our God is concerned with order. He is interested in doing things properly and precisely.

I once had a manager whose favourite saying was, “if  you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. He drove me nuts every time he said it . . . until I understood what he meant. I had to pay attention to details. I had to plan ahead. I had to set goals and establish actions to reach them. I had to enlist the help of those working with me in order to accomplish what needed to be done. I had to mark the milestones along the way so that I could see the progress, define the improvement, and celebrate the success.

It’s no different in our faith walk.

1. Pay attention to the details. Watch for signs. God is speaking to us all the time. We need to learn to listen and to recognize His voice when He is telling us something.

2. Plan ahead. Where do you want to be next week, next month, next year? Pray and ask God to help you set goals based on where He wants to take you. Then write them down. And identify the changes you need to make or actions you need to take in order to make those goals reality.

3. People. Who are the people around you who can help you to achieve your goals? Don’t misunderstand; I’m not talking about using people for your own gain. I’m taking about looking for mentors, the wise ones, those who have talents and abilities you don’t. Encouragers, motivators, cheerleaders. Get what I mean? And you need the support of family or friends or your pastor or somebody who believes in you. And if you don’t have someone like that in your life, as the Lord to bring that person across your path.

4. Take action. As my sister-in-law said recently: “Taking the next step of faith: we may not see that much ground before us but there is a long road of God’s faithfulness behind us . . . He calls us to remember”. Be brave. Be daring. Measure your progress. Take note of the numbers.

5. Celebrate! And then move on to the next goal.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

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Done With Average

You’ve seen this curve before, right? That’s because the world around you is based on averages – education, industry, science, economy, everything. You name it, there are averages. This obsession with average has created a society that says it’s cool to go along with the crowd. To be just good enough to get by. To blend in. After all, if you’re average, you’re okay.

What a lie.

Being average was never God’s plan for us.

Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12 (NKJV)

Does that sound like average to you? I don’t think so. Jesus did some pretty awesome things during His time on earth, yet this scripture says that if we believe in Him, we will do the same things He did – and even greater.

I thought about this and decided to be done with average. No more mediocre, second-rate, or uninspired. Average does not reflect the person God created me to be.

When you read through the Bible, you see how much God has promised to those who serve Him – joy, peace, strength, power, blessings, abundance, forgiveness, confidence, wisdom, success. That’s a supernatural life. And definitely not average!

So, there’s a choice to make.

Will you continue along, frustrated and dissatisfied with where you’re at? Will you write your dreams off because you’re too afraid to pursue them? Or will you take a bold step of faith and leave average behind?

Get into the Word and read all of God’s promises you can find. Take them personally. Act on them. Ask God to reveal those things you need to do in order to walk away from average and become what He’s wanted you to be all along. Stay in really, really close touch with the Father. Talk to Him often. Listen to what He has to say.

You’re on your way to being done with average.

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Now What?

Although we’re nearly a week into 2014, today is the first day of the first full week of the new year. So, now what?

All those lovely resolutions and mental promises you made to yourself have either been put into play, or fallen into the ditch. Yeah, I know how that goes.

I spent a good portion of this past weekend reading, praying, and making notes to prepare myself for a journey. A life journey. A journey of growth, change, and incredible success.

When you embark upon a journey, whether it be a vacation, business trip, or to visit family, there are always preparations to be made. You to confirm travel arrangements and accommodation. You pack a suitcase. You make sure things at home will be taken care of in your absence. You do a little research to see what kinds of things you can do and see while on your trip. You’re filled with anticipation.

It would be ridiculous to simply show up at the airport one day with no ticket, no luggage, no plans, and expect to get on a plane for the best holiday ever.

So, why do we expect the best life ever when we haven’t got any plans to make it that way?

God had a plan when He created us. A very detailed plan. He didn’t just shrug His shoulders and wave His arms, hoping for the best. Jeremiah 29:11 says ” For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God thinks about us. He has a future for us. He has given us hope in Jesus Christ, His Son.

Now what?

Get yourself into God’s Word. Read what He says about you, what He thinks about you, what His plans are for you. Talk to Him every day. Let Him in on your dreams and ideas – it’s a pretty good chance that He gave them to you in the first place. He’s a little smarter than you are, so listen to what He has to say about how you need to go about making those dreams happen. He’s got some excellent suggestions. I know this.

Pray. Plan. Prepare.

And get ready for the journey of a lifetime.

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It Matters Whom You Marry

As the mother of two single daughters, I pray daily for the godly men who will one day be their husbands. Both of these women deal with frequent remarks from well-meaning friends and family who seem to think they are being too picky. This puzzles me. If you’re going to be picky about anything, shouldn’t it be about whom you choose to spend the rest of your life with?

Then I read this blog post.

It Matters Whom You Marry

My husband and I were once with a youth group. There were three kids sitting across from us at a meal: two guys and a girl. The one guy was a computer geek with glasses. The other one was a college student with slightly cooler hair and no glasses. The girl was obviously with him. But while the computer geek was busy serving everyone at the meal, clearing plates and garbage, the college student got angry with the girl for a small accident and poured red juice over her leather jacket and white shirt. She picked the wrong guy, and the juice didn’t seem to change her mind. She is in for some grief if that relationship continues and especially if it leads to marriage.

So to all the young, unmarried Christian girls out there, listen up: who you marry matters. You might think that the way he treats you isn’t so bad. It’s not going to get better after the wedding. You might think that he’ll change. It’s possible, but most don’t. You might think that you’ll be able to minister to him and help him. Possibly, but if you can’t now, you won’t then, and you will be at risk yourself. A husband should lead and cherish you, not need your counsel for basic personality or behavior issues.

Unless someone married is very frank with you, you can’t understand how much a husband will impact your entire life. Next to salvation there is no other long term event that will change so many areas of your life so deeply. Here are just some of the ways that marriage will impact every aspect of living.

1. It will impact you spiritually. If the guy is not a believer, you can stop right there. You have no business yoking a redeemed soul with an unregenerate one, even if he seems open to change. Christ has bought you with a price and it is not an option to give away that blood bought heart to someone who doesn’t know and love your Lord. It will cripple your spiritual development, open up a host of temptations, stifle your prayer life, make regular church going difficult, and cause massive parenting conflict if you have children.

If the guy is a believer, is he a strong one? Will he lead you in prayer, Bible reading, family devotions, and public worship? Or will you be on your own? Is he going to make spiritual growth a priority or do other things come first? Is he going to ask you how it’s going with your soul so he can help you grow in holiness and love for Christ, or will he leave that to your pastor? Is he going to lead the children in this, or will you have to spearhead that? In church, is he going to help the kids sit well, pray, find the hymn, or will you be the one pointing out what is happening next and helping the family keep up? Many women have married spiritually immature men, thinking that it wasn’t a big issue, or that the man would change, and they were wrong. They bear the scars.

The health of your eternity is at stake. Think carefully.

2. It will impact you emotionally. Is the guy you’re thinking of going to encourage you, love you, be kind to you, and seek to understand you, or will he want to go out with the guys when you’re having a hard night? Will he listen when you are struggling with something or will he be preoccupied with a video game? Is he going to be annoyed when you cry or will he get you Kleenex and give you a hug? Is he going to going to understand that you are probably more tender than he is, more sensitive to issues and comments, or is he regularly going to run rough shod over your feelings? One woman was struggling to breastfeed her new baby, believing that that was the best thing for her, but it was very difficult. Instead of giving support and encouragement, the husband would make mooing sounds whenever he saw his wife working at it. We have to get rid of princess complexes, but we do have emotional needs. Any guy who is uncaring about your feelings and self esteem is selfish and should be left alone.

Be careful – a husband can cripple or foster emotional health.

3. It will impact you physically. Is the guy you’re with going to provide for your basic needs? Will he be able to shelter, clothe and feed you? At one point in our marriage, I was worried that there was no employment opportunity. My husband assured me that he would work at McDonalds, dig ditches, clean up roadkill – whatever it took to provide for the family, regardless of his gifts and training. That’s the kind of attitude you want. A man who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). You might have to help ease the financial burden, but unless your husband is disabled or there is another unusual circumstance, you shouldn’t have to carry it yourself.

Will the man you are with care for your body or abuse it? If he gives you little smacks, kicks, etc. when you’re dating, get away. It’s almost guaranteed that he will abuse you after marriage, and stats show that’s especially true when you are pregnant. Is he going to care for and protect your body or will he hurt it? There are women in churches across America who thought it was no big deal to have little (sort of friendly) punches or slaps from their boyfriends, but who are covering up the bruises from their husbands.

Will the man you are with care for you sexually? Is he going to honour the marriage bed in physical and mental faithfulness to you or will he flirt, feed his porn addiction, or even leave you for another woman? You can’t always predict these issues, but if the seeds or practices are already there, watch out. I recently saw a newly married couple and the husband was flirting openly with another woman. Unless something drastic happens, that marriage is headed for disaster.

Is he going to be tender and gentle to you in bed? An unbelieving co-worker once told my sister that after her first sexual encounter, she had trouble walking for a few days because her boyfriend was so rough. In other words, he wasn’t selfless enough to care for the body of the woman he said he loved.

Watch out. Your body needs care and protection.

4. It will impact you mentally. Is the man that you’re thinking of going to be a source of worry or will he help you deal with your worries? Is he going to encourage your intellectual development, or will he neglect it? Is he going to value your opinions and listen to what you are thinking, or will he disregard your thoughts? Is he going to help you manage stress so that your mind is not burdened that way, or is he going to let you struggle through issues alone? Is he going to care for you and be thoughtful of you if you are experiencing mental strain, or will he ignore it? I know of a woman who could handle pregnancy and child birth very well physically but postpartum depression took a huge toll on her mind. The husband overlooked it, continuing to have more children, until his wife ended up in a mental institution.

You might think that the intellectual or mental side of a marriage is small. It’s bigger than you think. Consider it seriously.

5. It will impact you relationally. How’s your relationship with your mother? Your dad? Do you love them? Does your boyfriend? Fast forward ten years: you tell your husband that your mother is coming for the weekend. Is he excited? Disappointed? Angry? Making snide jokes with his friends? Of course, a husband should come first in your priority of relationships, as you both leave father and mother and cleave to one another. But parents are still a big part of the picture. Whatever negative feelings he has about your parents now will probably be amplified after marriage. Your marriage will either strengthen or damage – even destroy – your relationship with your parents. The people who know you best and love you most right now could be cut out of the picture by a husband who hates them.

It’s the same with sisters and friends. Will they be welcomed, at reasonable times, in your home? Will the guy who you’re with encourage healthy relationships with other women, or will he be jealous of normal, biblical friendships? Will he help you mentor younger women and be thankful when older women mentor you, or will he belittle that?

Don’t sacrifice many good relationships for the sake of one guy who can’t value the people who love you.

So how will your boyfriend do after the vows? Because this is just a sampling of the ways that a husband can bless or curse his wife. The effects are far reaching, long lasting, and either wonderful or difficult. True, there are no perfect men out there. But there are great ones. And it’s better to be single for life than to marry someone who will make your life a burden. Singleness can be great. Marriage to the wrong person is a nightmare. I’ve been in a church parking lot where the pastor had to call the police to protect a wife from a husband who was trying to stop her from worshiping and being with her family. It’s ugly. Don’t be so desperate to get married that your marriage is a grief. If you are in an unhappy marriage, there are ways to get help. But if you’re not married, don’t put yourself in that situation. Don’t marry someone whose leadership you can’t follow. Don’t marry someone who is not seeking to love you as Christ loved the church. Marry someone who knows and demonstrates the love of Christ.

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