Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Heart That Doesn't Sink

I couldn’t believe we’d done it.

Wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into, I tossed and turned all night. My sleep deprived brain rolled worst-case scenarios before my eyes—all of which ended in horrible catastrophe.

That’s right. We had booked our first cruise.

My husband desperately needed rest and fun; he had always wanted to go. I was the hold up. I struggled with cruise-fear, severe motion sickness, and not being a fan of huge crowds.

Yet after finding a great deal, my fate was sealed. So I did what any desperate woman would do. I prayed. I asked God for simple things—that He would help me not be afraid and not throw up. {Do you sometimes pray super-spiritual prayers like that, too?}

No sooner had I said Amen than I sensed God calming my fears. As I sat in my prayer chair and breathed in His presence, supernatural peace buoyed my heart. Deep down, I sensed that everything was going to be fine.

Then I had to actually step onto the ship. Without wailing, fainting, or throwing up. Hyper aware that the only thing between me and certain death was a hull of steel (why ships do not sink is beyond me…) my faith was put to the test. Especially the night a major storm hit.

Tossed awake at 3am by the ship’s severe rocking, I struggled to get to the bathroom without slamming into our cabin walls. Our bath towels defied gravity, bizarrely swaying straight out against my arms. 50 M.P.H. winds beat 20 foot seas against the ship. And fear hammered against my heart.

Sometimes, like Peter stepping out of the boat, we step out in courage. We absolutely know we can do this. Then the winds pick up. The whitecaps swell. And even though the Lord is right in front of us, our focus bounces between Him and the waves.

But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” (NLT)

Gusts of fear blow our faith like so much sea foam; we lose our focus, and our hearts sink. Sometimes all we can see are the waves.

Waves of opposition.

Waves of confusion.

Waves of uncertainty.

Waves of fear.

That’s when, like Peter, we cry out, “Save me, Lord!” And Jesus, who is always there, answers us: “Why did you doubt me?”

Why do we doubt Jesus?

Why do we take our eyes off of Him? Why do we allow our hearts to sink? Why do the waves seem more massive than the One who controls the earth’s tides?

God never promised our lives would be storm-free. But He did promise to be with us and help us.

Fear not, there is nothing to fear, for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness. (Isaiah 41:10)

That terrifying night, God’s grace trumped fear. It trumped 50 mph winds. And it trumped all-out panic. I locked eyes with Jesus instead of the waves. And I said No to fear. Out loud. Because sometimes that’s what a woman has to do to prevent her heart from sinking.

We can say No to fear and Yes to the Prince of Peace. And then Jesus does this supernatural thing—He fills us with amazing peace—even in the middle of 20-foot waves.

That night I actually snuggled back into our little cabin bed and slept soundly.

The truth is His presence, grace and peace gives us hearts that don’t sink. It's then that we realize winds of opposition, confusion, uncertainty and fear are never bigger than our King. And we never, ever face them alone.
Lord, I’m grateful that I never faces stormy seas alone, and that You are bigger than every storm. Help me to lock eyes with You instead of focusing on the waves around me. Help me never to doubt you. Strengthen me and be with me through every storm. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Perfect Prayer for Your Family

I love praying God’s word over my family. It’s powerful, living and active (see Hebrews 4:12). Not only that, but God actually watches over His Word to perform it (see Jeremiah 1:12)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of praying words that are alive with power, words that God Himself watches over and tends to, is irresistible.

So at the beginning of this year, when I read a couple of verses that described exactly what I desperately want for my family, poof! a family prayer was born. I printed these scriptures out on a 3x5 card and turned it into a prayer.

These scriptures focus on knowing God’s will, spiritual wisdom and understanding, and living lives that honor and please God. They speak of knowing God better and better and being strengthened with His glorious power so we’ll have all the endurance and patience we need.

Doesn’t that sound like a perfect family prayer? 

Here are the verses:
We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. (Colossians 1:9b-12a)

And here is how I personalized it and turned it into the perfect prayer for my family: 
{You can click on this and print it out, if you'd like!}

I am convinced that praying God’s word is one of the wisest, most strategic prayer choices we can ever make. If our prayers were darts, praying scripture would cause us to hit the bullseye every time.

I hope you print out this prayer (or write it out on your own 3x5 card) and pray it often over your family, like I do.

Lord, thank you for Your amazing Word. It’s life-giving and life-changing, and I pray You will help us to know Your Word well and pray it often. Help us to regularly pray this over our families this year. Please bring authentic change in the hearts and lives of our family members that only You can. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

For the Times You Feel Really Lame

It’s a painful fact. There are days, and then there are those days. Days when I struggle hard not to snarl and then do it anyway. Days when I do my best to reign in my emotions but they refuse to cooperate. Days when I forgive, let go, and trust God, but the residue of pain adheres to my heart, and that makes me overly sensitive. And I don’t want to be. Days when life just gets the best of me (but my family doesn’t).

These are the days I walk around feeling like the word LAME is taped to my forehead. 

Apparently James, the brother of Jesus, understood.

For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. (James 3:2) (AMP)

The words that stand out most to me are all and often. Not one of us gets it 100% right all the time. In fact, this Scripture points out what my heart already knows so very well: I frequently mess up. It’s never my goal or intent, but it sure happens.

And then I feel lame.

But the truth is that though our hearts accuse us (and boy, mine sure does on those days…) 
God is greater than our hearts.

Whenever our hearts in [tormenting] self-accusation make us feel guilty and condemn us. [For we are in God’s hands.] For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything [nothing is hidden from Him]. (1 John 3:20) (AMP)

God is greater than our hearts.

What a blessed, glorious relief. {Inhale deep joy here.}                                

Nothing is hidden from God. Not my efforts, my attempts, my failures. Not even my disappointment in myself. But He is greater than all the repulsive junk accumulating in my heart. And He knows that deep down I long to please Him, but my humanity often gets in the way.

When I turn to Him, in His vast loving-kindness, He embraces me, then gently removes the LAME sticky-note from my forehead and plants a kiss there. Because He loves me. Because I am His. And though I mess up, He understands, and He forgives me when I ask. {And I ask. A lot.}

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. (1 John 1:9)

And that’s when I realize I am not lame…we are not lame. We are imperfect, clinging to His perfection.

So even on those days when our insides feel like they’re crumbling, when it feels like our mistakes are tallying up faster than votes on Election Day, when our hearts keep track of every single mess-up {why, oh why do we do that to ourselves?} we can run to His perfection, confident that He is far greater.

He. Is. Greater.

As our imperfect hearts turn to Him, we are washed, forgiven, covered, and loved. 

He. Is. Greater. 

Repeat after me: I am not lame; I am imperfect, clinging to His perfection. He is greater on those days. He is greater every day. 

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taming the Social Media Monster {Distractions, Part 2}

Have you prayed about recognizing any distractions that are negatively impacting your spiritual life? If not, please read THIS POST and then come back.

(Note: Though this post primarily addresses social media, you may be distracted by something entirely different: TV, phone/computer games, novels, constant busyness, etc. This is for you, too!)

For several months I sensed something was off. I felt spiritually blah. My heart felt dull. My prayer life, once a source of deep joy and satisfaction, was rote. And brief. And I truly didn’t want it to be that way.

Thank God for January and the discipline of fasting. Only this year—big surprise—it felt like my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to fast. But out of obedience to the Lord and to support my church and pastor, I committed to fast.

Then I sensed a pull to give up social media in addition to my regular fast. For 21 days. I couldn’t figure out how to do that because I have a Facebook ministry page where I post daily prayers. And I always engage with the precious women there. But in the end I realized I had to obey the Lord no matter the cost.

Are we willing to obey the Lord regardless of the cost?

Community is good. We need each other. Being socially engaged is a good thing, but at what cost? Where do we draw the line? Because the crushing demands of social media availability, etiquette, responding and engaging will eat us alive if we’re not wise and completely led by the Holy Spirit.

The truth is daily choices steer our lives.

With that in mind, here are 7 Keys To Tame the Social Media Monster:

1. Take time to prayerfully evaluate your social media life. Include a time of prayer (and even fasting!) as you consider your schedule, what God may be requiring of you, and what you can realistically balance. Be brutally honest. Is God first? I dare you to check your computer history and add up time spent on social media. Shocked? Then move to step two.

2. Acknowledge there might be an issue and that your social media choices have probably interfered with your spiritual life. Social media is like a strong rip current. We swim out and before we know it we’re hundreds of yards from our beach towel on shore. Until we look up, we don’t realize how far we’ve coasted, simply because we allowed ourselves to be carried with the current.

3. Take Charge of Your Time - Just being aware of the need to establish wise time boundaries is a huge step forward. We want to honor God with our lives and be wise stewards of the time He has entrusted to us. Schedule prudent boundaries and ask God for grace to stick to them. Consider choosing only one social media avenue in which to engage (or at least one daily). Consider joining forces with a like-minded friend for accountability.

4. Choose to Put Your Spiritual Life First, No Matter the Cost – Rearranging priorities is not easy, but it’s very doable. And it’s always a choice. Putting God first means He is the first thing you think about in the morning—not Facebook. This means establishing and protecting our regular time for Bible reading, worship, and prayer. Every. Single. Day. Even if that means all our Facebook friends have to wait to hear our exciting news.

5. Understand Your Purpose – (1)To obey God and please Him, not people. Galatians 1:10  (2)To know Him more, Philippians 3:8-9 not know more about what everyone else in the world is doing. (3) To be about the Father’s business Luke 2:49.

6. Schedule Regular BreaksJesus often broke away and went up into the hills to pray. We would be wise to do the same by taking regular breaks from life’s modern expectations and demands. This will give us fresh focus, fresh, balanced perspective, and fresh ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us.

7. Pray – Apart from Him we can do nothing. Ask God to help you break habits that are interfering with your spiritual life. Ask Him to give you a willing heart, wisdom, and grace to walk in balance and self-control. Ask Him to shift your priorities, bring your heart into alignment with His, and to bring the healthy, permanent change He desires.

Please don’t get me wrong—social media is not inherently bad. In fact, a lot of good happens on social media. But if we’re not intentional, focused, and wise, we can end up in a place we never imagined—far from the One we love, spiritually weak, and totally distracted.

With willing hearts, God’s grace, and self-control, we can make wise daily choices that steer our lives in the direction that the Lord desires, that profit us, and that encourage and bless those around us. And we can walk in freedom from the things that entangle us, completely in tandem with Jesus.

Lord, help me evaluate the role of social media in my life. Help me to take charge of my time, put You first daily, understand my purpose and take breaks when appropriate. But mostly, help me to make wise choices that steer my life in the right direction and honor You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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