Prayer To Change

Prayer Warrior. Do you know one? I know several. Unfortunately those words don’t describe me. I’d like to change that.

Prayer is a discipline that has never been a strength of mine. It should be as important as talking to our family or friends. It’s not. At least for me.

I get bored easily and sometimes the thought of praying turns me off. It’s something I have, in the past, dreaded rather than looked forward to.

I think my problem is two-fold. First; I haven’t been very disciplined about it. Second; I’ve looked at it as too much of a discipline.

Yeah you read that right. I think my problem with prayer lies in who I think I’m praying to. My thinking has been all wrong. It’s been about me rather than Him. It’s been about performance rather than relationship. It’s been about one more To Do or get punished, rather than about grace and love.

Sometimes I treat God as my personal Genie in a Bottle.

That’s not I AM. Almighty God. Heavenly Father. I find I don’t know God, like I should after all this time. Instead I find I easily believe in the lies that the enemy whispers in my ear. I’m not okay with that anymore.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve been reading Craig Groeschel’s book, Daily Power. I mentioned about picking just one discipline to work on this year to get you where you want to be by December.

You’ve guessed by now, I chose prayer. I believe prayer leads the way to change because it takes you into the presence of God. Real prayer is letting go of the Genie factor, and surrendering to Him. In letting go of my lies and preconceived notions, I can begin to get to know God in a personal way. Communication is the best way to get to know someone, right? That’s where I want to be in December. I knew I needed some help in getting started.

A series of events, led to me the book, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. It has changed my thinking about prayer and how I pray. It has also challenged my lack of faith and frankly, my whining.

I recently read these words in The Circle Maker:

”…the will of God doesn’t get easier. The will of God gets harder. Here’s why: the harder it gets, the harder you have to pray.
God will keep putting you in situations that stretch your faith, and as your faith stretches, so do your dreams…And it won’t get easier; it’ll get harder. It won’t get less complicated; it’ll get more complicated. But complications are evidence of God’s blessing. And if it’s from God, then it’s a holy complication.” (p.111, The Circle Maker)

Ironically, this was encouraging to me. Why? We don’t need more complications, right? Shouldn’t God be making our lives more easy?

If that’s the case, I’m doing something drastically wrong. How about you? The more I obey God, the more complicated life gets. So Batterson’s words make a lot of sense and comfort me. I’m not going crazy. We think when things go awry or get complicated, we’ve done something wrong, right? But if we are following God’s will, the complications are holy and viewing them in that perspective changes everything. Maybe we are doing something right.

Up to now, this is where I usually give up. But Batterson says this is where you have to dig in.

“This is where many of us get stuck spiritually. We’re willing to pray right up to the point of discomfort, but no further. We’re willing to pray right up t the point of inconvenience, but no further. Praying hard is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but that is when you know you’re getting close to a miracle!” (p. 112, The Circle Maker)

One of the things that always put me off prayer was it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to get up earlier to pray. I didn’t want to stop and take time out of my day to pray. My agenda was too busy. My pride said I was more important. I didn’t really trust that prayer was going to do anything because I didn’t trust God.

I was having trouble praying because I was still working under the idea I had to earn everything, including answers to prayer. I knew I was a mess so why would He answer? I didn’t trust Him because I really didn’t know Him. Not like a daughter. Not like a friend. Or heir.

This is where I want to be, come December. Daughter, friend, heir. Making time to speak to God is key to getting there. It’s baby steps but already shifts are happening. That’s the power of prayer and I hope to not only discover that power but know deeply the one who wields it.

 

How to Get to December’s Destination

I didn’t set out this year to have a resolution or Word for the year. Like I said in an earlier post, I would rather a map. Surprisingly that desired map has morphed from the devotional book, Daily Power by Craig Groeschel.

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In the devotional for January 2, Groeschel writes, “One small decision today could have a big impact on tomorrow.” He encourages the reader to pick one discipline to work on this year. Something that will deepen our relationship with Christ, which ultimately puts us exactly where God desires.

Disciplines. Ugh. Can’t say I have a stellar record in that department lately. But Groeschel makes it sound simple which is good. Simple is about all I can manage right now. He says to pick one. I could pick several that need work but as Groeschel is firm on this, I pick only one.

January 2nd’s devotional was also a reminder that our decisions today, both good and bad, affect our tomorrows.

It’s a subject he touches on throughout the month of January. He writes on January 27th, “I’m a firm believer that the actions you take today sow the seeds of your future. Your daily habits will create a cumulative impact on what you do tomorrow, next week, and next year.”

As I read that, I realize how lazy I’ve gotten. I’ve let go of some good daily habits, some I had cultivated for years. At the present, I’m like a leaf in the wind, going wherever the wind blows. I don’t think it matters what I do, so why bother? Groeschel says just the opposite. He’s saying change is possible, one small habit or decision at a time. If I want to change then I need to look to my destination instead of my past. I may have to start making good decision to get me there. A map of sorts.

This came up the other day in conversation. Someone told me that a task they had to do “didn’t matter.” It wasn’t important in their minds. I thought about that and put it up against what I had been reading in Groeschel’s book.

I disagreed. Everything we do, it matters. Even the little inconsequential things. It may not be the task itself, but the attitude behind it. That smile at a stranger may be the only positive interaction they have that day. The course we thought was a waste of time, opened up a door to something else we loved. We just never know and so to some extent, yes, it matters. The key is looking at the bigger picture. Does our decision, our attitude get us closer to our purpose, our goal to be transformed?

What do we have to do to get to the place where God will work in our lives? Where do I want to be, come December?

It’s not a striving, or chasing either. A list of “To Do’s” that’s going to put me on the good girl list. This is having a living, breathing relationship with God.

Where I want to be in December is not where I am standing right now. So I will work on that one discipline, starting with those small daily habits that may seem mundane but pack a lot of punch when added up. I will use this not-what-I-was-expecting map to help me get to December’s destination.

How ‘bout you? Where do you want to be come December and how will you get there?

 

Raising Up Daniels in a Babylonian World

As my husband’s been speaking on Daniel the last couple of weekends, I’ve been reminded how relevant Daniel still is in 2018. Mark’s tag line the first week was: “When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”

Automatically my thoughts went to our sons who are just entering their teen years and becoming men. Men who hopefully will become Daniels in a increasingly Babylonian world.

There’s so little tolerance for men or Christians today that I feel like our boys begin with three strikes against them. As a parent it concerns me, but I remind myself it’s not any different than Daniel’s experience. He was a Jew, and a slave, held captive by the Babylonian Empire. An alien in an alien world. Those are some pretty big strikes against him!

 

 

But Daniel was doing some things right. He obviously had some charisma that went along with a winsome attitude, as Mark mentioned yesterday. Because of his favourable attitude and respect for those in authority, Daniel found favour with those in charge over him.

But what really made Daniel a stand out? He never let his eyes stray from his God. I’m sure there was lots to look at in Babylon. Idols, women, riches and so much more. It was a heathen heaven so to speak. Daniel however, kept focused on who he believed in and chose to follow the only one true God when it would have been so much easier to choose a different path.

It is my prayer that as our boys grow up, they will do the same. That they will keep their focus on the one true God. Because there will be lots to look at; idols, women, riches and so much more. But if they keep their eyes on God and truly live out what they believe and know is truth, the rest falls into place.

Does it mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns? That would be a resounding no. Being a Daniel in a Babylonian world means you’re going to have some major trouble. You can count on it. (Lions den anyone?) And when that trouble comes barrelling down, God is going to help them stand up against it. You can count on that too.

What does being a Daniel look like? Love when it’s easier to hate. Generosity when it’s easier to keep it all for self. Not having the last word. Admitting being wrong. Being bold. Standing up for what is true. Self-control. Being a Daniel can only be done with the help of God. The good news is he’s given us a helper, the Holy Spirit and He’s there for the asking.

He’s ready to help everyone. Including me. It’s far too easy as an adult to hide away and think it’s a lesson only for my kids. I need to raise myself up as a Daniel too.
If I want my boys to be Daniels, as parents we need to lead the way. Disciple them in Daniel 101.

We need to keep our focus on God and not look to the right and get caught up in circumstances or to the left and get sucked into the lies of Babylon. More stuff will not make it better. Only Jesus will.

I need to be willing to put myself out there, what about you? Ah, but there’s the rub. It means engaging with people. I like my glass castle that keeps me isolated. Most days, I avoid as much human contact as possible. Because life’s just easier that way isn’t it? If we don’t engage we can’t say or do the wrong thing.

That kind of living makes up impotent. We were created to have relationships. Daniel was a slave in a foreign land, but God didn’t let him off the hook. We’re not excused either. I can’t really model Daniel to my four walls. I can’t expect from my boys what I am not willing to do myself.

“When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”  Mark Willcock

(Friends I am preaching this message to myself first and foremost!)

A Map for New Year’s

Happy 2018!

It’s the start of a new year and people have been making plans, choosing words and verses, making resolutions for this next year. It’s all good stuff but what I really want for this new shiny year? A map.

A map to show me how to navigate the year 2018 because at the moment I feel profoundly lost. Also, bewildered comes to mind.

 

I no longer recognize parts of this world that I’ve inhabited for a long time. I feel like I’m in some other alternate universe or maybe how Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole.

I don’t understand the culture, the trends and the language. I doubt myself and then doubt those around me. Some days I don’t even recognize myself or how I got here. So a map would be super helpful. Because I don’t want to get further lost because I might not get back.

I’ve been fascinated with the theme of being lost. What does it really mean to be lost? Is being lost really a bad thing? Maybe it’s just a detour and in fact, you aren’t lost at all but are right on course.

If you are lost what happens if you aren’t found? Can you find yourself? Do you actually need someone to find you? If you are really lost, can you turn it into something positive? What if you don’t want to be found? Or is being lost just part of the journey? Because we all get lost sometimes right? See what I mean? Fascinating.

Honestly I don’t have any answers. I’m still trying to figure this out, hence the wish for a map.

Did they have maps in the bible? The closest thing I could think of was the wise men from the east, following the star for a very long time and at the end of their journey, they found Jesus.

You may be thinking you’d like a map too. But our maps may not be the same. My journey through 2018 is probably going to look very different from yours. So although we both have maps, our travels will be different and you may use a tablet or phone to look at your map where I may use a paper one. But in the end, we get to the destination we are supposed to. Hopefully.

Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, that the star was so out of the ordinary that the wise men took it to mean that some extraordinary person was born and since the star sat over Judea, that’s where the person was. He goes on to state that the shepherds were told about Christ’s birth by an angel. They were Jews, they would understand and believe in angels. The men from the east, understood a star because they studied them and worshipped them. “..to both God spoke in their own language, and in the same way they were best acquainted with.” God gave them their own unique maps which they could understand and follow.

So we’ll have individual maps. Which is awesome but the fact is, I don’t have any map at the moment. Not a star. Nor an angel.

As I read the wise men and the shepherds’ accounts, I realize that God did not give them the whole enchilada. He gave them one thing to follow. An angel. To listen to and then follow instruction. A star. To recognize it for what it was and then follow it. For a long time.

After the night at the stables, what did the shepherds do? We aren’t told. But God unfolded the maps of their lives in due time.

With the wise men we have a little more insight into what happened afterwards. They run into Herod in Jerusalem, find Jesus in Bethlehem and then are warned in a dream to go home another route. Each direction was given at the right time and the right place. They weren’t given more. They were given enough.

God often works this way. I don’t particularly like it. I want the whole map. Not just the next step. The story of the wise men reminds me of the truth. Although a map would be nice, we only get the next step. And when we’ve taken that step, then we are given the next.

Who gives the directions? Like the star and the angel, God sends us the directions in a way we can understand. It may be people, it may be through prayer and reading the Bible. It may be through circumstances. The one thing I do know is that God meets us where we are and he’ll use whatever He chooses to get our attention, to direct our paths. It can literally be anything. We don’t need the whole map, we just need to be open to following His lead.

 

Some fav Quotes about Being Lost:

“He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found. Maybe accident isn’t the right word after all. Maybe miracle is.
Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.” Just One Day by Gayle Forman, p. 367

“I wasn’t lost. Just because you couldn’t find me doesn’t mean I was lost.” The Edge of Recall by Kirsten Heitzmann p. 208

“God seeks the lost and pursues the broken.” Rachel Harter, incourage.me.blog Aug 30/17 titled, Lessons in Rock Hunting

Ezekiel 34:16(NLT) I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes–feed them justice!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! I hope you find time to enjoy the season of our Lord’s birth and meet Him in a very personal way this Christmas. Sometimes it’s hard to find Him when it’s so busy and and all you want to do is stay in bed under the covers! But He’s there under the covers too! If we look for Him, He’s right beside us, waiting for us to stop. I hope you get the time to visit with Him.

Thank you for taking the time to read the blogs and comment.  It always blows my mind that someone would make time to read a message God gave me to write.  I am so grateful for your continued support and encouragement.

Thank you too for support the publication of Whole.  It’s been a great year seeing that dream realized.  I hope many have benefitted from reading the story of a faithful God.

Here’s a couple of links to Hopestream Radio with blogs I recorded or you can read them too. They are blogs that ran a number of years ago and I revised them and recorded them this year. I hope you enjoy them.

The Scandal Of Christmas

New Insights from an Old Story

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

From Our Family to Yours

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When God Seems Silent at Christmas

Christmastime.

Smiling kids, bright lights and the piney scent of trees all dressed up for show. It’s a magical time of year.

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Sometimes. For some of us, it’s a struggle. I’ve had years like that as I’m sure you have too. The very idea of putting up a Christmas tree is exhausting. Or makes you sad.

The pressure to DO Christmas seems to build more and more every year. Along with the pressure, comes the stress stealing the joy in our hearts. In many ways, Christmas brings out the worst in us as we fret and buzz around.

So I hide. I don’t think I’m the only one. Sometimes the busiest people are really just hiding in their business. Others of us, really do become hermits.

Why would we want to hide at Christmas? Isn’t it the time of miracles? The most wonderful time of the year?

One reason I hide is to avoid the inevitable disappointment. There have been times I’ve looked for Christ at Christmas but all I hear is silence. Ever happen to you?

I walk away from the holidays disappointed with God. Isn’t that the anti-thesis of Christmas? When it rolls around in twelve months time, I hide again, Afraid that down deep I’m doing something wrong. Christmas magnifies our hurts tenfold, doesn’t it? So we hide.

Pretty depressing, right? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be joyous? Maybe in our fantasy lives. Because in real life, stuff happens. Suffering happens. It doesn’t miraculously stop for Christmas.

Christmas in real life is very different from all the Christmas feel good movies and stories. But the miracle is still there if we can be open to seeing it.

In fact, the story of Jesus’ birth is not all unicorns and rainbows. Have you noticed that? Mary and Joseph didn’t have a place to stay and she was ready to give birth. Can you imagine the almost heart attack Joseph was probably having? Mary was going to give birth amongst animals. Without a midwife or help of any kind. I.Can’t.Even. Not to mention the gossip that followed them like a black rain cloud. What? You think that stayed in Nazareth? Probably half the village had to go to Bethlehem too. The gossips probably travelled with them. None of this was easy.

When we look at the story of Jesus’ birth we skip over some of these very messy details. One often overlooked is the four hundred years of silence from God between the Old Testament prophecies of Malachi and the birth of Jesus.

Four hundred years. Of Silence. We get fretful and anxious waiting twenty-four hours. Imagine waiting four hundred years!

It’s not like God’s people were cloistered either during those years. Those four hundred years were busy times indeed.

Major ancient world events were happening. Palestine was ruled by five different nations; Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria and Rome.1 Some of it was brutal.2

The Jews were forced to worship pagan gods.2  It was a time of unrest and revolt.

Not a word from God.  His silence must have echoed like the winds of a hurricane. Here were His people under pagan rule and he wasn’t lifting a finger. Where was He?

Silent doesn’t mean absent.

I don’t know why God remained silent those four hundred years. I don’t even know why  he remains silent in my own life or in the lives of those I love. But what I’m learning is just because he’s silent doesn’t mean he’s not present. It’s just the opposite.  He’s right in the middle of it.

He had things under control back then.   He was putting into place the events of His Son’s birth and life and ministry. For the New Testament Church.

“Many things occurred that made the time just right for Jesus’ ministry and the writing of the New Testament. For example, the Greek language spread throughout the world, providing a common language, and the Roman period provided a time of unprecedented peace, magnificent highways, and uniform laws that aided the spread of the gospel by the first century church.” Kids Answers website

God was working everything together to put His plan of salvation in place.  And later, to spread that Good News around the world. He was there and he was getting ready to send His Own to us.

“All of these changes set the stage for the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, to come ‘in the fullness of time’ (GALATIANS 4:4).”1

In the fullness of time. It all rolled out just as God had planned. When everything was in place, God’s Son came down to earth to save us.  To be present among His people.  In the flesh.

Emmanuel. God with us. God may seem silent in our lives and maybe during the Christmas season but that doesn’t mean he’s absent. Look for his hands at work. Wait with expectation until you can see Him. But most of all know that He is with us, whether silent or not. Emmanuel. God with us. At all times.  In all circumstances.  In all joy.  In all suffering.  All.The.Time.  This is the miracle of Christmas.

1.  https://answersingenesis.org/kids/bible/years-of-silence/

2.  https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/what-happened-between-testaments/

Things Learned from a Month of Perceived Insanity

So here it is twenty-three days in to National Novel Writing Month and The End is in sight. Literally.

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The idea of writing a novel in a month is a little crazy town but so worth it. Not only will I have accomplished a goal and have the skeletons of a novel by the end of November but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Which for me, is a win all the way around.

So what have I won? Well hopefully I will win Nanowrimo with a 50K word count by the end of the month. Here are some other things I’ve won( or learned over the course of this month):

  1. I am much more capable of “doing” than I give myself credit for. I quit things so  easily. Maybe quit isn’t the right word?  I get done the required amount and quit after that. Maybe you find yourself doing this too? We do just what is asked for, no more. Rarely do we push ourselves beyond our own feelings, or fears to something  bigger, more.
  2. Having a deadline looming is a good thing. Having a deadline looming with a cast of characters watching and cheering you on, motivates you even more. I did not want to come back with anything less than 50 000 words.  They preach it at Nanowrimo.  Telling people makes you accountable!
  3. I waste a ton of time. I don’t need to say anything else. Ugh.
  4. Reading is actually research. Hooray! I’m closing in on 130 books read this year and honestly felt a little guilty. But here’s the thing; I would not have been able to write so quickly if I hadn’t read so much. Reading lots of different genres makes you a better writer. It’s advice seasoned writers always hand out to up-and-comers.
  5. The excuses of why I wasn’t writing do not hold up any longer. I told myself I couldn’t write at night because I was too tired. I told myself I could not get up early to write because I’m tired. I told myself I didn’t have stories to tell that came from my imagination. (Even though I have been telling myself stories since I was a little kid when I couldn’t sleep at night. What did I do during those long dark hours? I made up stories in my head with characters from tv shows. Early fan fiction when it wasn’t even a thing. I think a lot of writers have this experience.) But this month, I wrote at night. I wrote in the morning and I wrote in the afternoon. Did I have time frames that I was more productive? Yes. I am a morning person. The words flowed easier in the am. BUT I still got my word count at other times. Huh. I’ve almost written 50 thousand words. I had a story to tell. Maybe more.

Some Practical Do’s & Don’t’s of NaNoWriMo that I learned:

a. Stay in your chair or on the couch or bed until you have your day’s word count. Wrimos (People doing Nanowrimo) tell you this and it’s true. Do not get up to do dishes (Well, really, why would you do that?) or any other chore that suddenly occurs to you. Stay still until you reach your goal. It’s amazing what your brain will do if you give it a chance and still your body.
b. Don’t get caught up in a good book during this month of novelling. Why? Because if you’re like me, you will get caught up in someone else’s characters and not care as much as you should about your own while you are reading said book. I read mostly what I call fluff stuff and books that had no intense plot lines or were totally different than the book I’m writing. Because you know, I couldn’t stop my research! 🙂
c. Do have a separate folder entitled NOVEL NOTES opened when writing. The wise people at Nanowrimo suggest this and it is pure genius. You will be adding things or coming up with new ideas as you write and you want to be able to put them somewhere easily accessible. For example when the protagonist’s parent’s job changes from a mechanic to an engineer by the end of the book and as an author you don’t catch this nor do any other early readers.  So after publication, your reader is left going, “Wasn’t he a mechanic in the beginning?”  And then has to search through the book to find it.  Hence Novel Notes. It saves everyone from going crazy or thinking they are!
d. If you have a family to feed while trying to writing an outlandish amount of words in a month, do invest in a lot of easy prep food. It will save your butt more times than not. You will be a superhero because chicken wings and fries are awesome! Instead of being the person who at five o’clock in the afternoon, is searching feverishly through the freezer, looking for somehting, anything to eat that will be ready NOW. FYI no one fainted from hunger here during the month of November. Next year they learn to cook for themselves!
e. Do have some writing buddies who are writing along with you. It is inspiring and fun. It takes the solitude away and they can talk you off a ledge better and faster than anyone else.
f. Finally Do have a pet rabbit or any other kind of pet who will keep you company as you type feverishly. Who will listen to plot ideas or character assassinations. Who will let you pet them to relieve stress. Or provide you with a good laugh as they give you fodder for material for your book.

So will my first nanowrimo be my last? Definitely not. This month has been everything I hoped it would be and worth the insanity.  It was also a lot of fun.  In some ways I am sorry to be done.  But I’m not really done, there’s revisions in the months of January and February.  You know, adding flesh to that skeleton I’ve created this past month…