Sunday, 10 June 2018

Lessons from the Highway

Not every moment is going to be easy, even when we walk it with God. There are no promises that everyday will be a smooth ride! Sometimes it's all to easy to become wrapped up in the all encompassing mess that is in front of us. Last week, while coming home from a road trip, I found myself being drawn into the tarred-up broken lines on the road. Below is a video to show you the metaphor I saw while driving that helps us to see above the broken road. 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
                                                                                   ~ Jesus (Matthew 11:28)


Friday, 11 May 2018

A Letter From Mom (Even Though I am no Longer With You)

I remember the first Mother's Day after my mom has passed. There was an entire holiday I felt I could not participate in anymore, an entire wall at Hallmark was no longer for me. Never again would I find her the perfect card to describe how I felt. This letter is part of a series of letters I have called "Dear Daughter". They are written to my daughters, and I have been sharing them with you from time to time. This one is written for them to read once I am gone, but actually I wrote it partly for myself from my own mom. I hope it helps your aching heart as you grieve a mom who isn't there this Mother's Day weekend.

Dear Daughter,

What I want you to know is that my love for you has no end.

From the moment I knew you were forming inside me I loved you.

I had a secret the world couldn’t see.

I treasured those moments when I carried you 

hidden away

 from harshness of this world.

It was just you and I.

The day I finally got to hold you was like no day ever before.

I had never seen a “you” before!

I saw your eyes and you looked at me.

Your tiny lips were pursed just right;

I couldn’t help but to kiss them.

I had plans and dreams with you;

Some of those plans worked out, other did not.

It wasn’t always easy though,

We haven’t always seen eye to eye;

But nothing will ever change how much I love you and treasure you.

Time passes, dear daughter, 

and as you know,

I will not always be able to walk beside you.

I will not always be close by, or even a phone call away.

You may not see me anymore,

But you need to know...

Just because you cannot see me does not mean I have forgotten you.

From the quiet moments of us the first night I brought you home,

To the moments leading up to my last breath,

Every one of those is embedded deeply into my memory bank,

a bank rich in thoughts of you.

Rest assured darling, you are still on my mind.

But there’s more you still need to know...

However we left each other, whatever words were spoken,

If it was needed, 

I have forgiven you.

You are my daughter and I your mother, 

That is bond that always offers forgiveness.

Rest peacefully knowing I do not carry that hurt with me anymore.

I love you.

Until we meet again,

Love you always and forever,


photo credit: Nikola Radojcic @ Unsplash 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Are You Freaking Out About Praying Out Loud?

“I am too afraid to pray out loud.”

It’s a phrase I have heard time and time again from countless women. It usually comes on the heels of the suggestion that we are to gather together and pray. I know this fear because I once felt this way too.

The moment prayer would begin I would start to rehearse the prayer in my mind. I would think up words to say and arrange them to sound “godly” or “spiritual”. Then, in a moment of quiet, I would recite my words out loud and hope to hear a few resounding “amens” from others as reassurance that I had said something worthwhile. 

The whole event was rather stressful and left me with anything but peace and a longing for the quiet of my home and my private prayers. As I grew in faith I came to realize much of what I was fearful of was silly preconceived notions of what prayer ought to be. As I picked through them I gained confidence in public prayer. Here are a few of those notions to help you if you too are one of those people who dread public prayers.

1. Our prayers must sound eloquent and wise.

False. There will be some who pray with words that would make any english university professor applaud. I’m guessing that those who pray like that also speak like that. You know how my prayers sound? In this phase of life they are about as grandiose as my three word sentences to my toddler. Simple, clear, concise, but not dragging and that’s ok. God doesn’t need eloquently worded prayers, he needs genuine hearts. 

Jesus new we would be tempted to pray in ways that would contradict a genuine heart for God in prayer:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 emphasis mine)

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' (Luke 18:13 emphasis mine)

We don’t pray to impress the others in the room, we pray to draw near to God. He knows who you are, and he wants YOUR prayers in the way YOU pray them, not in the way others pray them. Don’t try to sound lofty, just speak as you normally do. After all, prayer is just a fancy word for talking to and listening to God. It's still just a conversation.

2. We need to pray exactly what others are praying for.

False. “We need to pray for our nation right now,” says the first person. It is a noble request worthy of prayer, so we begin to pray for our nation. But suddenly, God begins to stir your heart towards something else. Perhaps you really, REALLY feel like you need to pray for your pastor. Or perhaps you really, REALLY feel like you just want to bust out a worship song and praise God. Ok, maybe I’ve made you uncomfortable with that last one, but the point is this: God’s will is what we are seeking. As we seek him, he will naturally stir our hearts towards his desire. We cannot see the full picture, so while the focus may begin with a prompting to pray for our nation, maybe, just maaaaaybe God knows your pastor will need support to stand in the nation. Or maybe, just maaaaaybe God knows of a place that needs more prayer or praise, and the nation, in that moment, isn’t it.

Don't worry about speaking from somewhere out of left field. If that's what God has placed in your hear  speak it out! He know how it fits into the prayer even if you, or others can't make sense of it.

3. I don’t need prayers for myself.

False. Sometimes when we gather, the request is to prayer for each other. You know what’s really scary? Admitting you need prayer from others. It means you have to admit that you are struggling somewhere. It’s easy when someone says, "can I pray for you?" I’ve yet to meet someone who will turn that down. It’s different to volunteer your request to be prayed for. 

I have felt that fear, and can I just say that the fear of speaking up is ALWAYS short lived. At the end of the day, most people who are committed to the Lord know that we cannot walk this crazy world on our own. We are here for each other, and sometimes that means we are here to hold each other in prayer and petition.

When we stop buying into these false notions the fear of praying publicly will diminish. God will slowly give you more confidence as you go. If you’ve never prayed in public, try a sentence next time. Just one. That’s ok. Your obedient heart to serve God in prayer will not go unnoticed by Him. He will strengthen you as go bravely. 


photo credit: Jason Rosewell @ Unsplash

Sunday, 29 April 2018

How to Take Prayer from a Task to a Lifestyle

Imagine for a minute the lifestyle of an olympic athlete. Their athletic lifestyle overlaps in many of their daily activities from what they eat, to what they wear, to how they manage their schedule. 

What if we looked at prayer not as a one shot daily duty like brushing your teeth, but using the same lens of an athlete. What if we integrate and intertwine prayer into every element of our day? By doing this you would be disciplining yourself in a prayer lifestyle. 

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinithians 9:24-27 (emphasis in bold is my own):

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 

Prayer as a lifestyle is one that, like every other lifestyle, takes discipline. 

Whether or not we are aware of it or not, marriage is also a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is intertwined in our day as we attempt to keep open communication with our spouse. Maybe it’s a phone call at work to say hi, or making a point to have a meal together, or even going on frequent date nights. 

What if we treated the lifestyle of marriage like we do the daily duty of brushing our teeth? We would get up, spend 60 seconds saying hi, then never have another conversation until the end of the day. Our final 60 second conversation might look like this:

“How was your day?” 
“And yours?”
“Well...there was this problem in the office today that I struggled with.”
“That’s nice. Have a good sleep.”
“You too.”

Not exactly the way to keep your marriage working. Yet, we do this in our relationship with God all the time when we treat prayer like a duty that needs to be squeezed in at some point in the day. 

Prayer is just a fancy word for being in communication with God. If He is to be of even higher priority than any other relationships we have, should He not take the majority of our time as well? For many of us, this where that discipline comes into play as we seek to change habits to train ourselves to make speaking and listening to God (AKA-prayer) a lifestyle. 

Jesus was way ahead of us on our struggles with how to keep open lines of communication with God, so he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Most of us know it as that thing we mutter at funerals, or perhaps first thing in the morning, or just before bed as a prayer. But have you ever stopped to make sense of what Jesus was showing us? 

The Lord’s Prayer can certainly be read as a stand alone prayer, but more importantly it is a guideline for our prayers so we don’t draw a blank and treat prayer as a daily task amongst the other varying tasks. Listen to it in full, but from the Message translation to see if you can catch it:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Matthew 9-13 The Message)

If we take the version we are more familiar with and extract it in sections the guideline Jesus gave us looks like the following:

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

We begin with praise! How easy to incorporate praise throughout our day, especially when we make a point to recognize all the great elements of God’s goodness around us. From the beauty of the morning sunrise, to the fragrance of a fresh rainfall, to the happiness of our kids, or a phone call when we need it. His magnificent hand is on it all! 

Your kingdom come. Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.

After praise, we begin with the “listening to God” portion of prayer. Before we speak, we listen. This is a laying down of our own wills and desires and allowing God to interrupt our days. Sometimes, He calls on us to intercede and places a person, place, or moment deeply in our heart to prayer for. This is when we join with him in prayers that He needs (more on this coming soon in a future post). Sometimes, it is that God will place a person in our lives, even if just for a small moment in our day, that He needs to speak life into. 

Note that this one comes before we ask daily provisions. Before we pull out own checklist of needs we wait on God’s interruptions to bombard our hearts and stir us to see as He sees. It is an acknowledgement that His will comes before our will, and as such we lay down our lives to “seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matt 6:33)

Give us this day our daily bread.

Once we lay aside our own will, we are still allowed to come to the throne with our daily requests. In fact, God is our Father, he wants us to come to him with our requests. 

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Daily we are offering forgiveness to those around us. From the person who cuts us off in traffic, to an offending spouse who spoke cruelly, to the past hurts that bubble up. 

But more importantly, we need to be asking for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. If you have accepted Jesus died for your sins, you no longer stand condemned, but this does not mean you no longer sin. What it does mean is a heartfelt apology to God washes the smudges of sin once again and then you move on free of guilt.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

There are temptations in every aspect of daily living, but God promises to always offer a way out, or an escape hatch when the temptation is too strong. 

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

Even more, this passage is a call to battle. We are constantly bombarded with pressure from the enemy who always seeking to set up camp in our thoughts. Here we acknowledge we are children of God, and we can call on His name when we need strength. “Holy Spirit come quick,” is often being uttered in my moments of weakness.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Once again, we find praise. Jesus knows that through praise and worship we set our gaze fully on God. As my favourite hymn says:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemmel)

As we train ourselves to use this model of prayer, we can see how we can intertwine these moments into our daily living and be disciplined the prayer lifestyle. We praise, we listen, we petition, we apologize, we wage war, and we find rest in the praise and worship of a good God at the end of it all. Whether you are sitting in prayer for hours (somedays you might!), or intertwining short effective prayers throughout the day, the goal is to always be communication with our Abba. Listening, speaking, and being in his presence. 

If you wish to read deeper on using the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer guideline for more effective prayers, you can check out the book Power Praying by David Chotka. Much of what is included in the breakdown of the Lord's Prayer was taught in practice to me by this wonderful pastor/ teacher.