Tuesday Prayer for the Family of God

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Father to the fatherless and Creator of the family, we praise You for the ways You work. Because we are Your children and You love us, You discipline us when we err and welcome us back when we turn to You in repentance. You are astonishingly patient with us and so give us an example of how we ought to be with one another.

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
John 13:15-17

Oh how we love You and the Word of Truth! Teach our mouths and hearts to rejoice in Your Truth daily and use it to change us for Your glory. Increase in us love for You, zeal for Your Kingdom, desire for Your Word, fervency in prayer, humility to accept responsibility for our sin, and willingness to repent and cooperate with You. You are the God who sanctifies us. Let us not be at war with Your Spirit or with each other but with the evil one alone.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:12-13

Today we also pray for wayward children whether they are our peers and fellow children of God or our own physical or spiritual children and grandchildren. Our hearts long to see each of these walk in a right relationship to You. Lord, please, draw the prodigals among us back to You. Only You can pierce a stony heart; pierce theirs. Your Word is clear that none can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. Draw them, Lord. We plead with You to add their names to the Lamb’s book of life even as we joyfully anticipate the celebration of their salvation.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James 1:14-15

Please also change us. In times when we face temptation, remind us that You always provide a way out so we have no excuse to fall but for our own evil desires. Help us to hold ourselves and one another accountable as ambassadors for Your eternal Kingdom. When one among us does succumb to temptation, guide us in how to restore such a one lovingly but without minimizing the deplorable nature of sin.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Knowing that we are so prone to pride, we ask for You to guide us in every circumstance and give us the correct measure of grace and truth. Teach us to genuinely forgive as we have been forgiven and to stand firm on the Gospel – even in places where it seems a bizarre contrast to our world. Remind us that we serve a Kingdom which is not of this world and give us the courage to stand. It is in the mighty name of Jesus and for His glory we pray, amen.

Blueberry Musings

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

In the not-quite-cool of a July morning in Tennessee, I picked blueberries as I talked with my Father. One thing at the forefront of my mind was my teenage son’s seeming indifference to all things having to do with God and His church. As I spoke to my Lord about my concerns, the old, familiar mom-guilt rose to the surface

The thing is, I homeschooled my kids for years. My son, the oldest and now a rising senior, was taught at home from Kindergarten through his freshman year of high school. Currently, he attends a private Christian school, but outside of school he does not seem (to me) to have interest in the things of God.

Oh, he aces his Bible class. They grew up in the Word at least. However, this last year or two have made me question how well I modeled a life of faith.

In my fervency to lead my kids to God, did I actually push them away? Was I too stringent? Too critical? Too lenient? Too lax? Did my walk not match my talk? Or was it a walk that my son found uninteresting because I shared too little of my joy or my delight in God? Was I too stern-faced and solemn? Have I given writing too much emphasis? Too little?

The mom-guilt train chugs on and on. Its refrain is unchanging: I have failed. My efforts are not good enough.

And it was into these failures the Spirit of my God spoke in wordless truth. If I could put words to the experience, it would go something like this: Whether you failed or not is irrelevant. How does it change the present? You cannot change the past and bemoaning it is not the same thing as learning from it. However, one thing is true: your efforts aren’t good enough. But I AM. Do you trust Me?

There in the blueberry bushes with one elbow covered in spider webs and a few purple stains on my hand, my King reminded me of something. He alone has the power and ability to draw my son – or anyone else – to Himself.

This doesn’t free me from obedience or due diligence, but it is nonetheless freeing. Even if I were to perform flawlessly, my efforts would be inadequate. I cannot save a single soul.

But my God can.

He is both the Author of faith and its Perfecter. The question is not whether I was successful in leading my kids to Christ. The question is: Am I successful in trusting God to bring His own work to completion. In short, do I trust Him – even if it means one or more of my kids has to walk through the dark valley for a time? Does my love for Him compel me to trust in His love for my children?

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)

On my way back to the house with a container full of blueberries, I repented of my unbelief and chose trust. Specifically, I vocalized my trust to my Lord that His Spirit will work and produce fruit in my son and all my kids.

I may have planted a few seeds of devotion, I may have watered them, but it will be God who makes the fruit of His Spirit grow.  Until then, I will remain faithful in prayer, eagerly anticipating the work God will do in and through my family.  I will trust God to work out even our errors for our eternal good.

Whatever happens in these next weeks, months, years, or even decades, I know my God will bring about His purposes.

And He will do it in His time, not mine.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
(James 5:7-8)

 

 

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)

 

 

Like a Rock

Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter…  And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”    Exodus 15:22-24

My children and I giggled a bit over this passage, although I admit, on my part at least it was a somewhat guilty giggle.  As the last young person finished her turn in the reading, I noted aloud that the Israelites took a significant pendulum swing from a state of joyous praise to dissatisfied griping in three measly days.

To fully understand what I mean, you may want to read the previous portion of Exodus 14 and 15. Go ahead. I’ll wait….

Now, think about what you just read:  Three days after watching the hand of God perform an impossible feat of deliverance involving a massive volume of water, the people seemed unable to grasp that the very same God might possibly be competent to make a little nasty water taste nice.

Three short days — it really is a little amusing. However, if I am honest, the joke’s on me. It is so easy for me to look at the infant nation and wonder how on earth they could have watched something as astonishing as the parting of the Red Sea and still not understood that God is infinitely capable of providing for their needs even when they cannot see how He will.

The sad truth is that I am no different.  I desperately want to be a person possessing unwavering faith in my God, a person who never doubts Him for a moment. But the real me is much more like that group of refugees from Egypt.

On any given day, I may see a glimpse of the enormity of my God and of the goodness and rightness of His plans, yet I rarely need three whole days to slip into disbelief. I have been known to literally sing His praises, filled with unspeakable joy, during an early-morning walk with my dogs only to collapse in frustrated tears before lunchtime because my children are disrespectful or my home school day is not going well.  Three days? It can happen to me in three hours!

Perhaps there is a lesson in this shameful undulation of faith, so like the tides of the sea. It is at such times when my rashness and fickleness are so evident that God’s steadfastness and patience are poignantly underscored.  This,  then, is why God desires so to develop patience and faithfulness in His children — because He is, Himself, patient and faithful.

Perhaps — just perhaps — He has yet one more miracle to perform involving water, considering our flesh is mostly composed of water; one more marvel concerning the tide-like ebb and flow of our faith. For in a display of really ridiculous patience, our long-suffering, holy God continues to allow us access to Himself when we draw near despite the tragic number of times we faithlessly retreat from His presence.

Just maybe as He works in us,  He is gradually increasing the length of our advances toward Him and decreasing the distance we withdraw.  Maybe He will do the impossible and change the shifting waves of our disbelief into fixed and changeless postures of trust.  Maybe even someday in the process of our sanctification, we will find our faith is no longer capricious but has come to look something more like Him , our faithful and steadfast Rock.