Finding Faith to Ask

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Mathew 21:22 NIV

I read the above verse, wishing it applied to me. Closing my eyes, I willed to experience first-hand the promise it contained.

But I had already resigned myself to lesser things.

Life in this world can be tough. I was overwhelmed, plain and simple. There was a mountain waiting to be accomplished and not only was I lacking the time, I was lacking the necessary knowledge. And, I wasn’t sure where to find either.

I bet you’ve been there.

“Lord, I need help. I can’t successfully be the person you’ve called me to be when I’m this overwhelmed and stressed. I try to be positive. I try to smile. But, there’s just no end in sight.”

Over the next three days, something unexpected took place.

I began learning what I needed to know. And, amazingly, it was not actually all that hard! It slowly began to enter the realm of “doable.”

Then, some unanticipated time descended upon me. I awoke well-rested and realized we had a delayed start at work; two whole extra hours which I put to good use!

By the end of the week, the deadline loomed just hours away, yet I was pretty certain I’d not only meet it, but excel at it- something I’d imagined impossible just days before.

Most of us know theoretically God can do anything. After all, He made everything. He can do anything, right?

Maybe you’re like me and need a gentle reminder of His power. Maybe there’s a history of asking and not receiving yet  that can jade even a seemingly simple request.

We don’t always get the inside scoop of why we might need to wait, a very long while at times.

But we shouldn’t let that halt our faith, or requests for other things.

He loves us more than we can imagine.

He loves you more than you can imagine.

Maybe like me, you need to try trusting Him again. Not misinterpret His silence for apathy. Because nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’re feeling short on faith, ask for it. He will provide.

He always does.

Prepare Before Battle

“I signed up for a marathon in six months, I’ve got to get training,” Sami said as she pulled her hair from her face, “but it’s been a long day and I feel so tired.” She glanced around at the mess in her room. “I’ll start tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was born a crazy day. The alarm somehow didn’t go off early, as she’s planned. Rushing out the door, her thoughts rushed ahead to the evening, I will make time then.

That evening, her workload stacker higher and she knew she couldn’t possibly take the time.

By the end of the next week she had not started. Nor by the end of the next month.

Time for the marathon came and Sami thought, “Well, it’s for a good cause, even if I only go partway, I’m doing something.”

Three miles in she was out of breath and in significant pain. It was time to quit.

Why did I never make the time to train?

Maybe like me, you can relate to Sami. I meant to start this good habit. I knew I would reap many benefits, but somehow I just never found the time.

I have done that with Bible Study. Yes, I want to know God better. Yes, I want to know what His word says. Why can it be a hard habit to start? Why does it seem that everything goes wrong, preventing me from having extra time, extra energy, extra determination needed?

“I can all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 promises.  Did that promise only things which required physical strength? Emotional strength? Spiritual strength? Organizational strength?

It says all things…

All things.

Christ knew what it was to walk this earth, to live with earthly demands. He also knew what was important. He called on God’s strength to steal away and spend time with His heavenly Father.

We need to follow His example. At some point in this life, we very well may be called to run a spiritual marathon. That marathon jut might be the toughest situation we never could have imagined, never could have possibly prepared for. Yet, by getting to know God and His word in a regular routine, when called upon to run that marathon, we just might be ready if we start today.

Pause, Pray

End of the day,

but not the list,

Burnt meal narrowly missed,

Pause to pray

 

Piles of laundry,

dishes to do,

A dear little girl sporting a boo-boo,

Pause to pray.

 

Thunderstorms,

Electricity out,

Repair truck on the long route,

Pause to pray.

 

Drop dead tired,

the house to clean,

Confronted by a girl who is mean,

Pause to pray.

 

Angry at life,

frustrated and sad,

refusing to find a reason to be glad

Pause to pray.

 

Crunchy, brown earth

dry as a bone,

the drought and fire endangering homes.

Pause to pray.

 

A dad out of work

who doesn’t know what to do;

how much he is loved, he hasn’t a clue

Pause to pray.

 

A soul longing for God

But certainly can’t see

just how much He loves humanity.

Pause to pray.

 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

 

“Pray continually.” I Thessalonians 5:17

 

 

 

Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

Keys

Samantha gazed adoring into her darling daughter’s face. This perfectly beautiful baby slept so peacefully, not a care in the word.

Samantha began a prayer she would pray over all her children the rest of her life, “Lord, may this beautiful child love You and serve You all the days of her life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Who will she become?

What will her personality be like?

What gifts will she possess?

What challenges will she face?

In that hospital room, holding her newborn baby in her arms, Samantha knew tomorrow she would carry her home.

What is the most important key to life I can teach her?

How to stay safe?

How to love?

How to be kind to all?

Psalm 27:4 provides a weighty answer: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only so I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” NIV

 

The Message version of Psalm 27:5 further explains, “That the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway far from the buzz of traffic.”

Being held securely in a parents’ arms feels safe and secure.  Going out into the world doesn’t always leave us with the same warm fuzzies. Every parent knows this vast world can be wonderful, and it can also be heart-breaking.

The best tool we have to offer our children, our friends, and even ourselves for navigating life is to introduce him to the Lord.

When we do life with the Lord, we are not alone. He’s not the magic genie in the sky who suddenly makes it all better. However, He does promise:

– to stay with us always (Deut 31:6)

– the pain has a purpose (Romans 8:28)

– He will redeem everything we go through. (Romans 8:28)

Samantha knew the proper order of things. As she watched the infant’s chest rise and fall, she knew mothers should not outlive their children.

Chances were, she would not always be there. However, if the baby grew up with a foundation of faith laid on her heart, she might choose to love God with all her heart, soul and strength.

She would have courage in scary scenarios. She would find wisdom when she felt clueless. And, even if she lost everyone she knew, she would know the Lord, and never, ever be alone.

 

Waiting for Grace

Waiting.

Forever. Or so it seemed.

“God, it’s difficult to do the “right” thing, especially when I don’t see Your mighty hand sweeping away the sadness, the agony, sometimes found in this life.”

Silence.

Sheila huffed and reached for her beloved Bible. She picked it up tenderly, as the binding sometimes lost pages and the covered sometimes slipped off.

She recalled when it was new, and her faith fresh in a wonderful world.

Shaking her auburn hair away from her eyes, she settled back onto the plush, green couch.

No, it appeared God hadn’t moved on this, yet she knew His promises could be trusted.

She opened her bookmarked page and reread what was already etched on her heart. “But the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

She reflected on David’s life, the author of many of the Psalms. If anyone knew the frustration and weariness of doing right yet being persecuted, David did.

How long did David, God’s anointed run for his life, waiting for God to change his circumstances? And yet, David didn’t strike out on his own, taking matters into his own hands.

“How long, Lord?” She sighed, resting her head on the back of the couch, lifting her eyes to the ceiling.

The Lord will not forsake his faithful ones.”

In the end, David was king. His time fleeing from a madman who wanted him dead was redeemed.

His time hiding in caves, protecting his life, was redeemed.

His time refusing to seek revenge, was redeemed.

God is always faithful. He knows what happens. He doesn’t always prevent the hard stuff, the stuff we think He should edit right on out of our story!

But He is faithful, thought Sheila again. As hard as it is, I must be faithful to Him, trusting His word, His promises.

Lord,” she prayed closing her eyes against the frustration she felt, “please help me to be faithful to You. Please help me to patiently wait…”

Held

“The Lord is my strength,” Stacy repeatedly murmured to herself as tears slid down her cheeks. Quickly brushing them away, she tried to focus on the task at hand, if nothing else, than to ensure the safety of her sweet daughter in the backseat.

Crisis had hit her like a brick wall. But unlike other obstacles she had endured, this one was not her story to tell. No asking for prayers, not able to talk to a friend. She was not the leading role in this tale, only a strong supporting character who must remain silent.

The tears fell as she turn up the volume of the Christian rock music already vibrating the car. “Focus on the positives, ” she reprimanded herself, “God’s got this.”

God did have even this, but He wouldn’t solve it overnight, or as Stay would learn, even the next year. But, He would reach down and comfort as only He could.

Arriving at the lesson for her little girl, she tried desperately to compose herself. As always, Stacy switched off her ringer before entering the creative sanctuary of the studio.

The lesson, progressed as usual; Stacy relishing some normalcy in the moment. As it ended, Stacy helped her daughter collect her things, and as they steeped away, Stacy felt herself gathering despair and anxiety as she approached the car.

After securing her chatty daughter in her car seat, she dropped into the driver’s seat. Heart ever-so-heavy, she turned on the ringer and plugged in her phone. That’s when she saw it: the message that changed everything about her mental mindset.

“You have been heavy on my heart today. I’m praying for you. I have no idea what’s going on, but God does. If you don’t need these prayers today, save them for a day you do. And remember, it you need anything, I’m here.”

There was no earthly way this godly woman could know about anything; Stacy had not even seen her in weeks.

Stacy’s eyes brimmed over once more and a little voice from the back seat asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?”

“These are tears of joy, honey. God sees me. God hears me. And He’s reaching out to remind me of these truths.”

Starting the car Stacy knew, whatever her day held – and she really had no idea what might come God was right there with her. He might not always halt the horribly hard things of this life, but He held her right in the palm of His hand.

Always There

Pouncing, playing and protecting. That’s a very accurate description of our favorite furry family member.

Minna, a one-year-old Rottweiler puppy, loves each member of our family with her whole heart. It’s evident in the way she lives: she sleeps lightly, springing to her feet at the slightest sound. She often detects things we never would have noticed. But nothing escapes her monitoring.

When someone is upset, she runs to him, nuzzling her big black head directly into his face with her warm, comforting tongue depositing kisses all over until  laughter abounds. Often, she detects emotions even the most perceptive humans miss.

And if anyone new approaches, she is watching the interactions like a hawk, ready to jump to our defense at an instant!

Minna demonstrates a lot about God’s character.

God never loses sight of what is happening to us, and He is always there to carry us through. Whether it’s a physical challenge or an emotional hardship, He is constantly there. He promises He will never leave nor forsake us. He means it – NEVER.  He will always be there, even if we don’t see Him immediately. He is present, watching carefully what is occurring, and seeing far more than we can see with our human eyes.

Dog people will attest to why dogs are called ‘Man’s best friend.’ People who know God say they could never do life without God.

I am so thankful I have both.

God uses Minna to comfort me in addition to His presence and peace. He will never forsake you or me.

 

Perfection Not Needed

Tears filled my eyes as I read my eight-year-old’s handmade card.

ALL ABOUT MY MOM

My Mom’s Name: Stefany (She tried to sound it out!)

My Mom is happiest when I: spend time with her.

My Mom looks prettiest when she: dies her hair. (Yes, she spelled it that way!)

The best way to describe my mom: Awwsome

As I read the gift of words she joyfully delivered, my heart melted.

The author in me ignored the grammar.

The teacher in me ignored the spelling.

The mom in me laughed and cried over the depth of love my sweet daughter displayed.

It was simple, heartfelt, unabashed love for her mom.

I thought my heart might burst.

Our heavenly Father feels the same when we approach Him in like manner. He doesn’t expect us to come to Him presenting perfection with all the ‘right’ words or flowing phrases. He doesn’t expect pristine lives proffered to Him.

He simply gazes adoringly at His imperfect children who bare their hearts in love and praise.

His heart melts too at the sight of our obvious efforts to please and honor Him.

We weren’t perfect when He authored His plan for us to be reunited with Him.

We weren’t perfect when He implemented that plan and His son suffered on the cross for our salvation.

We aren’t perfect today when we come to Him with our fears, joys, sorrows and praise.

Yet, just like a teary-eyed Mom reading a third grade Mother’s Day letter, He could not love us any more.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV

 

His Creation Calls

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The pebbles crunched under the weight of my hiking boots on the trail.

The sky was beautifully blue. The leaves were gloriously green. The vivid colors captured my attention away from inside my head. The birds called to one another; a woodpecker fed nearby. Even a bunny hopped into the lavender flowers as I quietly crept by.

A sigh escaped.

The woods were wondrous. Oh, to stay here all day!

The babbling brook gurgled as I neared the curve of the trail. Something dashed through the brush.

I slowed and allowed the peace to wash over me.

Why can’t I stay here? What I would give to have these moments  ALL day.

Simply put, I was needed elsewhere.

Psalm 1:3 reminded me that I could baste myself in God’s word and in His presence and I could experience that peace.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3 (NSV)

While the walk through the woods reminded me that spring had sprung indeed, His words reminded me that wherever I was, I could experience that peace. That rooted in God, I was sure to succeed in whatever the day held.

The sun streamed through the canopy, illuminating the leaves and highlighting just how much beauty God’s creation held. It also filled me with hope that promised I had not an inkling of His plans for me.

My part of that successful equation? Simply remain faithful to Him. Trust Him. Read His word. Trust His word. Rely on Him.

Simple to state.

Difficult to do.

Yet, with Him, all things are possible.

I could trust Him to help me do what he was calling me to do. And I could trust Him to quiet my mind when it raced away, willingly embracing the stress of the moments. I could trust His still, small voice when the loud roar of traffic tried to blot it out.

But most importantly, I could trust Him to help my mind, help my heart, and help my thoughts stay faithful to Him.

And in doing that, some semblance of peace would come.

As I turn around and returned home, the trail  turned the opposite way and I viewed the slight waterfall. How beautiful it appeared. How tranquil. And, how strong.

Just like a tree planted by the stream…