Teapots And Power Tools

Hi Friends, I finally got my devotional, “Teapots and Power Tools” in an eBook format. Because I want as many people to have it as possible, I am offering it for $0.99 for the next 30 days. I would love it if you could leave a nice review of it on Amazon. This was my first big writing project other than research papers and newsletters. I look back and see things I would change now, but as it is, it is a strong and heartening message that the Lord put on my heart. All of our experiences can have spiritual lessons. These devotionals are stories from my life with biblical application to encourage your walk with God. 

https://amzn.to/3Avm0ZY

“A Woman of Words” Book Review

Have you ever wondered how Matthew was able to so articulately tell stories from Jesus’ youth? In A Woman of Words by Angela Hunt, the history of the New Testament is masterfully researched and brought to life through a story of the writing of the book of Matthew. Angela Hunt, a biblical scholar herself, uses over forty scholarly writings in her research to bring a historically and biblically accurate telling of a fictional account of Mary revealing to Matthew many of the events of her life as the mother of Yeshua. Biblical truths are carefully woven together with imaginative portrayals of how they came to be recorded. I can almost see the dust of the Jerusalem roads, taste the dried figs and honey water and smell the aroma of baking bread as I read the artfully written story that draws the reader into the days of the early church. 

Not often do I want to read a book slowly, but this one was one to savor. This book is not just a good story; it contains spiritual struggles and truths that give the reader much to consider, look inward and apply in our daily walk with God.

You do not have to read the books in order, but I suggest starting with Book one in the Jerusalem Road series.

Daughter of Cana (Jerusalem Road)

Shepherd’s Wife (Jerusalem Road)

 Woman of Words (Jerusalem Road)

I am a Martha

I guess there could be worse faults to admit. At one time in my life, I was teaching/working full time, raising kids, going to school full time, being a wife, involved in ministry and taking care of my aging mother-in-law. In hindsight, I wonder who got gypped the most. Probably my husband, maybe my kids, but I told myself that I was just doing what needed to be done. After all, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But what if He doesn’t want me to do “all things”?  What if what He really wants me to do is learn the art of saying no to things that are not of eternal significance? 

I look back at that time and shake my head. *Insert side note; my husband just came in the room as I was writing this and asked me if I wanted to have some prayer time. My first response was to tell him I was focused on something right now that I needed to finish while it was fresh in my head. Then I thought about the last sentence of the first paragraph and was a bit convicted. Maybe this will go better if I practice what I preach. I stopped typing and prayed.

So, I look back at the time that I was so busy and wonder how I did all that. I make myself tired! I set unrealistic expectations for myself and, in turn, for others. I jokingly say that my next book is going to be titled “Diminished Capacity” and it will be filled with blank pages. One by one, the Lord is removing the distractions from my life and drawing my eyes to Him and asking me to sit at His feet and listen like Mary did. 

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV) As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Events such as COVID have forced many of us to be at home more. For some it has caused a tremendous amount of stress. People laugh about the COVID 19, talking about the weight they put on from being sequestered with never ending food shows and the kitchen as their playground. As sad as the whole last year has been, I rejoiced in the time to be silent, to take long walks, to work in my yard, to hear God’s voice. 

The past six weeks I have been relatively silent here on FB, my Blog (Soul Water at http://www.kerilynnwillis.com), and Instagram. Maybe I should have been more prepared to drop out of sight for this time, but my family needed me, and I was done being overcommitted. I checked out and focused on being 100% present in the activities and moments that needed my attention. It was not all without stress. There were moments of feeling completely overwhelmed. 

At one point, the Lord really impressed on my heart the need for surrender. I closed my eyes, relinquishing my need for control over things that were far beyond me. The picture started forming in my head with a pencil drawing of Jesus’ nail scared feet. With each whispered prayer, another face, home or event was sketched at his feet. While they all still demand prayer and even some work, I think I will try to only visit them at the feet of Jesus. They need to stay put. If I pick them up and try to put them in my burden bag, I must consciously place them back where they belong. 

I probably will never be very good at sitting still. But I am learning. Learning to hear God’s voice in the noise of this world, in the silence of my yard, in the song of the birds, and by the posture of my heart. 

What do you need to place at the feet of Jesus? There is plenty of room for you to sit, listen, learn at his feet and leave your burdens with Him.

Over the past few weeks, this song has been on repeat in my heart. Christy Nockels sings it so beautifully. “Find Me at the Feet of Jesus” 

When God Became My Daddy

Songs have been written about it; poems have been penned; dances have been danced, celebrating the special bond between father and daughter. I believe that every one of us has an innate longing and desire for that deep relationship with that special man. I have heard that many of us form our view of God by observing our earthly fathers. While that may be true, often, if we look to any human being to form our ideas of our Heavenly Father, we will be deeply disappointed.

The greatest gift my earthly father gave me was to point me to my Heavenly Father. The greatest gift I can give my father for Father’s Day is to live my life for the One who gave His life for me. 

From the womb, I was in church at least three times a week and in every children’s club the church had to offer, hearing Bible stories and memorizing scripture. Sadly, too often, my early childhood memories of going through the motions of playing church bring with them anxiety and sometimes a bit of panic. I wasn’t good at remembering my Sunday school papers or saying my memory verse on demand. This led to unwarranted and unreasonable punishment. In hindsight, my dad was probably more worried that I would embarrass him, or he was worried that someone would think he was not doing his job as a father properly if I did not perform as the “good girl” I needed to be. 

 Miraculously, the Holy Spirit instilled a desire deep in my heart to love the Father and form an innocent and pure relationship that superseded any earthly or fallible human relationship. Long before I took my shiny patent leather shoes down the isle in children’s church and prayed with Mrs. Katie Tunnel to give my heart to Jesus, I understood that God loved me, that He created the world for me, and that because of our own bad choices that world needed a savior. I knew that I needed someone bigger than this world to be my daddy. So, on that Easter Sunday in 1969, when Mrs. Tunnel asked who wanted Jesus to be their Savior, I marched my timid, shy self to the front of the room, wondering why nobody else wanted this precious gift.  I knew about the death, burial, and resurrection. I definitely knew about sin. I even knew how to pray “Dear Heavenly Father.” But that day, He became my Daddy. And He is a “Good Good Father”

If We Were More Like Dogs

As I prepared to go on a road trip recently, I cleaned my house, cleaned my fridge, arranged for childcare, I mean a dog sitter, and packed my car. My sweet, mostly innocent, completely dependent, seventy-pound lap dog, Belle, followed me around with utter devotion and curiosity. If you have ever known a Weimaraner, you know they can suffer from separation anxiety. The thought of her being sad because I am gone, makes me sad and consider not going on my trip. Looking in those sad, puppy-dog eyes as I am getting ready to walk out the door just about kills me. 

Car packed and waiting for my other half, I settled in my big comfy chair for one more puppy snuggle before we left. Belle settled herself partly on the chair, mostly on my lap and almost purred with contentment. Then it dawned on me. I need to be dependent on my Abba Father, the way my dog depends on me. She knows I love and care for her and depends on me for everything without worry. Matthew Six gives us a good picture of this. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

I know, left to her own devices, she could feed herself, walk herself, and basically survive. But why would you eat lizards and gophers when you have a feast of Blue Buffalo waiting inside? If we are children of The King, why do so often live like paupers? Jesus told us that He came not to just give life, but to give life more abundantly. John 10:10

Why would you chase cars and birds when you could take a walk with your best friend? When I put on my walking shoes, Belle goes into hyperdrive. Her whole body wags, she chases me around so I can’t even sit to tie my shoes. The neighbor has even called to make sure all is well, because they heard Belle making so much noise. She is so excited to be with me and go on an adventure that she can hardly contain herself. Sometimes we struggle about who is taking whom for a walk, but ultimately, she knows, I am the boss, and we go where I say. 

So often we fight against what is best for us. Sometimes we chase ideas or dreams that distract us from our number one goal, to walk with God. Unlike me, the dog owner, God is always ready to walk with his people. We should be as excited as Belle that the Creator of the Universe wants to walk with us. Our whole being should rejoice that we get to walk with God. 

Not only do we get to walk with God, Matthew Eleven tells us that when we do, and when we turn the reins over to him, it will make our way easier. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

For years, “someone” would faithfully give Belle the last bite of toast. As a result, every time I sit down at the table with food, Belle eagerly and expectantly waits. She often taps my knee as a reminder that she is there and would like to share in my meal. I can think of many allegories that fit this scenario, but Matthew seven probably covers it best. “Ask and it shall be given to you.” Matthew 7:7 And Matthew 7:9-11 You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.Don’t be afraid to ask God for His provision and blessing. He desires to give us good and perfect gifts. 

God created man so He could walk and talk with us. He created animals so we could enjoy and learn from His creation. Enjoy what he has given us. Learn from what we may take for granted or think of as simple. 

Job 12:7-10“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Oh and another thing… When the roaring lions (the dogs from across the street) come barreling down the hill with evil intent, Belle lifts her head and focuses on home, completely turning her back on the temptation to get caught up in a pointless battle. I need to be so focused on God, His work, His faithfulness that the angry enemy cannot distract me from my purpose.

A simple walk with my dog can be a sacred moment with God. What lessons have you learned from God’s creatures?

Lessons From the Moms in My Life

As Mother’s Day approaches, I try to take time to step back from the daily chores and reflect on the impact my mother had on me and that I have had on my own daughter. One of my earliest memories is going to church as a family. Learning to love Jesus was at the top of Mom’s priority list for her girls. Memorizing Scripture was a daily practice. Cooking… well, she says she just got out of the way when I entered the kitchen, except the time that she had to rescue me from the eggbeaters that wrapped my waist length hair in them all the way up to my forehead. Arriving to my pleas for help, she just calmy unplugged the offending appliance and unraveled my hair and sent me to the sink to wash out the cake batter. “Respond don’t react,” were words that she repeated to me often, especially after I became a mother. James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

In a college writing class, I was required to write a ‘descriptive’ paper. I didn’t even hesitate. My descriptive paper would be on a virtuous woman. My mother would be my muse. If you read Proverbs 31, and you know Mom, you would agree. There hasn’t a day gone by that she has not worked hard. She has supported her family spiritually, emotionally, and financially. She sewed so well that she even made my dad’s suits. I drew a picture of what I wanted for a wedding dress, and she made it without hesitation, exactly as I had dreamed. Her children call her blessed. She fears the Lord. She deserves to be honored and praised.

Proverbs 31:13-17 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

I have been so blessed to have a heritage of Christian women in my life. As early as I can remember, my Grandma Bonebright (my dad’s mom) involved me in and set an example of Christian acts of service. Whether it was taking a meal to a sick person, doing somebody’s laundry, or singing to Granny Thompson, Gram planned her life around meeting the needs of others as her service to Christ. She did not make a big deal about it. She did not preach to me about why I needed to serve. She gently and quietly just set an example of godly living and self-sacrifice. She often took my sister and me to visit “shut ins” We sang all of the sweet Jesus songs we could think of, always being encouraged to sing louder and get closer. I still remember the soft- hands of Granny Thompson reaching out to hold my hand. These served as her eyes, because her 101 years had robbed her of her eyesight. Even though her eyes were not seeing her physical surroundings, they were still the window to her soul, as the joy of the Lord beamed from the inside out as the light of the world.  

As the MS set in, my Grandma Bonebright was afraid to go out in public for fear of falling or causing an accident. The last time I remember her driving was when I was in Jr High. She picked me up from school and headed out onto the freeway. We topped speeds of 20 miles an hour, and that was with me sliding over and putting my foot on the gas! Dear Grandma was transitioning from the servant to the one being served and needing care. A few of her friends were not too shy to come around. Some were afraid of hurting her or embarrassed at her inability to take care of herself as she once had. For those who could not get over their own uneasiness with Gram’s condition, they missed knowing one of the most wonderful ladies with a most godly, gentle and quiet spirit.   

She taught me, from her recliner and wheelchair, how to cook, how to serve, how to love my neighbor as myself. I learned compassion, patience, and true joy of serving through practical experiences of lifting, transferring, schlepping wheelchairs, bathing and grooming, cleaning her house, shopping for my grandparent’s groceries and cooking their favorite foods until they no longer needed the foods and trappings of this earthly life.  

One of the greatest blessings of building this kind of a relationship with my grandmother is that she knew me well. She knew my weaknesses, my strengths, my likes and dislikes, but more than any of that, she knew how to pray for me. I am confident that I was one of the main beneficiaries of her prayers. She did not always know what my every need was, but she daily placed me and my needs at the throne of our Savior. 

Proverbs 31:25-27

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

In several scriptures referring to older believers or wise women we see the word dignity. One of my greatest challenges is protecting the dignity of the grandmas. There is nothing dignifying about having someone else have to take care of your personal needs, dress you, bathe you, feed you, and tell you what to do. As I meditated on these scriptures and what I would be sharing, I thought about what dignity must really mean. 

  1. a formal, stately, or grave bearing: he entered with dignity
  2. the state or quality of being worthy of honor: the dignity of manual labor
  3. relative importance; rank: he is next in dignity to the mayor 
  4. high rank, especially in government or the church
  5. a person of high rank or such persons collectively

I like the second definition and the word origin. It implies that dignity does not come from being “haughty” or even “private” but in being worthy of honor and accepting of one’s role in life, like Paul being content in whatever state. I will probably continue to try to protect our grandma’s dignity, because I think that is honoring to her and to God, but also because we live in a sinful world that despises being inconvenienced or uncomfortable. 

26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. 

One time I heard Grandma Willis(my mother-in-law) “teaching” in her sleep. What an amazing and encouraging teacher she must have been. In her conscious and subconscious, she loved the little ones that came to her. As each of her students brought her work, she told them how hard they had worked and how beautiful this or that was. She also guided them gently and lovingly in correcting their behaviors or schoolwork. God can use even these moments to teach us, moments that we might, as humans, worry about her mental or emotional state. Not only did I hear her teach, but I heard her pray. I have never heard anyone beseech God on behalf of her family the way Grandma Willis did.

What a joy it was for me to have my own daughter be able to experience this relationship with her grandmother. So many times, we wonder why God allowed a saint like Grandma Willis journey for 100 long, hard years on this earth. My daughter, Jordan called me from Virginia her first year in college. Hearing from her was like water to my soul. She explained, (paraphrased) “I know what Grandma’s ministry is. Her ministry is to pray for me, and I need that a lot! I am so fortunate to have someone so close to God, be so close to me.” 

Not too much later, we went to visit my mom’s mom in Washington. Before we left, Grandma Sandy grabbed Jordan’s arm and pulled her close. She said “take a look around this room and know that there is not a day that goes by that you do not have a lot of people praying for you. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to you because my kids and grandkids need A LOT of prayer, but you do get prayed for every day.” Now Grandma Sandy is interceding for us in Heaven

So many times, we are just too busy to even notice when there is a learning opportunity. We often don’t engage our aging fellow believers in conversation for fear of being uncomfortable or weighted down by their burdens, or we may even think that they don’t have anything meaningful to share. 

A while ago, I decided to start making notes on the amazing treasures that Grandma Willis had to share. I would like to share a few of them with you:

One time, when I stopped to see her, I commented that the trees outside her window were beautiful… She replied, “Yes they are, when I see the trees, the remind me of the strength of the Lord.”  She was like a tree planted by the river. This experience led me to Psalm 92: 12-15 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.  13 For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.  14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.  15 They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”

Another time she told me: “Every day when I wake up, I wonder what the Lord has planned for the day.”Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

On her  90th  birthday she prayed… “Lord help us to do more and better for you each day”

She later told me, I don’t know why the Lord chooses to keep me here on Earth, but I guess my work is not done.

Proverbs 31:27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness

I too, have questioned what the Lord has for me to do… On one particular day, He gave me this verse: John 6:29 (NLT) Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

My daughter, Jordan, called me with relief one day.  It is so wonderful when your children ‘get’ the lessons you have been trying to teach and live. She said “I understand James 1 so much better because I see you and daddy put it into practice by taking care of Grandma.” Practicing true religion is taking care of widows and orphans in their distress and by keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.

I can never remember a time in my life when I did not have an older believer, often a widow, that I was participating with in ministry. Whether it was my grandparents, Alma, or my mother-in-law, I have seen the impact of their seemingly invisible ministry and, I have to say, it grieves me when we see them as “no longer active” in their walks with the Lord or we dismiss them as old and not as useful anymore.  

My challenge to you is, if you are not seeing this, if you are not experiencing this, then go looking.  Seek out those who have gray hair, drink in their wisdom.  Go for a walk, take them to coffee or treasure hunting, LISTEN to them.  You would be surprised how much they may be ministered to, if only you allow them to minister to you.

Proverbs 31: 30-31 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

None of us can, on our own, live up to the standard set in Proverbs 31, but with God’s help, we can be who He created us to be and use the gifts He has given us. 

Take time to read Proverbs 31 for yourself. Who do you picture? Give honor to that person this week.

After The Freeze

For many, this past year has just been one long winter. As our country begins to raise its head out of the fog of the last year, this piece I wrote several years ago seemed appropriate. It is so good to breathe fresh air and see signs of life.

Several years ago I was tree shopping when I saw the most beautiful tree bulging out of its temporary home. Even at half price, it was still a rather large investment.  I was told that moving it may shock its system and it may be a while before we saw any fruit. I was remembering the luscious guava tree in Hawaii – It was fragrant, had a ton of fruit on it, and was delicious.  We planted our tree and nurtured it with tender loving care and eager expectations.  

The excitement grandma and I felt when we saw the first signs of growth made us almost giddy.  Every day we would check on the blooms and eagerly wait for the little bulbs that would become the fruit.  It was kind of mysterious, because we did not know how big the fruit would be or how long it would take to ripen.  Before I knew it, I had more guavas than I knew what to do with.  I ate, peeled, cooked, made guava butter and shared it with the neighbors, co-workers, strangers even!

There were only about two-dozen guavas left on the tree.  I had heard the weather report, considered what to do… Should I cover the tree – I could not reach the top, Should I put a heater outside? – that might cause a fire.  Well it is close enough to the house – the heat from the house should keep it from freezing, yeah it should be fine.  Unfortunately, for once, the weather man was right; it got downright cold.  To my disappointment, I woke up checked on my prize tree only to find it black and almost crispy from the freeze.  I held out hope for a few weeks that it was only temporary and that it would turn lush and green again.  

The weeks went by, the tree got drier, crispier, and sadder than a dog deprived of playing ball.  I watched as the tree became fragile and thought I might need to cut the brittle branches off. However, the leaves would not fall off for anything.  They stuck so tightly to the tree that no amount of wind would dislodge them.   As contemplated the tree for any signs of life, a hummingbird started dive bombing me.  I did not know what was agitating the little fighter pilot so badly that it would want to take on something my size until I observed from a different perspective.  The leaves that held so tightly to the tree provided just the protection she needed to build a home.  She was shielding her two little potential lives.   No mater how the wind blew, that nest stayed strong and sturdy.  My decision was made, I could not cut down the old branches, she needed them.  

I watered and cared for the tree every time I thought of it… low and behold there were little tiny buds coming from the trunk of the tree.  I was elated, then disappointed, for the buds shriveled up and disappeared. 

I was holding out hope, though.  The tree had strong roots.  It was somewhat mature when we planted it.  We watered it, gave it vitamin B, talked to it even.  I did not get too excited when new growth started up from the roots though.  I did not want to be disappointed again.  I watered and check on it regularly to see if the signs of life were really there.  

Soon the little shoots coming up from the roots were three feet high.  They didn’t bear fruit that season.  It took time for the damaged tree to once again become strong, develop, provide shade for the kitty, and homes for the hummingbirds. Since then, the tree has come back in full force, produced several seasons of fruit, and has even withstood a few freezes. 

About 2000 years ago, God was looking down on his creation and saw the most beautiful tree.  He knew it would be the ultimate investment, and He made it knowing how much pain it would cause.  That tree was the cross and the investment was his son’s life.  

He made the investment for me, gave me salvation and life, gave me a family to nurture me, provided his word as a source of health, and protected me from the ravages of this world.  Early on, He saw the buds of fruit in my life and took special care to cultivate me as a kind of “first fruit.” I loved to serve, share my love for Jesus with friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers! As Luke 6:44 tells us, we will be recognized by our fruit.  

As a young tree, I produced a decent amount of fruit.  I was tended to, given direction; my roots were well watered.  As a more mature tree, after many seasons of bearing fruit, I had a big freeze. The life and enthusiasm for serving drained out of me like the color from the guava tree.  I still had a purpose, just like the withered branches of the guava tree. I just had to see my life from a different perspective.

Deep in my roots, in my soul, there was life. This tree that was bought with a price was firmly planted; its roots were alive waiting for the next season.  Psalms 1:3 says He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

There are signs of life again.  My dead branches are protecting the new growth, shielding from strong winds, and a burning sun, and serving as a reminder of how the Lord has restored me.  I may not have a bumper crop this season.  Maybe it is my time to grow and become strong again. I do look forward to the next crop of fruit however, and of this I am sure. As it says in John 10:10; Jesus did not come only to give life; He came to give it more abundantly. 

Keri’s Prayer Closet

I can almost hear the groans when another mug finds its way into my cupboard. “Do you really need another mug?” No, I do not need another vehicle for getting caffeine into my bloodstream. However, quite some time ago, my mug cupboard became my prayer closet. 

As a teacher, I received countless mugs from my students. If you are a teacher, you know… At a point, I began rotating the mugs so every student could see me use their mug. But, of course, there had to be more; there needed to be purpose behind each mug. And so it began, with each mug, a prayer for that student went up to Jesus. 

Fast forward a few years, I was no longer in the classroom, but the mug collection continued. Friends and family have contributed to my prayer closet. Sometimes I pick out a mug, because I want to remember to pray for a particular person. This week my daughter and her husband are driving across country, so I am drinking from my Jordan mug. This weekend, my dear friend is laying her mom-in-law to rest, so I will be drinking from my Marie mug. 

I have a mug from Fort McHenry. When I drink from that cup, I pray for our country, peace, the people and our leaders. The mug from our women’s retreat reminds me to pray for the ladies in our church body and for the speaker who shared her wisdom with us that weekend.

Sometimes I grab the closest mug to the front of the cupboard. When I am using that mug, I will pray for the person associated with it and often take a quick picture and send it as a reminder that I am praying for them. Often when friends grab a cup, they ask “who am I praying for?” 

It doesn’t have to be a mug. It can be a bird, a rainbow, a song, a scent or a picture. But it is always good to have reminders to pray prayers of intercession for the people in our lives. 

True confession, while visiting my college roommate whom I had not seen in about thirty years, we did what all college roomies should do, we went shopping. We hit the outlet mall and had a blast. We both loved the same pair of jeans. Both of us were working on justifying another pair of jeans, really not a need. I got giggly and said, “Let’s both get them; they can be our prayer jeans.” That sealed the deal. We bought the jeans, and you know what? We pray for each other when we wear them. 

What are some things that serve as reminders to pray for your people?

Whether or not you have a mnemonic device (something that triggers your memory) to help you pray, prayer is the greatest gift you can give and the most powerful tool you can use. James five tells us that the fervent prayers of the righteous bring great outcomes. We are righteous through the blood of Jesus, and His ears always hear our prayers.

This is the prayer I am praying for you today:

For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

Sacred & Set-Down Saturdays

Day Seven in “Days of the Week Prayers”

I don’t know about you, but I work hard all week long. Often, on Saturday, my brain goes into hyperdrive thinking about how tired I am and all I want to accomplish next week, next month, and next year. I have to work really hard at just sitting back and enjoying God’s provision and the comfort and satisfaction of a job well done in the laboring in my yard, home, family and ministry. I can only sit on the patio swing for so long before I have to go pull that weed that grew up overnight. 

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Matthew 6:27

I know I can drive my husband crazy. He asks me “can’t you just be still?” To him, Saturday mornings are a time for a good cup of coffee, no stress, enjoying the fact that we lived and worked another week and just taking time to rest. Saturday morning is a good time to take a deep breath and just be.

As I reflect on the 23rd Psalm, I am overwhelmed with the simplicity and depth of faith in the words of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

Thank you, Lord, for everything you have provided. Thank you for guiding my path this week. Help me to always be aware of your provision.


He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.

Thank you for giving me time to rest. Thank you for the birds that are singing to me and the sun that is shining and for the home you have given me in order to serve you and practice hospitality. Help me to be still and find refreshment in you.


    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.

Help me to rest in you and be renewed today, so that I will be equipped to do the work you have prepared for me and that I will honor you in all I do. 


Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

I do not know all of the dangers you are protecting me from, but thank you. And when I get discouraged or overwhelmed, help me to remember that you are with me; you are preparing a way for me and are fighting off the evil that desires to tear me down and hurt me. Help me to know how to walk beside those who are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. 


You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.

Help me to recognize the blessings that you have poured out on me and humbly receive all that you have for me, recognizing that I am a Child of The King. 


Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of theLord forever.

Thank you for pursuing me even when I stumble off the path you have for me. Thank you for the promise of eternal life with you. Amen

One of the best ways for me to be able to relax is to “set-down” my plan for the next week. As a former elementary school teacher, I think in “lesson plan” format. I have tasks I need to complete and time slots that those tasks will fill. And if you are wondering, yes, I do have to schedule specific time in the morning to spend in prayer and the Word. In part, I do this because I can either, one, get up and get lost in social media, or two, get up and get going on my “tasks” without first committing them to the Lord. 

Proverbs 16:3 lays it out pretty clear… Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.

And so, Saturday is when I organize my thoughts, make “my” plans (I put “my” in quotations because God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts).

But He does say to commit our work to Him, and He will establish our thoughts. In other words, His work and thoughts become my work and thoughts. And so, before I begin to “set down” my plan for the week, I ask Him to guide me in using my time wisely, knowing what I need to do, where I need to go, and who I need to minister to. (I also need to add here that I have to ask Him to help me allow those who come into my life to minister to me to do so.)

I actually made a grid with days of the week and time slots. I include daily activities, events for the week and tasks I need to complete. There are items that repeat daily and weekly that are imbedded in the template. Then I add the different things based on the needs for the week. You could even add your menu for the week. 

I don’t stop there. Once my “lesson plan” is complete, I then commit it to the Lord. I surrender it to Him and try to “set it down” and not keep obsessing over it. Once I am better “yoked” with Him, my way seems easier and my load lighter. Then I better prepared to rest in Him. 

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Amen

Please feel free to download the template below (I am working on having better downloads for you) to use in planning your quiet time and your work time. Be sure to commit it to the Lord. Proverbs 16:3

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
PraySacred, Silent, SurrenderMinistry, Missions, MarriageTalking to JesusWorship, Work, WashingtonThirsty & ThankfulFamily, Friends & ForgivenessSacred & Set-Down
7am
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9am
10am
11am
12pm
1pm
2pm
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4pm
5pm
6pm
6pm

Friends, Family & Forgiveness Fridays

Day Six in “Days of the Week Prayers”

Today is day six in “Days of the week Prayer,” and I have to tell you, I am feeling less than articulate today. Part of me wants to put down my computer and just go read a good book. But someone else is telling me to keep going, there is a message here that needs to be spoken.

This Friday, Good Friday, the Friday before Resurrection Sunday is especially important. It the day that we remember His Finished work on the cross. It is because of His death that we can have forgiveness; because of His stripes we can be healed; because of His resurrection we can have everlasting life, life more abundant.

As with every other day of the week prayer, once I start writing about prayers that go with that day, more words surface that complement the theme. Originally, today was “Friends and Family Fridays,” and I do pray for my friends and family on Friday, but as I prayed through my whole prayer list earlier in the week other ideas stood out as well; Forgiveness, Faith, Fear… All of these elements are intertwined. 

I have been blessed with a rich heritage of a family who love Jesus. God has blessed me with a quiver full of friends as well.  The relationships that are the deepest are that because of forgiveness.  First the forgiveness of God for all of our shortcomings and sins and second the forgiveness we give and receive in our relationships.   

There is a saying that goes “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” I guess in some sense, the idea that we can be secure enough in a relationship that any offense will not break it is sweet, but probably not very realistic. As long as there are fallible human beings we will need to be armed with forgiveness. 

Fortunately for us, God freely offers us forgiveness through His son Jesus. In I John 1:9, we are told, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.: In turn, we are directed to offer that forgiveness to others in Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.”

So, on Fridays, I take the time to thank God for loving me and for the gift of forgiveness through the death of His son, Jesus, on the cross and ask Him to remind me of where I need to have forgiveness and offer forgiveness. Here is a sample:

            Please bring to mind the things I need forgiveness for:

                        Allowing bitterness to have even one spot in my life

                        Not wanting to forgive or love those who have hurt me

                        Not having faith

                        Making decisions based on fear and not faith

It is true that the people who are the closest to us are the ones who can wound us the greatest. That is why forgiveness is so vital to the health of our relationships with our family and friends and is such a good starting point in our prayer lives. 

In all transparency, this is a tough one for me. We are told to do everything that is within our power to live at peace with all men. And I try. We are also encouraged to pray for those who spitefully use us, and I do. But in truth, when it comes to reconciling broken or wounded relationships, I operate out of fear way too often. So here is my prayer for this:

            Help me to not give in to temptation to gossip or rail on the people who have hurt me. 

            Help me to love with the unconditional love that can only come from you.

            Help me to desire to love.

            Help me to live at peace with all, and help broken relationships to be restored.

I pray for our family, that they would know joy and reconciliation, that there would not be bitterness toward one another or God, that they would be able to be at peace with their families, that they would have forgiveness and love in their hearts and more than anything, know the power of your salvation.

When I think of praying for my family, of course my husband and children are at the top of that list. When the kids were little, I would pray for them “to know and love You, Jesus,” every night. And I am so blessed that God answered that prayer. As they are now married adults, my prayers for them have become lengthier and more involved, but a while back, it dawned on me, the prayer still needed to be for them to know and love Jesus. 

Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

As with praying for my children, my prayers for my husband do not only happen on Fridays, but every time they come to mind. However, I know the role of husband and father is one of grave responsibility, so I pray some pretty serious and detailed prayers for him. 

Please give him wisdom and gentleness. 

Help him to have clarity of thought and be able to organize and prioritize his work for his family, ministry, and job. 

Please give him joy. 

The root of these requests come from Ephesians 6.

Friday is also a good day to stop and thank Jesus for my friends and to lift their needs up to Him. 

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. ….  12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4

Often these friends appear in other places on the prayer list, like Ministry Monday or Thirsty Thursday. But Friday is the day I lift them up in prayer regarding their health, occupations, families, needs, hurts, and joys. Philippians summarizes my prayers for my friends well. 

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy… May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:3-4, 11

Sometimes in our prayers, we are too overwhelmed to even know the words to pray. So, with open surrendered hands, I remember Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

And also remember, Matthew 7: 7-11 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Keep on asking. Keep on praying. Keep on believing. 

Thankful & Thirsty Thursdays

Day 5 in “Days of the Week Prayer”

Psalm 107:8-9 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

The impressive red-tail hawk perched majestically atop the streetlight illuminating the entrance to the freeway. Skies behind me were changing from the pink hues of sunrise to the bright light of morning. It was going to be a long day. The first day of school and a classroom full of anxious students awaited me. As I sat there, impatiently anticipating my turn to get going, that hawk sat perfectly still and gazed down, seeming to stare right at me. In reality, he was probably staring at a rodent that would soon be his breakfast, but this hawk became a symbol of God’s faithfulness to me. 

Every morning, for years, I would see that hawk sitting on the light post, and he would remind me that God is always watching. He knows and anticipates my needs. He knows when I rise up and when I lie down. He knows when my heart is aching and when it is rejoicing. He is the God who sees, El Roi. He is the God who hears, Psalm 17:6, I Peter 3:12.  This magnificent hawk reminded me that God cares about the tiny sparrow, and how much more He cares about me. Matthew 6:26-27. Since then, God has sent countless birds into my yard and along my path to remind me how much He loves me and how much I have to be thankful for. What is your reminder to be thankful?

God gave us His creation as a gift so that we can know Him better. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20 I want to have a thankful heart every moment of every day, and little glimpses of God, through His creation, are reminders to be grateful throughout. 

Most of my prayers begin with thanksgiving for His death and resurrection and His love for me. However, I like to take time in my prayer life to express gratitude for very specific blessings and trials in my life. I often try to put a Name of God with the prayer adding to my meditation on His provision. 

Every day is a good day to be thankful, but Thursdays are the days that I make that the focus of my prayers. Often with my prayer of thanksgiving, there is a thirst attached to it. I love a good cup of coffee in the morning, especially when my husband brings it to me in bed. It isn’t long before I say, “That was really good coffee, may I have some more.” The Lord’s teachings in the Beatitudes tell us that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” More than coffee, I long to be filled with righteousness. I desire to have a river of life flowing into me so that I can be a refreshment to everyone I encounter.

 I am going to be a bit transparent here and share a little clip of my prayer list with you. 

Psalms 103: 1-5 Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

  • Thank you for loving me and dying on the cross and rising again to save me. 
  • Thank you for forgiving me for all of my sins and blunders!
  • Thank you for being an awesome God, for knowing what we need, for having a plan for us, for drawing our children to you – Jehovah Jireh (provider)
  • Thank you for providing for our daily needs and finances.
  • Help us to be good stewards the gifts you have given us.  
  • Thank you for my home, family, release from anxiety – Jehovah Shalom (peace)
  • Thank you for the trials and help me to learn the lessons you have for me. Help me to be obedient to your word and will. Help me to know what your will is. El Rohi (Shepherd) Help me to remember your purpose for me – to bring you honor. Bring the things to my mind that I need forgiveness for.
  • Please transform me and renew my mind. Teach me to walk in and by your spirit.
  • Thank you for the friends that you have put in my life to encourage me. 
  • Protect me from the attacks of the enemy, Jehovah Nissi (He is my banner raised in battle. He is ever present.)
  • Help me to love with the unconditional love that can only come from You.  

A scripture can speak our prayers beautifully. I love praying scripture. But I think God wants to hear our prayers in our own human and fallible voices. He wants to hear the praise and cries from our hearts. Psalm 107: 8-9 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Who are the thirsty in your life? At times, I feel like my soul is withered up and parched. I need the refreshing water of the Holy Spirit to wash over and through me. I think it is important to be filled with that refreshing water myself before I can anticipate pouring into the lives of the other thirsty travelers the Lord brings my way. So, I ask the Lord to fill my heart with His peace, His song, His strength, His spirit.

A variety of people show up on my prayer list in several places, Ministry Mondays, Family & Friends Fridays, and then there are those who also show up on Thirsty Thursday. These are the broken and weary who are in need of rest. They are in my prayer hospital’s intensive care unit. 

My dear friend Marie is here often. She has endured a lifetime of medical issues, starting with Lupus at age sixteen. As I write this, she is undergoing extensive medical work ups, preparing for another kidney transplant. Her faith has never wavered throughout the constant barrage of fiery darts the enemy has shot her way, but her well is drained. She has joy in knowing the Lord has a purpose for all of this, but she is worn down. She is soul weary and needs the refreshment of God’s healing waters. 

Some dear souls have not found their way to the Water yet. Some are in search of the Water; some don’t even know they are thirsty. I pray for those who need Jesus to know that He will satisfy their need for the transforming flood of grace and mercy

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God Ephesians 2:8

I think of others who are plagued with the loneliness and fear that has overwhelmed our country in the wake of the COVID rule and political unrest. I think of my daughter, an ICU nurse who lays it all on the line as she is faced with burden of people who are extremely sick and dying daily. I think of dear friends and family members whose families are breaking into pieces. These are the thirsty. 

Fortunately, God has invited all who are thirsty to come to His streams of living water and be refreshed. “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink…” Isaiah 55:1a

Today, I pray this for you. I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Worship, Washington & Work Wednesday

Day Four in “Days of the Week Prayers

The sun was brilliantly shining down on the playground where I was on recess duty. Fifth graders were playing soccer on freshly cut grass and bouncing balls from square to square. I glanced up to see Mrs. O walking across the parking lot, arms raised. I glanced around to see what the trouble was, but no one was around her or misbehaving. A bit later, I asked her about it. “I was just enjoying the gorgeous day,” she said. “It looked like you were having your own little worship service,” I replied. “I was. It was so beautiful, I had to lift my hands to the One who made the sunshine,” she answered.

Do you begin to feel worn down along about the middle of the week? I know I do. I get busy “doing” and forget to “be.” It is easy to get busy in our lives and routines and even in our prayers and forget to intentionally take time to worship. Any time is a good time to be still before the Lord and take time to appreciate His gifts and acknowledge who He is. The one thing that can take our mind off of our own problems and burdens is to fix our eyes on our Maker. 

Psalms 95:1-7 helps me take a deep breath and do just that. 

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.

Wednesday is a good time to stop what you are doing and align your heart with God by worship. I kind of have to be filled up with worship before I can dive into my next prayer topic, Washington. One of the best songs that can lead me into that prayer is “Is He Worthy” by Andrew Peterson. If there ever is a time I feel the world is broken, it is now, but knowing that God is still on the throne brings me great comfort. 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj-95GRqfHuAhVV_J4KHRrFAmEQyCkwAnoECAgQAw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fm.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DOIahc83Kvp4%26feature%3Dyoutu.be&usg=AOvVaw2g65IXqx1WbsRIZqUPxbDU

Ho’Omana:  

It is the value of worthwhile work; it is an attitude of intention and full presence in whatever you do. It is the Hawaiian word for worship. Sometimes, when we hear a new word or a word in a different language, even a different version of the Bible it causes us to stop and think about it for a while…what does this word mean??? 

Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people 

There are around 500 verses in the Bible with the theme of worship. Abraham worshiped in sacrifice, building an altar. Genesis 21:33. Moses pled for the release of the Israelites – he said, “Let my people go so that they may worship. Exodus 10, He also worshiped in repentance. – often building an alter to remember who he was worshipping. Exodus 34:8 

What is worship?   

Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary,1828). 

RT Kendall says Worship is any activity which is carried out under the impulse of the Spirit of God.  

It is a state of our hearts. 

It is a lifestyle. 

It is serving. 

It is obedience. 

It is healing. 

It is a living sacrifice. 

It is communion. 

It is using our gifts. 

It is creative. 

It is longing. 

It is faithfulness. 

It is listening. 

It is expectation. 

It should be every breath every of every moment of every day. 

It is surrender… 

It is Colossians 3:23  

As we give our whole selves to Jesus in obedience, He meets us, and then we truly know what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.  But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:23

I find, if I have focused my mind on God and His sovereignty, I can pray with more faith regarding our country and its leaders, more effectively and without as much anxiety. Honestly, I have a hard time remembering to pray for our leaders. It is on my prayer list, but really, I should pray for them every time I hear a news report, read an article or hear their names. From the local school board to the President of the United States, we should be praying for them.

We are called to pray for our leaders. I Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

How do you pray for them? Do you just list their names and murmur something like “Bless all the dear children?” Because sometimes “Well, bless their hearts,” is all I can think of. But when I take the time to really think it through, what is it that these people need? 

I pray that our leaders would hear God’s voice and listen; that they would have wisdom; that they would surround themselves with wise and godly people who will advise them well. I ask God to make them humble and gentle. I pray that the Christian politicians will act in a godly manner that would draw more people to the cross and to honor God with their words and actions. I also pray for the people of our country to vote wisely and be at peace. And I pray for God’s protection on our country, our children and The Church. My heart’s desire, as it says in I Timothy 2:1-2, is to lead a truly peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 

The third W of Wednesday prayer time is work. Your work may be a full-time volunteer, homeschool mom, a teacher, a pastor, a businessperson, or a caretaker for your aging parents. The one thing we all have in common is that we need to think clearly, prioritize, and function in whatever role He has given us. 

Proverbs 16:3 says, Commit your work unto the Lord and your thoughts will be established.

And in I Corinthians 10:31 we are encouraged to do everything to honor Him. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

I pray today, that the Lord will direct my paths, my work, my thoughts and that whatever I do will honor Him. I also lift up my husband and kids in the work that He has for them, that they will work diligently, be successful and be a light in the darkness wherever they go. 

As I continued to think about Wednesday’s prayer time, W words continued to bombard my thoughts;

I need wisdom – James 1:5-7 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I pray for the women in my church body. – I Thessalonians 3:12-13 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen

You don’t have to have specific words for specific days to have a full or effective prayer life, but I think that we do have to make an effort to be intentional about making prayer a priority. It is one of the most powerful gifts God has given us to have a joyful and successful Christian life. 

What are some of the other W or other “Days of the Week” prayers you can think of?  The widows you know, wants you have, what you are wrestling with, writing, woes????

Since Wednesday is a Worship day, I think this is a fitting way to end our prayer time with my favorite hymn of all time, “How Great Thou Art” Read the words. Sing with your favorite recording. And be comforted in Worshiping our Savior. 

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

[Refrain]
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

                                                         Carl Boberg, Stuart Hine

This is my favorite YouTube of How Great Thou Art. It is from my women’s retreat a few years ago, 100% unrehearsed, 100% worship from our hearts to the heart of God.  

 

Talking Tuesdays

Day Three in “Week of the Day Prayers”

I was tired. I was hungry. I was busy cooking dinner. My three-year-old daughter patted the steps leading to the front door and said come sit down and talk. God impressed on me the importance of being available, stopping my busyness and listening to my girl. The picture of her sitting there patting the steps, waiting for me, is forever etched in my mind. It is a good reminder of not only the importance of listening and talking with the humans in our lives, but of taking time to sit, listen, and have a good long conversation with the One who is always listening. 

How often do we have snippets of conversations with a friend and wish we could have more time to REALLY solve all the world’s problems? Or maybe you are having a really good catch-up time, but you get distracted and lose your train of thought. Happens to me all the time. It happens to me during my prayer time too. Tuesday is the day of the week that I make a conscious effort to make it all the way through my prayer list without getting distracted, well mostly. 

I want to make a practice of taking time to be, as it says in James 1, quick to listen and slow to speak. I want to have a full conversation with God, speaking my heart and listening to his voice. 

I have heard some people say they don’t want to bother God with their problems; He is too busy to worry about me. And, I have heard others who outright refuse to pray about something or for someone… how sad. God knows our hearts. He knows they are happy, angry, hurting, or broken. He knows how our day was, our successes and our failures. And He wants us to talk to Him about it all. 

Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are never alone in our prayers. God is always listening. Always willing to invest His heart in ours. He also has given us a body of believers and leaders to pray with and for us. 

James 5:13-16 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

I am only righteous in and through the blood of Jesus and His saving grace and power. I am earnest in my prayers. God promises that He hears, listens and answers our prayers. 

I often stop praying to quickly send a text to a person I am praying for. If the Lord puts them on my heart, they need that encouragement. I think it can be almost as important to let the person for whom I am praying know that they are being prayed for, as it is for me to pray that prayer. Paul often sent messages of his prayers for the believers by way of letters. They serve as good models of prayer for us. 

Colossians 1:9-13 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.10 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. 11 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, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom[d] and forgave our sins.

Talking Tuesday is not only about my conversations with God and praying about everything. It is the day that I intentionally reach out with words of encouragement to people in my “sphere of influence.” It may be just a quick text, it may be a phone call, or it may be sitting on my back patio enjoying a cup of coffee or iced tea. If God has encouraged me, comforted me, or put someone on my heart, I need to act on that and be a comfort and encouragement. (2 Corinthians 1) We are comforted so that we can comfort others. There is no greater comfort than the God Who Hears wrapping His arms around us and stilling our troubled souls. 

Having spent a chunk my youth in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I kind of like the good ole’ hymns

mixed in with some Southern Gospel and good harmonies. When I think of my “Talking Tuesdays,” this song keeps coming to mind. This song “Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” kind of covers all the bases of really hashing it out with Him in our heart to heart talks. 

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven fill my soul
He bathed my heart in love and He wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus makes me whole

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
And He will answer by and by

And when you feel a little prayer wheel turnin’
And you will know a little fire is burnin’
Find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

I may have doubts and fears
My eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night
I go to him in prayer
He knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
And He will answer by and by

And when you feel a little prayer wheel turnin’
And you will know a little fire is burnin’
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

My prayer for you today. 

Ephesians 1:15-20

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 

Missions, Ministries & Marriage Mondays

This is the second in a series of “Week of the Day Prayers.”

The typical question an adult asks a child is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From a very young age I remember answering “a missionary nurse.” I knew I wanted to help heal people’s hearts and souls. Looking at a map of the world, I would imagine where God would take me to fulfill that dream. Every night, I would pray, almost poetically, for “Rick and Gail in Brazil.” They were my heroes who went into the heart of the Amazon to bring the message of hope and healing to a group of people who had never heard the Truth.  I loved it when they came back to California and shared their stories. I just knew one day, I would be called to the Amazon Jungle as well. 

Well, I am fifty something, and I am not saying God will never send me to Brazil, but to date, I have not received that call. But that does not release me from the Great Commission. Recently, we had a missionary speak at our church. He stated, you are either a goer, a sender or a disobeyer. We all have a responsibility to participate in the Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20. How we do that may look different from one person to the next, but we must do it. 

As I have matured in my faith and in life itself, I have learned to participate in the Great Commission in a variety of ways. While I must be willing and surrendered to go if I get the call, there are so many other ways to support our missionaries, chief among them, to pray for them. I want to pray more than “bless our missionaries.” I want to know their goals, needs, and accomplishments so that I can pray with more specific understanding and intercession for them. I want to rejoice with them when people come to know Jesus. I want to weep with them for the lost. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mournRomans 12:15

Along the same theme, I pray for the ministries within our church body and community with as much detail as possible. I lift up the worship leader and team that they will be able to lead us into the throne room of God; that their hearts will be pure in their desire to present themselves directly to God, and that we will be invited to go with them, the soil of our hearts cultivated and ready for the Word. 

I pray for our teachers, that they would teach diligently, communicating God’s message for us. I lift up our church leadership that they would lead humbly, but with confidence that can only come from the Holy Spirit; that they would recognize the gifts of individual members and equip us for the work set before us. I pray for our church body to be unified. This is especially important in the wake of COVID and how the enemy has used it to impale the Church. And as difficult as this is, I pray that the sin within our church body will be purged from us as individuals and as a body. 

Over the years, I have spoken at retreats and other events for churches. Many of our church members are students at a local Christian College. Often, they come to our church for a period of time and then go on to serve in another ministry or mission field. These are among the “other” ministries included in my “Missions, Ministry and Marriage Monday” prayers. 

The last ‘M’ on the list is Marriage. Not surprisingly, it is a large portion of my prayer list. During this prayer session, I have to begin with myself. I pray that I will be a wife and mother that honors God first and then my family; that I will be kind, gentle and wise. I pray that our marriage will be an example of love and respect and that God would guard our hearts and keep them pure.

The long list of couples includes newlyweds to people who have been married decades. It includes marriages that are on the rocks, ones that have ended and ones that have been reconciled. As I bring each family before the Lord, these are my requests:

Repentance – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

Forgiveness – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Healing – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalms 147:3

Trust – Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. I Corinthians 13:7

Love – For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. Ephesians 5:25-26

Respect – So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband Eph 5:33

Compassion – Ephesians 4:32

Wisdom and Humility – But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds… James 3:17

Gentleness – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Reconciliation – So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

God would remove any root of bitterness and anger – Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviorEphesians 4:31

God will be the center of their relationship – A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.Ecclesiastes 4:12

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proudor rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. I Corinthians 13 4-7

My prayer for you today is that you will know the abundance of God’s love; You will experience loving people with a love that can only come from God. That you will have peace in every relationship and that God will use you in what ever ministry He has called you to. That you will have joy in surrendering your will to His and that you will have a more fruitful prayer life as a result of this encouragement. 

If these words have blessed you, feel free to share them or leave a comment. If you have not already subscribed to my weekly blog, go ahead and hit the “follow” button and fill in the info form. 

Talking About Prayer

Being an elementary school teacher demanded that I find creative ways to help students remember facts, figures, and information. Even the color of the folders had a purpose; purple paper protector, green go home folder, etc. Mnemonic devices assist us in remembering important information. 

So, it should be no surprise that I need this for my prayer life. Recently, I discussed Silent, Surrendered, Sacred Sundays. Just thinking of all the words that begin with the letter S reminds me to continue to surrender my will, my worries, and my stubborn heart. I am also reminded to be still before the Lord and listen for Him and to Him. It prepares my heart to be ready for the week ahead. 

I have a very long prayer list. It seems I continually add to it, but rarely take items/people off of it. I found that if I tried to pray through the whole list every day, it was a bit overwhelming. If I prayed through my whole list, often it would be just a quick mention of someone’s name without giving the reason behind that person on my list being prayed for. I decided to break the list into categories and group them in a way that I could remember even if I did not have my whole list with me. 

I am going to share my daily mnemonic devices with you, and over the next few weeks go into a more in-depth message about each one.  Soon you will be a able to download a tool to organize your prayer list like mine. But this is the most important thing to remember. This is a tool. It is not a magic wand. It is not how YOU have to organize your prayer life. It is to help you bridge from being overwhelmed to confidently communicating with your Creator.

Here they are:

Silent, Surrendered, Sacred Sundays

Ministry, Missions, and Marriage Mondays

Talking Tuesday

Worship, Work, and Washington Wednesdays

Thankful and Thirsty Thursday

Family and Friends Friday

Set-Down Saturday

Silent, Surrendered, Sacred Sundays

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.

Sundays can be a challenge. I don’t know anyone who has tried to faithfully get their family to church that has not experienced the battles that ensue when they are trying to get out the door and actually be on time. We want to get there and present ourselves as whole and put together, but the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy, and he tries do to that all before 9 am on Sunday morning. Honestly, there have been days that by the time I get to church, I am spent. I need mercy. I need grace. I need Jesus!

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

One of the things I love most about our church is the weekly communion time. We are encouraged, in Scripture, to stop and remember Christ’s sacrifice for us through the breaking of bread whenever we gather. However, we are also directed to not take the cup in an unworthy manner. We are instructed to surrender our hearts, confess our sin, and have a pure heart before the Lord before we partake in this meal. 

How many of us have sung the song “I Surrender All” without even knowing what we are singing? I did for a long time. And then one Sunday, I really listened to the words coming out of my mouth. They took my breath away and reduced me to a weepy mess. I actually pictured myself saying “I surrender all… except…” Could I really surrender? Did I really want to do that? That would mean I have to forgive the person who called me evil, obliterated my character, or otherwise hurt me. It would mean that I would need to turn my career over to the Lord, even if it meant it was not what ‘I’ wanted. It would mean I would have to surrender my children and trust that He will take care of them even if they are on the other side of the country. This sweet hymn also reminded me that in surrender there is His power and blessing.

For me, one of the greatest gifts of Sunday, is the reminder that I need to be still before the Lord and allow the surrender to free me from the burdens that so easily weigh me down. As I close my eyes in preparation for communion, those burdens flash like a slide show before my eyes. As the thought of each of those burdens enters my mind, I picture myself laying them at the feet of Jesus, asking Him to take them from me and give me wisdom to navigate life. I scan my heart to reveal any unconfessed sin or harbored bitterness brewing. I ask the Lord to cleanse me and renew my mind, and then I enter into a sacred stillness that can only come from experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3

The songs we sing lead me into the throne room of God where I can express my gratitude for His sacrifice on the cross and for the salvation that is offered through it. Too often, after the cleansing refreshment of surrendering and communion, we are on to the next thing. In church, it might be the offering or special music. At home, it may be chores or a football game. Sadly, we rarely take time to just be silent. 

It is in our silence that we can fully know that He is God. Being still is something we are reminded to be many times throughout Scripture. Being quiet before the Lord is a discipline to learn that is as important as articulating our extensive supplications. 

Throughout the busyness of our weekday activities and challenges, it is easy to get distracted and veer off the path of the cross. Every day we need to focus our hearts on our purpose, to honor and glorify our Maker and be the Imago Dei, the image of God. 

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;  and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12

Do you feel like you have been shaken up as in an earthquake or a mighty windstorm has swept through your life? Maybe those were for you to notice the silence so you can hear His voice.

Your sacred, silent and surrendered Sunday might not actually be on Sunday, and it might not involve church or the sacrament of communion. You may not have the luxury of an extended period of silence. Your silence might come when you are taking a walk or a bike ride, driving to work, or taking a shower. Wherever you are or whatever stage of life you are in, I challenge you to turn off the noise, focus your heart on the One who created and loves you, give Him your burdens, allow Him to cleanse your heart, and be still in His presence. 

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

      Justin Van DeVenter, 1896

Scripture for further reading:

Proverbs 2:1-5

John 10:27-28

Psalm 62

Who, What, Where, When, & How of Prayer

Coffee steaming, sacred silence in the house, heater warming my workspace (the big comfy chair in my living room), I sat down at my computer this morning to begin writing about my prayer habits. The dog interrupted, wanting to be let out. I set down my coffee, unwrapped the blanket carefully tucked around my legs, and let her out. Returning, I picked up my computer and looked down at the one sentence I had written and came to an embarrassing and convicting realization. I had not done the very thing I was anticipating writing about. 

In an attempt to be transparent, here is basically what I prayed in that moment. Lord, forgive me for being so proud that I should tell anyone about prayer, when I have not even stopped to invite you into the conversation. Please let the words pour through me so that the reader sees only you. Draw them into the quiet and sacred space where they have only an audience of One. Please help me to clearly articulate the means, importance and benefits of a rich and healthy prayer life. 

The next several entries will be focused on prayer. I will be sharing a series of tools that I use in order to organize my prayer life in an attempt to not be overwhelmed, redundant, or thoughtless. But before I do that, I want to explain the foundational structure of the gift of prayer, the who, what, when, why, and how of prayer. It may sound complicated, but really it is quite simple. 

WHOOur Father who art in Heaven

God is our daddy. He wants to love us, talk with us, and provide for us. 

It is good for our friends and family to know that we pray for them. It is important that, when we pray in public, whoever is listening can pray along with us and grasp the articulation of what we are saying. But we need to remember, that when we pray, we are talking to God and God alone. Our prayers are not pontifications or speeches. They are not monologs, sermons, or exhortations. They are a conversation with our Maker. (We could also talk about who we pray for here, (our leaders, families, ministries, and even our enemies) but that will be coming in the next few weeks) I John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

WHATThy will be done.

While we may have a shopping list to share with God, what we should really desire is His will. On the other hand, we might think we can take care of ourselves without any help and not want to bother God with our problems. After all, He does have a few other billion people to worry about. The first words out of my mouth as a child were “I do it myself.” It has been a struggle for me to not get trapped into thinking that I have to solve all problems, take on all tasks, or figure things out for myself. But realizing that my “Good, Good Father” can do so much better than I ever could at providing, solving problems, protecting me etc., gives me hope that I don’t have to do it myself. The Apostle Paul says it well in his letter to the Philippians; Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

WHEN:  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

In the Morning: I noticed it was getting lighter outside and glanced toward the front door, facing east. I was greeted with a breathtaking, brilliant sunrise. My heart heard this song/Psalm Psalms 5:1-3 Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee and will look up.

In the Evening: Psalm 141:1-2 O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

I love this little chorus I learned as a child. “Love Him in the morning when you see the sun arising; Love Him in the evening, ‘cause He took you through the day; And in the in between time when you feel the pressure coming, remember that He loves you and he promises to stay.  When you think you’ve got to worry, ‘cause it seems the thing to do, remember He’s not in a hurry, He always has time for you.”

All the time is the right time to pray. 

WHERE: Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Some versions of this verse tell us to go into our closet to pray. Many of us have wished for the opportunity to shut ourselves in a closet to have some blessed quiet time with Jesus, hoping we will not be like the disciples and fall asleep when we finally get that time. I don’t think this scripture is only talking about a physical place to pray, although that would be great. The idea is to close out the distraction of the world and of life for whatever time you can to focus solely on communing with Jesus. Our brains are noisy places, and our thoughts are battling to constantly distract our prayer time. 

Any place is the right place to pray.

WHY: Throughout history there have been as many reasons to pray as there have been humans. The fact that I am a fallible human being should be enough reason to pray. We pray because we are happy, relieved, sad, need forgiveness, need to forgive, need wisdom, or we may pray just to make our needs known to our Abba Father who is always listening.

James 5 Answers sums up the why question well Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:13-16

HOW: Scripture is full of examples and explanations of how to pray. We are to come boldly into God’s presence. We are to humbly bow before Him. We are to pray about everything and for everyone. We are to cry out to Him. We are to praise Him. And we are to bring everything to Him with an attitude of faith and gratitude. 

Eps 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Mark 11:24-25 Tells us to pray believing that God will answer but pray after having forgiven our offenders. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him…”

James 4:2-3 Explains that we need to pray with the right motives. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Ephesians 6 summarizes well the “Who, What, Why, Where, and How” and the benefit of praying. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Scripture has so much more to offer in knowing how to pray.  I encourage you to do your own research. Biblegateway.com is an amazing resource as is your search engine of choice (Bing, Google, etc) Know that the tools that I will be sharing over the next few weeks are my tools. They work for me. You may need to organize your prayers differently. You may be a whole to part thinker rather than a part to whole thinker.  You may need an outline, or you may need to write a whole book. You may be a planner or pray by the seat of your pants kind of person. 

One thing that remains consistent, the need for prayer and communion with our Father. It is like any discipline, if you do not make a plan and commitment, it is less likely to happen. We have the benefit of direct access to Father through prayer. It is not complicated. It is simply a conversation with God. But know this, we do forfeit our peace and carry unnecessary burdens and pain when we do not embrace the gift we have of prayer. 

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.                        Joseph Scriven, 1855

From One-Word Prayers to Conversations With the Father

Sitting in a classroom full of educators, I was the only one who taught in a Christian school. Studying school law, the topic in our small group turned to religious rights of students. One of the other teachers quietly asked me “Do you really pray in your classroom?” In a split second, about a thousand responses came to mind; “As long as there are children in my classroom, there will be prayer in my classroom; As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school.” But what I think I settled on is this, “I would not know how to start the day without it.”

Teachers, parents, healthcare workers, human beings all make thousands of decisions every day. Making decisions is said to be one of the most stressful things in our lives. Some people are good at making decisions and others find it excruciating and debilitating. Here is was scripture says about it:   Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6

Last week I mused about “One Word Prayers.” Often that is all we can muster in the moment of immediate need. We are so blessed that God hears every one of those words that goes directly from our hearts to the heart of God. But how sad for us and for God if that is as far as our communication goes.

I have experienced, firsthand, how exciting it is when a child utters his or her first words, usually mama or dada. It is in recognition of the one who loves them and provides their every need. I have also walked beside parents whose children were not able to speak more than a handful of words. They rejoice in those few words, but it is heart wrenching to know that is all they will be able to speak. 

Like those parents, God desires to have full, deep and meaningful conversations with His children. God has begun the conversation with us and is waiting for our language development to blossom. Sometimes we just don’t know how to begin or what to say, but that is okay. Scripture says: And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  Romans 8:26 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A26&version=NLT

Several years ago, I found myself suddenly with a lot of time on my hands. My children were grown and out of the house. My career that I had worked so hard for had come to an end. I felt dry, dusty, and used up. What was I going to do now? That still small voice whispered to me, “Talk to me.”  The only response I could have… In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3  

The one-word prayers that I had prayed so often became a lengthy catalogue of petitions mixed in with cries of my heart and gratitude for His provision and love. I committed myself to praying through this list several times every week. But that became overwhelming and I was not as engaged in the conversation as I should have been. Can you imagine how boring it would be if your child, friend, or spouse repeated the same conversation with you every day? And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Matthew 6:7 

I had to do something to not just babble a list of words. I needed to keep my conversation with God relevant and meaningful. I began to connect scripture with my prayers and the names of God with many entries on my list. Eventually, I broke my “list” into categories. Each of those categories has a day assigned. Over the next several posts, I will dive deeper into each of those categories and how I integrated that into my morning routine. Soon, you will be able to download a printable outline (check back here next week) like mine to use in your own prayer life. It is not a written prayer but will be a tool to help you enrich your conversations with God. 

Can you imagine having unlimited access to the President of the United States? What would you say if you could have only one hour with him? You have a direct line to the Creator of the universe who not only knows you by name but cares about your every need and desires to have ongoing dialog with you. Don’t waste another minute worrying. Talk to Him. 

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 

Next Week: The Who, What, When, Why, and How of Prayer &  Sacred, Surrendered, Silent Sundays

One-Word Prayers

Courage… It was the only word I could pray in the seconds before I introduced myself to a classroom full of anxious parents at back to school night. A few other words sprang up from my heart; strength, focus, and intelligence were all attributes I needed for these parents to be confident I would be a good teacher for their children. 

Have you ever thought about what it means to pray without ceasing? Sometimes I can’t seem to pray for five minutes without my thoughts being diverted; how can I pray without ceasing? One of the amazing things about prayer is that God never gets distracted. He can listen to us twenty-four hours a day and still be actively engaged in hearing our needs, cares, worries, supplications, intercessions, and adorations. In discussion with my fifth-grade students, I explained that to pray without ceasing is like calling God on the phone and never hanging up. 

To pray without ceasing is to keep those phone lines open and clear for communication at any moment. It means that I must remain ready to listen, and He never leaves the conversation. I have direct access to the Creator of the Universe, and He wants to have intense and meaningful communication with me. All too often, we just use this precious gift as a 911 line or a proverbial direct line to the shopping channel, wish list in hand. 

The times when I am able to pray through my entire prayer list are priceless. Days when I can close my eyes and begin praying through my family and friends are good for my soul. Hiking through the mountains, taking a walk on the beach or sitting in my comfy chair in the early mornings gives me the solitude to focus on listening, pouring out my heart and communing with my Maker. 

But what about those days when you can’t take a walk, or the world is going by so fast your head is spinning? Visiting with a friend the other day, I recalled an event that had taken place unexpectantly. Trying to remember details, all I could think of was, “there were a lot of one-word prayers that went up.” In that moment, I needed wisdom and grace, but I could not stop, take out my prayer list, pray through the names of God, connect Scripture to my needs, or meditate on God’s goodness. I needed to pray “one-word prayers.” 

As I thought about the concept of “one-word prayers” it dawned on me what a gift we have in being able to have long conversations with our Father, but how blessed we are that He can understand us even when we cannot articulate in great orations. Don’t get me wrong, those lengthy conversations are desired by the Creator just as they are necessary for the created.

Previous prayers and meditations prepare me for the moments when I need to silently call out to God while still keeping my attention on the unfolding event. 

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV

Sometimes that one-word prayer is as simple as “help” or “thanks.” Other one-word prayers shooting from my heart to heaven are more specific: Grace, wisdom, discernment, truth, love, patience, strength, direction, hope, forgive, protect, heal, comfort, provide, humble… All of these words are connected to deeper meanings and longer prayers, but frequently get prayed in quick supplications to the One who is always listening. 

I am so blessed to have days where I can spend an hour or two in prayer, but in moments of busyness and distraction, I love that I can keep the lines of communication open, be ready to hear what He has to say and know that He is always willing to listen. 

What one-word prayers do you often breathe? 

Boundaries Book Review

As a student of human behavior, I have often heard the story of the children on a fenced in playground enjoying recess with reckless abandon, while student on a fenceless playground huddled together toward the center of the play area. The fence gave students a sense of security and freedom. It kept them within the school boundaries, but it also kept bad people, stray dogs, and other potential harm from coming into their space. 

We should learn from this that, at every age, boundaries are important. They protect us from harm and keep us from overextending into potentially dangerous territory. God gave the Children of Israel very clear boundaries in the Ten Commandments. Throughout Scripture we are given boundaries that are in place for our protection and for that of our family, friends, and communities. 

As Christians, we sometimes have problems setting boundaries, because, after all, aren’t we supposed to bear one another’s burdens. We are supposed to quote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and just keep adding to a load that is already too heavy to carry. Friends, the Christian life does not have to be a life sucking, exhausting, overwhelming journey of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders kind of life. 

I used to consider it a compliment when people asked me to take on a task. Wow, I thought, they must think I am competent, qualified or talented. I equated my bundle of tasks with my value and success as an employee and as a human being. I learned, maybe a little too late, that while I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, He did not call me to do all things.

Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend guides the reader through scriptural, life-altering methods for setting and respecting biblically based boundaries.  There is freedom in understanding how to protect your heart, mind, and time. There is also freedom in understanding how to respect boundaries set by others, understanding that an unreturned text or phone call is not a personal afront; it may be the phone is silenced for a reason.   

I would encourage you to grab a copy of this book or, better yet, listen to it on Audible or the Libby app. It is on sale on Amazon right now, and you can get it by clicking on the picture below. 

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