When It Was Hard To Pray

I recently had a hard time praying for a difficult situation. It was not clear to me how I should proceed. I didn’t know what was right. I was in turmoil. I couldn’t find the words to pray. They were not coming.

I searched the Bible. I looked for scriptures to give me guidance in praying for this particular situation, but I could not find anything that directly applied.

Then I asked the Lord to help me pray for this situation, and he reminded me of how Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.”  I grabbed hold of those words: “Your will be done.”  That was the guidance I needed. Those were the words I needed to pray.

And so I prayed, “Lord I don’t know how to pray, but I do know Jesus said to pray for your will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.  And so I ask for just that.  Whatever it is, I ask for your will to be done. That you would do whatever you are willing to do in this situation. And that I will accept it and trust in you.”

After I prayed that I felt such peace. The situation was beyond me but not beyond God’s wisdom and care. Praying this way gave me direction. Praying this way gave me peace.

“This, then is how you should pray:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:9-10

My Knight in Shining Armor

It is really cute to see my new daughter-in-law and my son together.  They have been married just over a year. As I watch them together, I have been replaying so many scenes of my own early married life.

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In my first year of marriage I thought my Ray was like a hero.  He fulfilled every expectation in the first few months of marriage.  Everything he did endeared him to me more and more.  He was so perfect.

At about our ninth month of wedded bliss I went away on a women’s retreat with our church.  It was hard leaving my perfect man at home, and I knew he would miss me.  But I felt it was the right thing to go away on this retreat for the weekend.

Back then we had no cell phones so I was not able to text him every minute to send him cute emoticons.  I was not able to text and let him know what I was doing at that exact moment.  I was not able to text him a good night.   I had no access to a phone, so I didn’t even speak to him for two whole nights.  Can you imagine?

Well it was now Sunday afternoon, and I was so anxious to see my Ray knowing that he would be waiting for me with open arms.  My friend dropped me off in our driveway.  I didn’t see our car. I walked inside our apartment and searched for him. He was not home.

What happened here?  Wasn’t he looking at his watch every minute in anticipation for my return?  Where were my flowers and welcome-home kisses?  Wasn’t he looking down the driveway for a first glimpse of the car that would be carrying me back home to him?  I was crushed.

He arrived an hour later.  He had been playing basketball with his friends and was all hot and sweaty.  And when he got home all I got was, “How was the retreat?”  I had been stewing for a whole hour. It was not pleasant what followed.

Like many new wives we place a lot of expectations on our husbands.  They are supposed to read our minds and anticipate all our desires and wants.  They are supposed to buy the perfect gifts.  They are supposed to say the right thing.  They are supposed to be our perfect knights in shining armor.  Sigh!  Wives, we are so demanding, aren’t we? Somehow we lose sight that we still need to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, patience, and we still need to love our husbands too.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people … clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

I have been married for almost 27 years.  And my husband is still my knight in shining armor.  It’s just that the armor is not always shining.

 

Our Finest Hours

Back in the spring my husband and I went to go see a movie about a rescue mission that took place back in 1951 off the coast of New England. The movie tells the true story of a small coast guard boat which went out in a very bad storm and successfully rescued 30 men off a sinking tanker.

Against powerful waves, strong winds and the darkness of the night, the captain of the coast guard boat and the brave men with him persisted and worked together until they found the tanker.  In the midst of uncertainty decisions were made on instinct, strength, persistence and commitment to the mission.

Likewise the men on the tanker had to do what they could to survive for as long as they could in hopes of a rescue that they did not even know for certain was coming.

Persisting, making good decisions, and hanging onto hope – these things defined the men and their hours in the movie appropriately titled The Finest Hours.

I can’t help but think about the Christian life and our own times of trials. I think of the verses from Paul when he says: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8).

Or from Habakkuk 3:17-19: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines … I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

In times of trials it is hard to persist. It is hard to hang onto hope. It is hard to be brave. It is hard to stay committed unto the Lord. Our trials become our darkest of nights.  But I believe if we do what we were called to do in the midst of our terrible storms, we will define these moments as The Finest Hours of our lives – Our Finest Hours.

 

When My Husband And I Went To Disney

 

Buzz Lightyear  Ride
Buzz Lightyear Ride

Our 2015 summer was busy and full of activity.  My youngest son graduated from high school and prepared for college in the fall.   My middle son got married, so we also spent most of the summer with wedding activities.  My oldest son came back home for his brother’s wedding. Our home was full.   

And then when the summer ended, all my sons left.  My oldest returned to North Carolina where he now resides.  My married son went to his new home. My youngest went off to college.  One by one, they left.  The house was suddenly quiet.   Empty nest…. 

In one sense I was relieved to finally rest from a busy summer.  I had gotten behind in so many of my responsibilities at home and for planning women’s ministry activities.  So for the first three weeks I played catch up.  That was okay.  But when I finished, things were quiet again. I didn’t like it.

 So my husband made plans for us to get away.  We decided to go to Disney.  We scheduled fours days at a Disney Resort, and we purchased the pass that allowed us to go to any park we wanted during our stay.

 I have always loved Disney.  But we always went to Disney on a budget with our family of five.  And now it was just the two of us.  I felt bad initially that we weren’t bringing the family along.  I didn’t even want to tell them.  It felt strange, like we were doing something naughty behind their backs.  But I soon got over it.  It was so much fun!

 We stayed at a Disney resort which was something we had never been able to afford as a family.   We ate whatever we wanted.  We made reservations to eat at fancy dining areas in the parks – again something we couldn’t afford to do when we went as a family.

 We visited the attractions we wanted.  We took our time.  We walked and enjoyed the shows.  We even bought snacks at Disney.  We held hands.  And even though there were plenty of people there, sometimes it felt like it was just the two of us. All alone in one of the funnest places to be on earth.   

It was nice to be a couple again.  And our stay at Disney reminded me again how much I Iove being with my husband.  Since then we have had many days of just “the two of us.”  Although I still find the house quiet from time to time.

 

Put Your Dream to the Test – 10 Quotes from John Maxwell

Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It, by John Maxwell

I am now in the empty nest, and so I found the book to be very apropos. I have been trying to figure out the next season of my life this past year. Here are some great quotes from the book. I limited it to ten, but I highlighted so much more.  Enjoy!

  1. When the dream is right for the person and the person is right for the dream, the two cannot be separated from each other.
  2. Everyone experiences failure in pursuit of dreams.  One of your goals is to keep hanging on…until you finally become successful.
  3. Do something every day that relates to your dream.
  4. The real difference between a dream and wishful thinking is what you do day to day.
  5. All dreams are outside our comfort zone.  Leaving that zone is a price we must pay to achieve them.
  6. Dreams don’t come quickly or easily. And the rewards often don’t come until very late.
  7. The timing will never be perfect for you to pursue your dream, so you might as well start now.  If you don’t, then next year you’ll be a year older and not a step closer to it.
  8. Lead your life instead of just accepting your life.
  9. If you want to achieve a dream…you have to be willing to pay a price…that’s why dream believers are in abundance and dream buyers are rare.
  10. When you’re 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking about you. When you’re 40, you don’t give a darn what anybody thinks of you. When you’re 60, you realize that nobody has been thinking about you at all!

Cloud-watchers!

Here is a journal entry from one of my mother and son devotional times with Tim when he was six years old. I thought it  was an appropriate one to share after celebrating Easter this week.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.  Acts 1:9-11 (NIV)

Timmy: Mommy, when will Jesus come back?

Mommy: I don’t know, but He is coming back someday.

Timmy: Well, I’m going to keep looking in the clouds.

Mommy: Yes, and I will too.

Timmy’s commitment to watch the clouds is a reminder that we need to live our lives with a hope that says, “My Savior is coming.” It is a wonderful anticipation that can motivate us to pray more, to rejoice and to keep living godly lives. In spite of our circumstances we need to remember to go outside from time to time and watch those clouds. So join Timmy and me as we are now cloud-watchers waiting for the Savior to return.

Confidence To Take A Selfie

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My husband sent me a selfie this morning. I loved it. I tried sending him a selfie too, but I couldn’t find a selfie that I liked. So I didn’t. No matter how I moved my head or how I moved the phone around I couldn’t find an image I liked. Sigh!

I wish I had the confidence to snap selfies. I don’t like the way I look in them. I see a double chin, forehead wrinkles, baggy eyes, and a face that reminds me I need to work on losing weight.

I know so many women take selfies, and they send them out. And I think “Wow, they are so confident.” I wish I had that confidence, too. But I don’t like seeing my true likeness in these selfies. They are so unflattering.

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But you know there is another selfie that is even harder to take.

That is taking a selfie of my heart condition. This selfie I can’t take with my phone. I take this selfie with the Word of God. The hardest time I have during my prayer time is confession. I don’t want to get into the ugly parts of my heart. I don’t want to enumerate my sins. I just want to say generic terms like: “Lord, please forgive my selfishness,” or “Please forgive me for my lack of love for his person.”

But every time I read God’s Word, I am forced to take a selfie of my heart and soul. There is no ignoring the fact that my heart selfie is not so good. I read the Bible and Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is hard to read through these passages in my quiet time without feeling uncomfortable, and I just want to hurry and get to the end of the verses and move on.

The Bible is the camera that I hold out to take a picture of my soul. I don’t like the selfies I get from the Word of God. But I have no choice. God’s word is true. I must humble myself and know that I am not so righteous after all.

The selfie I want to see is the likeness of Christ in me. Although I am not willing to take a selfie with my phone, I am willing to take a selfie with God’s word. I may not like the selfie God’s word takes of my heart right now, but I know God is completing me, and one day it will be a perfect and righteous selfie. That is the selfie I want to see.

I don’t have the confidence to take selfies with my phone, but when it comes to Bible selfies, my confidence is Christ.

“Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” – Psalm 26:2

How is your green thumb?

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:33)

My Dad
My Dad

My father is an immigrant from Mexico and a farmer. He had no formal education, but he had a green thumb.  He didn’t read books for instruction on farming.  He just experimented and learned.  He was always successful in whatever he decided to grow in the ground.  He would often give us seedlings so we could plant at our home.  But the seedlings always died no matter how carefully we followed his instructions.

It is not enough to hear and understand the word of God. We all have a responsibility to cultivate a green thumb for the kingdom of God. This is a natural outcome of the word firmly planted in our hearts. We need to produce a crop.  As Jesus said, “He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” This is a natural outcome from hearing the word and understanding it.

We have a responsibility to become fruitful unto Him. We need to commit ourselves to making disciples.  We have a new obligation once we have heard the word and understood.

This responsibility extends even until old age to continue to produce a crop unto the Lord. We must be good stewards of his gift of salvation.  We are all farmers.  How green is your thumb?

 

Extremely well-wrapped, Jesus

(This is a devotional I shared at our church’s annual Ladies Christmas Brunch.)

I used to go all out in gift wrapping.  I took my time with each and every gift – making my own fancy bows, picking out just the right paper, and making sure the wrapping paper had nice crisp edges.  But it got tiresome and nobody in my family really noticed my efforts.  They just ripped the paper open.

Have you ever been challenged with a gift that doesn’t wrap so easily? You know, the gifts that don’t come with a box, and they don’t fit into any box. I have three boys, and we had plenty of those gifts in my house: fish tanks, fire trucks, baseball bats and baseball gloves, skate boards and basketballs, light sabers and so on. Some gifts will never fit into a box.

My boys used to play the guessing game on what was wrapped for them under the tree.  They would picking up each gift and shake it.  As their mom I just wanted to keep the presents I bought for them a surprise until Christmas Day. I didn’t want them guessing. So I had to disguise the more elaborate gifts to keep it a mystery until they opened it.

What is interesting is that when my sons got old enough to buy their own gifts and wrap them … they really got creative.  I guess they knew what big snoops they were themselves.  And just like extreme sports, for them it was “extreme gift wrapping.”  They would use so much wrapping paper.  They would pad their gifts with socks, towels or toilet paper rolls – anything to throw you off.  And they would create shapes.  One of my sons created a dinosaur shape around his gift, even though the gift was not a dinosaur.  I don’t even remember what the gift actually was, but I remember the dinosaur!

One Christmas our son, Sam, bought three gifts for his Dad, and he shaped a letter around each of the three presents to spell out the word “DAD.”   It was so funny.  I don’t remember what those gifts were either, but I remember how they were wrapped.

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These extremely-wrapped gifts were a lot of fun to unwrap, because there were so many layers to get through just to get to the gift. But things are much simpler now, and I am grateful for e-cards and gift cards and, and I love gift bags for wrapping. So much easier!

Well, just as our family did extreme gift wrapping for each other, God also gave us a gift that was masterfully and cleverly and extremely well-wrapped.  (more…)