Tuesday Prayer: Praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
(Psalms 100:4)

Gracious and Holy One, we offer up our praise to You today! Blessed is Your name in all the earth , and blessed is the work of Your hands. It is You who made all good things and who gives all good gifts. There is nothing that happens on earth outside of Your knowledge. You even know the number of hairs on our heads, and even take note of the fall of a single sparrow in Your creation.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

Oh Lord, thank You for the consideration You pay for us, Your image bearers, even though we have done much to stain and warp Your precious image. Thank You for the redemption You offer by the blood of Your only Son and for the mercy You show to us each and every day.  Thank You for being a God who sees us, who is compassionate and involved in both the details of our lives and in the vast scope of all Your creation.

Most High, forgive us for the many times we bring our concerns and pleas before Your throne of grace with an attitude of assigning tasks to You rather than with a humble demeanor of thanksgiving and praise. You have already done so much for us in Jesus; have already offered us eternal hope and joy. And yet, You still do more for us! 

Please, God, make us more mindful of Your holiness. Keep our hearts humble before You and never let the wonder of our Lord the Messiah leave our hearts and minds. May we approach You forever thankful, forever blessing Your name and exalting You in all we do. Teach us to exult in Your presence and to be satisfied and content in You. 

May we develop a habit of entering Your courts with praise and thanksgiving always. And as we learn to praise You in everything – in clouds and sunshine, in good times and bad – may the joy of the Lord fill our hearts. Let the brightness and genuineness of joy in us act as a beacon to the lost and hurting int he world. Use our testimony, Lord, to turn the hearts of others to You so they, too, may share in our joy, amen. 

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

Tuesday Prayer: Contemplation

Father on high, you are the Name above all other names, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Apart from You, nothing else would be. As it is written in Your word:  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

Today we take time to pause and reflect on Your nature. Almighty God, the Eternal One… sometimes we say these things but do not take the time to contemplate them. We invite You to invade the busy-ness of our lives and the distractions we allow to assail our senses this week. Pull us aside to simple communion You; to ponder Your glory which is without limit, Your power which is without restraint. Teach us to unplug and let our full attention be absorbed by the wonder of our God.

As we contemplate Your majesty, it is simple to see why David once wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”(Psalms 8:4)

And yet, You do care. You are mindful. Not only that, but You cloaked the radiance of Your glory in the animated clay of human flesh, walked among Your creation as a part of it, and experienced all the joys and the pains of living as a man – including betrayal, suffering, and death.

O God, there truly is no one like You! What You have done for us is unthinkable; it is too wonderful for our little minds to fully grasp. When our minds and hearts become filled with resentment or bitterness; when we lose patience with one another; or when we begin to have an inflated view of our own importance, remind us of who You are.

Remind us , too, that we are Yours, bought with a precious, precious price and redeemed to bring honor to Your Name. And remind us of Your love which continues to draw us closer in and which will never leave or forsake us. To You be the power and the honor and the glory forever, amen!

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)

 

Pants on Fire

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
(John 8:44)

Right now, I’m striving to take the excellent advice of an older lady given to me back when I still counted my firstborn’s age in months. She told me not to take anything kids say or do as teenagers personally.

In the difficult moments, I remind myself of this advice, though with varying degrees of success. At such times, I try not to think of my kids so much as young adults but more as very tall toddlers.

With that image firmly(ish) in mind, my aim is to be amused rather than angry; treating teenage temper tantrums with the same degree of hilarity that I did the time my son was three and answered my stern admonition to behave with, “I am being have!”

***Note that in his preschool pronunciation, ‘have,’ rhymed with ‘stave’ and should not be confused with the verb as we are accustomed to reading it (ie-May I have a donut?.***

To that end, I was thinking about some poor behavior-inducing deceptions my oldest is currently believing and acting on. These are lies any of us might believe – and sometimes mistake for humility – at one time or another. You probably know the litany: I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, nobody likes me, everybody hates me, etc.

As I was pondering how to get my teen to see past these lies to the Lord, a funny thought hit me.

But before I tell you what actually made me laugh a little on the inside, bear with me and forget for the moment that when Jesus called the devil “a liar and the father of lies,” His aim was not to encourage the depressed but to oppose those who refused to listen to Him.

Lest we think our Lord is permissive (as some opine), He was actually associating His critics with the satanic.  Heck, within minutes of uttering these words, He was almost stoned by the crowd. Perhaps there’s a post in there, too, but let’s shelve it for now. Follow me back to where we were before I chased that rabbit…

Nearly every time I hear this quote about the devil being the father of lies, it is maybe a trifle out of context but meant to encourage someone struggling with self-esteem; specifically someone who is believing lies about their own value or whatnot.

But rather than arguing with an ancient enemy who has more experience twisting truth than we have in dodging it, I thought it might be a lot more fun just to concede this point. Score one for team Abaddon, ya know?

What I have in mind is something along the lines of, “Darn it all, you’re absolutely right. I don’t have a worthy bone in my body. What a wonder that God would trouble Himself save me, useless hunk of animated clay that I am!  And yet, He has done it. Doesn’t it just accentuate His perfect love and His goodness?”

Somehow, I do not think praise is the response demonic deception is intended to evoke…

Even so and all kidding aside, how much more jaw-dropping the light of His mercy and grace is when superimposed upon the blackness of my heart. The mere thought of it only makes me love Him more. The truth of it brings a gratitude beyond words.

Oh who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord!

… And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
(Nehemiah 8:10b)

Then and Now

To all my blog friends and followers, I am in the midst of a new novel and working with a deadline. I asked the Lord to make His will clear and help me meet my writing goal last month in the midst of impossible circumstances. Contrary to all human logic, the goal was met!  But my blog networking/reading/commenting had to be sacrificed… Still love you all, though!

God has been reminding me of much. Below is a post I wrote back in July of 2008. It came to mind yesterday and as I read it, Psalm 126 continued to reverberate through my mind, in particular verse 3.

Have the battles I mention below been won? Not by a long shot. If anything, they have intensified. Yet God is good, and today I can praise Him because through it all, He has done great things for us!

” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
(Psalms 126:3)

My Father’s Love – July 2008

One summer evening, I was frustrated

An escalating discipline issue with our son left me feeling like a failure as a parent. The homeschool year was looming and I did not feel ready. My once healthy body seemed to be falling apart, treatments for one set of problems did not always work in conjunction with treatments for another set, and bits of me seemed to be aging prematurely in the most depressing ways.

I was (and still am) tired of pain, tired of medicines, and tired of being tired all the time.

There was more, but suffice to say that I was overwhelmed. After putting the children to bed, I trudged downstairs ready to attack chores which piled up during the all-consuming battle with Little Man and his great, big stubborn streak.

As I wearily prepared to wash the dishes, I felt a strong urge to go outside. I started to resist but recognized my Lord’s quiet voice urging me. So I abandoned the dishes and went.

It was beautiful out. The heat of summer had mellowed into a pleasant warmth. I began to pray, laying all my frustrations at God’s feet and trusting Him to know the ones I couldn’t voice.

As I prayed, tears began and I fell silent, gazing at the horizon. The sun was just setting and the sky was streaked with faint color. For a moment, I sat then stirred myself to rise and go back indoors.

Again, that urging, “Just sit. Wait. I have something to show you.”

I sat.

I listened.

The cicadas were beginning their evening song. I realized that I used to enjoy listening to the cicadas on summer evenings but had not had the time since moving into a larger house.

As I listened, I began to hear not only bird song, but individual birds and became aware of their locations around me. Always, the cicadas hummed their rising and falling song in the background. Peace washed over me and suddenly the pale colors in the sky began to seem a little richer… and a little richer… until the sky blazed a red-gold tinged with violet.

Still, all around me birds, cicadas, and frogs in the lake sang their goodnight praise to their Maker. Distant voices, rather than disturbing the symphony, were simply a part of it; the owners an unknowing participant in a harmony of worship.

I also began to worship, enjoying the show, enjoying feeling wrapped in my Father’s care.

When my husband arrived home from his errand, I was still lounging in the grass. I knew in my heart that my problems were not miraculously resolved. I knew that my health trouble was not over, nor was the battle to apply my son’s stubbornness to the correct path.

Instead, I had something better–my Lord had reminded me that He would be with me every step of the way. He had reminded me not to forget to praise Him through it all.

By bringing my attention to the song of His Creation, my Father caused me to remember that He loves me too much to remove the trials.

No matter what comes of it all, He has my best interests at heart. After all, no matter what happens to me here on earth, this is only the prologue. The chapters of my story are yet to be written – though God knows the words already.

I came away that night, not with solutions but with the peace that comes from understanding in a more complete and deeper way that I am in training for eternity.

Yes, the work is hard, but it will be worthwhile. And most importantly, my Father truly does love me. Me personally. That amazes me most of all.

Unplugged

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalms 37:4

For the last couple of weeks, I have spent most of my time unplugged. My family took a brief getaway to the beach, staying in a quiet residential neighborhood with no Wi-Fi.

Although I love many of the bloggers I follow, it was nice to take a holiday from the digital noise and to spend time reflecting on God’s Word surrounded by His creation and my family. Perhaps ironically, one of the most refreshing portions of the vacation included a little bit of conviction.

On the Saturday that we began the 7-hour drive to the nearest beach, the forecast for the 3 full days we planned to stay called for rain. A lot of rain. I confess that I was somewhat dissatisfied. As I expressed my disappointment on that first rainy day, He began to remind me of my own words written just a couple of weeks prior; words that spoke of finding contentment in Christ alone.

While we were at it, He also brought my attention to places in my heart where I had harbored jealousy instead of the satisfaction and gratitude that are appropriate for a daughter of the King of kings.

Grieved at my own hypocrisy, I repented,  thanking Him for His chastisement, and I began to intentionally offer Him thanks, reminding myself and my family of the abundance of His mercy and love manifested in gifts we have done nothing to deserve.

In my heart, I determined to satisfy myself with the Lord alone, yielding even a long-held desire to see a particular stretch of protected dunes sandwiched between high-rise vacation rentals and walk along the boardwalk that threads its way there from the road to the beach.

Yet now that I was truly and fully content in Him alone, He had something to show me.

On Monday morning, I rose around 7:00 to find that the rains had ceased, leaving behind only clouds. My mom and I headed to a nearby trail in the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, leaving behind my sleepy teens and my husband who was recovering from a cold.

The weather could not have been more perfect as we walked through the shade of live oaks and around a salt marsh and a lake.BeachNature003

As we walked, I stopped here and there to capture some of my Father’s artistry while at other times I merely savored the beauty.

To my great delight, we found that the trail we followed was intersected by another trail featuring a trek through natural sand dunes dotted by scrubby plants and low-growing vegetation.

GulfShores055Also along this trail was a ruin of some sort; a foundation of some small home and posts of unknown purpose that were gradually being reclaimed by the natural vegetation.

 

 

 

As we walked, the vegetation thinned, giving way to sea oats and the shore. GulfShores057BeachNature016

When I delighted myself in God, He took one small desire of my heart and returned it to me sevenfold. I absolutely adore natural places, and instead of settling for my small, cramped space of untouched dunes, He gave me a four-mile stretch of trail that encompassed even more than I had hoped to see. GulfShores059

Other gifts were more intangible: a genuine smile from my moody 12-year-old, a few moments of silliness from teenagers who are often irritated with one another.

Indeed, I am refreshed.  Sin has been brought to light and addressed, my family enjoyed some time together, and God granted not only the fullness of joy that comes in His presence, but many breathtaking glimpses of His creative genius as well. Oh, how great is my God!

 

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great….

…May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works… I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.   Psalms 104:24-25, 31, 33-34

 

 

Migraine Chronicles: An Open Letter

Although this post is inspired by and dedicated to my young friend,  I offer it to anyone who struggles with chronic pain, migraine or otherwise. 

Dear J.,

One of the most deplorable things about chronic pain of any type is that it can begin to creep into your heart after a time, staining each bright new day with blotches of dreary brown and blunting the edges of enthusiasm until life seems to stretch out into one great, endless weariness.

That is the look I see in the back of your eyes these days. You’ve let the migraines become a part of who you are; accepting the pain and even defining yourself by it. My dear, believe me when I tell you this: that is a luxury you simply cannot afford.

Oh, I know it stinks. Sometimes, I think, it is important to remember that you are not alone. The triptans that are such a miracle for so many are barred to me as well. And like you, I have months that are better and months that are worse. Along the way, I’ve learned some tricks to reducing the headaches and others for simply coping with pain. Over time, I hope to share them with you.

But for today, I just want to address the darkness that now clouds your lovely blue eyes.

Will you believe me if I tell you that there are worse kinds of pain you can have besides the physical sort? It’s true. In many ways – ways that are better discussed in person on a nice long hike with fresh air in our lungs and sunlight filtering through the leaves – you are fortunate to have this particular struggle, even at your age. There are many worse things that could have happened.

While that may seem far-fetched, it is entirely true, and that is where I want to begin. Before we discuss some practical steps you can take to waging serious war against your migraines, really the first and most important battle you can undertake is the one against despair.

You simply cannot let the enemy of your soul win the field on that one.

Trust me if I say I know what I am talking about here. Physical pain has not been my only opponent on the battlefield, and so I have at least a year or two (or is that a decade or two?) of experience from which to pull. What I advise you today is pragmatic and workable, though it may seem foolish to you at first.

My challenge to you today is to praise God anyway – and not just today, but every single day this week, maybe even many times each day. All day long, if you must.

That’s the first step; that’s the challenge. Yet I do not leave you to build without tools. Interestingly enough, neither did God! One of the first steps in learning to praise God even in the midst of trials, hardship, and suffering is to understand that you are not alone in it.

Remember that He submitted to pain, Himself, and so He can and does understand. That is a small part of a great truth you can find in Hebrews 4:15-16:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16

So grab a pen and a few note cards. This is a full-on homework assignment and one I suggest you take seriously. If you recall your most recent visit to my house, you will see that I am not speaking hypocritically.  From long experience, I have simply learned that the most effective weapon in battling the darkness is the Sword of the Lord, which is the Word of God (see Ephesians 6:17).

When you cannot think of your own words of praise, borrow someone else’s! Sometimes, too, it is helpful to realize that the road of difficulty is not as lonely as the enemy would have you believe.

Not all at once, maybe, but over the next few days look up the following passages, write them on note cards or post-it notes, and stick them up wherever you are most likely to see them. Then stop and read them aloud as often as it takes.

  • Psalm 8:1-4
  • Psalm 16:5-8, 11
  • Psalm 23
  • Psalm 34:1-4
  • Psalm 43:3-5
  • Psalm 73:25-26
  • Psalm 103:1-5
  • Lamentations 3:17-26
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  • Philippians 4:4, 6-8

And don’t forget, I could literally go on all day… but I thought we’d start with just a few. 😉

With great affection,

Ms. Heather

PS-Anyone else out there, feel free to chime in. What Scriptures help you to deal with black moods or times of difficulty?