Monday, February 27, 2012

Prayer... I pray quite a bit.   Yet...I still don't quite pray enough.  My prayer life is ever changing...always going through make overs so it can be more intimate.  I like to be very...detailed...with my prayers.  So detailed that sometimes it turns into something less personal...and more about me making sure I cover it all.  I have found myself struggling to keep it less like a "habit" and more like a conversation lately. 
So...time to change it up again!  One of the ways that I recently decided to change it is by creating a prayer reminder.  It looks like this:

The pictures remind me to pray for my kids...and I usually go for whatever happens to pop into my mind first.  The little pictures are the missionary families from our church.  I also have added a few tags with names on them recently...just names of people who need prayer for whatever reason.  The thing is...this board is located directly across from my kitchen and on the way to my bedroom.  I see it all the time.  And it really does help me remember to stop and pray...or keep walking and pray.
Another thing that I am doing is going to sound a little odd.  But, I'll just go ahead and say it anyway...I am attempting to have shorter prayers.  That's right...shorter.  I am shortening them because they have become kind of memorized.  I am saying them in my head and not really thinking about them.  So, instead of just "reciting" them...I am praying in the moment.  About what I feel is on my heart at that time in the day.  I have found that it helps make it more personal...and more frequent.
And the other thing I am getting very intentional with is praying over my kids.  I read Ephesians 3:14-21 and put their names in while they are sleeping.  They both like to play possum and crack a smile sometimes if I go in there too soon after I have put them down.  But...when my son asked me to pray for him the other made my heart smile.  I also just pray whatever I feel lead to pray sometimes.  The peace this brings me is the kind of peace that I can't describe.
What are you doing to make sure that you have a personal, unrehearsed prayer life?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preparing for Easter

Ash Wednesday.  Lent.  Good Friday.  Easter.  What do those words mean to you?  Depending on how you were raised, some of those words quite possibly have little or no meaning to you at all.

Growing up in a Baptist church, I never heard much (anything?) about Ash Wednesday or Lent--and we didn't spend a whole lot of time focusing on Good Friday, either.  I knew that my Catholic friends gave something up for Lent, but I didn't really understand it.  And honestly, until the last few years, I still didn't understand.  What's the point?  Why do I need to give something up?  Isn't Easter enough?

Easter is such a happy occasion.  We, as Believers, are celebrating our risen Lord--and this is definitely worth celebrating!!  But Easter isn't the whole story.  Before the Resurrection, there was pain and suffering.  There was sacrifice...and I think a lot of us don't like to think about the sacrifice.  (Or maybe that's just me....)

In the last several years, I've learned that Ash Wednesday is 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter.  It is a time to begin looking toward Easter, and it enters us into a period of remembering the sacrifice that was made for us on the cross so that we might have eternal life.  We use ashes as a remembrance of the fact that we came from dust and to dust we'll return (in our earthly form).  We look to Lent as a time when we can sacrifice something in return--not because we are required to or because it will somehow equal what Jesus did, but because it can turn our hearts more fully to Him.  Whether it's fasting from food, television, Facebook, Twitter, a certain food or drink, or whatever else the Lord might bring to mind, it's a reminder every time we crave that item of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  Our small sacrifice can remind us of the amazing sacrifice that was made for our salvation.  And it's a way we can replace the time we spent playing on the computer, sipping that coffee, etc. and use it instead spending time with the Lord in the Word and in prayer.

I don't believe it's meant to be entered into lightly, just as Christ's death, burial, and resurrection are not to be taken lightly.  Sacrifice isn't meant to be easy, so I wouldn't recommend giving up something that you never do (ie. I don't drink coffee, so it's not something for me to give up) or that really doesn't mean much to you.  It's a heart matter between us and our Savior, and I believe He leads us to what He has for us.

For me, I want to make this season a time of communion between the Lord and myself.  I want to draw so near to Him during these next 40+ days that it becomes a habit of time with Him.  I want to wake up Easter morning rejoicing in the Resurrection with a renewed sense of what it really means.  And for me, in order to do that, I probably need to give up something to turn my focus to Him.  I want to lose my self focus, my pride, my dependence on me, and I want to look to Him.  I want to focus on Him, depend on Him, and find my joy in Him.  I want this Easter to be one I'll never forget.

Will you join me in the journey to the Savior?  If you do, I believe you'll never be the same.  I'm believing I will walk away changed.  He can do that for each one of us--if only we'll let Him.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Truth or Lies

I was given the opportunity this past week to hear "Blair" speak to a group of women.  If that name doesn't ring a bell, maybe the song will bring it back..."You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life, the facts of life." 

These days, "Blair" is known as Lisa Whelchel - wife, mom, speaker, and author.  After her time in Hollywood, she got married and had 3 kids - all of whom she homeschooled.  She is also a well known speaker and author of 16 books.  I encourage you to check out her story.

Back to the evening...Lisa was a delightful speaker and very personable.  The setting was intimate and she was able to interact with the audience quite a bit - answering questions and sharing her testimony.  She spoke about the things that have been written on our hearts - both truths and lies.  Most of our memories are of the times something new was written there.  She encouraged us to really examine what is written on our hearts, and, if need be, rewrite the lies.  Those are the places the enemy has a stronghold - telling us we are only loved if we "do" something right or good, we have to appear to be perfect if we want people to like us, that we need to be careful not to open up to others or we will get hurt.  The lies go on and on.

I think we can all relate to the lies we have bought into.  We all have them.  The thing to remember is that you, with the Lord's help, can rewrite those lies and walk into freedom in the Lord.  Some of those lies will take longer to rewrite and some will change quickly.  I encourage each of you to think about what lies the enemy is feeding you - what in your life is he taking advantage of and using against you.  You can overcome!  God's word has the truth that you need.  Call out to Him. Cry out to Him. Then sit in His presence.  Meditate on His word.  One of the things Lisa offered when you are struggling and you feel as if God is not answering, is that sometimes God answers our prayers with His presence.  Embrace Him and let Him comfort you. 

He is ALL that you need.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm Gorgeous ... Inside!

There is a house for sale on our street with the little extra sign, "I'm Gorgeous Inside." It strikes me as funny. It's not that it looks bad on the outside, great curb appeal. But the Realtor feels the need to declare the house's inner beauty. And I wonder, is it really GORGEOUS inside?
After a week of driving past the sign daily, I heard a little whisper from the Holy Spirit ... "Are you really GORGEOUS inside?"
Remember when Samuel is visiting Jesse and his sons, looking for God's chosen king (1 Samuel 16)? Samuel looks at Eliab, tall and strong, and thinks, "Surely, this is him." Verse 7 says, "But the LORD said to Samuel, '… The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"
In my day to day life, I am often aware of my appearance. If I am going out, there is a certain amount of "getting ready" that must be done. I'm not obsessed with looking good by any stretch. Much to my mother's dismay, I often go out without lipstick on. :) But I do spend time on the outward appearance.
But how often do I consider the condition of my heart? Do I spend enough time keeping it GORGEOUS? And what would that entail? How do I keep my inside beautiful?
Of course, God answered that question for me. 1 Peter 3:3-6 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."
As a mom of three, unfortunately "gentle and quiet spirit" doesn't really describe my typical demeanor. It's busy. It's loud. It's even a little too harsh some days. I get tired. I get frustrated. I get grace-less, instead of grace-full.
And once again God calls out, pulling me close, showing me the path to this GORGEOUS inside I seek. "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth,'" (Psalm 46:10) and "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts," (Deuteronomy 6:5-6).
Simple instructions really. Be still. Know that He is God. Love Him with all my heart, soul, and strength. Follow these steps daily, and I can joyfully say, "I'm GORGEOUS inside!"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Surprise!! Let's talk about love.

What do you think of when you hear the word love? I think of many different things! That warm, fuzzy feeling? Chocolate. More chocolate...Fun things. Easy things.

But, the real fact is that love is hard!

Recently, I have been reflecting on how love looks in different relationships.

I first thought about the requirements given to me in regards to loving my children, my spouse, and others. The love chapter quickly shows how challenging real love can be in these relationships. Just insert your name in each place that the word "love" occurs in the following verses, and you will see for yourself what I mean!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

That's hard.

And then I thought about the way that we are supposed to show our love to God. It leaves me asking, "But, where is the chocolate? Where is the FUN??" My flesh balks.

John 14:15
If you love me, keep my commandments.

Why do I suddenly get a case of the "How about I's?"
How about I worship you in song with my best exuberance?? You would know I love you then, right? How about I give my money to the poor? Or, I know, How about I make some sacrifices? Surely, you know I love you if I do that!

Those things are all good of course, but only if we are walking in obedience first.

Why is obedience so hard? Sometimes I think it is a faith issue. We don't really trust that God has our best in mind. Sometimes it is because God is moving us out of a comfort zone and is calling us to do something that we don't want to do.

You can rest assured that overcoming the "crisis of faith" and following in obedience to God's commands will give you far more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling. What is God asking you to do for Him? Step out in obedience. Today is a great day to say, "I love you."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Show Me The Love

Yep. Valentine's Day is coming.

And I am not a girnormous fan of Valentine's Day. I'm not like... against it... or anything. But it's just so... lovey. So... mushy. So... girly.

(I guess it's a good thing that I have only boys.)

So as I walked through the grocery store the other day and passed by the aisle that was pink, pink, pink, and then a little more pink... I thought, "Okay, God... your whole thing is Love. It's like... You. So why am I so "blah" about this Love Day? I mean, I love my husband and try to show him all the time. Why should there be an entire day just to repeat what all my other days are about?"

Annnnnnnnnd BAM. In typical God fashion He answered through scripture. My mind went immediately to these verses...

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." John 13:34-35

Although I might not be Miss Valentines just because I'm not a fan of the holiday, there are a lot of folks out there that don't like Valentine's Day because it hurts. Like…


Like, my Mamaw. Loved by my Papaw for 60-plus years and then… alone. Alone in a nursing home on the day that we celebrate Love. Alone. And quite possibly feeling UNimportant. UNneeded. UNcelebrated.


So, this year, I think I'm gonna change things up a bit. This year I'm going to celebrate Valentine's with the fervor of a woman trying to show Christ how much I love Him. I'm gonna do Valentine's Day BIG. By showing the UNloved… Love.

So, Mamaw, get your pink on. Cause lady, we're coming on Tuesday geared up with the Love of Christ.

That… and a lot of chocolate!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Little Things

Memory Verse: "Great is your love toward me." (Psalm 86:13 NIV)

Marty and I met when we were both students at Iowa State University. Being just nineteen years old, I wasn't looking to find the love of my life. Yet, love indeed found me when I met my sweet husband. Since he was putting himself through school, Marty didn't have more than a few pennies to rub together when we first met. So, it was little things that first got my attention and captured my heart. But it was a bouquet of unique flowers pressed from Lucky Charms marshmallows that truly spoke to my heart and showed me that he was "the one'.

It was a cold January day, just after winter classes had begun and I was very sick with bronchitis. Though Marty had little money for extras, he was determined to lavish me with some get well flowers. With loving creativity, he spent a few thoughtful hours creating a unique arrangement not available through any florist. Those flowers, with their simplistic beauty, touched my heart as none ever had before. The vase was a pill cannister that had been covered in black ink from a permanent marker. A green metal paperclip, carefully outstretched, formed the stem. And colorful pastel marshmallows were pushed together into small delicate flowers. That bouqet, hand-made with love, sat on my desk even after the marshmallows had began to shrivel, for they reminded me of Marty's special love for me.

Our Heavenly Father cares about the routines of our daily lives as well, and blesses us richly through "little things". Scripture tells us"The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass." (Isaiah 40:7 NIV) Tenderly, God cares for each of us as part of His glorious creation. Every sunrise and sunset reveal God's Sovereign order. The rains and the snows deliver sustenance to the grass and remind us of God's daily provisions And just as God cares for the flowers and the trees, God takes a special interest in the needs of His children. Let us be reminded that Jesus' great miracles happened in the midst of the daily routines of everyday life. God hasn't changed. For He is still working through routines every day to show us His great love while demonstrating His sovereign power.

If we are mindful, we will notice God is perhaps most present in the routine, though we often minimize his gifts as coincidence. God, aware of our every need, positions us to receive his blessings and experience his love anew each day. And yet there is more for us to grasp as we ponder the power of the seemingly insignificant routines of each day. For, love, powerfully demostrated in routine random kindness, is never squandered by God.

In moments of sickness, sadness, or uncertainty, it is often a small routine act of love that brings healing and hope. All it really costs is a little time and effort, but the effects are powerful and eternal. Today we can all make a lasting difference in the life of someone near by being aware of the significance of "little things" done with great love. It may be a phone call. An e-mail. Or maybe even just an understanding smile during a difficult moment. "Little things" change the world one heart at a time.