Tuesday Prayer: Worship

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Lord, as we celebrate this Christmas season, let us not forget You as the Founder and Perfecter of our faith. You are the One true God, holy and pure, and in Your unfathomable mercy, You have established the ability to worship within the human heart. In fact, You created us to worship with the intent that You would be the recipient of our cravings and our praise.

Today we confess that we too often allow other things to eclipse Your glory in our lives. The Christmas season can be especially so, for although we sometimes say things like, ” Jesus is the reason for the season,” our actions sometimes betray where our true devotions lie. We can get so caught up in the busy-ness and the secular pressures of buying and giving that we forget Whose birthday it is we celebrate.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42)

So it is that we look to You as the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Lord, take our small faith and make it grow. Hone it, refine it, purify it, and make it into something which reflects Your glory to others. Take away all that eclipses Your majesty in our lives, turning our eyes from worthless things and giving us life in Your ways. Make us to love Your Scriptures more, reminding us that it is the very Word of Life to us.

 Give us a passion for Your Kingdom, a hunger for Your presence, and a never-ending thirst for the Living Water. Forgive our lack of trust and help us to trust You more. Fix our eyes on You and ascend the throne of our hearts as our rightful King. May it be that our worship of You is evident to all, shining like a light in the darkness of this world and acting as a guide to bring others to walk and live in the light of Your love, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Idols

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
(Isaiah 44:6)

Most High, as You spoke through the prophet centuries ago, You are the first and the last and apart from You there is no God. You are the sole and supreme Authority, the One who existed before all else and in whom all things are held together. Everything is part of Your creation, made to serve Your purposes and subject to Your plans. Teach us to magnify Your name as it should be done and to serve no other God.

Lord, as we spend more time in Your word, the more we are forced to confront those areas in our lives which fall short of bringing You honor and glory. As we examine our hearts, our lives, and our loyalties through the light of Your truth, we find we are not so far removed from the faithless children of Israel as we would like to think. Like them, when You appear before us in glory we fall to our faces in awe, but also like them, when an obstacle appears or when Your promises seem delayed, we quickly fall prey to fear or turn our hearts to yearn after some other thing.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it…
(Exodus 32:7-8a)

Forgive us for our idolatry, subtle though it may be! Whether what we serve is our careers, our families, our pleasures, entertainments, or any other created thing, we pray that You will reveal all of them no matter how painful. And Lord, we invite You to tear down the idols, asking only that You will give us the faith and trust to work with You in removing whatever we have erected in the place of worship within our hearts.

As we submit to this process, we look forward to the freedom we will experience by walking fully and humbly in Your will. We long to see You exalted in our lives and ask for You to fill our hearts more and more with love for You.

Let us be genuine Kingdom seekers first and foremost, not serving you out of one side of our mouths and serving ourselves out of the other. Instead, Lord, make us fully Yours; a people of undivided minds and hearts loving You and serving You wholeheartedly. As we walk out our trust, use the light of Your freedom shining through our lives to set others free. May Your word speed ahead and be honored in us, in our families, and in every place we go with You, amen.

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)

A Lenten Prayer

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:9)

Our mighty God, You are a God of covenant loyalty and of never-ending love. Your faithfulness endures through the ages, your mercies never cease, and your steadfast love is more abundant than we can even imagine. You are not only the God of love, You are the God who is Love.

We praise You today for Your love, offered freely to us despite our rebellion.We give thanks because Your love always brings about what is best for us, preparing us for eternity with You even when it is uncomfortable for us here and now.

Lord, may we become intoxicated with Your love. May it motivate us to greater surrender to Your perfect will and to loving others as You have loved us – not because they deserve it, but because they don’t deserve it. But they need it.

We ask for the love of Christ to compel us to honor His sacrifice by complete obedience to You, to zeal for Your Kingdom, to have mercy on others, and to love without holding back as You held back nothing from us – not even Your Son.

Help our love to be genuine; an outpouring of the work of Your Spirit in our lives. Teach us to truly abhor what is evil, agreeing with You on the definition of evil and rejecting it without delay – even if the evil happens to be an old habit, a grudge, or even a seemingly innocuous pleasure.

Help us to cling to what is good in Your eyes. Incline our hearts to love Your word, to feast on it, and to obey it so that by testing we may know Your will and understand what is truly good and acceptable and perfect – not in the world’s ever-chaining definition, but in Yours. May we become what You desire us to be in Christ, amen.

Gross But Good

… the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28)

Last Friday night, I spent some time with my 14-year-old and two adorable little girls wearing a sweatshirt and yoga pants merrily festooned with vomit.

It was glorious.

Well, OK, not the vomit of course…

My Sweet Potata had agreed to babysit for some friends but had neglected to tell me the two previous nights had been sleepless for her. Once my gang arrived home from school, her bleary eyes and slumped shoulders told the tale even before she could confess.

So I decided to tag along and be her wingman. We had a fantastic conversation on the drive over, and the first couple of hours were filled with joyful giggles and silly games. At the appropriate time, my no-longer-little girl tucked the two sweeties into bed we both settled in to do a little reading.

Twenty minutes later, I was bathing the youngest while big sister provided Sweet Potata with a detailed narrative of the differences between her sister’s vomit and the one time she had thrown up.

At this point, I wasn’t sure if excitement or illness had caused the event, but I was thankful God had worked things out so Sweet Potata and I could switch hit. Once the little one was bathed, Sweet Potata sat with the sisters and read books while I cleaned up the crib. Not long after, she had big sister back in bed while I held the little one in another room.

Seconds later, said little one was back in the tub and my clothing had acquired some distinctive new attributes. Even still, it was a wonderful evening.

You see, now that my own children are teens, connection with them does not always come as easily as it did when they were small. They no longer believe I know everything and in fact are often convinced I am not even capable of spelling my name correctly. They definitely doubt my abilities.

But all of it – the pulling away, the incessant questioning of my motives, the disbelief that our family rules are there for the good of each person, the reluctance to believe my insistence on a hygienic household and on the nutritional deficit of Pop Tarts have merit– all of it is a natural and necessary part of growing up.

But as a parent, it is a painful part.

And crazily, as I sat in the floor with the towel-wrapped toddler by my side (because my lap was, shall we say, no longer a pleasing place to snuggle), I had a powerful glimpse of the enormity of God’s love for me.

Like my teenage daughter, I spent much of my life pulling away from my Father. In truth, I rejected Him entirely.

All of humanity did. We all wanted to go our own way, test our boundaries without the pesky interference of thoughts for the future. We all disbelieved His laws were given out of love and concern for us. We all sinned and fell short of His glory.

Yet so great is His love that He did not give up on us.

Instead, He sent His Son away from Glory to immerse Himself in humanity. The Creator subjecting Himself to all the vile things which occur in a human body since the day sin entered and brought decay and death into His creation.

While here, Yeshua reached past the festering reek of leprosy and touched those who were infected by it – despite the social stigma of being unclean.

He raised the dead. He endured being spat upon, mocked, and brutally tortured. It is likely there were times when He was covered in worse things than vomit.

Suddenly, as I sat with one arm wrapped around a sick little sweetie, listening to my daughter’s voice mingled with big sister’s and ignoring the clammy funk of my own clothing, I realized something.

Yeshua came and suffered the nastiness of being human because it was worth it.

To me, all the cleaning up – and yes, even the light coating of vomit – was worth it. That night, I was able offer friends who are dealing with so much a chance to have some time alone together. I had the privilege of offering comfort to one I claim as a part-time daughter.

But most of all, it was worth it to reach through the wall of adolescent stubbornness and bring a little restoration into my relationship with my daughter. To talk with her and enjoy each other as we did when she was small. To know I was there by her side in a difficult situation.

And that is precisely why my Lord came. To restore the connection He once had with His beloved creation. To walk through the yuck with us.

For Him, I believe, it was worth wearing a bit of foulness to walk and talk with His beloved children once more as He used to before sin entered the world.

Which just makes me love Him even more.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
(2 Corinthians 1:5)

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.

When Life Is Not a Box of Chocolates: A Migraine Story

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Once again, it’s confession time here on RTR… It has been some time since I’ve written a migraine post – in part because I have been struggling through a period of loathing migraine.

In some seasons, I embrace this part of my life as a gift – a useful pruning, a thorn in my flesh to keep me from becoming arrogant. A tool in the hands of the Potter as He shapes me.

In other seasons… well, let’s just say I can be a vine who talks back, clutching the discarded branches in resentful hands and questioning the Vinedresser’s skillful trimming. Such is the heart prone to wander…

There were a few weeks in which the severity (if not the frequency) was somewhat reduced. Yet one of the most vexing things about dealing with a chronic “invisible” illness is the residual symptoms. Even on days where the headache is mild, there is an ever-present fatigue. Some days it, like the headache, is pretty ignorable. Other days, I can barely function.

Last night, a mild migraine-like headache decided to roar into full throttle around 2 am. Because I am limited in the types of medication I can take, I had hoped to sleep it off but ended up fumbling for one medication around 2:15 and searching for another an hour later.

The crummy thing about migraine is the confusion which hallmarks each attack. I do not always know when the line between “ignore” and “take medicine” has been crossed. And this bleeds over into all sorts of other areas – like my hip problem which I ignored for over a decade before it, too, kept me awake nights.

But I am not here to complain. I’m really not. Today, after a pretty rough night and cancellations of highly-anticipated activities, I have been able to recover. In the past two days, I’ve slept a ridiculous amount even with last night’s interruption. And now after a nap and on the hangover (or postdrome) side of my latest migraine adventure, I feel wrung out and limp.

It is easy to feel useless when dealing with any chronic disease. It is so simple to look at all the great and wonderful things others do with their lives – homeschool moms who balance educating their kids with a career, ladies my age who have opened a business of their own, published authors, successful women. Supermoms who can raise their kids with one hand and serve at church while working full-time with the other.

It can be easy to compare…and to despair.

Another temptation is to watch my man come home exhausted after another 80 or more hour work week and feel it is my fault. If I could only bring home an income. If I could write a book worth publishing or if I had just finished college, maybe he wouldn’t feel such pressure to provide for us. For me.

But even in the aftermath of a pretty nasty neurological storm, I am thankful for my God. I am reminded my value is not in any worldly success – not even in what I do for the Lord. My value is in Him. 

He is my reward and my impetus for continuing. He and He alone comforts me – but He does not comfort me so I can feel cherished and complacent in my war against a stupid and frustrating illness.

No, He comforts me so I can comfort others.

So today, child of God, if there is any reason you feel despondent, alone, useless, or afraid, know you are not alone. Even if you do not know God, even if you have rejected His Son, Yeshua, or even mocked the very idea of His existence, there is hope.

No matter what, you are still not alone, and your rejection of Him does not guarantee His rejection of you. In God’s bewildering grace, there is always a chance for repentance. There is always a chance to turn to Him.

And He longs for you to come to Him. If you will surrender to Him, He will comfort you. And He will bring purpose to your affliction and give you an eternal hope so you may endure this life even if it grows more unendurable by the day.

Even still, I do not worship Him today because of the comfort He gives nor the hope I have, but because He is worthy. Even when I have nothing of worth to offer Him.