Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Gift of Trust in Troubled Times

Earlier this month I had been struggling with some pretty major decisions that would ultimately affect not only me, but my husband and kids as well. In fact, these were decisions that could affect my relationships with extended family and friends, too.

I began to worry about the future. I began to worry about how we would afford certain things, and how we would do the things that were being asked of us. Life was completely “up in the air” for us, and we weren’t sure of much at all, to be honest.

To top things off, some of my dearest friends had been struggling with various afflictions or predicaments, and were calling on me for wisdom, advice, or just for an attentive and compassionate ear. I am not the type of person to turn away from friends, no matter what my life situation is. I truly believe that we were put here, in our own unique places, to serve one another. God’s greatest gift that we can give to each other is LOVE.

Well, the day came when I finally stopped worrying about how, why, where, when, etc., etc., and I prayed. (You would think I would have started there, right? Let’s face it: many of us, no matter where you are in your walk with God, fall into worry. It’s living proof that God’s not finished with us yet.)

The next thing that happened was nothing short of miraculous. I jumped to attention, and got busy making phone calls – the kind no one wants to make – the kind that could bring devastation or despair. I couldn’t have been more relieved and grateful after a few of these calls were finished. In a way that I think most of us rarely experience, I saw first-hand how God had actually made my path straight and provided not just “a” way, but “THE” way for us. He had already taken care of each situation before I started anything!

I must say that no matter what we choose in life, when we rely on God and His ultimate plan, protection, and provision, we see beauty, care, and love in a way that is more than enough, more than what we could have “wished” for, and certainly much more than anything this world could try to offer but never delivers.

Throughout my struggles, God also provided wisdom that I was able to share with my friends in the midst of their own life situations.

God has chosen us to be His children, and has chosen a purpose for us in this life. What’s more, He has provided His guidance throughout each and every “thing” we encounter. And the most amazing part of it all: He provides things for His children that no one could ever imagine.

The most important provision, of course, was offering His Son as the way to cancel our debt of sin so that we could experience His love and intimacy. There will never be anything more wonderful and loving than what Jesus did for us at the cross.

But I want to express how much God loves us – from the mundane, everyday tasks to the biggest decisions you’ll ever have to make. Simply walking daily with Him as our Lord and Savior is a miracle, but to talk with Him and see guidance and provision is nothing short of the greatest daily experience I could ask for.

Recently, God has shown me clear, direct answers to many issues, simply from my open and honest prayer. This rarely happens how we expect; sometimes we don’t hear answers for a longer time than we had hoped. When God doesn’t answer right away, it is always for the best.

I have a mind that likes to be in control – always. I am still learning to give this over to God daily. But through His gentle leading and merciful patience, I am learning this lesson. Allowing God to decide not only what I should do, but also when I should do it is a lesson that we all struggle with.

I am here to encourage you today, that no matter what it is you are struggling with, pray. (If you’ve read my last two entries, you will remember how prayer is simply talking to God and then allowing Him to speak to you.) Ask God for His path to be made clear to you. Ask Him also for the patience to wait if that is what He has planned for you in this situation.

Don’t take your worries back; let Him carry your burdens. Once you have given your struggles over to Him, open your newly-emptied hands to receive His blessing and provision. He will never leave us nor forsake us. That is His promise.

Peace, love, and cider mugs...

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Attitude of Prayer (Part 2 of "This Thing Called Prayer")

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Last time we took a journey into prayer, and what it really means. Today, I am continuing our journey into this place that certainly mystifies so many people in modern America and beyond. So fasten your seat belts! We are off!

The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5, to pray without ceasing. How is this even possible? What does unceasing prayer look like, and how is it attained? Well, to be perfectly frank, for many years, I did not understand this verse at all. It wasn’t until I studied at the collegiate level that I began to understand a bit more of unceasing prayer.

First of all, let’s remember that prayer is simply dialoging with God. It requires no formal guidelines, no “Thee”s or “Thou”s, and certainly isn’t some religious act that makes one better than everyone else. Prayer does, however, give a strong advantage to those who choose to open up: with each prayer uttered, a person has the opportunity to gain revelation and direction from the One who knows it all, provides all, and sustains all. So let’s take a closer look at what unceasing prayer looks like.

In college, my advisor was a quiet man who considered all things with God, as he walked through each of his days. I never understood what he was doing until my last year there. He would typically have a pause before answering, or continuing in conversation, and he never looked uncertain, confused, or like he was losing concentration. On the contrary! He always looked more intently focused on the situation at hand as he progressed through each one.

In retrospect, I understand that he was considering things with God, to know better how to proceed. It makes so much sense.

In today’s world of electronics, one way to think of prayer would be like our wonderful cell phones. For me, when I wake up in the morning, I begin a conversation with my husband. And throughout his workday and my day at home, grocery shopping, playing with our kids, fixing dinner, and so on, I text him: to keep him informed, ask for clarification, or gain a better understanding for a situation that he has more insight into. We never really “hang up.”

In much of the teaching and examples we have of prayer, there is a “dialing,” (Dear Lord), a “greeting,” (It’s me, Lauren), the “conversation,” (typically the list of wants and “please be with” situations, etc.), and then the “hang up,” (In Your name I pray, Amen).

The truth of the matter is that we never have to announce ourselves to God. We are individually known and cared for by our Heavenly Father more than we can understand in this lifetime. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and can certainly figure out who is “calling.” The next truth is that He already knows what we need. He simply desires relationship with us. When we come to God in prayer, we are offering ourselves as being open to communication with our Father. And it never should be one-sided.

One of the worst discrepancies in modern “prayer” is that we verbally spill everything we have on our agenda without bothering to take the time to listen to what He has to say to us. And no, I’ve never heard an audible James Earl Jones-esque voice booming back at me. What is most normal, for me, is the sense of peace or calm that can arise when I look down one path versus another. Sometimes the Holy Spirit can impress something upon your heart so clearly, there is no true explanation how you know it, you “just know it.” And that is okay. Whatever your situation, take the time to listen to what God has to say to you during your times of prayer.

Lastly, consider not “hanging up” next time you open up. Truth be told, “Amen” is a term that means “so be it,” and is traditionally used corporately when one person prays out loud and a group of people agrees with his/her prayer. It does not mean “I am finished,” or “goodbye.” So next time you talk with God, think about not using the term “amen” unless you are agreeing with others.

Prayer is such an amazing gift for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. Open communication with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not only where you’ll find the best peace of mind, but also where you will find the best secrets kept just for you.

peace, love and cider mugs...