Nuggets: When Today Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

It’s been a bit since I shared a nugget, I know. But when God keeps you up at night, bombarding you with His precious thoughts (Psalm 139:17), sometimes you just gotta share!

I wrote a quick devotional last night for my niece, Kylie, talking about preciousness and God took it from there.

As I tuned into His precious thoughts, God brought Psalm 5:3 to my heart.

In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

This verse reeks of expectation: watching and waiting. But that’s not how I tend to order my day. From the moment of waking (or even going to bed at night) I have a budding plan of what must be done, what relationships must be tended, who must be seen … and a growing anxiety that there’s just not enough time to do it all.

But God says all I have to do is prepare a sacrifice and prayer, then wait and watch. Here’s what I wrote in my journal this morning:

I set so many plans and expectations on each day. I want to plan everything, right down to intimacy with my husband and what time I will have a third cup of coffee. But you, O God, have called me only to prepare my prayer and sacrifice (surrender) and then to watch. Your goal, plan and summation of my divine to-do list today is to watch and wait for you. 

In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. Isaiah 26:8

That takes a lot of pressure of off the day, right? It effectively cuts my to-do list down to a manageable size and I have plenty of time to get it all done. All I must do is prepare myself before the Lord–commit the day to Him and surrender the rest. Then, watch in confidence of His goodness and ability to take care of it all.

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

If you prepare your prayer and sacrifice before God today–what has He left on your to-do list? What will you take care of first?

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The Bible and The Fleas

“ … give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

How special is God’s Word to you?

Have you ever wondered what life might be like if you didn’t have it?

Did you know that in North Korea it is illegal to own a Bible? And in many other countries, it is very difficult to obtain a Bible. In some places, owning a Bible might cost a person his or her life.

Corrie ten Boom was a young woman who faced some of these very difficult circumstances with bravery, hope and most of all, prayer.

Corrie lived in Holland during World War II. Her family were devoted Christians and when Nazi Germany began to arrest, deport and harm the Jewish people, Corrie and her family secretively hid as many Jews as they could in their own home. But in February 1944, the Gestapo raided Corrie’s home; she and her family were arrested and sent to prison camps.

In her biography, The Hiding Place, Corrie tells a story about her time in the prison camp and shares how very precious God’s Word was to her. She had managed to sneak a Bible into the camp with her, even though it was not allowed.

“Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the women prisoners around Corrie and Betsie found comfort in the little Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes they gathered around the Bible ‘like waifs clustered around a blazing fire…The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.’ ” (theprayercoach.com)

After a while, the guards moved the girls to a new barracks. They were filthy and infested with fleas. Corrie felt discouraged and hopeless, but Betsie pointed out that the Bible says we should give thanks in all circumstances. As they prayed together, Betsie thanked God for the fleas!

Corrie thought her sister was crazy, but a short time later, she joined Betsie in thanking God. Because of the fleas, none of the guards would come near the barracks where the two sisters were held with dozens of other women. In those cells, they held Bible studies freely, without fear of the guards catching and punishing them.

God, thank you for allowing us to own and read your Holy Word. Thank you for parents and teachers who have the freedom to teach us about you, and thank you that we are able to freely tell others about you, too. Teach us to be thankful always for this privilege and to pray for those who don’t have access to your Word. Help us to treat your Word with respect and honor.

This article was originally written for a young audience and published in ‘Tween Girls and God. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=tween+girls+and+god

Would a Proverbs 31 Woman Have Time for the Gym?

Would a Proverbs 31 woman have time to go to the gym?

If you’d posed that question several years ago, I’d have popped my headphones back into my ears and continued repping to my favorite worship music, or pounding the pavement to the lively voice of a good preacher. I certainly would not have wanted to answer you. I didn’t have a problem; I had a healthy addiction to being “healthy”.

I accepted Christ as the one true God and my personal savior at the age of seven. Since then, growing in a godly home, I was taught to aspire after the mysterious Proverbs 31 Woman. But through the tangled years of adolescence, a different god warped my thinking and I began to pursue the idols of beauty, strength and thinness, all the while professing the risen Christ and devoting (my spare time) to Him. Let me share the short list of what it cost, or almost cost me …

Finish reading this post at: Proverbs31Woman

God’s Version of Show and Tell

show and tellThere’s a woman whose daddy has been praying for her for years. All he wanted was to see his precious daughter healthy again, strong, fertile, free. How he longed for God to just tell him a little bit about the future, “Please God, just tell me that she’ll be okay!”

Now, she’s praying for him, “Please God, just tell me he’ll be okay.” Last week, her daddy’s hand was mangled in a workshop accident with a saw. He’ll live; the doctors did good work. But his heart is achy. All he wants is for God to tell him that he will still be useful and effective and capable.

Other hurdles have mounded in front of this godly family. A beloved elderly grandmother makes full days into over-full days, exhausting the daughter she lives with. An uncle suffers from unexpected heart problems. It’s wave after wave. Won’t someone just tell them it will be okay?

God, can’t you just explain the map a little bit? Can’t you point out the hope on the horizon?

I’ve been pulled into prayer lately. It’s magnetic, irresistible. More than the needs to pray, I feel compelled to know the heart of prayer.

God, I want to know how this works. I want to know why it works and why sometimes it seems like a crapshoot. God, I want to know why you care at all when our feeble voices wind heavenward like wisps of dissipating smoke, and why sometimes the floor heaven seems made of iron—impenetrable.

The only thing I know for sure, when my words seem worthless, God must attend His own Word. He is all truth, the essence of what is, the imaginer of all we believe real, so He simply cannot betray His own Word.

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long,” Psalm 25:4-5.

I pause.

Remember “Show and Tell” in kindergarten? Who would have cared if all we did was describe our dearest treasure? Who wants to merely hear a story when the option exists to reach out and touch the subject?

As a writer, we are constantly schooled to, “Show, don’t tell.”

A familiar phrase echoes the halls of literature, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

So I hear God say, “I could tell you, but I’d rather show you.”

Why is it I want God to tell me the future, to reveal the fearful mystery of what I cannot yet see? Why do I implore God to inform me when all He really wants is to show me?

Colorful fingers tug at my own, “Come here, Abby! I want to show you something!”

Why disillusion her by insisting that she should just tell me what it is? Why pretend I have better things to do than follow that precious girl and praise her painting, such as it is—the full palate of colors splattered on paper?

What I would miss if I chose not to follow her! She wants to see my expression, behold my admiration of her creativity.

Maybe God is the same way. “I could tell you, but I’d rather show you.” To show us, God must walk a half step ahead.

To show requires present and presence. When we arrive at the future, hand in hand with our Shepherd, we behold those terrifying unknowns in the present and are comforted by the presence of the Prince of Peace.

Praying Like a Sinner

[This devotional, first published in ‘Tween Girls and God is intended for youth.]

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God … “

Trista glanced across the yard as she climbed into the backseat of her family’s minivan one Sunday morning.

“The Carlsons never go to church,” she said to no one in particular. Daddy fastened Trista’s younger sister in her carseat, opened the door for her mother and then climbed in behind the wheel. Slowly, he backed out of the drive. No one replied, so Trista turned it into a question.

“Daddy, why don’t they go to church? I mean, God says we should, I know it’s in the Bible somewhere. Does that mean they don’t believe in Jesus? If they do believe in Jesus, does that mean we are better Christians? Does that mean they are bad people? Does that mean … ”.

“Slow down, Trista,” her mom interrupted. “If you don’t stop asking so many questions, your dad can’t give you an answer. Besides, I think this is a very important conversation. The things you’re saying sound a little prideful.”

“Trista, have you heard the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector?” Daddy asked. “Jesus tells the story in Luke chapter 18.”

“No. I don’t think so,” Trista said.

“Well, Jesus was talking to some people who were pretty sure they were really good people. They believed that they were doing a good job of keeping all of God’s commandments and that God must be pretty pleased with them.”

Daddy, continued, “So the story is that there were two men who went to pray. One was a very important religious leader and the other was a tax collector. In those days, tax collectors were considered to be bad people. Sometimes they cheated people out of their money.

“The religious leader stood off to the side, far away from the tax collector. Then he started to pray out loud, ‘God, I’m so glad that you didn’t make me like that tax collector over there. I’m a really good person. I do everything you say to do.’

“But the tax collector stood off to the side and looked sadly down at the ground. He cried, ‘God, I’m so sorry for the bad things I’ve done. Please have mercy on me.’

“Jesus finished the story by saying, ‘I promise you, the humble tax collector went home forgiven, not the prideful religious man.’”

Now it was Trista’s turn to hang her head. “I think I understand, Daddy,” she said in a small voice. “God isn’t happy when I am proud of myself and think that the good things I do make Him happy with me.”

“That’s right, sweetheart,” Mom spoke up. “Jesus died for our sins—for everyone in the whole world. You and I are only saved because we believe in Him, not because we go to church or do anything good at all. Also, it is not our place to judge other people. Actually, I know Mrs. Carlson from the bank. Their family goes to a different church and they worship on Saturday nights.”

Trista turned to look out the window and watched the other cars streak past. She wondered where they were going. Quietly, she whispered a prayer:

“Jesus, thank you for forgiving me when I am prideful and when I do bad things or don’t do the things you want me to do. Thank you for parents who teach me to believe in you and to understand the Bible. Help me to be humble and to remember that I am saved because of your grace, not by anything I do.”

When Seasons Collide

Dead leaves on bench

It’s the collision of the seasons.

Here I stand on the precipice of my favorite season–autumn. Summer is merging with colder air, the leaves are giving up their green and their death grip on brittle branches. I’ve already broken out the jeans (still paired with flip flops), and I’m reticent to recall shorts.

All this exquisite splendor is the harbinger of time well spent with loved ones and favorite people in front of the fireplace, with a good book, cuddled on the couch, over a good cup of coffee (or a deliciously dark beer!)

And so, my soul is singing with anticipation, but I’m sad too, my heart is a little wounded and my hopes are fragile. It’s strange for me, this mix of opposing feelings. But I suppose it’s good–that tears are mitigated by laughter and disappointment with excitement. 

I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend with my husband this fall. Yes, last year about this time he was leaving for Africa, so count my blessings (more on that later) he’s safe here in the states. But, we have suddenly launched into a season of such intense training and planning that I scarcely see him for a half hour a day. And waiting in the wings are a few weeks where they will work straight through the weekends–at least 21 days in a row.

And this sadness, I might have shared earlier, but I wasn’t ready–a couple months ago, I miscarried the baby my husband I never thought we could never have.

We never planned or risked the hope of getting pregnant. So when we learned in late July (with utter shock!) that I was expecting, we were floored. Just as surprising was the joy that overtook us! We couldn’t wait to hold our baby! But that wasn’t God’s plan. Somehow, our little one lived a purposeful life, and filled the purpose of his life in just 11 short weeks.

We survived that.

But now, the pain is refreshed each month. We’ve dared to think we can try now. We’ve dared to step into the realm of miracles only God can do–and to hope. And that’s scary.

So, as you can see, my emotions (fragile as they are), are swirling like the autumn leaves shimmying to the ground. And it’s tempting to complain to God–a lot. It’s easy right now, to form all “prayer requests” around the little phrase, “God please!!”

God, please give us a baby. God please give us more time together. God please give my husband a day off. God please help me to be kind and compassionate and understanding …

You know, I think all that is okay. Today I was scrounging for peace–the peace that God promises in Philippians when we present our requests to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

And suddenly, it dawned on me. There were prerequisites for that peace. I’ve met one prerequisite by simply praying, the second one is harder–with thanksgiving. 

I can’t have this unbelievable peace as long as my prayers sound like whiny pleas. Of course, I still believe God will answer those prayers, but I’m sabotaging my own peace if I insist on whimpering and repelling His peace with self-imposed anxiety, even as I pray. My attitude, even my emotions, is my responsibility.

So, I changed my prayer:

God, thank you for your marvelous plan of blessing and deepening our marriage in this season. Thank you for balancing the sorrow of this season with nature’s beauty. Thank you for giving us a baby, for making us parents. Thank you for teaching me your own faithfulness through pain. Thank you. Yes, thank you.

When You Don’t Know What to Say

My sisters and I watched Mary Poppins more than any other movie growing up. If you get me started on one line, it’s likely I could quote the rest of the movie—at least I could 25 years ago! But even if you’ve never seen the movie, it’s a safe bet that you’ve heard the famous word:
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

It’s a made up word that Mary Poppins, the incomparable nanny, taught her charges, Jane and Michael, to say when they didn’t know what to say.

Most of the time, true to my female gender, I’m quite well supplied with things to say. However, there are those moments in prayer when I’m uncomfortably tongue-tied. Usually this happens when I’m grappling with that baffling request. You know the one. It’s the same request you’ve been presenting to God for as long as you can remember with seemingly no answer. You’re at the point when you wonder if God cares about this request at all, or if you mention it one more time, He might throw His hands in the air and say, “Enough already!”

Other times I lose my words when I’m struggling with how to ask God for what I want so badly to happen. Those are the times when I want someone healed or someone saved. I want a miracle, but tremble every time I ask God, and tack on the caveat, “But only if it’s your will!”

Recently, I have faced both of these daunting scenarios. I sat silent on my back porch, journal, pen and Bible open beside me and nothing to say. But in that hush, that God whispered to me. (Makes me wonder if I should be quiet more often!)

It was Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in John 12 that spoke to me. In verses 27 and 28, Jesus tells his listeners:

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Jesus too, had come to that place where He desperately wanted God to do a miracle. Could the world be saved by a different method? He wanted to ask God to spare Him the suffering of the cross. But Jesus stopped. He didn’t plead with God, but neither did He recant the request or wonder what the will of God was. His response was simply, “Father, glorify your name.”

When I’m faced with those impassable questions: “What is God’s will? What will He do? What should I do? What can I ask for?”, the only right answer, the only plea I can know with certainty that God will answer, “Yes!”, is, “Glorify your name”. And I know that His glory and my good are one in the same. I can trust Him.

There’s also the problem of ongoing requests. There are people whose salvation I have prayed for for so long, that I almost gloss over the intercession, “God, you know.” The day after God whispered to me during my quiet time, He also provided the answer to this conundrum.

I stood in front of the mirror getting ready for church. Prayers echoed in my head as I listened to worship music. I came to a particular person and stopped. “God, I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know what to ask. It seems like you’re not hearing me!”

Quietly, but very clearly, I heard God respond. “I have been waiting for you to not know what to say. It is in those moments, however brief, that you stop trying to tell me how to run the world. You can rest; you’re not responsible for the outcome.”

A few days later, I sat again with my pen and journal, hopeful to capture the essence of what God had been speaking to me. As I waited, He framed His grace and future sufficiency for those baffling requests in the context of what Jesus did for me on the cross:

Have you ever wondered how Jesus faced the impending agony of the cross? How the Son prayed to the Father in the shadow of such a future? Have you wondered how Jesus woke morning after morning and spoke, touched, taught and healed with the foreknowledge of such forsakenness, agony, pain and abandonment?

Through Jesus, I myself have endured the agony of unwelcome answers, resignation to a will beyond a mind of dust, and walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I can identify with your questions and confusion and repeat the promises that, “All things work together for good”, and “I will glorify my name.”

Dear one, you cannot reach ahead and pull the burrs from tomorrow. You cannot reach forward and hang the sun over those future days to illuminate them. You’ve one day, one moment really and I love you more than all of time combined. I reached through and looped up all of time and life in one all-inclusive, redeeming act. Though tomorrow is yet unavailable to you, it is redeemed and you can truly rest. ~ Your Father

Who Prayed For Paul?

The headlines ran red. If there were a secret first century parchment bearing news, prayers and encouragement, circulating the dispersed believers, surely it read, “ Steven, our beloved brother in the faith, perished at the hands of Saul and the religious leaders. He breathed his last yet full of the Spirit and testifying to the goodness of Jesus.”

Maybe, John picked up that parchment or maybe he wrote it, heart aching. What a loss for the early church! No doubt Christians across the known world knelt in their homes and small gatherings, praying fervently for Steven’s family, the progress of the Gospel, their own safety and Christ’s soon return. But who prayed for Saul?

The early church knew who was responsible for much of their terror, and God asked them to do the unbelievable. After Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, He approached one of His own, a man named Ananias, and told him to go to Saul and lay his hands on him: “ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ ” (Acts 9:13, 14)

I wonder about that as our own headlines run red. Every single day we learn of more Christians, more People of the Cross, losing their lives for the name of Jesus. And, I kneel. I kneel by my bed and pray with tears streaming down my face. My emotions boil, a hot alloy of anger, fear, compassion and longing for justice. I lift up the Coptic Christians, those in Syria, Pastor Saeed Abedini, the orphans, the widows and those fighting for freedom.

But who prays for ISIS? Who prays for the Muslim Brotherhood? Who prays for Boko Haram and Vladimir Putin? Who prays for Al Queda?

Last Sunday, I served on prayer team at my church. Five of us huddled in the church office praying for the service and everything the Spirit laid on our hearts. We prayed for the church worldwide, but in that hour, none of us prayed for the persecutors. I have to confess, that even on my own time, I am reticent to pray for them. It’s not that I haven’t thought of it; it’s just that I don’t want to.

But in the biblical account, God didn’t let prayer warriors off the hook. In Acts 9:15-17, He replied to Ananias, “ ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ ”

If Ananias had refused God, if he had found praying for the murderer of his Christian brothers just too hard, what would have become of Saul? Who would have become Paul? Who would have written the majority of the New Testament? Who would have written Romans, the consummate doctrine of salvation by grace through faith?

God may have asked Ananias to do the unbelievable, but God proved that He will do the impossible. The bulk of our sacred New Testament was penned by the very man who once slaughtered People of the Cross.

Might God dramatically change the trajectory of history if Christians today pray for the persecutors? Can you imagine, for a split second, the magnificent manifestation of God’s glory if those perpetuating evil turned their hearts toward Jesus?

Do you think we should be praying for terrorists? What should we pray?