Candy blogs: I used to have a list of things to check off to verify that I was a good Christian. Prayer was on that list. It was right up there with a daily quiet time, going to church, reading the Bible and tithing. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. But for a long time I had it backwards. I always thought that DOING them would MAKE me a good Christian. But I discovered that they are the RESULT of BEING a person in right relationship with God.
Prayer was one of the things I always had backwards. For most of my life I viewed prayer as me speaking carefully to God, careful to get all the official parts of a proper prayer in there. .. careful to get a good balance between telling God how wonderful He was and my list of prayer requests. When I prayed publically I was way too aware of how others viewed my prayers and my ability to pray. Another performance. What a waste of breath.
In reality, prayer is just a fancy word for conversing with God. It’s really that simple. We make it so complicated.
My first breakthrough about prayer was finding out it included listening. LOL! I had to learn to spend enough time at Jesus’ feet, consistently and over time, for his voice to became familiar. I was used to doing all the talking.
My most recent breakthrough about prayer was being truly aware that I was actually talking to the Living God. “Prayer” or “praying” sounds so religious. Like a religious activity. But just “talking” to God brings the reality of Him in close. He becomes real. He is infinite and mysterious and so much more than we can fathom. He is outside the box of what we know in our universe because He created the universe and the box.
Now when I pray, I focus on who I’m talking to. I’m no longer concerned about the others in the room. I’m talking to the Living God! If I could see God manifested in material form or truly perceive the depth and breadth of who he is, would I really let the cat or the knock at the door or the telephone interrupt our conversation?
Prayer is not telling God stuff He already knows or reguritating tired, over-used phrases.
“Dear Jesus, thank you for this day.”
“Dear Jesus, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.”
“Dear Jesus, help us have a good day.”
“Dear Jesus, we pray for traveling mercies.”
Much of public prayer is less about actually communicating with God Almighty and more like a commercial for things that are coming up or things that have happened … more to tell the others in the room some piece of valuable information.
If I had to wait in a long line to speak to Billy Graham, when I FINALLY got up to him would I say, “Rev. Graham, pray for me to have a good day”? Not on your life. If I had moments with Billy Graham I would want as much of all that wisdom as he could pour into me. I would ask honest questions. I would tell him my honest struggles. I would ask for real answers. And I would believe what he told me because he’s Billy Graham, for heaven’s sake!
But he isn’t GOD …
… and yet we interact or don’t interact with God as though earthly “celebrities” have more impact on us than God himself. We live as though we can meet God on our terms … when we get around to it … when it’s convenient … when he fits into our lifestyle. How’s that workin’ for ya?
Listening and talking … being aware of the other person and interacting with them. That is conversation. That is praying. That is part of living in relationship.
Love it. Have a conversation about it.
Candy blogs: See, Candy? You’re not the only one at Wal-Mart at 5:45 a.m. There are many other people here snatching bits of time for family needs. See Candy? I am answering your prayers for provision through honorable work. See Candy? My plans for you don’t preclude your inner circle … your immediate family and close friends. Spend your irreplaceable currency of time on me, yourself and your inner circle first. Then expand outward. It’s all my calling on your life. See Candy? I have shown you that you’re on the right path. There’s no whining on the right path.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening …
What are you listening for today?
Candy blogs: Tough three weeks … I am ready for some rest and peace. How about you?
My Whine List
~ 2nd week of November was the busiest week on record for me. I seriously overbooked myself.
~ Parents surprise visit from South Dakota
~ My dear father-in-law took a serious turn for the worse in Arizona and Scott flew down for ten days, which included being apart Thanksgiving and on our 34th wedding anniversary.
~ Took on a new bookkeeping client
~ Sister and family surprise visit from Washington State … and brought DOG
You may not know that I am not a dog lover. I don’t hate dogs but I don’t like them either. And we have a cat only because my husband is a cat worshipper. Now even though Sadie, the dog, only stayed one short night at our house before she was taken to her safe haven at my aunt’s house, in that short time she drank all the cat’s water and practically emptied the toilet of water, threw up in the living room and left an odoriferous gift in my bedroom … right beside my side of the bed.
~ Thanksgiving at my house suddenly became huge. Grandma always breezed through big holiday gatherings.
My “victory” was that I didn’t blow up at anyone during Thanksgiving week. (I had blown up the previous week but that’s another post) But this soon became a hollow victory. I had just commented on Facebook about how “not divorcing” is not enough. How it isn’t necessarily noble just to stay married if you haven’t enjoyed the journey together and accomplished the purposes God intended the two of you to fulfill.
Suddenly I saw the parallel between the two things … just like not divorcing wasn’t enough, not blowing up wasn’t enough.
Just gritting my teeth and willing my mouth to stay closed wasn’t a fragrant offering that pleased the Lord. No words may have come out but they were there on the inside. My attitude was in selfish, poor me mode.
What a contrast to this verse …
… love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. I Corinthians 13:5
I had done it all in the last two weeks. I had been rude, self-seeking, easily angered and I have kept record of wrongs.
What in the world?! It was time to step back and get some perspective.
Yes … there were several big stresses piling up at the same time. I acknowlege that. No one was expecting perfection of me. But what had I missed by allowing my attitude to get the better of me? Where was my eucharisteo living?
I had let the urgent and mundane become more important than people and the opportunity to express love and thankfulness.
I had so many things to be thankful for …
~ At the insistence of my family, on my anniversary, we all went to Krispy Creme for breakfast and had Mongolian food for lunch. The Lord KNOWS how I love donuts and Mongolian food. And to have them both in the same day was just too much to overlook.
~ I “had coffee” one morning at the kitchen table with my nieces and nephew before their parents woke up and found out some wonderful things about who they are. Well, I had coffee and they had peppermint hot chocolate.
~ My dad and brothers-in-law stepped in for Scott every time I needed a man to do something.
~ Many hands made light work.
~ We saw Happy Feet 2!
~ I helped my parents with some of their technology problems and also helped them “shop local” on Black Friday.
~ I was not alone; I was surrounded by a loving family.
And, yes, there are also true issues that I am now processing. My strong reactions were indeed a symptom of a deeper need. But this stressful time was not a spiritual attack. I wasn’t doing spiritual battle this time. It was a stacking up of circumstances that I let overwhelm me.
Saw this on Facebook … It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.
I’m letting all this sit for a while. What say you? How was your Thanksgiving?
Candy blogs: God only opens the door to the future one step at a time. I remember about 15 years ago I was right in the middle of a huge jam. I was raised to DO and WORK and SERVE in the church. I was raised to try to get more on the DO side and less on the DON’T side. More on the good side than the bad side. I did and worked and served and rarely said no because I thought that the approval of men would make me more loveable to God.
At the age of 38 I found myself to be an angry, exhausted, resentful, frustrated, powerless, empty woman. I saw my life then as a mini tornado that swirled and swirled in front of my face. And I could see “issues” swirling around in the tornado but they were moving so fast I couldn’t make out what they were. I knew these were things God wanted to talk to me about but I didn’t know how to make the swirling stop so I could focus on those issues.
When I finally stepped off the roller coaster life I’d been leading my whole life, I began to see the swirling slow and then stop. The issues became clear to me.
What I had feared, my Red Sea, was solitude. Quietness. Lack of activity.
Through a powerful class and God’s Word, I began to unpack those issues in quietness and stillness. I was afraid of the quiet because I knew that the knocking on my heart’s door would become so loud I would have to
actually DEAL with it. The first lesson? Stop all forward motion. Sit at Jesus’ feet. Listen and don’t speak.
This seemed impossible for me to do. I was a doer. I was goer. But the direction was clear. STOP. BE. What I discovered was that I had gotten to the place where I could no longer hear God’s voice. I was wandering around in the desert hitting my head on brick walls. But as I put myself intentionally into times of quietness, adding margin for stillness into each day … time to process and think things all the way through … reading His Word and talking to the Lord … and just sitting in His presence, His voice became familiar to me and I could begin to understand the other issues He wanted to talk to me about.
When I held up the mirror of God’s Word, I saw ugliness looking back at me. … pride, arrogance, self-sufficiency, dominating, cruel, irritable, easily angered, needing to be the center of attention, craving approval & applause. These were my bondage, my Egypt.
The journey out of that mess was long and painful. I faced a few armies and obstacles and changes of course. It felt like I was crossing the Red Sea, looking at the wall of water on both sides of me and wondering if they would hold, wondering if God was truly making a way for ME … but all the while being totally aware that I was walking on dry land.
I crossed into freedom and have never been the same. I don’t walk perfectly but I no longer feel guilty about things that don’t really matter. I have a strong sense of joy and purpose. I rest in knowing that no matter what I DO or DON’T do, God will never love me more or less. I don’t wonder anymore if I am good enough. I listen more than I talk. I lean IN to His will and purposes for me instead of running away from them. I serve in my God-given strengths instead of saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. My spirit is teachable and ready to hear and apply Truth. I hear His voice when He speaks to me.
I believe that every step of our journey is a choice. We can shake our fists at God and question His ways (which, BTW, He can handle and doesn’t love us less for) or we can look for how He is building our character. We may not always control what comes our way but we can choose our response.
Now … the questions for pondering and discussion on the way to our transformation …
What is your Egypt? Are you in bondage to anything?
What is your Red Sea? What do you fear?
We all have our own list. Is anything standing between you and freedom?
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? Galatians 4:9
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
There is an old song I used to sing. So meaningful to me at different times in my life. It came to mind as I was working through this post.
♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ Janet Pascal ♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
Keep choosing His ways … they always lead to freedom.
Candy blogs: The Israelites are such a great example of what not to do, aren’t they? I remember the first time I read through the entire Bible, I was in my 20’s. I kept stopping to whine to the Lord about what idiots the Israelites were as they wandered around in the desert. God would do a big miracle for them and they’d be happy for about five minutes. Then they’d go do something stupid and get themselves in a huge jam that only God could get them out of. And God would save them. And they’d be happy for another five minutes and the cycle just seemed to continue until Jesus came.
In my 20’s this was frustrating for me to read over and over. I just wanted them to learn the lesson, love and obey God and WIN! Get on with it. Start LIVING the life God freed them to live instead of wandering around hitting their heads against brick walls all the time.
And this happened right out of the chutes. They had just barely left Egypt after the HUGE miracles of the plagues. They were all believing God and ready to BE FREE. God had been leading them with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. They could actually SEE the presence of God every minute of their day and night. God’s presence was tangible. I like to imagine going to sleep at night in that camp and perhaps awakening to troubling sounds. But then looking over at the pillar of fire … there it was. God’s presence. What a comfort.
Pharaoh changed his mind about letting them go and sent his army after them to bring them back. So when the Israelites saw that the Egyptian army was coming after them, they were suddenly aware that they were a huge, vulnerable group of newly freed slaves, untrained and unaccustomed to war. The Egyptian army, on the other hand, was the best trained and best equipped army in the world. So they had 600 Egyptian chariots coming at them from one side and when they turned the other way, there was the Red Sea.
They were truly trapped. This was their first huge jam.
Well, of course they were terrified and started screaming at Moses about why in the world they were out in the middle of the desert in this horrible situation when they could be back in Egypt happily making bricks and living in slavery.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But is it?
What would our first reaction be if we found ourselves figuratively between an army and the sea? We always SAY we would choose freedom. We’d choose GOD’S ways. We would be OBEDIENT because God’s side always WINS.
But the challenge the Lord put before me recently is this: WE SAY THAT GOD WILL MAKE A WAY. We believe this. We know God’s Word, the Bible, says this. We often say this to others when THEY’RE in a huge jam.
But when WE’RE facing adversity, often our life actually reflects something more like: BUT WILL HE MAKE A WAY FOR ME?
God usually leads us one step at a time.
Very seldom do we hear of someone who got the whole life plan from the Lord when they first came to know Him. It was the same for the Israelites. When they set out in the desert, no one knew exactly where they were going. They were just … going. They just followed the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The pillars confirmed God’s presence and His leadership.
So that meant that God had led them directly to this very tight spot. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t an error in judgment. It wasn’t rebellion. How could there possibly be so much trouble when they were clearly where God wanted them to be?
Moses was just following orders. He didn’t know what to do. He’d just spent 40 years on the other side of the desert. He didn’t know how to lead a million or more people. So God took over.
The pillar they’d been following then moved behind the people to stand between the army and the people. It stayed there all night. And while the pillar was protecting them, God told Moses to stretch out his staff over the sea so that the Israelites could go through the sea on dry land. This took all night long. I bet they weren’t expecting that.
What the Israelites feared (the sea)
became their way to freedom.
God’s plan for us doesn’t include coexisting with “the Egyptians”… he wants us free. Coping … getting by … settling for is NOT the plan. Overcoming is God’s plan. Staying in Egypt means slavery and bondage. God always wants to lead us to a better place. He always leads us forward to the promise.
What do I mean by God will “make a way”? Did God always intervene in the battles of Israel? Did they always win their battles? No. There were many, many years of enemy occupation of Israel. Does this mean that God will always get me out of all my jams … at least as I see jams? No. None of us
escapes hard things. The promise of God isn’t to spare us from conflict but to
help us overcome them.
God only opens the door to the future one step at a time.
This makes me think … does my life really line up with my beliefs, values and the words that come out of my mouth? There will be more in Part II …
This post was inspired by a lesson written by Daniel N. Berg