Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Praying Together

I want to share an online devotional from Rick Warren that I read recently. It really got me thinking about my prayer life. Like many Christians, I feel uncomfortable praying out loud in a group. I can do it, but I much prefer to pray alone. When I'm alone I don't have to worry about how my words come out. My entire focus can be on what I'm praying about instead of wondering how it sounds to others. Know what I'm talking about? But Rick reminded me that while praying alone is good, real power comes while praying with a group of believers. Even the Lord's Prayer which Jesus modeled was meant to be prayed in a group. Maybe it's about time I stop worrying about what I sound like to others and start caring more about the power that comes from praying together...

"And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them" (Matthew 18:19-20 TEV).

If you look at the Lord's Prayer, you'll see that it reflects praying together: "Our Father . . . give us . . . our daily bread . . . forgive us our debts . . . as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . lead us not into temptation . . . deliver us" (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV, emphasis mine).

Many of us miss out on so much because we only pray by ourselves. Yet, when Jesus gave us an outline for prayer, He spoke about praying together. There is power in group prayer.

If you're not praying with other believers, then you're not getting the support you need. You're missing out on one of the major benefits of being a Christian. Jesus says "whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them" (Matthew 18:19-20 TEV). That's the power of praying with other people.

Ask yourself, "Who am I consistently praying with on a regular basis?" You may be saying you've never prayed with anybody before and it scares you to death. It's okay to start slow. When you get together with five or six other friends, you don't have to pray if you don't want to; you can sit there and be quiet. Then, after several weeks, as you become more comfortable, you can begin to participate more in the group's prayers. You'll find a new level of stability in your life.

If you've never prayed with other people, start by praying aloud when you're alone. I do most of my praying, more than any other place, on the freeway. I'm driving down the road and talking aloud to the Lord, "Lord, here are some things I want to talk with you about today."

Another suggestion is to pray at meals. Our family holds hands; sometimes we pray sentence prayers such as thank you prayers to God for what he has done for us. Praying together is another form of worshipping God.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What I've Learned From My Dad

In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to reflect on one of the greatest lessons my dad has taught me...how to love and sacrifice for my children. I was essentially raised by my father. My parents divorced when I was young. My dad got full custody of me because he was retired military and had more time to devote to my care. Being an only child for a long while, I will admit that I got spoiled. He made me his life. But it wasn't the material things that stand out to me...it was the time and effort that he put into making me feel special. I remember spending lots of quality time together playing games, roller-skating, playing Nintendo, taking road trips, and even just watching TV. As a child he would play the piano for me at night as I was falling asleep, always taking "requests" of my favorite songs. He would also do little things to let me know he was thinking of me such as preparing my favorite foods or scraping the windshield of my car during the winter before school. I always knew that I was a priority to him. Picturing a loving God has never been a problem for me, because I know what it's like to bask in a father's love.

And still today my dad sacrifices his time to come up to visit, baby-sit his grandsons who adore their "Papa Joe", and help out with projects around our house. Just this past week he came up and allowed Jeremy and I to escape overnight for our anniversary...and even gave us the money to do so!

I may not have the luxury of being able to focus all my love and attention on one person, but I certainly hope that enough of my dad has rubbed off on me that my husband and children will always be able to feel the love I have for them and know that they are my priority.

Thank you , Dad, for being such a great example and for loving me even when I haven't been easy to love. Happy Fathers Day! I love you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

God's Dreams

Waiting is difficult. We live in a society that wants instant gratification. So to wait patiently for God to reveal or fulfill his plans for our lives is hard.

Waiting was hard for Abraham and Sarah too. God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars, but Sarah was old and barren. "As Abram's faith was developed and tested, delay was seen in the fulfilling of God's promise. In moments of weakness there are suggestions of alternative plans - plans not characterized by faith. Human efforts to assist in the fulfilling of divine promises complicated the matter." (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

So Sarah suggests they "help God out" by having Abraham sleep with her maidservant and build a family through her. This was an acceptable solution during that time, but it demonstrated a lack of faith. They had simply grown tired of waiting. The maidservant did bear a son and named him Ishmael, but many tensions developed within the family. God then told Abraham that Sarah would also bear him a son...at the age of 90! After recovering from his laughter, Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" And while God did promise to bless Ishmael, He said his covenant would be fulfilled through Isaac, Sarah's son.

"While we are tempted to criticize the couple for not believing a miracle could emerge from Sarah's womb, then coming up with an alternate plan and expecting God to bless it, don't we do the same? Rather than patiently and expectantly asking God "What dreams do you want to bring to life through me?" We often ask "Lord, will you bless the dreams I have for my life?" Our self-sufficiency results in many ministries that ultimately bear human-sized fruit rather than an abundant, God-sized harvest" (Shannon Ethridge)

I honestly don't know what God has in mind for my life other than being a wife and mother. I know there is something. I feel like I'm being prepared, but I don't know what for! And I don't want to get impatient and run ahead of God and what He's doing. I pray that when the time is right, I will know what His dream is...and that it will result in a ministry that produces fruit as numerous as the stars.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

By Your Side

"Please don't fight these hands that are holding you." Doesn't make sense to fight with God. But that's the very thing I do when I act in my independence instead of resting in Him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Do you ever find yourself in a period of waiting? Maybe you've been praying for a situation in your life to change, but no change occurs. Maybe you've been praying for guidance and direction, yet God remains silent. Could it be that He is waiting on us?

Shannon Ethridge writes that "Waiting may simply mean returning to the last thing you felt prompted to do, then asking yourself, Have I been obedient? As a parent, I try not to overwhelm my children by asking them to do something until they have finished the last thing I've asked them to do. God works in similar ways. He guides us step by step, refusing to overwhelm us with the big picture until we can handle it. He doesn't call us to run spiritual marathons until we've been obedient to the little things and mastered basic training.

When was the last time you were certain that God spoke to you? Go back to that place and ensure you have obeyed that instruction. Only then will God continue to give you further direction."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tossing the Bouquet

It's a tradition at nearly every wedding...the bride tossing the bouquet over her shoulder, wanting someone else to find such happiness and fulfillment...the single woman hopeful to catch it and be the next to marry. As Christians we are called to "toss the bouquet" by sharing our testimony with others. I know firsthand the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus and I long for others to know that same joy. So here is an "abridged" version of my story...

Today I am living my dream. But the road to get here was not easy. I was blessed to grow up in a loving home where my needs were provided for. However, it was a broken home. The frequent changes that occurred in my family left me feeling insecure. So I took control over every aspect of my life that I could. I excelled in school and tried to do everything "right" to earn the approval of others. I shut myself down emotionally so no one could see my pain and vulnerability. And when I got older, I sought my security from my relationships with boys. While I grew up going to church it was more of a "Sunday morning" thing rather than a faith that permeated my life.

I was around 18 years old when I began losing control. A 2-year romantic relationship had just ended, my self-esteem was in the gutter, and I was heading to college with a major...but no real direction or purpose for my life. I was drawn to a student Christian group on campus. The people there were different. They had a sense of joy and optimism that I longed for. But my skepticism kept me at a distance and I continued making poor choices. Until one day I hit rock bottom. But instead of sinking into despair, I felt something telling me "You were made for more than this"! And the amazing thing was that I believed it. I began to really seek out Jesus, and you know what...I found Him! I thank God that he made His presence known to me before I made a total mess of my life.

In the 12 years since, my life has completely changed. My attitude and outlook on life have improved. I have a clear purpose and direction. I now look to God for my security and self-worth. I find freedom in not needing to be in control. And I'm finding joy in my growing compassion for others, rather than living life for myself. All these changes are a result of God refining me, which sometimes can be painful, but the end result is worth it. Of course my life isn't perfect...I still struggle with issues, I still mess up, I still sin. But now I seek wisdom and correction, I know that I'm loved unconditionally, I have hope for the future, and I live in the freedom of resting securely in the grip of my heavenly Father.

As I throw this bouquet, I pray that you would catch it and if you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior that you would begin to seek Him with all your heart. No need to push your way to the front, or elbow and claw the person standing next to you...the invitation is open to all.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who opens finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." - Matthew 7:7-8