What Do You Do With The Bad Days?

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I just wanted the week to be over and done with. That particular week in January had not been on a good course. It didn’t seem to matter what I said or did because I could not get my week back on track. I felt like a bit player in my own life.

It is easy to indulge the pity party when bad days become a bad week. God reminded me that His invitation is always better. One evening, I opened my devotion book to the words that articulated my emotions: frustration and anger over lack of control. God clearly showed me my current state of my mind and then reassured my heart of His presence. God spoke to me when I needed it the most.

The very next day, I received a return phone call from someone I left a voicemail with weeks earlier. As part of my ministry work, I often ask to pray with people before we hang up. It is not unusual for me to pray over them. However, it is very unusual for the other person to ask, “How can I pray for you today?” God orchestrated all the details to bring me special encouragement when I needed it the most.

I find that sometimes frustrations and fears lose their power when I verbally express them to other people. By admitting what was really bothering me deep down, I gained clarity in the various situations that comprised my bad week. I am thankful for trusted ones that listened without judgement and then faithfully prayed for me. First, I had to be honest enough about my own failings and insecurities to ask others for help. God provided fellowship with other Christians when I needed it the most.

I was glad that difficult week came to an end and I had a clean slate for the new week. As much as I wanted to forget about the bad week, I couldn’t. I realized that the week served a good purpose. God reminded me that He is active in every aspect of my life and responds with nudges to look up to Him. I can count on those closest to me and even unexpected phone calls from strangers to pray me through the hard times. As I react to bad days with faith, I grow in confidence of God’s will for my life. God showed confirmation of His path when I needed it the most.

God leads me through the valleys to the next peak. God’s view helps me appreciate the beauty of the rolling hills behind me and yet in front of me. January’s bad week made me realize what I needed the most: more of God!

Isaiah 35:2

Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the LORD will display his glory, the splendor of our God. (NLT)

Isaiah 40:4-5 

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Have You Made the Call Yet?

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“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I have a dear friend with family in the boonies of Georgia. She has shared the challenges of using her cell phone while visiting. Inside the house, she has to open a certain window and lean out to make the call. It is not much better outside as there is only one spot where she can stand and talk. If she steps outside that zone, the call is dropped.

Sometimes our communication with God can feel like finding cell phone reception in a holler. We can’t connect. We think we have to jump through hoops to get through to God. If we are lucky enough to connect, we worry about losing that fragile connection.

We wonder if God is even listening because oftentimes He can be silent. Or perhaps we can’t hear God because of all the static noise in our lives. I can’t hear God when my focus is on me. I can barely hear God when I’m too busy to pray or spend time in His word. Truth be told, any connection problems I have with God are always on my end of things.

The good news is that we already have God’s attention. He is present in our everyday life in the midst of our details. Improving communication with God is summed up on a sign outside a small West Virginia church. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

To know God, He must increase in my life. To hear God, He must increase in my life. To live for God, He must increase in my life. There is only one thing I have to do: I must decrease. This is the hoop to jump through and the zone to be in to improve my connection with God. It may feel awkward at first and it can look different from person to person.

Closeness with God doesn’t depend on our circumstances. The Holy Spirit provides clarity in communication with God that assures us of a solid connection. There is real excitement and anticipation in hearing God’s voice. We can call on God with confidence that He answers while we are still speaking.

Has it been a while since you talked to God? Pick up your Bible and make the call. God is standing by waiting for you. God wants to increase in your life! Maybe the most important question today is, “Why haven’t you made the call yet?”

Isaiah 65:24 (NLT)

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!

 

 

Is The Door Really Locked Shut?

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A friend at church was assigned a different office along with added responsibilities. I promised to stop by and check out her new location. It took me weeks to finally find her. The doors were always locked or so I thought.

My friend worked in a section of the church where I was unfamiliar with the layout. I had to ask for directions to find the general area of her office. She works part-time and I tried to visit on her off days. I learned her schedule and the best times to stop in. Even though I knew where to go and when to go, there was still one big stumbling block: the doors.

I tried to turn a door knob and met only resistance. I pushed on another door and it refused to budge. The doors were always locked. Signs during worship service reminded me that the doors remained locked. In sharing my frustration and the numerous attempts to visit, my friend reassured me that I could go through the doors to reach her.

The solution was as simple as pushing on the (literal) right door of the double doors that opened up to the hallway access. I had tried only the left door which is always locked. My mindset told me that the right door also must be locked because that had been my experience with the other doors.

My understanding and experiences confirmed my thinking that the doors were always locked. Eventually, my mindset believed that I could not get past those doors to visit my friend. How often does this happen in our spiritual walk?

We know where we want to go, but a stumbling block prevents our forward progress. We see closed doors and walk away feeling dejected. Perhaps we feel the nudges and encouragement to enter new territory, but we meet resistance along the way. Or our circumstances don’t budge and we remain stuck in our current place.

Do we seek out God’s timing? God gives us signs, but are we paying close enough attention? Do we interpret the signs with our understanding or do we examine signs through the lens of God’s word? Sometimes our mindset closes out God’s possibilities that are within our reach. Oftentimes, I need to think bigger!

We are to persevere which means to keep asking, keep pushing, and keep trying. Let’s not be deterred from God’s best. We can tend to view doors as something that keeps us out. God gives us open and closed doors to guide us. What are you waiting for? See what is on the other side of God’s door for your life!

Revelation 3:20

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Luke 11:9-10

“So I say to you; Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

 

The Evolution Of Prayer

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I have noticed the evolution in my prayer life. It starts with a problem: an emotional hurt, a troubling physical symptom, or fear of the unknown. My first reaction in prayer is to wish the trouble away. “God, please remove this from my life.” Or in other words, I don’t want to deal with this.

When the trouble doesn’t go away, I pray for God to make it a non-issue. “God, please make it not a big deal in my life.” I ask God to take the trouble and make it simply an annoyance. My hope is that it becomes something I can ignore most of the time or even forget temporarily.

When the trouble becomes a big deal in my life, I ask God to use it for my good. “Lord, open my eyes to see the lessons that you have for me.” When I have to deal with an issue, the process in conjunction with the Holy Spirit’s guidance more clearly defines my faith and refines my witness. Growth and maturity result as an answer to prayer.

I like to think that I am a fast learner. I can pick out specific lessons for trials in my life. The real problem is that I forget to apply the lessons and inevitably slide backwards. That’s when I pray, “God, may you use this for your glory!” Finally, I have reached the point where my prayers are not about me!

I desire God’s glory to be reflected through the circumstances of my life. God’s glory becomes personal as His peace settles over my mind and my heart. Oftentimes, the reason for the prayer remains the same, but I am changed. My problems feel smaller and my God feels closer as I exalt Him. God’s answer to my prayers was the evolution of power and intimacy in my relationship with Him: which is exactly what God desired for me and what I needed from Him all along!

Romans 8:28-29

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

 

 

 

God Always Has Something Better In Mind!

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It was a summer of anticipation. Last spring, I felt the calling to be a children’s leader for a Bible study on Revelation. I didn’t know who my co-leader would be or which age group I would be leading. However, there was one thing I knew for sure. My co-leader would be a singer and a good one. I knew this to be true because that is how I prayed all summer for my unknown co-leader. My prayers were specific, bold, and unwavering.

This was important to me for one reason: I am not a singer. I am not being humble when I say that. My lack of singing talent is well-known in my family. As brand-new parents, my husband jokingly warned me not to sing to our baby boy because I would teach him the wrong tunes. (I don’t think my husband was kidding, but I still sang!)

I needed a co-leader that could sing well. She would carry me, back me up, and hopefully, a little bit of her talent would rub off on me. I expressed all this to God through prayer to make sure we had the issue covered.

In September, I met my co-leader. I quickly moved on from the introductions to the burning question on my mind. You know what that question was! Imagine my surprise when she replied that she was not a singer. I have to admit that I was taken aback. How did God and I get our wires crossed? This didn’t make sense to me.

Through more prayer, my initial surprise turned into expectation. God must have something better in mind. Clues to that something better were evident in our first class with fourteen 13-to-20-month-olds. It was a rough start with many tears (not mine, but the children’s) as the little ones said goodbye to their moms. Regardless, we witnessed God’s hand of protection on our teaching times as the tears stopped long enough for us to share the Bible story and sing hymns.

I was the one leading worship with my untrained and out-of-tune voice. The kids responded despite my lack of singing talent. The music even seemed to comfort our young students. My first lesson as a newly-minted teacher was that worship is not about me. Worshipping God through music is about our heart preparation and focus on Him with singing talent as optional.

As the year has progressed, that lesson has become blessings. My confidence has grown as I overcame the self-consciousness of my own singing. I have even caught myself spontaneously singing the children’s hymns throughout the week. Worship through singing out loud and a cappella is now integrated into my daily routine!

I was focused on my singing while God was focused on my worship. I dwelled on my lack while God revealed more of Himself. I had one thing in mind, but God always has something better in mind!

Ephesians 5:19

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Psalm 8:2

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

 

When Do You Stop Praying for Physical Healing?

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When do you stop praying for physical healing?

My gut reaction is never. My faith response is to never ever give up on God who can deliver the unexpected and last minute healing. For our God is always hopeful, always powerful and always merciful. God’s heart is for healing!

In the past, I have been asked to pray for the peaceful passing of others’ loved ones that suffered too long in the body. I politely declined to pray in that manner. But twice now, for close family members, I have asked God to give my loved ones the healing found only in heaven.

I have thought long and hard about my answer to that question, “When do you stop praying for physical healing?” It was a gradual and emotional process that carried me from the denial of death to the acceptance of God’s healing redefined.

There were signs along the way. The doctor shared, “Depending on your faith, she is already gone.” The nurse remarked, “Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what (end-of-life) decisions you make, the decision has already been made.” The pastor prayed, “Any decision made in love is the right decision.”

Your heart screams “NO!” as God pulls you closer to Him. Without words, God reassures your spirit that He has “got this.” Am I willing to trust God for everything in life and for everything in death?

I knew when it was time to stop praying for the physical healing. It was the moment I let go of my loved one and asked God to fill my mouth with praises for Him. It started out with just drops of praises that turned into a trickle. God was present in the midst of doctors, nurses, monitors and tubes. Family was huddled together around the hospital bed keeping watch. We could sense that the physical pain of our loved one was finally easing as life ebbed before our eyes.

I know that time and hindsight will bring the rush of praises, but in the moment it is difficult to muster. Letting go of my expectation for physical healing didn’t make death any easier. But it did help me to keep moving forward in God: one baby step at a time and one praise at a time.

 

Psalm 34:1

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

 

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

And I Pray!

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I volunteer with a ministry that serves patients and their families throughout the cancer journey. I am one of many that pray. Texts are electronically transmitted. Spoken prayers transcend time and space. Cards are mailed. And I pray.

But it is not for the faint-hearted. For the names keep coming. Week after week, more cancer diagnoses are heard, more families are affected by cancer, and the list of people to minister to gets longer. And I pray. How do you share hope with someone receiving hospice care? How do you comfort someone feeling miserable from the side effects of treatment? How do you encourage someone who discovers that the cancer has returned? And I pray.

I have lost two prayer partners, cancer patients that I prayed for daily and corresponded with weekly. Their physical bodies succumbed to the cancer. Sometimes, my prayers seem to go unanswered. And still I pray. Prayers for healing. Prayers for peace. Prayers for salvation. Prayers for miracles. For people I may never meet, talk with, or give a hug to on this side of heaven. Yet, I pray for God has given us the privilege to ask in Jesus’s name. And I pray because I can.

Note: The wonderful ministry I referred to in this post is Cancer Hope, a ministry of SouthBrook Christian Church in Miamisburg, Ohio. Cancer Hope knows no bounds in sharing Christ’s love with individuals and their families going through cancer. Cancer Hope’s blessings are available for anyone regardless of residence or church affiliation. More information can be found at: http://www.southbrook.org/ministries/. Once there, click on Cancer Hope.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 

2 Corinthians 1:10-11

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. 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.