Ultimate Joy

Posts Tagged ‘prayer

The pressure was unspeakable. King David was alone, desperately trying to survive. In the throes of one of the darkest periods in his life, he puts his feelings out there for all to read, “No one cares for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4) Obviously, David was in the midst of one of those “nobody loves me, everybody hates me” type of days. We all want to be noticed, cared for and loved. But how much effort do we put into caring for one another’s souls?

For my daily Bible reading, I recently decided to tackle the book of Romans. I hadn’t even gotten through the first chapter, when I felt like I had been shot between the eyes. Romans 1:12 speaks of being mutually encouraged by one another’s faith. And I had to ask myself “How often do I take the time to spiritually encourage another person? Do I go out of my way to let people know they are significant?” In my journal, I wrote truthfully that I’m not the best spiritual encourager. I’m probably bringing up the rear.

What is amazing is that God gives us in each day, an opportunity to positively shape and mold those whose paths we cross with simple words of prayer. There is great power in prayer. It tells another that we have their back, that we are there to cheer them on, that we believe the best for one another. Prayer unites us as a community that delights in each other’s successes, celebrates each other’s joys and uplifts each other’s broken hearts.

Prayer for another is not simply a nice thing to do. When we are praying for another, we are locking arms with another. We create a God-sized defense around that person by letting them know they are not alone – that there truly is someone who is caring for their souls.

We all need a community of people who pray for us, who lovingly tend to our soul care by initiating a conversation that reverberates in heaven. Prayer is a powerful expression of faith bringing us into the very throne room of the Almighty God. When we pray, God listens. And He knows exactly what is needed even if our words tumble out and we struggle with their meaning.

Is there someone God is calling you to pray for today?  Someone, who like David, might think there is no one around that cares for their souls?

Then why not give them a call or send them an email? Better yet, email them a prayer or pray for them over the phone. Whisper to them what a privilege it is for you to share life with them. Tell them they are truly beloved of God, and yes, you truly do care for their soul.

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I don’t have much to offer. There isn’t a lot of money in my bank account. My talents and abilities aren’t going to change the world. I’ve often let my friends down and my husband will say I nag him. I always have laundry to do and my house is never clean. I let being an extrovert prevent me from finishing my writing projects. I’m lonely some days – especially without Richard. I constantly give into the voice that says, “You are not good enough to do this.” The nights are numerous when I lay in bed unable to sleep because self-deprecating thoughts swirl inside my head and I can’t shut them off.

Many times I have felt unworthy writing on the subject of joy because my life lacks joy. Honestly, I’d hardly be the poster girl for it. And I admit there are times when I write encouraging words to you simply because I need to speak encouragement into my life.

Today I need to know that I’m making a difference – that my life counts for something and means something. I’d like to say that God is adequate in me, but don’t you find there are some days when that promise seems to fall flat? When you need more than words because, well, “Everyone else seems to have it all together – what’s wrong with me?”

So the only thing left for me to do is open God’s love letter to me and find a verse that speaks into my inadequacies. When I delve into His words, I feel Him so close. When I desperately need Jesus, only His message breaks through.

One of my favorites is Philippians 1:8, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God is still working on me!  How amazing is that? Even when I feel like I’ve lost my purpose, I know I possess the creativity and potential to do amazing things for Him. I have to wipe away the “I can’t” and “I’m not” thoughts because I know deep inside of me God has given me all I need to fulfill what He calls me to do. He isn’t always looking for a person who has their act together.

Because I suspect that you’re just like me. We think everyone else can do it all. That thought only immobilizes us from doing what we can do – what God calls us to do.

The truth is no one can do it all.  But we can remember God loves us so deeply that He is constantly working on us. And our job becomes being patient and loving with ourselves as we cooperate with the process.

So today, I’m praying that God will show me how to stay fixed on His love. To let go of the lie that everyone’s life is better than mine. And with my prayers come the request that He will show me how I can be happier.

For I find my joy only when I whisper my thank you to God and choose to see the blessings intertwined throughout my day.

Do you believe in miracles?

I’m not talking about ones you can brush off lightly, but real life-changing, stop- you-in-your-tracks type of miracles.  Not ones you’ve heard about happening in someone else’s life; someone’s mother who was miraculously found free of cancer. I’m asking you if you deeply believe that miracles can happen in your life?

Miracles require impossible prayers.  Do you have any of those?  I did and still do.  Mine were pie in the sky, through the roof kinds of prayers, but relied heavily on a God that regularly does the impossible in the world.

One of my impossible prayers was for Osama bin Laden.  The Bible says to pray for your enemies and I prayed that bin Laden would come to faith in Jesus Christ.  To my knowledge, that never happened.

Another of my life-changing, impossible prayers was to move to California.   God answered that prayer.  At times I thought it would never be answered, but in His timing, my expectations were surpassed beyond belief. Every day I get to drink in the sweetness of a seemingly impossible, but answered prayer.

There is a very real enemy to mind-blowing prayers – balancing the heartache and tension of not seeing any movement.  Powerful prayers take time and over time, we abandon the worthiness of our prayer.  Powerful prayers demand you never give up; that you become a warrior…in no way hardening your heart when a miracle doesn’t immediately follow the prayers.

Good thing, Jesus occupies my heart.  When I lift powerful prayers to Him, He gives hope when I would probably lose it and faith when I feel like abandoning them.  I prayed, for example, bin Laden would overcome his anger and come to truly know the One who gives life and love.  I prayed he’d move closer to the only Person who could rescue him from the depths.  It was tough to pray for Public Enemy #1, still I continued to plead bin Laden would finally know the One who could bind up his broken heart.  The only One who could give him an identity that said, “You are loved, my son.”

And even though that miracle didn’t happen, it hasn’t led me to abandon my belief that everyday, life-changing miracles are still ahead. This impossible prayer wasn’t answered, but it hasn’t soured me on all impossible prayers.  It’s easy to believe in miracles if every time you prayed, one happened.  While miracles are wonderful, it is the prayer and faith – the increased dependence on God while asking for an impossible dream – that’s where the true miracle takes place.

I believe in miracles – not just for the ones that have happened in my life, like getting to live in California, but I also believe because of the ones that didn’t happen.

Praying and having faith in impossible prayers declares to everyone that we have a God that is greater than “impossible.”

If you have an impossible prayer, don’t stop believing in miracles. Don’t stop praying. Have courage, put yourself out there and trust your God.  Believe in the impossible because we serve a God who can do all things.

I never thought I’d catch a cold living in California.  Compared to where I lived in Illinois, this is the land of perpetual sun and warmth.  Yet, here I am struggling with a cold. I guess germs live everywhere – even in Paradise.  The irony is for the past 4 years, I didn’t catch one in Illinois, but less then two months after arriving, here I am with hot tea, tissues and a blanket wrapped around my shoulders.

Occasionally a burst of energy will jolt me and I can complete some work – like finishing up this entry.  But I wonder if I’m being truthful to myself about how well I feel, since I just tried warming my cup of tea in the cabinet instead of the microwave.

Sadly my thoughts turn to all I am missing. Even though I’m still getting connected here, my life is extremely busy. There are meetings, lunch dates with friends, walks in the park with my dog Lily, travel plans and more.  That doesn’t include my daily responsibilities …cleaning the house, searching for employment and playing nurse to my dog that was just spayed.  It’s a whirlwind of activities to be sure.

Most of us like being busy.  We like being part of the team, experiencing new things, seeing the completion of our projects.

When you are not feeling well, you begin to see problems with busyness.

Sickness brings a laser-sharp focus to how busyness has overpowered your life and crowded God out.

Every day, the Holy Spirit prompts me to remember Jesus’ words, “Be still and know that I am God.”

But, I reply, “How can I possibly be still when there is so much living to do?”

But He repeats, “Be still and know that I am God.”

“How can I be still when life is overflowing with to-do lists, activities and friendships?” I answer. Regrettably, God’s small voice gets overrun by my priorities instead of His.

But when I am sick, when my body is exhausted and unable to go any further, I welcome the Holy Spirit’s promptings of “Be still and know that I am God.”

Being sick means raising the white flag: I can’t fight it anymore!  My body needs His stillness even more than sleep.  It is as if the Lord put a soothing cold compress on my feverish forehead and said directly to me, “Rest my child. Be still.”

Yesterday, I had one of those encounters.  I had about ten projects I wanted to complete before day’s end. Even though I was up and off the couch for part of the day, all I longed to do was curl up in a ball under my electric blanket and let the world pass me by.

Later that night, I prayed God would give me a relaxing, uninterrupted night’s sleep.  The last three nights were spent sleeping fitfully, if at all, taking care of Lily after her surgery.

I awoke this morning, much more rested, but still unable to take on the tasks of my overcrowded schedule.  “That’s okay,” prompts the Holy Spirit, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

And that is my choice for today.  I’ll try to accomplish a few things scheduled for completion yesterday. But, I will also steal away to remember that God is in control.  And in that, I will be joyous.

Remember to take some time today and thank God for surrounding us with wonderful blessings.  Stop, reflect, slow down. It’s in these moments that God touches us…

Lord, this is a big world and sometimes we feel very small.  But You are a big God, outside of time and space. You see us. You know us. You love us. Help us experience your seeing, knowing and loving today. Be very, very near. Provide specifically  for today.

Amen.

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This Friday evening my husband, Richard, and I went out for dinner with friends.  It was a grand adventure since the restaurant was in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near the Illinois/Wisconsin border.  What made the over an hour drive worthwhile?  This particular restaurant boasted the best chicken in the world.  It was great chicken, but what I will most remember about the evening was the warmth and caring of sharing a meal with great friends.

I love the time I spend with close friends.  Friends uplift me and inspire me.  It is great to hear their stories and to share mine in the kind of transparency that isn’t possible with a mere acquaintance.  They bring a deep happiness that tends to transcend this world.  Life is made of seasons, some are difficult and others are just plain easy.  But whatever season, friends make it so much better.  They teach me to soak up every last drop of life, whether the pain or the ecstasy.  They make the difficult times easier and the good times even greater.  Friends bring a fullness to live that just isn’t possible without them.

My wonderful friends are but a pale shadow of the Greatest Friend of all, Jesus Christ.  While they make life full and rich and I thank them for all the beautiful memories; Jesus brings perfection – faithful, loving, willing to walk through the fire with you.  His friendship changes you by the awesome power of  His love and challenges the way to life your life.  I’m so thankful that my friends echo the love and beauty that I find in my relationship with God Almighty.

 And so I offer this prayer to you…

 “May Jesus assure you that as you follow Him—you will never meet a fear He cannot conquer; you will never face an enemy He cannot defeat; you will never enter a battle He cannot win; you will never have a need He cannot meet; you will never face a temptation He cannot overcome; you will never have a burden He cannot lift; you will never face a problem He cannot solve; you will never have a bondage He cannot break; you will never have a moment when He does not care; you will never have a time when He is not there. Amen.”

Oscar the Grouch would not have been pleased.  The denizen of Sesame Street that lives in a garbage can and sings “I Love Trash,” would have been downright angry.

One Halloween, instead of “suiting up,” my employer asked us to “costume up.”  While understanding the company’s desire to provide a bit of whimsy to our guests, I was frustrated figuring out what to wear.

One day, revelation struck…I had a stroke of genius – or so I thought.  I’d dress up like a garbage can.  I cut slats in a black, heavy-duty lawn garbage bag and then stapled labels from various food products on the bag.  Proud of myself for creating an original costume for very little money, I was on Cloud Nine for most of the day.

At the end of my shift, a coworker, really more a friend than a coworker, asked me, “What are you supposed to be?”

To which I happily replied, “A bag of garbage.”

And then he said words that even twenty-five years later still deeply wound me.  “How can you think so poorly of yourself that you’d dress like garbage?”

Ouch!  That hurt!  Especially coming from a friend…his comment personally ruined Halloween for years to come.

The truth was I loved myself so much that I could wear garbage.  The magic in my life wasn’t what I happened to be wearing, but what was contained in my heart. And that was something no one could take away.

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Admittedly, some of my days feel like garbage.  Nothing goes right, sorrow overwhelms me and there didn’t seem to be any way out.

The solution, though, is held in that little verse.  No matter how low I got, I could always be honest with God.  Unfortunately, that occasionally even went as far as blaming God for my predicament.  Despite that, the more honestly I conversed with God, the more I saw His love in my life.  So even when I started my prayer with anger overflowing in my heart, I generally ended it praising Him for His kindness to me.

And even in my exhaustion, when I felt that no one understood, when the walls were pressing in, I realized that God understood.  In Luke 22:44, the Bible describes Christ’s predicament:  “and being in agony, He was praying very fervently and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down on the ground.”

Christ knew bitter anguish.  He knew the grief of a friend’s death; he experienced the ridicule of others; he faced the betrayal of a companion. In prayer, I recognized all those things and that’s when His strength began to appear. Even though I didn’t set out to rejoice in the day the Lord had made, my attitude was completely changed through prayer.  Pouring my despondency to God, I was reminded that God traded His righteousness – something of immeasurable value – for my sin – something that is totally worthless. 

And that’s the magic that is always inside.

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