Tuesday Prayer: Our God

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
(Psalms 63:3-4)

Last week, Lord, we expressed our thanks for the gifts You’ve given. Today we thank You for being our God. For creating us, for coming to us for rescuing us from the depravity of our sinful tendencies. You are wondrous, our King, and  we stand in awe of You. Your mercies are never ceasing, and yet we do not love You only for Your mercy, but for who You are. It is not the gifts we worship but You, the Giver.

You are the God who is Love, the Light of the world, the never-ending Fount of Living Water. Our Creator. Our Redeemer. Our Messiah and King. You are the God who saves us and who provides for us. As Lord of Hosts, the full might of angelic warriors is subject to Your commend. God Almighty who works wonders and makes the impossible, possible. From death, You bring life as You did in Sarah’s womb. As You did in the flesh of Your own Son.

Lord, the list of Your names and attributes goes on and on, for You are the Eternal One; the beginning and the end. When we concentrate on even a few of Your qualities, our minds still stagger with the enormity of Your majesty. Your Name is holy and Your benefits are without end. Great and merciful are You, our God!

Thank You that we are privileged to glimpse Your glory, clay pots that we are. You made the first man from the soil of the earth and stamped the Divine Image on him. And if that wasn’t enough, You breathed life into that still, clay form.

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(Genesis 2:7)

Thank You for being a Merciful God, the Lord whose steadfast love never ends. As Messiah, You took on a body of flesh, pouring the exact representation of the Divine Image into an animated earthenware jar. Far from being a distant and impersonal God, You are a God – the only God – who has suffered alongside His creation, giving Himself to redeem it. What a privilege to bear Your image, to have been saved by the blood of the Son, and to be quickened to new life in Him by Your own Holy Spirit!

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
(Romans 8:11)

O God, never let our familiarity with You as a Man drive out our reverence for You as the Most High. You are Holy, Just, and True. In You is no shadow of change nor even the faintest taint of impurity. Your word is Truth. King of kings and Lord of lords, Father to the fatherless, Your honor and virtue are without spot or failing. We give thanks to You today, for You are good and we bow before Your holy Name in gratitude. May Your name be forever praised, amen!

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD, or declare all his praise?
(Psalms 106:1-2)

Tuesday Prayer: Gratitude

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17)

Father of Lights, today we give thanks to You for the amazing gifts You have given us. Often as we approach the holiday season, we are so caught up by our own frenzy of purchasing, cooking, celebrating, and giving that we forget about the gifts You have already bestowed on us. It’s no small irony that when we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving as we will next week, we tend to become so enmeshed in the details of the day that we fail to truly offer You more than a cursory murmur of thanks.

Yet You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Lord, forgive us when we forget that.

Today we intentionally set aside some time for mindfulness of the astonishing gifts You have given us. Let Your praise be on our lips today and let us give thanks to You, for all You give us is truly good. Thank You, Lord, that we can celebrate with a feast next week. Thank You for food, shelter, family, and friends to celebrate with. Or if we celebrate alone, thank You that You are our portion and we can still be satisfied in You.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
(Lamentations 3:24)

Not only that, but we thank You for the often-overlooked things. Thank You for family even when being with them hurts because in working through strained relations and miscommunications, we grow.

In learning how to love others who are hard to handle, we are forced to confront the places where we are prickly as well. Thank You that in conflict, we learn to humble ourselves and to forgive. In extending grace to others who may not deserve it, we see how little we deserved Your grace. For this, too, we are thankful.

And thank You for the little things, Lord! Thank You that You made food to have flavor when You could have made it merely nourishing. Thank You for our senses, and when one or more fails us, thank You that we are thus made more dependent on You. Thank You for good health and poor health alike, for we know Your word teaches us to give thanks in all circumstances and we trust You enough to do it.

Thank You for the seasons. For color, birdsong, laughter, and music. Thank You for making us in Your image and for being patient with us when we do not represent the Divine image well. Thank You, Lord, that You truly do work all things for the good of those who love You – even our mistakes and our pain.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

Thank You that it is Your glory we are made for and not our own because in You, we find a glory worth dying for, a perfection worth imitating, and a goodness worth every ounce of our being and so much more.  And thank You, Lord, for Your Son and for our salvation through Him. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, our comforter and guide. It is in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we offer up our gratitude today, amen.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13)

Tuesday Prayer: Free

My friends, it is crunch time for me. My hope is to post twice a week – Tuesday prayers and something different on either Thursday or Friday. However, a deadline is closing in on me. Before September 20, I need to get as much of the book edited as I can, polish the first 3 chapters to a high gloss, and assemble a full proposal.

Because of this, any time I am not tutoring, carting teens around, spending time with my husband, or washing endless dishes will probably be spent on the book. So if I’m slow to respond or n ever get around to reading your blogs, it’s nothing personal. I’ll be back soon enough, Lord willing. 

Now on to my prayer for the Church:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
(Romans 6:20-21)

Our King, gracious and merciful, You are slow to anger and Your covenant loyalty is perfect beyond the farthest reaches of our imaginings. You are majestic in holiness and mighty in power. There is no darkness so complete that Your light cannot penetrate nor sinner too distant that Your hand cannot reach.

Today we lift up our voices in praise and gratitude. Thank You for rescuing us by the willing death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. You have broken the chains of sin which bound us and lifted us out of the pit of rebellion. We are Yours, Lord; save us and keep saving us again and again from our sinful proclivities.

When we dawdle around the pits of our imprisonment to sin or finger our broken chains, we beg for Your help in changing our hearts. Fill us with Your Spirit and give us the desire to want more of You and less of the world. Remove the fascination for sinful things far from us. Help us to not only say we are more than conquerors through Christ but to live it out.

Oh God, forgive our unbelief and help us to overcome it! Help us to live as free men and women, no longer held fast by the enticements of the world. Instead, remind us of the bitterness of fruit grown in sin and give us a craving for the good fruit of righteousness and of the Holy Spirit. Make us into oaks of righteousness, plantings for the display of Your splendor. Grow in us good fruit – fruit that will last – and align our hearts, minds, wills, and motives with Your perfect plan, amen.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound …
… to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:1,3)

 

Raffle Winner Announcement and Other Things

First order of business: Congratulations are in order to the winner of the drawing for the book, Talking to Jesus by Jeannie Blackmer – M. Moltz!  I have already contacted you by email and will get your prize in the mail this week. Congrats!!

And now, on to some thoughts I had hoped to share before the US holiday of Thanksgiving last Thursday before a killer migraine disrupted my week…

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
(Psalms 100:4)

Here in the United States, it is officially that time of the year known collectively as “The Holidays.”

Although some shops begin small displays of Christmastime merchandise right alongside the pumpkin-spiced products and Halloween masks in early autumn (or even late summer), the biggest retail assault on the American wallet kicks into high gear almost as soon as the Thanksgiving turkeys are carved and before the gravy congeals.

Despite the commercialism, I still love this time of year.

I adore Thanksgiving – a day set aside to focus specifically on gratitude to the Lord,  and for me, a day to play in the kitchen with no deadlines. I even enjoy the irony that a nationally celebrated day dedicated to giving thanks for the bounty of the year is immediately followed by one of the most frenzied shopping days of the entire year…

Perhaps because of the national holiday or perhaps just because, Psalm 100 has been on my mind lately.  With those words as the backdrop, my heart has been convicted that for me, Thanksgiving should not be observed only once a year. Instead, Thanksgiving is the obedient posture of the Redeemed in Christ every single day.

For the Christian, every day is Thanksgiving. Every day is Christmas. Every day is Easter.

 

During the course of last week, I was deeply convicted about my prayer life. For years now, I have faithfully lifted up all my requests to the Lord – prayers for the salvation of loved ones who do not follow Him, prayers for daily needs, intercessory prayer on behalf of others.

Yet too often, I have entirely failed to enter His gates with thanksgiving; choosing instead to rush in and fling my “to-do” list at the foot of the Throne of Grace without taking a moment to simply adore the One who sits on the Throne.

No more.

Starting today, I am making a conscious effort to not only to make my requests known to God, but to do so with thanksgiving. I want to praise Him more. I want to love Him more.

Whether this is an official holiday season for you or not, will you join me? Together, let’s humble our hearts and focus on gratitude. Let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.

Let’s give thanks in all circumstances – even the unpleasant ones – because we know that He is good and has already given us far more than we deserve. The opportunity to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” to establish saving faith in Jesus Christ, to even approach the Throne of Grace at all… even just the opportunity is more than I deserve.

And yet, He has given me eternal life in Christ Jesus my Lord. Why would I not praise Him?

Today, even with an oncoming migraine scattering my thoughts and some persistent hip pain, I give thanks to You, Lord, for You are good! Your steadfast love endures forever, and Your faithfulness to all generations. Thank You for taking this rebel under Your care, for cleansing me of my horrible choices and adopting me as Your child!

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
(Philippians 4:6)

Victim

Love is patient and kind…
(1 Corinthians 13:4a)

I have the very greatest prayer partners on the face of the planet. No joke.

Just this morning, two of us carried our coffee mugs down to the basement where we proceeded with a pre-dawn outcry before the Throne of Grace on behalf of our families, our friends, our nation, and our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide.

While one of our members could not make it this particular day, these ladies are my go-to warriors, my trenchmates on the front line, my confidants.  With them, I confess sin with unabashed candor, knowing that they will join me in lifting up a broken and contrite heart as well as in the celebration when a particular sin has been vanquished.

We laugh and cry, we make pleas for the salvation of friends and loved ones who walk in hopelessness, we praise our God that He provides us with enough difficulties along the way that we never forget our incredible need of Him. Together, we pray that we will not only be partakers of grace, but givers of it as well; that merit for any good deeds will be credited to His account and not to ours.

This morning, one friend and I chatted for quite a while after we had knocked fervently at the pearly gates. As our small group is doing a Scripture-based study on marriage, we were thinking back to our selfishness with our spouses early on in our marriage and discussing areas where we may still owe these dear men an apology.

And it got me thinking…

If you have perused this blog for long, you’ll know from a past post that my marriage did not begin with a typical “love and courtship” type of relationship. We did the commitment thing first and worked on the love part along the way.

Through it all, that vow about “in sickness and in health” has been well-tested for my longsuffering husband. He has stuck with me through babies, routine illnesses, meningitis, a surprise baby on the tail end of recovery, and chronic migraine.  Years of chronic migraine.

In fact, I had one yesterday (first in 2 weeks, though, so celebrate with me!!). In the midst of it, I had a tutoring/study skill coaching session with one of my part-time daugthers who also struggles with migraines. After some meds and a nap, I composed a quick email to her dad (my adopted brother/sensei/co-small-group-leader)… and subsequently had to compose another quick email to clarify my muddy thoughts from the first one.

It is very likely that I was unsuccessful. However, at the end, I recall typing out, “Thank you for your patience!”

Since then, I have been thinking about those words, especially in the context of my early-morning discussion on marriage.

For anyone who deals with any type of debilitating or life-altering medical condition or chronic pain, patience can quickly run short. In the fog of fatigue or the pestilent gnawing of pain, it can be difficult to answer your children softly or speak with respect and love to your spouse.

On days in which the old gray matter is sluggish and each thought seems to be extracted with great effort as if wrested from some glutinous quagmire and even basic tasks loom to towering heights of impossibility, a body needs an extra measure of patience just to exist. In such situations, it can be tempting to see oneself as a bit of a victim of circumstance.

Yet in reality, it is my husband who has been the victim here.

When I am annoyed with my own inability to string a handful of words together, how much more patience must it require for the man who listens and struggles to comprehend my disconnected (and often repeated) words?

If fatigue leaves me feeling frustrated with of piles of unfinished tasks, how much more frustrating for him to watch me fight a battle we both know I cannot win? If it is a great feat of composure for me to handle my teenagers’ vitrolic responses delicately when I feel that gentle stabbing behind my left eye, how much more patience it must require for them to respond to me when I am (quite literally) out of my mind – or for my Man to listen to  the lot of us?

So to my Man, if you read this, I have to say:
Thank you so much for your years and years and YEARS of unswerving, unwavering patience and for your example of uncompromising, Biblical love!

Ah, Lord! Forgive me for my self-pity and thank You for an amazing husband who is also an incredible father. May I learn to count the cost of my words as well as he does and spend them as carefully. Let the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight! Amen!

… love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4b-7)

 

 

Out of the Dark

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalms 139:11-12)

 

To me, it is infinitely liberating and even comforting to know that my God knows about even my darkest and most secret thoughts. Does that seem strange to you?

In all honesty, I think that may be what David was referring to when he penned Psalm 139. Although when a body walks through dark and hideous places, it is also very reassuring to know that you are not alone, I do believe that David was referring to hidden sin in this psalm.

Perhaps not, but take a glance at the first couple of verses:

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
(Psalms 139:1-4)

As it goes on. Just before the opening verses, David discusses being unable to flee from the presence of God, even being found by Him in Sheol. The idea I get when I read these words is that absolutely nothing is hidden from God or unknown by Him.

And that comforts me.

Lately, I have been struggling through what may well be explained by hormones or by chemical changes in the brain due to a difficult past or to years of hard-to-treat migraines or any number of other reasons I could conjecture. But it doesn’t matter. Sin is still sin, no matter what excuses I may have for it.

While I don’t know what the cause of this murky madness is, I do know that at the darkest points, the ones that relentlessly occur for up to 72 hours before a migraine, I often feel abandoned by all my loved ones and by God. At such times, I am nearly suffocated by a spiritual darkness that seems impenetrable, and to my shame, I am subject to doubt the very goodness of God.

But He knows. He knows of my doubt; He knows the incredible distress such mistrust brings, and He knows my most angry and defiant thoughts that come of it.

And yet, He does not give up on me. Despite my insanity, He is still there. His right hand still holds me fast. I know this because, inevitably, the pain will begin and after some painful hours of fuzzy thinking, I see Him again. I trust Him again. I’ve passed through the dark valley of my own sinful bent towards unbelief and come out into the light of His presence once more.

And He is always there to welcome me back.

He remembers that I am dust, and He has mercy on me even when I do not deserve it. In truth, I have never deserved His mercy. I think, sometimes, that’s what makes it Grace.

And oddly, in a lot of ways these times of private horror make me appreciate and love His majesty even more. Praise be to the Most High, for He has done great things for us!

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
(Psalms 126:2-3)

 

In Appreciation of Pain, Part Three

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:2-5

(Earlier, I wrote about two other lessons I learned that make me thankful for the decade I spent struggling through chronic migraine. If you would like to read them, you can find them here and here.)

The third,  but perhaps the most purely delightful, lesson I took away from those years of suffering was in learning to praise my God even when shrouded in pain. While those words are easy to write now, it is critical to note that my gratitude for the suffering did not begin after I  had exited the dark valley of daily pain– I began to express thanksgiving and praise aloud to God even while striving to function through the throes of migraines.

Those years were truly dark ones in all senses of the word, some points of which I have already outlined in my previous posts. Implacable pain was only one of the reasons for the gloom, but it was a pushy, domineering one. I could not escape the grip of pain for long. Medications would work for a few weeks, but they had their own side effects besides losing efficacy over fairly short periods of time.  I began to dread waking, knowing that all that waited for me was an awareness of pain.  My mind also seemed to be failing as I struggled to recall familiar words like “toaster” and “laundry” or my children’s names. I was perpetually, relentlessly tired, almost a zombie trudging mindlessly through each day. Because of the intensity and long-term quality of the affliction, I found myself frequently succumbing depression.

I remember clearly the first time when, in the clutches of a migraine so fierce that I dared not twitch a finger for fear of the repercussions, I was compelled to whisper oh, so quietly my adoration of God and praise that He was allowing me to be broken and reshaped by such pain, allowing me to participate in some minute way in the sufferings of my Lord Yeshua. It was the first toddling steps of a shaky practice that I began to form, a routine of murmuring blessing or praise even. or rather, especially in the depth of affliction or when despair constricted and stifled my heart. It was some time and many stops and starts before the practice began to be a habit.  It is still not a solid habit, I am sorry to say, but I now remember more often than I forget.

Slowly, strangely, the leaden fog of despair was rent and began to dissipate as surely as mist in the sun.  I began to understand the truth behind yet another quote from Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “True joy is not the absence of pain but the sanctifying, sustaining presence of the Lord Jesus in the midst of the pain.” I understood because I had begun to learn to recognize His Presence always, even when veiled by my own pain.

Through this moment and countless others like it, I learned to acknowledge the glory and worthiness of my King despite what I may be feeling. Though my body was wracked with exhaustion and tormented by ruthless headaches, I learned to be thankful that He was greater than my pain.

What’s more, I learned that He is worth praising no matter what my circumstances are. Even the worst of my pain can never amount to the humiliation and rejection my Lord experienced when He literally became sin on that cross as ransom for billions of undeserving, debauched human lives like my own. Even the temptation to despair can be overcome when I focus less on myself and more on the majesty and undeserved compassion of my Lord and my God.

So all in all, I am thankful for the trials God has sent my way. I am thankful for pain so persistent and intense that I was forced to the end of myself… and most gloriously of all, I am thankful that I found Him waiting for me there.

It is my sincere prayer that you will know that He is there with you in your dark valleys as well, and knowing that, you will unabashedly sing His praises into the cold and uncaring darkness. Hang in there, my dear, no matter how long it takes. He is there, even when you do not see Him. And His grace truly is sufficient for whatever trial you face.