“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Busy! We love to stay busy, don’t we? Our current speeds of life are fast and faster. When someone asks how life has been, how frequently is our response, “busy?” Yet here we find ourselves with an unexpected and uninvited time of space. While I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to cancel the remainder of the ACC tournament and subsequent NCAA tournament, I will be the first to lament that we are not enjoying March Madness this year. Coupled with that, there is no college baseball to enjoy and a delayed Opening Day of MLB. Plus, there are no high school sports for us to enjoy right now. No soccer matches, no baseball games, and no tennis matches. Our favorite response of “we are so busy” has been stripped from us right now. Where does that leave us?
God tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still and to know He is God. In our fast-pace society, we have lost the art of what it means to be still, to pause, and to reflect. We fill our days and our lives with so much busyness and noise that we have forgotten how to be silent, how to be still. Perhaps we have even forgotten how to recognize the voice of God. At various times in my life, I have longed for living life in the simpler times, before social media and the internet dominated our days. Oh for the days of Little House on the Prairie. Now, we have been thrust into such days and we have been presented with a rare gift in our current era. We have been given the gift of time, of quiet, of space, of margin. We have been given the gift of slowing down. When I was a little girl, I loved carefree days of being outside. I would spend hours creating stories in my imaginary world and live them out on the stage that was my front porch. I would lose hours in the woods, savoring nature. I would set off on grand adventures on my bike. There was no Netflix, no social media. We used phones to actually talk to others. Jesus told the Pharisees in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” While He said this to illustrate a different point, given the current pandemic, these words have resonated with me. God established the Sabbath because He created us and He knew before He created us, how busy we would someday fill our lives. He carved out this observance in order for us to institute a time of rest and a time to focus on Him. We are a tired society. Tired from the self-imposed busyness. In the midst of all of the uncertainty in the world around us right now, He is still good and He is still meeting our needs, even the ones we did not realize we had. “Be still”, He whispers to each of our worn-out hearts. “Come to Me,” He beckons. Jesus is waiting. He wants us to be still and know Him. Embrace this time He has granted. Stay home. Read a book. Remember what you once loved to do, and, if possible, do it again. Throw football or baseball around in the yard. Take your dogs for a walk. Go for a hike. Look up. Look around. And know God. Relax, release, and let go. Play cards, play a board game, do family karaoke. Gather around the table together as a family. Pray together. Read God’s Word together and discuss it. Laugh harder. Love more intentionally. Use your phone for its original purpose. Then, pause and thank God, the Creator of the universe, for His voice, His presence, His God-ness. Embrace the gift of stillness and the gift of today!
My prayer is that you and your family will remain healthy and well during this season! Blessings!
“Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof.” Luke 7:6b
Lately, I have been immersed in the study of the life of Christ. As I was reading through the Gospel of Luke, I came upon the familiar story of the centurion’s faith. For whatever reason, on this particular day, this story captured my attention and resonated with me. Here is a quick overview of the events in Luke 7:1-10: the centurion’s servant became ill. The centurion had heard of Jesus and enlisted the assistance of some of the Jewish elders and asked that they seek out Jesus and request His healing power. They explained to Jesus that this man was worthy of receiving assistance because he had been good and kind to the nation of Israel. Yet the man did not consider himself worthy of even coming to Jesus, and he acknowledged that he knew Jesus could heal his servant by merely speaking the word. His faith amazed Jesus, and the man’s servant was healed. Often, when I read this passage, I focus on the faith of the centurion and aspire to that same level of faith. Yet as I was reading it again, I was struck by the humility and mindset of the centurion.
In my life, this is how that scenario unfolds. I, like the Jewish elders, can look around me and identify people that seem to really merit the favor of God, those who appear worthy of receiving healing or giftedness or success or some other form of a win in their lives. I can, and will, even make a plea to God that these people receive such graces from Him. But, like the centurion, I also look at myself and can compose a dissertation on the countless reasons why I am not worthy of receiving any good thing from Jesus. Where is the balance? Who determines worthiness or unworthiness? Why the constant, and often subconscious, mental ping-pong of analyzing my own worth and the worth of others? It is a delicate balance, I believe. Fixating on my own unworthiness before Jesus can become false humility that is actually pride. False humility leaves the focus on me. My attention is on my extreme lack of worthiness of receiving God’s favor and not on the Jesus who so freely offers His grace. Imagine a woman walking around, dragging herself around really, and moaning, “woe is me,” and inviting others to witness on public display of just how unworthy she is of the grace of God. Who wants to be that woman? Even more, who wants to come to a Jesus that want us walking around, carrying on in that manner?
God views every single one of us as worthy through the blood of His Son, Jesus. Jesus considered us worthy of sacrificing His own life for us while we remained dead in our sins. He paid the penalty of death on the cross for us because He loved us that much. He didn’t wait for us to be worthy to receive His gift, as if we ever could. He didn’t wait until we had our lives figured out and all on the right path before He willingly laid down His life for us. Nope! He looked at us in our sins and said, “You, my daughter, my son, are worthy of my sacrifice because I have loved you and chosen you since before the foundation of the world.” Now, that, my friend, is a cause for true humility. Imagine this woman, eyes bright, a peacefulness exuding from her, praise on her lips and kindness in her actions. This is a woman who humbly knows she is and that she was worth it to Jesus. Philippians 1:27 says this, “Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This individual knows who she or he is in Christ and knows that because Jesus offered the greatest gift of salvation and relationship with Him, then the only way to live the satisfied life, is to live a life that is worthy of His sacrifice. It is a life lived with a humble heart of the one who desperately desires to offer Jesus everything. The question is not who is or isn’t worthy of receiving the good things Jesus has to offer us. Jesus considered all of us worth it when He died for us. We, as believers, need to begin living with the awareness that, when we let the comparison struggle enter into our hearts and when we are operating out of a false sense of humility, then we are letting the enemy win. We are called to love one another. We need to resolve today to look at those around us, and ourselves, through the same lens that Jesus used–the lens that deems every single one of us worthy of His grace by His blood, and then let’s each live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When you encounter another human being today, pause a moment and note that Jesus views that person as worthy. Then treat them as such! And, friend, accept that Jesus calls you worthy!
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
If you have been around me at all or for any amount of time, you know that my favorite thing to say is: “I love words!” My boys and husband affectionately consider me the grammar police. Yet there is just something precious to me about the beauty and the power of words. Words carefully orchestrated can create the most magnificent masterpiece of art. Careless words, however, that are thoughtlessly hurled about possess the potential for catastrophic effects. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a fallacy. In fact, words can be more devastating to us emotionally than the breaking of our bones can hurt us physically. Perhaps the mindset behind such a saying is that if we say it loud enough and often enough, we will believe our words and feel better, but I daresay the impacts of words linger far beyond what we will ever admit. I learned early on in life that words hold power, both for the positive and the negative, just as the Proverb quoted above states.
Consider for a moment a time when you have been on the receiving end of encouraging words. Did that not make you feel like you could conquer the world? Remember a time when a hurtful or discouraging word was aimed at you. Did it not feel like the wind had been stripped from your sails? In my experience, the negative, hurtful, wounding, and damaging words are the ones we tend to remember. The Harvard Business Review at hrb.org released a study that shows it takes 5 positive statements to overcome a single negative criticism. It is no wonder that the negative impact of words haunt us. I wish the saying were true, but words can indeed hurt us. Not only can words from others wound us, but we can wound ourselves with the words of our own internal monologues. We, too, are guilty of misusing words and inflicting hurt upon others.
I desperately love Jesus and desire Him to sanctify me through and through, beginning with my tongue please. As being on the receiving end of cutting words, I find myself hypersensitive to how I use them, though I fail daily in my words. Recently I was reminded of how much it hurts when someone says something insulting about me. Several years ago, this would have taken me down a negative path, but, thankfully, I took my wound right to Jesus and offered it to Him. His words of who I am in Him were a salve to the cut.
What, then, are we to do? I often find myself relating to the apostle Paul who said that he often did the very things he did not want to do and did not do the things he wished to do. Scripture offers us guidance on how to manage our own tongues and how we use our words. We are responsible for how we respond and what we say. Matthew 12:34 tells us, “For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” If our words are damaging and not glorifying to God, then we need to first examine our hearts. James, the brother of Jesus, had much to say about the power of the tongue. I can’t help but wonder if he felt so strongly on the matter because Jesus’ own family members attempted to restrain Him, claiming “He’s out of His mind.” Imagine being the brother of the Savior of the world and calling Him crazy. James saw His brother crucified amidst the cries and demands of the people. He tells us in James 1:19, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Practice the pause before speaking. Open our ears to hear instead. Finally, we should follow the exhortation provided to us in Ephesians 4:29 by Paul, “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” And then again in Ephesians 5: 19, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord.” We have the power through the Holy Spirit within us to choose to walk the path of Christ to bless and to encourage others with our words.
While others may injure us with their words, we must follow the example of Jesus who, when insulted, did not insult in return. Jesus knows how it feels to be mocked, ridiculed, and insulted. When we take our hurts to Him, He is close to us and will be our refuge. He will kindly show us in His Word who we are to Him. We are loved, chosen, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven. He can handle our hurts, when our loads are too heavy for us to bear alone. He is the friend that is closer than a brother. Today, in this culture that is so harsh and so hard, in this culture that is so self-obsessed and self-absorbed, let’s choose to intentionally and deliberately use our words for the power of life. Let’s vow to begin a kindness revolution with the words from our mouths and the sincerity in our hearts.
Challenge: For 24 hours, practice the pause and do not say anything negative or hurtful to anyone, including yourself. Choose, instead, to use your words for uplifting others. Reflect back on it and note how different your day was. Then, commit to a week of this, and see if your thoughts become transformed. Remember, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is also alive and active in every single one of His children. I would love to hear from you if you participate in this challenge. Leave a comment below about your experience! I am praying for you!
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Life is full of surprises. We make plans. We expect our days to unfold in certain ways, though aware minor things can derail or distract us. But there are those times, when everything you anticipated gets flipped on its head entirely, and you find yourself wondering what on earth just happened. Such was the case in my house over the last several weeks. My son was at basketball practice one evening, and it was a seemingly innocuous injury. So much so that he didn’t even mention it at the time of the event. Fast forward a couple of days, and the boy was in agony, due to a well-placed elbow directly to his jawbone. After multiple trips to the doctor and several phone calls, two weeks later, he was admitted to the hospital and in surgery within hours of admission. You see, this blow to his face had created bleeding deep within his jaw, invisible to the naked eye. Through the course of two weeks, the bleeding had become a hematoma, which then developed an infection within it. He never spiked a fever. The only outward signs were the swelling below his jaw. Praise God the ENT caught it before it broke through the skin, affected his breathing, or he became septic. My son was released from the hospital after 48 hours of IV antibiotics and sent home, with some specific instructions for his wound care from where they had inserted a tube into his neck. My job was to insert a peroxide-soaked swab into the opening three times per day in order for the wound to begin to heal from the inside out. Were the outside to close up first, he would be at risk for a repeat infection.
Oddly, and as the way God often works, the irony of this timing was not lost on me. I began to reflect on how my son’s wound needed to heal–from the inside out. God deeply impressed upon me that our wounds, the invisible, intangible ones require healing in the same manner. He began to show me how He heals from the inside out. Prior to this, God had already begun the work of revealing and uprooting the primary lie that had so affected my adult life. I had been reading through the journals that I had maintained for the majority of my adult years. Over and over, I witnessed on the pages of my journals the younger version of myself wrestling with the lie that no matter what, I will never be enough or good enough. God, in His gentle and loving way, was showing me how that lie crept into most of the choices I had made. Coupled with these fresh insights into younger me, I couldn’t shake the obvious analogy to my son’s open neck wound. It had to heal from the inside out. I began to dialogue with God about this very thing, expressing to Him that we had already dealt with the root issue of when, where, and how the lie took hold. He vividly clarified to me that it was not about the initial and subsequent woundings, but it was how, for all these years, because the lie was present, it carried infection and slowly spread throughout my life. God is so faithful though. He pointed out there were scars, but, in order to clean out the infection for good, we needed to rip open the scar in order for the healing “peroxide” of His Holy Spirit to enter and began to close up the wound from the inside. Just like with my son’s wound, the peroxide stung him every time. And, because I love him and wanted him well and whole, I persisted in knowingly causing him temporary pain for complete healing to occur. As I read the thoughts, the feelings, the pain, even the immaturity of who I once was, I experienced the whole gamut of emotions. I was angry that I had allowed the lie to color and affect years of choices and decisions. I was frustrated that I could now so clearly see how my entire adult life was affected by it. I was sad for the wasted years. I was broken hearted over the pain of that young woman. The scales were removed from my eyes, and I saw clearly how I had been living from the fear of not being good enough.
God said to me, “Throw all of those feelings on me. Bring Me your anger, your pain, your tears, your frustration, your rage. And now accept My Holy Spirit into the open wound, once and for all. Let My Spirit uproot the lie. You don’t have to be good enough for Me. The blood of My Son IS and WILL ALWAYS be enough. I love you just as you are. I created you with your unique personality, your unique gifts, your unique passions. Embrace who I made you to be. Accept My forgiveness and know Mine is enough. You are enough, royal daughter, because you are Mine. Now your wounds can close, can heal, from the inside out. You will be free because who I set free is indeed free. Walk in My freedom.” This freedom Jesus has graciously bestowed upon me has liberated me. Fear of not being good enough can no longer hold me down because I walk in the freedom of Jesus Christ. Where I once felt compelled to prove myself, Jesus is stopping me dead in my tracks when I venture down that train of thought. He is kindly pointing out to me when I am operating from believing the lie. I feel liberated, but even when my feelings say otherwise, I will choose to believe that I am still free and do not have to walk in bondage again to the fear of not being enough. I am free. I am whole. Only Jesus can bind up our wounds from the inside out. All we have to do is open our hearts and invite Him into the ugliness of our wounds. At times, it may involve Him opening up the scars because infection is festering deep beneath the surface. Sometimes, we may have even dealt with the core issues but neglected to see their long-term effects until much later. Jesus wants to heal the initial wounding event and the ripple effects in our lives. He wants us to walk in His freedom and be healed in Him. It’s easy to look at this and think, “why did it have to take so long?” But God’s timing is perfect, regardless of what we may think or expect. He has a plan for every single one of our lives, and He reveals it to us as we can accept it and step into it. I will turn 40 years old this year. I can’t help but think of the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years. Perhaps, my desert wanderings have come to an end, and in this year of my life, I am finally going to enter my earthly promised land.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Choices. Life is full of choices. Every single day of our lives. Often, we make choices about things and we aren’t even fully cognizant of the fact that we are making choices. Perhaps we should be more intentional about the choices that we make, or more specifically, the motivations behind the choices we make.
I have maintained a journal for the majority of my adult life. I’m fairly certain I also wrote in many journals throughout my childhood, though now those are lost to me. I remember when I began keeping a journal as an adult. My oldest child was about a year old, and I documented all manner of things about our day-to-day lives. Throughout the years, I have often thought that those who come behind me will most likely know me better once I am with Jesus because I have nearly 20 years of journals, most of which are the written prayers of my heart. For whatever reason, I was compelled to pick up those journals last week in search of some information. I am not quite sure what I expected to find, but I did manage to lose track of time. I have many leather journals, full of my thoughts, my hurts, my prayers, my life. What a glimpse it was into who I once was and how I have grown throughout the years. One recurring theme throughout these journals was that I am a people pleaser–well, less so now than ever before, by the grace of God maturing me in Him. I have never liked to disappoint people or to let them down. I do not like to make people angry at me or have them upset with me–ever the peacemaker. Yet as I read through some of my struggles and thoughts, I asked myself, “at what cost am I trying to please people?” The cost has been the acceptance of who I am in Christ. I closed the pages of those journals and felt a profound sadness at the heartache of the young woman I once was. I felt a renewed confidence in who I am today in Christ. And the truth of who I am in Christ has set me free. I am a liberated woman.
In our present world, we are in one of the fiercest battles of all centuries to not lose sight of who we are in Christ. We live in a society that encourages us to measure our worth by our accomplishments and acquirements. We must tip toe around how people will respond to us. In fact, in the modern quest for individuality, we have been taught to camouflage ourselves. We hide behind social media while vocally speaking out or for or against people, causes, everything, and nothing all at once. We want to fit in. We want to belong. It is time for believers to be brave. To take a stand for what is right. To take a stand for the truth. I wasted many years of my life seeking the approval of man, and, sadly, that approval is still elusive and will never be satisfactory. Only God’s approval is what matters. When I am saturated in Scripture, when I am immersed in His truth, His approval becomes all that I desire. When I seek the approval of those around me, I become a slave to them. Controlling people really like to wield this power. Those of us who are conflict-avoidant need to be hyper-vigilant in this. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1. We were not meant to be enslaved to the approval of others. I feel sad for my younger self who longed so desperately to be unconditionally loved that I sold myself into slavery seeking the approval and acceptance of others. Jesus has taken me on this precious journey and He has taught me, shown me, demonstrated to me in countless ways that He is the ONLY true source of satisfaction I will ever find. What He says about me is all that matters. If He approves of me and my life choices, then that is all that matters. He cannot lead me astray. If I am living my life in such a way that wholeheartedly seeks His approval, then it matters not what others think or say.
Practice the pause before acting. Ask yourself if you are seeking the approval of man or of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any hidden motives of man’s approval prior to acting. Then confidently move forward seeking only for the approval of God in all you say and do. Jesus loves you and loves me so very much. All I want to hear when I see Him face-to-face in heaven is this approval: This is my beloved daughter with whom I am well pleased. Be set free today, friend, and pursue the approval of the only One whose opinion of you matters.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Maybe you are like me, and you can remember from your grade school years being taught “The Golden Rule” which is easily summed up as treating others the way you want to be treated. I have read this verse countless times through the years. In fact, it is almost one of those verses that you complete in your mind as you are reading it. In my experience, when I am guilty of this, I lose the meaning of what I am reading because I am reciting it from memory. Recently, though, in my coffee time with Jesus, I was writing this verse. There is something about writing the words of Scripture that make them fall afresh. When I write verses, I process the words and transfer them into my memory with awareness. As is the way of my time with Jesus, He would not let me forget this nugget. It percolated in my mind as I said it over and over to myself. I finally was just brutally honest with Jesus and told Him why this was bothering me so much. And then, of course, I had to pose the same dilemma to my people. All of whom, I am certain, must think me a little off my rocker. I realized that this verse could take us into a tailspin. Here is why. I read this verse, and my flesh struggles against it and argues that when I am rude or impatient or unkind, I am responding to the way people have treated me. This must mean they desired to be treated in this way; otherwise, they never would have behaved this way towards me to begin with, right? Or is this just me?! Probably so.
However, God did not leave me to the worldly ways and desires of my flesh, glory to God. Jesus showed us a different way, a better way. The upside-down way of the Jesus economy. Regardless of how others have treated me, behaved towards me, insulted me, offended me, or fill-in-the-blank, Jesus says treat them the way I wish they had treated me. Be different. Be the leader. Be His light. He says, and demonstrates, to turn the other cheek. He told us to pray for our enemies, to love our enemies. Each of these things in counterintuitive to our human nature. Walking with Jesus continues to show me how He always chose the higher road. Reading His Word repeatedly demonstrates opportunities to choose humility in the face of my pride being wounded. My inner sense of justice demands to be satisfied, but His Spirit within me strengthens and encourages me to choose the Jesus way. Ashamedly, I admit I fail at this miserably, daily. I so want to be like Him, to emulate Him, to imitate Him, to radiate Him. But this human flesh of mine is often dictating my reflexes that are not reflecting the Jesus way. Even today, when presented with the opportunity to treat my husband how I would like to be treated, I chose the low road. Satan, 1. Dawn, 0. But, praise Jesus, I know the final victory has been won. And God, in His goodness and kindness towards me, has forgiven me (and so has my hubby), and, maybe next time, the voice of the Holy Spirit, the conviction, will be louder than my flesh. And I will choose the high road.
Hindsight is 20/20, and it is becoming clearer to me how I have been operating from the reactive stance rather than the proactive one. Today, I want to make changes. Be the friend who reaches out first, rather than wonder why I haven’t heard from someone in a while. Respond and continue to encourage, even when I am not acknowledged. Be kind, even when treated rudely. Offer grace and forgiveness, even if it is for the same offense over and over again. Don’t take things personally. Smile first. Speak first. Be who I wish others would choose to be towards me, towards my husband, towards my children. Forgive. Do not judge. Be counter-cultural. Be silent. Be bold. Even when I do not feel like it. Jesus was insulted, attacked, beaten, mocked, and betrayed. But He did not react or feel the need to defend Himself. Be Jesus to others! This is The Golden Rule.
“But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31
When I have fallen and messed up in my life, they have not merely been small errors or minor mistakes. Nope, when I screw up, I make giant whoppers of mistakes, the king of all mistakes. During entire seasons of my life, I have felt deep in my core what Paul also lamented, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do” (Romans 7:18-19). During other seasons of my life, I have lived knowingly making sinful and shameful choices. Praise God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and His kindness that leads to repentance. Yet, what was the purpose of all it? Did Satan ask Jesus to also sift me like wheat as he did with Simon Peter? Oftentimes, it feels like Satan’s greater plan was not my initial downfall, but, perhaps, to derail the road to redemption and recovery. Shame often delayed my recovery. Denial, a constant companion during certain seasons. It was only at the lowest of the bottom and worst pit that I was able to begin to lift my head and dare to glance at the face of Jesus. How impossible to hold His gaze in the midst of my shame and disgrace. How challenging to not continually berate myself for the poor choices I have made. Even now, as I walk in the will of Jesus and in the freedom of His mercy, grace and forgiveness, do those lies of the enemies threaten to take me down. He sometimes screams at me, “you are not worthy of Him.” Other times, he whispers right into my deepest insecurities, “you are not loved and you will never be enough. You can never undo what you have done.” I cling to Jesus during those battles and claim His promises about me and to me with barely a mustard seed of faith, but a mustard seed is all it takes to sprout the largest tree of faith.
For years, I have tried so hard to be perfect, mistakenly thinking that if I could just place enough time and distance between who I was and who I am now, then I would finally belong, that I would finally be worthy. Then I would be able to prove I was not the filth Satan repeatedly accused me of being with his assault of lies. Not only did I buy into his scheme, but this deceitful train of thought also allowed for a minimal margin of error in others. My expectations placed on those around me were nearly impossible. Grace was not my go-to response, either for myself or for others. Yet, how could that be so, because if God had so forgiven me for all of my heinous sins, then how could I possibly withhold forgiveness from others? The enemy’s deception was like a domino effect in my life, and I was choosing to live and make choices based upon those lies. I also mistakenly believed that I would continue to be faced with the same temptation or same sin until I finally responded to it the correct way, the Godly way. But God. He intervened and He challenged that way of thinking. What if the purpose of my repeated patterns of behavior was not to perfectly respond to the temptation this time, but instead, to perfect me? To eradicate pride and unforgiveness. To cultivate grace, kindness, humility, and forgiveness within me. The repeated exposure to the fire was to refine me and to mold me into the image of Christ, not to perfectly fulfill a checklist of behaviors. Jesus was most concerned with my heart. God’s presence is my good. The lesson for me to learn was not that I’m not perfect, though I most certainly am not. No, the lesson was that it’s okay to not be perfect. It is okay to mess up, to lighten up, to laugh, to look up, and to accept the unmerited grace and favor of God. Humility was the lesson. Grace was the lesson. Growth was the lesson. Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit was the lesson. And then Jesus said to me, “Dawn, when you return to me, strengthen your sisters.” Yes, Jesus, I am answering your call to me, on my life, to serve you in ministry until I meet you face-to-face.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
As each new year is set to begin, I often spend the weeks leading up to it in quiet communion with God, seeking His face and awaiting His response for what He desires to be my focus of the year. Usually, I ask Him for a specific word or theme, as well as spiritual goals for the coming year. Sometimes, I do this around my birthday–it really just depends on what the current state of my life resembles. Back in December, I began asking Him these things, fully expecting Him to faithfully show me, and He did. With much confidence, I know that God placed a few things on my heart for this year. The two central themes were the word “contentment” and the phrase “wait on the Lord.” Both so very counter-cultural. Contentment is the antithesis of the messages our society screams at us. Rather, they shout that happiness and satisfaction can only be found when we have amassed more wealth than we can spend, when we have more letters behind our name rather than in them, when we have successful careers, when our children are the smartest, most athletic, top of their class, and when our homes and cars cost more than our peers. And waiting? Ha–do Americans wait for anything anymore? We expect next day delivery at no extra cost (thank you, Amazon prime!). We don’t like to wait for our food, to wait at stop lights (speaking to myself the loudest on this one here!), or to wait for people to return our call, email, or text. Thus, I knew this year would bring with it ample opportunity to study these concepts in Scripture and apply them to my every day life.
So it was that I found myself studying contentment, and in my quiet time one day recently, I journaled the phrase “I need ________.” Fill in the blank. I was challenged to sketch a box with two columns outlining on one side my needs and on the other how God provides. I was stumped. I sat there, staring at that sentence and asked myself, how would I respond if someone posed to me that statement and told me to fill in my need on the blank. I quickly outlined the physical needs I have for food, shelter, clothing, etc. I added to the list love, security, friends. I easily listed the countless ways God has met these needs in my life through the unconditional love of Jesus, the love of my husband, my children, my family, through my close friends, through the assurance that Jesus would never leave me or forsake me. I turned the page of my journal and sat there, staring at it and repeating the question to myself, “What do I need? What do I need?” I found that if the question were to add the words “to do” at the end of it, then my list would surely be endless because, after all, isn’t there always something more, something else we feel like we need to do? But that was not the question before me. I need…
“I need Jesus. I need a purpose. I need to know if writing is God’s purpose for me. I need to release the reins. I need to surrender control. I need to trust God. I need to matter. I need to not feel invisible. I need to be a good mom.”
Jesus is what, is who I need. As our Scripture points out, God will supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. Yes, I have Jesus. I ever only need more of Him, day after day. God WILL supply all of our needs. He whispers to my heart that I have a purpose, that I am seen and loved by Him. He promises me that He is trustworthy and says it is okay to let go and let Him have the reins of my life. He is faithful to equip me to be the mother my children need, not the one I wish I was. He has given me everything I need to be their mother. When we pare down the differences between wants and needs, it is rather eye-opening and much easier to be content with what we have because God has said He will never leave us or forsake us. As I outlined my needs to God, He continued to reveal to me how He has met my needs in the past, and He gently urged me to dig deeper in my heart and continue to peel back all the layers and present Him with my greatest needs–the ones I don’t share with anyone but Him. I eagerly await His provision and watch Him as He works.
Today, what would you place in that blank space? “I need…” What is it that you need to identify to God and then allow Him to meet that need? How has He already met your needs? I encourage you today to boldly present God with your needs, all of them, then wait for Him and watch how He faithfully supplies all of them. Take note of the ways He has provided in the past and keep a record of how He is supplying even the ones you have yet to bring to Him. Then praise Him! Our minds cannot begin to fathom what He has prepared for us. Be thankful! Be content! Wait on the Lord! Then share with others what God is doing and has done for you!
Lately I have thought a lot about prayer. As a woman who was raised in the church, prayer is a fairly familiar and common theme. Prayer was used before every meal, before bed, and, of course, who could not quote The Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6. I began to think about how we use prayer as a verb in our daily lives and interactions with each other. If someone we know is struggling, battling an illness, or just in a bad frame of mind, we quickly will roll off our tongues the promise of “I’ll be praying for you.” Yet are we faithful to follow through with the promise of prayers offered off the cuff to those who truly need them? Or, this, when someone says “I’m praying for you,” have you ever thought to yourself, “Are they praying for me because they think I need prayer in some way because I am lacking or because they perceive me to have sinned in some area?” And, my favorite is this one: “All we can do is pray.”
As I have pondered these concepts, I have felt both saddened and convicted. What must Jesus think when we so callously and carelessly throw around the word “prayer”? As this year has begun, I have vowed to take prayer as seriously as God intended it to be and to understand how God longs for us to pray to Him. Interwoven in this concept is the deeper discipline God is instilling in me–wait on the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us, “Pray constantly.” Granted, life requires us to interact and engage with others and we have responsibilities and commitments. What Paul is telling us here is to have our hearts in a posture of perpetual prayer. How often do we make prayer a last resort or the go-to when it seems that all else has failed? Paul offers, orders, us a better way. Pray! And do it constantly. It is a bowing of our hearts, our wills, to Jesus. Sometimes, it benefits us to take up the battle of prayer on our knees, literally. How would our lives be changed and to what degree would we feel the presence of Jesus in our daily lives if we made prayer the priority, rather than the afterthought?!
Why do we pray? Jesus Himself tells us in the Gospel of Matthew that “your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.” Prayer invites Jesus into our circumstances. Praise God that He knows our every thought, our every need, our every heartache, our every battle, our every cause for rejoicing. Yet His heart longs for us to bring these to Him ourselves. The Creator of the Universe desires to walk in an intimate relationship with Him. Prayer is a blessing and a gift He has given to His children that invites Him into what He already knows is happening. Jesus does not force Himself on anyone. He wants us to seek Him with all of our hearts, and when we do, we will find Him. Not only does prayer have the power to change things, prayer has the power to change you and me. Prayer is the opportunity to dialogue with God–dialogue which requires two-way communication. When we pray, God listens. When we pray, God speaks. When we pray, God acts. Paul told the church in Thessalonica to pray constantly. He told the church in Colossae to “devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). Frequently we find Jesus, when He was in human form, going off alone to pray. If Jesus, the perfect and sinless lamb and Son of God, felt compelled to pray and needed to commune with His Father in prayer, then how much more do we as sinful humans need this constant lifeline? Ultimately, the purpose of prayer is to draw us ever closer to the heart of God. Countless times I have brought myself to God, asking that He enable and empower me to have a different attitude or to have the ability to forgive and release. Without fail, God has worked in an impossible way to mold me more into His image. When I don’t feel like forgiving, I take it to Him, and I tell Him I don’t want to forgive, but I know that is not His way. So I ask Him to assist me, to strengthen me, to enable me to forgive. Miraculously, faithful as He is, He takes this flawed and faulted human heart and empowers me to forgive. I have literally prayed and asked God to change my mood because I don’t even like myself in that moment. Guess what? He does. He helps me choose His way over my own selfish desires. Prayer is the means by which I acknowledge to Jesus just how much I love Him, need Him, and desire His Presence in my life. I am desperate for more of Him in my life and in me.
Psalm 73:28 says, “But as for me, God’s presence is my good.” Then why don’t we pray? What prevents us from pouring out our hearts before the Almighty? In my experience, there are a few things that prevent us from being devoted to prayer. Fear prevents us from a deeply intimate prayer life. Perhaps, we are hesitant to openly express ourselves to God because we are afraid He will not hear us or grant us what we request. Or, we are afraid that if we believe Him and take Him at His Word, then He may not come through and will let us down and disappoint us. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11) “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” (Psalm 37:4) We do not have to be afraid that God does not care, that He does not hear, that He will disappoint. Prayer aligns our passions with God’s. Another thing that prevents us from praying is a lack of faith. We simply fail to believe God is at work in our lives or situations so we cease praying. We may not believe He cares about the minute details of our daily comings and goings. We may not believe He is going to do anything about it. Or–we may believe He is to blame for our circumstances initially so why ask for His hand to intervene. There are so many ways doubt has the devastating potential to wreck our prayer lives. But God says in James 5:16 that “the urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” We may not see with our limited vision and human eyes what God is actively doing, but we must believe that He is present and active. Finally, distractions prevent us from praying. Haven’t we all experienced this situation–we set aside time to pray, yet once we begin, every random, stray thought enters our brains at that exact moment. We think about what we have to do, what is for dinner, who is picking up the kids, and the list goes on and on. The choice is ours–do we give in to the distractions or do we persevere and lay them aside and focus on our time with God?
Sometimes, it can be challenging to know where to begin praying. All you have to do is a quick search of the web and you have innumerable solutions at your fingertips. But I propose a simple approach as you begin. Find a favorite Scripture verse or even one of the ones quoted above, and pray that aloud, right back to God. Personalize Scriptures into prayers. Come to Him, just as you are. Offer yourself to Him, and tell Him you don’t even know what to say. The Bible tells us that “the Spirit also joins to help us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings” (Romans 8:26). Life is a battlefield. We cannot even began to understand the battle occurring in the heavenlies, but we know our God is victorious. Today, make prayer a priority. My personal prayer right now is: “God, You are my God. Eagerly I seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.” Found in Psalm 63:1
I leave you with this: “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Open your heart to prayer, and wait and listen to hear what the Lion of Judah has to say to His beloved child.