Friday, March 10, 2017

Why Should We Pray

The first time I have ever seen a sun dog (or even heard of it)



As we drove home from youth group last night, I asked David and Lizzy what they talked about in their respective groups (junior high boys or girls groups).  Lizzy said that they talked about having prayer times.  I asked her why we should have daily prayer times.  "I don't know."  Hmmm.

I thought about that for a minute and had an idea:

I have two friends.  You only have two friends?  No, I have lots of friends, but this story is only about two of them.  One friend I met in junior high.  We were great friends, spent lots of time together.  Then she left my school and moved to another town about a half hour away.  I saw her less, but we still got together for sleepovers and talked on the phone (this was in the stone age before texting and email).  We kept this up until college when life got busier.  We still saw each other on occasion and were even in each other's weddings.  Then we started having kids and she moved even further away and we lost touch.  Now we are friends only on facebook.

And then there is my other friend.  We talk on the phone regularly, text, and meet up to hang out.  Sometimes we get together as families and sometimes I meet her for coffee just to talk.  Most of the time our conversations aren't really profound or important.  They are just about life.  But every now and then we will talk about things going on in our lives and she will say something that changes how I see something, or vice versa.  Or if one of us has a problem, she will help me or I will help her.

I want you to think about this as it relates to God.  Most of your prayer times won't be profound.  They will just be shooting the breeze with God and building a relationship.  But sometimes God will speak to you in a powerful way, give you direction, help you with something, or even give you a new perspective that will change your entire life's course.  

If one in ten prayer times are profound, and you only pray once a week, you will only have that moment 5 times in a year.  But if you pray every day, you will have that 36 times!

And on those normal, un-profound days, they aren't wasted.  You are building intimacy with God.  You are getting to know Him, His real character.  Over time it will shape your character to be more like Him.  It will keep your ears open for when He speaks to you.  It will help you to see the world through His eyes and not yours."

All three of us left the car with a whole new perspective on daily prayer.  As I shared this with my kids, a light bulb went on in my own heart.  For years I have approached daily prayer expecting God to speak to me in a big way every day.  And getting mad or feeling hurt when God didn't.  I have been brushing aside the day-to-day relationship as insignificant.  I have been viewing reading the Bible and uneventful prayer as boring.  No words from the Lord, no profound inspiration, no mountain tops every day.  But these types of days are the ones that build the intimacy and the relationship which set us up for God to be able to speak into our lives when the time is right.  And the more I pray, the more I get to know God and His character, and the more His character can form my character and make me more like Him.

I will approach prayer in a whole new light.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Winning Her Heart




I thought all of my kids were finally tucked in bed last night.  I turned on my latest Netflix binge-show, settled in with my fuzzy blanket, and 3 minutes into the show I hear footsteps coming my way.  One of my kids were not in bed.  (Insert eye roll)  I nearly unleashed "exasperated mom" on said kid, until I looked at her eyes.  They were sad and a little red.  Hmm.

"Mom, I need to tell you something.  Lately I've been wondering if God is even real."

She went on to mirror many of my own thoughts that I have been wrestling with over the past 6 months.  Which is how I could look at her with absolute love and say, "I understand.  A few weeks ago I said the exact same thing to Dad because I was mad at God for not taking away my pain.  I started to wonder if He existed or if He was just man made.  Sometimes when we are struggling, or busy, or when God isn't answering us in the way we want, we can find ourselves wrestling with God being real."

I continued, "I will tell you what Dad told me.  If you have a friend that you stop talking to for weeks, months, or years, what happens to the relationship?  It fades.  If you want to feel closer to God, you need to start praying and talking to Him.  You need to tell Him how you feel and what is really going on.  None of it is a surprise to God, and even if you tell Him you're questioning His existence, He will never stop loving you."

She told me that she wanted a relationship with God like her teacher has.  Her teacher who, like my mom, just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer.  Through the experience, her teacher shared about how much closer she grew to God, how God was right there with her through it all.  (How awesome that my child's teacher shared that with the class.  All these kids who will remember that for years to come and when they hit their own "big struggles" down the road, I pray they remember that and emulate their teacher.)

I said, "Child, lets work on getting to that place without having to go through cancer.  Your teacher is an awesome example of a woman who loves God, and you would do well to want to be like her.  And your starting point is to start talking to God again.  If you spend 10 minutes praying and reading your Bible every morning when you usually read a book, that will get things moving in the right direction."

We prayed together, I asked God to speak to her heart and to remind her that He loves her.  She thanked me and went off to bed.

A half hour later, I hear footsteps again and there is said child holding a notebook, eyes red, but this time with a huge smile on her face.

"Mom, isn't it awesome when God tells us exactly what we need to hear?"  She read the words that she heard from the Lord to me, about how He loves her, that He knows her, to trust Him, that He holds her in His hands and will never let her go.  "Mom, I'm so happy."  And then she skipped off to bed.

There are days when my children act almost feral and I wonder what will become of them when they are all grown up and out of my home.  Will they remember what their Dad and I have taught them over the years?  Will they continue to love Jesus and serve Him all the days of their lives?  Will they at least stay out of jail?

Thankfully, there are also moments like last night where you get to witness God working in your child's life in awesome and powerful ways.  Where God reminds you once again that He loves your children even more than you do.  To trust Him to win their hearts.  Just like He seeks to win your own heart.

Monday, February 27, 2017

It Is Well With My Soul

I saw this in the clearance section at the store today.  It came home with me.



Horatio G. Spafford was a successful, blessed man.  He had a wife named Anna, 4 daughters, 1 son, and owned a business.  In the space of 2 years, much of his business burned down in the Chicago Fire, his son died from pneumonia, and his 4 daughters drowned when their ship collided with another ship while crossing the Atlantic.  His wife, who was also on the ship, was rescued.  Here is a man who has literally lost everything except his wife.  He had 2 really, really awful years.

Any normal man would rail at God and ask, Why?  Why did You take away everything?  Any normal woman would rail at God and say the same thing.  Yet, somehow, Horatio and Anna were different.  As Anna waited for Horatio to cross the Atlantic to comfort her in her grief, she clung to God's unfailing goodness.  Another of the ship's survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, "God gave me four daughters.  Now they have been taken from me.  Someday I will understand why."

As Horatio journeyed across the Atlantic to be at his wife's side, he wrote the words to the hymn,

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

Thou Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

For the past week I have been meditating on the words of this hymn.  As my body hurts and my energy fades, it is well with my soul.  As I look around at my messy house, it is well with my soul.  As I have a bunch of things to get done today, it is well with my soul.

Why can I, as a Christian, say with absolute certainty that it is well with my soul regardless of my circumstances?  Because I know that my body, this life, my troubles, and afflictions are all temporary.  The only thing that matters is that my sin is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.  Today I cannot understand why God has allowed me to walk through the journey of chronic pain.  But I know that one day I will understand why.  And I can rest secure in knowing that in Christ, whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.