Still Praying

31 05 2013

“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Prayer settles our hearts into a position of love, trust, and dependence. It is one of the three essentials that God gives us to draw us deeper into His will and His heart. I wish that I could tell you that prayer was my heart’s default setting – my natural, automatic response to the things, situations, troubles, and worries that pop up in my day. It isn’t, but that is why God gives it to us as one of our basics. Amazing things happen when we choose to pray without ceasing.

This type of prayer is not a “sit all day with our hands folded and eyes closed” kind of command. It is the deliberate determination to commit ourselves to talking before we begin walking. It stands as another decision point where we get to choose how we move through our days. What position will my heart take – faith or fear?

Fear comes naturally. We open the mail and freeze. We answer the phone and panic. We talk to a friend and feel our hearts drop. Fear propels us to close up, draw in, hide behind, and become invisible. In those moments, God gives us a different option – pray. Choose faith. Faith isn’t the absence of fear, but a decision to hold onto the truth that God is bigger than what we fear. Prayer allows us to see our circumstances through the lens of His power and the surety of His presence.

My Jesus Resolution today is to choose faith instead of letting fear take over. Fear wants to rattle me in big ways, but I am going to choose to talk to God and plant myself firmly in His presence. When I pray, it reminds me about who God is, what He is willing to do for me, how close He is, and the difference He can make in me and my struggles. Praying allows God to slow me down, calm my heart, see with new eyes, and take the next step with courage.





Pray

29 05 2013

“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The light saber battle had not even begun. My little friend was still sorting out players and deciding who was going to be overcome and who was going to triumph when he brought me one of the toys. Placing the Jedi in my hands, he asked me to help him get the robes and weapons back in the right places. “Can you fix this?” he asked. Looking in his little face, I wanted to freeze frame the moment. Here was the essence of essential number two.

First Thessalonians 5:16-18 contain three basics, ten words that are core to living deeply and fully in the will of God. Rejoice always is the beginning, the starting line for a life rich in Jesus. If rejoicing is about setting the perspective of our hearts, praying without ceasing is about properly positioning our hearts. Making the decision to give ourselves fully in prayer moves us into the best place to experience God’s care, protection, love, and goodness in our days.

Close your eyes and picture my little friend’s face. What do you see? As he hands me his toy, he places himself in a position of dependence. He doesn’t try to do it on his own. He trusts that his problem can be taken care of by someone bigger than himself. He is willing to wait for the answer that he needs and for a solution he can’t imagine for himself. He lets go of the toy in order to receive it back better, more useful, and with more possibilities than when he released it. It is a pretty amazing picture of the power of prayer and the position my heart needs to embrace before God.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn the lessons my little friend has already mastered. I am going to let prayer position my heart in a posture of dependence and trust. I don’t want to wade into the pile of broken dreams, broken expectations, broken promises, broken attempts, and broken hearts that litter my day and try to fix it all on my own. I want to hand them to God, wait on His timing, and anticipate the wonderful things He will do when I let go and ask for His help. How might it change my heart to take every circumstance, every struggle, every relationship, and every decision to my Father and let Him touch it first?





Still Rejoicing

27 05 2013

“Rejoice always.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16

I am a practical girl at heart. My life is filled with all of the everyday, ordinary things that define average. I do laundry, clean bathrooms, go to the grocery store, watch the balance in the checkbook, face work deadlines, and struggle to find the end of my to-do list. But it is exactly because my days are so ordinary that I wrestle with God’s command to rejoice always. Rejoicing and dusting are not two words I usually put together in my day.

Rejoicing is an action that begins with being mindful of all of the blessings, promises, and realities that are mine because of Jesus. This awareness and alertness to God’s presence and possessions opens the door for me to make a simple decision through each step of my day. When I face a pile of dishes, a mountain of laundry, a difficult decision, hard news, a stressful situation, a struggling relationship, or a bad mom day, God’s essentials challenge me to pick a path. Will I worship or will I whine?

Worship or whine? That choice lies at the root of the command to rejoice always. In every moment, no matter what the circumstance, worship or whining becomes the fork in the road for my heart. Will I choose to grumble, complain, fuss, or fret or will I let worship, praise, and a deep awareness of God’s presence and power infuse the moment? Choosing worship doesn’t mean that every moment is filled with smiley faces. It does mean understanding and living in the truth that every moment is filled with God.

My Jesus Resolution today is to choose worship instead of whining. Everywhere I go today, I am going to be deliberate about the choice I can make as I stand in that moment. Stuck in traffic? I can worship or whine. Facing a difficult day at work? I can worship or whine. Struggling with the kids, the laundry, or the checkbook? I can worship or whine. Whining sets my eyes and my heart on me, my troubles, and my don’t-haves. Worship overflows into rejoicing because my eyes are focused on God and all that is mine because of Love.





Rejoice

24 05 2013

“Rejoice always.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Exploring the basics of God’s will for our lives finds us starting with one simple word – rejoice. It is an odd starting place. We usually reserve joy for the end. We see it as a benefit we can look forward to at the conclusion, rather than an investment we are called to make at the beginning. The truth is that rejoicing is a catalyst for everything God wants to do in our lives.

Rejoice is a verb. That means that it is an action word. That is important for me to remember because it reminds me that within every action I have a decision to make. When I believe that joy comes at the end, I let my circumstances filter my vision. A “good” day means I have joy. A “bad” day means no joy. This essential command to rejoice turns the tables. Joy becomes the starting point, the lens through which we meet every circumstance, walk through every struggle, pick up every piece, and answer every challenge.

The root of this word gives us the clue we need to make rejoicing a reality in our days. Rejoicing finds its foundation in the decision to “enjoy the possession of.” Every day, I get to catalog the treasures that are mine because of Jesus – grace, hope, peace, protection, power, forgiveness, guidance, love, value, and wonder. These possessions don’t mean that I skip through my day oblivious to the heartache and struggle that comes my way. Rather, rejoicing gives me a way to live in God’s will and walk in His love through those difficulties. No matter the wreckage, the brokenness, the tears, the pain, the ordinariness, or the weariness of my day, no one can take away what God has given to me. And the most important possession He has given me is Himself.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rejoice. I will face hard things today. A decision to rejoice is a choice to invest myself in His presence no matter where I stand or what I face. It sets my heart in the realities of eternity, allowing me to see the moment for what it truly is. It reminds me to begin by securing my soul in what is mine because of Jesus, to enjoy Him, and hold onto Him. Today, I am not going to wait for joy to show up. I am going to begin by rejoicing and let His joy take hold of me.





The Essentials

22 05 2013

My son is turning into a man. Upset, with tears rolling down my cheeks, my son saw me and came over to hug me, asking me what was wrong. I began to tell him the story of my day when he interrupted me. “Just tell me the wrong part.” He didn’t want to hear the whole tale, just the wrong part. Cut to the chase. Get to the bottom line.

I smiled in spite of my horrible day (a) because it was such a ‘guy’ thing to do, and (b) because I can appreciate that sometimes we need to get down to the essentials. What are the basics? Sometimes I make it more complicated than it needs to be.

I think that is why God has been working so hard to impress 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 deeply into my heart. These ten words, three essentials, sum up “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In the midst of all my drama and crazy busyness, God gives us the basics that will propel us into His will and align us with His deep purpose for our hearts.

Rejoice always.

Pray without ceasing.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

Wow. Ten life-changing, perspective-altering, heart-shaping, peace-enhancing, purpose-pursuing, worship-drenched, surrender-required words. The essentials. The basics. The will of God for me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to write these ten words on my heart. I am going to commit them to memory. I am going to repeat them through my day. I want them to soak down deeply and touch the core of who I am. As we walk together through the next several blogs, I would like to explore the power, purpose, and promises contained in these essential words, and watch wide-eyed as God reveals Himself to us. Ready to get down to basics?





The Best Words

20 05 2013

Words are a powerful gift. They resonate in our minds, echo in our hearts, and have the power to shape our souls. Nowhere do our words have more power than when we wrap them around our children. Our words can be cords that strengthen them, anchor them, and give them the confidence to walk into tomorrow or they can strangle, choke, and poison their ability to embrace their possibilities.

Here are ten things that your children (no matter their age) need to hear you say…often.

1. I love you.
2. God has a purpose for you.
3. I’m sorry.
4. I’m proud of you.
5. I’m on your side.
6. I’m listening.
7. Sure, I have time to play, laugh, run, swing…
8. I forgive you.
9. Let’s pray about that together.
10. I see Jesus in you.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be deliberate about speaking the best words into my children’s hearts. I want the things that I say to them to be God-directed, Christ-centered, and Spirit-empowered. I want to recognize the impact my words have on the way they see themselves, their opportunities, and their place in my heart. The little things I say today can have a big influence on tomorrow. I am praying that God will help me measure my words so that I can pour only the best words, the most Christ-saturated words, into the lives of my kids.





Going Bold

17 05 2013

She chased me down the aisle at the grocery store. She got close, took a breath, and whispered, “Can I tell you how God has been blessing me?” In wonder, she described the way that God had been working in her family. Provision had been made, joy had been poured out, answered prayers were abundant, and God’s presence was very real and very close. She looked at me and said, “I am in this aisle stocking the shelves, but really, I am, I am…” Overwhelmed, she stopped. I filled in the blanks as we stood together next to the pretzels. “You are praising God,” I said. “Yes!” she exclaimed, a huge smile overwhelming her face.

Back up a few minutes. Picture me with my grocery cart searching the shelves for just the right thing. A store clerk is surrounded by boxes as she fills in the empty spaces on the shelves. She notices what I am buying, points out a coupon I didn’t see, and returns to her job. I thank her, pushing my basket away. I turn around and tell her that I am praying she will have a blessed day. Next thing I know, she is chasing me down the aisle and we have this amazing conversation about God’s power and timing.

Back up a few months. Studying through Acts, I noticed that one single word kept rising to my attention – bold. The early Christians were bold. They didn’t hope people would notice Jesus in them – they spoke His name, extended His grace, and poured out His love. No one left Peter or Paul’s presence without hearing the name of Jesus. God was poking at my heart. I am not bold by nature, but I could be bold by grace. A surrendered decision to be bold is why I spoke a blessing to a woman in the aisle at the grocery store, which God used to open a door of conversation and open my eyes to His glory.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be bold. I walked out of that aisle of the grocery store completely humbled and amazed. God poured His goodness out in abundance in aisle nine. Going bold allowed me to see it, participate in it, and soak it up. Too often fear keeps me from going bold, but imagine what might happen if every Christian determined to walk away from every encounter leaving a little bit of Jesus behind. In Acts 17:6, Luke records that their boldness “turned the world upside down.” Maybe that is God’s bold plan for us as well.