Never Alone

It’s been a hard day, again,” she thought as she slowed her pace, sweeping her bronze hair into a ponytail as she glanced around. The floor littered with little toys met her weary gaze.

It wasn’t the mess which caused her anguish, it was who was missing. Who would never again waltz through that door.

Alone.

I am truly alone.

Her body wracked with sobs as her mind fought the fear.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you,” a voice whispered to her heart.

I don’t know what to pray;” she answered.

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.” Romans 8:26

God, this is so hard. I will never make it.

“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” Psalm 91:11

God, I will never know happiness again.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God, I just can’t picture …

How can I do this? I am alone.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

We are not alone.

Even when our struggles are silent, seemingly too personal to share.

Even when no one on earth knows, He knows.

He sees.

He cares.

He intervenes.

He’s given us our own personal cheering squad. We have the Holy Spirit.(Romans 8:26.)

We have angels. (Psalm 91:11)

We have Jesus himself. (Hebrews 7:25)

Even when we feel we must silence the storm, hiding the hurricane from others as it rises out of our hearts,wWe are not on our own.

We are not alone.

No, He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

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Lessons From Tipper, Part V

IMG_1596“Teach me your way Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.” Psalm 86:11 NIV

When we first brought Tipper home, she was a small, twenty-three pound, twelve-week-old puppy. As we all do, she came with some interesting quirks. One was a fear of concrete.

We brought her home and immediately carried her to the backyard to play in the grass. While we got acquainted, we also prepared a meal on the patio.

We noted right away that she loved to stay with us, (as in directly underfoot, earning her the short-lived nickname Tipper the Tripper) but refused to place one paw on the patio.

She also avoided contact with the concrete basement floor. Initially we needed to carry her across the floor to go outside. Once, in an attempt to attend an urgent (but false) alarm, she was left standing on the other side of the concrete from her favorite person.

She whimpered and then after several moments, ran pell-mell across that foreboding floor to the safety of the plush carpet, obviously happy to have reached the comfort of the soft fibers pushing between her paws.

Why was she so afraid of concrete?

While no one in our family is a dog psychologist, we have a few theories:

It was what she knew. Before she came to us, she was born and raised on a farm. There her paws experienced the pleasant giving of the soft earth under each step. Fresh air filled her nose and cooler temperatures delighted her. Not hot asphalt that can assault the senses with the smell of tar.

She had already learned to mistrust it. At the farm, she was taught to avoid the road – the only concrete around.

Do we avoid prayer as Tipper did concrete?

 

If you didn’t grow up in a home where prayers were a two-way communication with a loving, heavenly Father, it can be hard to imagine that it exists, or is even safe.

When we’ve graduated from many schools of hard knocks, it can be easy to distrust anything except independence.

When we’ve been confronted with examples of prayer on several occasions, and then faced with an alarming situation, do we race through a short prayer in a desperate attempt to just make it to the other side of the scenario?

Psalm 86:11 tells us that we can call out to God and ask Him to teach of His faithfulness. We can ask for an undivided heart. A heart growing and trusting completely in Him. A heart that knows He is who He says He is.

Just as Tipper quickly learned concrete was not out to get her, regular prayer and reading of Scripture will reveal God has only His best for His beloved children.

Reflections:

What do I think of prayer? Why? What formed those ideas?

When I do pray, do I rush through requests and then get on with my day? Do I take time to listen?

Prayer:

Dear God, I want to know You, to truly learn You and learn of Your faithfulness firsthand. Please give me an undivided heart, one that is willing to trust You completely. Amen.

Altered to a T

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

 

A middle-aged husband asked his wife, “Do you know a good tailor?”

Puzzled, she responded, “I know one, what do you need?”

“Some of my pants need let out, they’re too snug.”

She tried to hide her telltale smile behind a hand as she responded, “they may not be able to be let out, since you never had them taken in.”

“Oh, well.  I guess I need to buy new pants then.”

Her smile widened, but for once she held her tongue. It was easy for her to see the humor in her husband’s attitude with his wardrobe. (The problem was the pants!)

He obviously didn’t consider the problem could lie in what he was putting into the pants.  That maybe a change in habits could render those pants wearable again.

How often do I assume the problem to my unanswered prayer is God?  That everything about my prayers going heavenward are just fine thank-you-very-much!  I assume the problem is God’s not hearing them, or He’s not responding appropriately.  Maybe, I just need something or someone else.

Often, my gut reaction isn’t to change what I’m doing, but to alter other factors of the equation to change the outcome.

How human to believe the problem is NOT found with me.

And yet, grace abounds.

God patiently loves us, woos us, and rights us.  He opens our eyes when we finally ask and refuses to point out all the past failures.

That tailor-seeking husband eventually saw a new solution: dust off his bike and exercise more. By the end of that summer, his pants did not have any problems.

Now if only personal attitudes could be so easily tailored!

Reflections:

How do I approach God?

How should I approach God?

What can I do to make my “shoulds” what I do?

Prayer:

Dear God, thank You for Your great patience with me.  Please open my eyes to the truth. Truth about my part on the equation of making prayer work. Please show me where to make changes. Please help me be open to changes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.U.S.H. Part II

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

 

I can’t believe I spent years in college for this,” the new nurse mumbled under her breath as she punched in her medication cart code for the seemingly thousandth time that shift.

Back in college, she had dreamt of educating patients, listening to family members with empathy, and taking those precious moments to deliver a therapeutic touch to all she encountered.

Instead, she was pulling twelve-hour shifts in the ICU. Educating her comatose patients would not help. When family members did want to talk to her it seemed it was only to ask those impossibly hard questions.  And honestly, there were simply not enough minutes in a shift so she might deliver even one therapeutic touch.

Lord, I thought this is what You had for me, what Your plan for my life was.  I want to serve You, but I’m overwhelmed and discouraged.  I want to quit.”

 

“Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.”

 

That verse had haunted her for years now. She had continually prayed and pondered over it’s meaning. And she continued to pray over her job.

Then why is this so hard? The only way I’ll ever be able to smile coming into work is if God Himself twitches those mouth muscles.

 

Slowly, she paused her pen as vital signs dropped from her attention and God’s words suddenly burned in her mind. The answer would come to her months later, as she spent hours of her shift monitoring man-made machines instead of directly helping human bodies and human hearts heal.

Maybe the reason I should be thankful for this job is because to do it, I must rely on God. The only way I can get through my shift with a smile on my face is by trusting God to place a servant attitude in my spirit.

 

And maybe, just maybe, that’s one reason God called me here.  To learn to lean on Him.

 

Later that year, she was assigned a student nurse who spoke of all the aspirations she herself had once possessed.  And she realized just how God was indeed leading her to teach, to listen, and to offer a therapeutic touch of the body and the soul.

She was relying on Him, and He was keeping a smile on her face even as she encountered death and debilitating disease on a daily basis.  Patients, family members and co-workers alike often asked the source of her strength.  The answer was easy for her to explain: God.

She now knew she was indeed living her calling.  Because through her prayerful work, she was drawing ever nearer to Him. Thankfully, she had not given up too soon, that she had kept praying until something happened.

Reflections:

What difficult circumstance makes an attitude of thankfulness challenging for me?

How has God used past challenges for good?

What is you prayer history and results?

Prayer: Abba Father, how dearly You love each of Your children.  You have only the best for each of us.  Sometimes, You must stretch and grow us, pruning the dead areas and stimulating the small shoots.  In the midst of a challenge, probably a place I’d rather not be, please remind me that I’m right where You can grow me.  Please help me to recall Your promise in Romans 8:28.  That You will indeed use it all for my good. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, April 27, for the next post.

P.U.S.H. Part I

Never stop praying.” I Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

P.U.S.H.

Pray Until Something Happens.

I first read the above acronym and definition in a favorite novel. Delightfully, it was the character of a small child reminding an adult of the need to pray without ceasing. Paul reminded the Thessalonians of the need to “never stop praying.”

But just how often do we humans obey this exhortation?

Do we often allow ourselves to become bitter because prayers are not answered how and when we think is best?

What about those hours, even years of our lives consumed by lifting the same prayer request heavenward? The child who has lived with a serious disease his whole life. The soul who has hardened his heart and refuses God’s grace and salvation.  When life’s circumstances NEVER seem to change no matter how many prayers are sent up.

Frustration is understandable when we do not see any change, or any progress.

Yet, how generous our heavenly Father is to not get frustrated with us. He sees the whole picture.  We see only a fragment. (And sometimes only a fragmented fragment at that.)

How should we approach God with the same prayer, day after day, year after year?

With joy.

I Thessalonians 5:16 says we are to ‘always be joyful.’  Not joyful just while enjoying blessing, or joyful when life is fantastic.

“Always be joyful,” period.

With a joyful heart, pray.  Joyous because I know God and He knows me.  Joyful because He is good and only wants the very best for me.

Yes, we can always be joyful when our attention is on our eternal destination and not simply focused on today’s journey.

Yes, we can be joyful, and, with God’s help, be joyful in every circumstance.  And with the correct focus, we can joyfully Pray Until Something Happens.

Reflections:

What prayers have I abandoned, having prayed them too long with seemingly no avail?

Read Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

He promises us an answer!  It just may not be revealed in our timing.

How can I renew my stamina to pray until something happens?

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your promise to never leave me, nor forsake me.  Thank You that You hear my prayers, and You want only the very best for me.  Please teach me how to patiently wait on and trust in You.  Thank You that You are indeed good. Amen.

 

Thanks for reading!  Please return by Monday, April 20, for the next post.

Prayer Triggers

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB

“I wish I had more time to spend with God everyday,” confided a dear friend, ” but, at this stage, my life is chaos!”

How many of us can relate? With careers, college, or kids; or oh, gosh, all three(!) life can feel out of control.  Where do the minutes, the hours, the days, the months, even the years go?

Do you want to know a well-kept secret? Life will be this chaotic for years, decades, and probably until we die.

So…How can we draw closer to God when we can’t eliminate the chaos?

Create calm from the chaos.

Embrace the chaos.

Utilize the chaos.

And, end the excuses.

Think about your day.  When are there predictable moments everyday you could use for prayer, for study (even when that translates to listening to a Bible study en route to work or the kid’s activities,) and for communion with God?

For example, do you exercise alone first thing in the morning or late in the evening? Commit your workout time to prayer time.  Maybe that’s when you pray for all those on your church prayer list.

Drive somewhere most everyday?  As you drive through your neighborhood pray for your neighbors, your schools, the teens.

As you run errands, thank God for His provision to buy groceries.  As you clean your house, thank God for His provision of shelter;  thank Him for His provision for your family as you fold that fifth load of laundry. Thank Him for His provision as you run machines around the clock without concern for hot water or electricity turning off.

As you pull into your employee parking lot, pray for your co-workers, your place of employment, and for those you serve.

When you get stuck behind a school bus and you’re running late, pray for those students, and our nations’ future.

When you hear emergency sirens, pray for all that God would heal, help, and hold all those involved.  You don’t need to know the details to give it to God.  He knows everything, and your prayers can unleash His action.

Pray for your spouse when you hear the garage door opening at night, and for your spouse’s sense of purpose as you pass his place of employment or make that Saturday morning coffee.

Maybe there’s a special song which reminds you of someone.  Years ago, there was a young teen in my daughter’s school who was making poor choices, landing her in legal trouble.  I never met her, but every time I heard the song by Tenth Avenue North, “You Are More,” I prayed for her by name.

If you hear someone has a favorite verse, through conversation or Senior Recognition, for example, write that person’s name by the verse in your Bible.  Even after the graduates are gone, or someone has relocated, when you read that verse you can pray for him.

Last year, I met an amazing young woman at a writers conference.  She had suffered the death of a child earlier that year.  She shared the verse that got her through her grief.  Every time I read that Psalm I pray for her, and for everyone knowing that loss today.

Just because we don’t have two hours of peace and quiet every day,( OK let’s be honest here, ANY day!) does not mean we can not pray!  It just means we must become intentional about our prayers, and utilize the chaos!

Reflections:

Monday: How do I define my ideal prayer time? Am I flexible with the “how” and “when” it happens?

Tuesday: Have I also believed the lie that I am just “too busy?”  You are not alone!  I told God all through college I would study Scripture more when I graduated and had more time.  He taught me I would need to learn to make the time; unfortunately it took years for the lesson to sink in!  If you are feeling convicted, talk to Him! He’s willing to forgive and show you how to fit Him in.

Wednesday: What “prayer triggers” do I already employ?  What could I add?

Thursday: Think of people and situations you worry about regularly.  When is a time your could commit to praying almost daily, for them?

Friday: Prayer: Heavenly Father,  Thank you for who You are.  How humbling that You would take time and concern for me, and yet You do.  Please show me how to honor You with my time, with my words, with my deeds.  Show me pockets of time I have not even considered in this rat race of life, which I could use, spending time with You. Show me how to pray, when to pray, and what to pray.  You promise Your word will not return to You empty. (Isaiah 55:11) Whatever I pray, You will use.  It may not always be how I would have authored it, but You will use it.  Help me to trust and commit to that promise, doing my part in praying for others, and for my relationship with You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you for reading!  Please return by Monday March 10, for the next post!