Monday, November 30, 2015

Day Thirty: A Desperate Request!

Praying friends, fellow warriors in the faith, I request your fervent prayers on this final day of my blog posts on this subject. This morning I learned that my cousin's 19 year-old daughter lost control of her vehicle yesterday and rolled it several times and crashed into a utility pole. Her one year-old daughter was with her, buckled securely, but all the rollovers crushed her head and she is in critical care with several skull fractures and a brain bleed with much swelling. The young momma has minimal injuries. Might I beg you to please pray on behalf of my family? Little Everleigh has had surgery and the CT shows there is still too much pressure on her brain. They don't know how much longer she'll live. As my cousin wrote on Facebook: she is truly in the hands of God. That is the best place for her to be. We'd like to keep her here a little longer though. Please petition the Lord with me for this tiny girl's life, for her mother's sad heart and the family's peace. Thank you. May the Lord increase our learning more and more in prayer as we journey homeward.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day Twenty-Nine: Too Busy Not To Pray

I'm behind on writing the last two blog posts (even though I like to re-set them for the correct date :). I've been busy scuffling around the house, purging and cleaning and clearing space for painters who are freshening up our home. It's a fun and rewarding task because it's much needed and it feels so good to pare down. Always. Pray is just like that. It's a way to listen, organize, clear out, simplify. We offer up our junk to the Lord and become open to Him changing our ideas, our hearts, our daily plans and voila--freshened up with new strength and inspiration in place of monotony, anxiety, and hustling. All that good stuff makes us too busy not to pray.

Prayer is not something that is neglected when I'm busy; it's focused time with God. Intimate, intentional time changes our prayers, as I've mentioned in earlier posts. So, although whispering requests and worship throughout the day is necessary, our busy lives warrant the attention that draws us to our knees and into God's Word. I know it because I've suffered without it. There will be days where this is impossible, but making a commitment to return to a daily quiet time pays in copious dividends. In this day and age, we are too busy not to pray!

 Ashanti's third birthday!
Keeping six little girls busy for a couple of hours is no easy task, but with crafts, chalking on the driveway, decorating cupcakes our crazy cat and lots of giggles, the party turned out well :)
Birthday Girl
 Love this kid!
"Grandma" Nancy
 With Mommy
 Mommy and Ashanti
 I asked Valerie to bring some Ivorian dishes that would be served at a party--delicious!
 Three years old!
All her besties! (Mayan-second from left)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Day Twenty-Eight: What Do You Need?

God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don't have now, we don't need now.
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Deep in the jungle of Ecuador, five men bravely entered the territory of the Auca natives to share the love of God. They began with great success and felt they were making friends with the people. Due to a big misunderstanding, the Aucas speared the five missionaries to death. Their wives were devastated when they finally realized what had happened to their husbands. 

Upon reading this story, I was taken with the courage of the men, but it was the resilience and perseverance of the women to return to the Aucas with forgiveness and to carry on the work that their husbands had begun. Elisabeth Elliot was one of them. If she can speak the quote above with the horrific experience she endured, how much more can I say that I don't need what I don't have right now. Do you look to a hero of the faith? I read stories of great men and women to my children because Jesus is their ultimate example, and we are also encouraged by fellow sojourners who are living according to the Word of God. Gaining insight from wiser and more mature believers sharpens us for our own pilgrimages. Elisabeth's prayers are insightful and inspiring. Research the men and women who have given their life's work (or even their lives) for Jesus. It will bolster your faith to even greater heights... and it may just change what you think you need.

Here are some examples:
Amy Carmichael
Gladys Aylward
David Livingstone
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Corrie Ten Boom

Faith Like Potatoes (movie) 

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 4:19)

The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.
(Psalm 6:9)
 First snow! Using every bit of it for a snowman or two.
A few hours later...
"Frost-bite" is beginning to lean and "Ashanti" is losing her carrot nose, but it was fun while it lasted!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Day Twenty-Seven: Miracles

You are the God who performs miracles;
You display you power among the peoples.
(Psalm 77:14)

The doctor told them their unborn son had severe hydrocephalus and would some suffer brain damage. They could clearly see with their own untrained eyes that he was correct. They rallied prayer partners and fervently lifted up their baby to the Lord for healing and received a peace that passes all understanding. They just knew he'd be okay. When Jaden was born, he was perfect. The tests they ran after his birth showed evidence of what would have been the sac where the swelling had been on his brain. The doctors were confounded. 
Marcus lay in a vegetative state in an astronaut-type suit as the physicians raised his temperature slowly as not to disturb his head. He had fallen down the stairs and smashed the back of his skull seven weeks after getting married. It was a true test of "for better or for worse" for his young wife. People prayed on every continent and much to the shock of the professionals who cared for him, he healed rapidly with no lasting damage to his brain.
After learning of the affair, people said she should leave her husband. She lay in fetal position day after day, eating nothing. When she mustered some strength, she turned to the Lord in prayer and begged for His intervention. The wholeness and love for her husband that resulted from deep intercession for her marriage was palpable. His commitment and affection returned and years later, they are helping separated couples fall in love again. 
She never had enough money for simple things like gas in her car. Her kids missed opportunities to go on special trips that their friends attended. But, when they were down to their last bag of milk or loaf of bread, she prayed and someone knocked on the door with a few bags of groceries. As years went by, mentors came alongside her children and offered to pay for camps and lessons. In hindsight, they could all see how prayer always rescued them in their most desperate moments. 

There are inexplicable happenings that can only be attributed to the outcome of petitioning a Heavenly Father. I've witnessed it myself and experienced healing in my own body directly after being prayed for. Jesus is alive and well and the miracles He performed on earth are still being accomplished today. God has been doing wonders since He created the world. Don't give up on prayer. My sister-in-law passed away after we prayed for years, but I'd just as zealously and faithfully pray for the next loved one. We don't know why the Lord chooses to cure some and not others in this life, but He promises one day they will surely be healed. Our joy and hope rests in the fact that my sister-in-law is with Jesus completely whole. Because He does heal many here, we must persevere and trust that what the Lord wills is exactly what is best. 

 Look-alike cousins
 found kitten--we gave him to a loving home
 first 5 minute piano lesson
Thank you for your patience, Mrs. Anger :)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Day Twenty-Six: Sticks And Stones

Ever been astounded by a particular prayer? The one that blows my mind is when Jesus, beaten and tortured, hanging on a cross, and struggling for air, cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Could I beg God to go easy on my enemy? When someone has wounded with words and actions and spread false accusations about me? Could I utter the same request? Stephen, as he was being martyred, had learned from his Lord, and he pleaded a similar appeal. (Acts 7:60) These were murders. Sticks and stones injure the body, but how much more should I pray forgiveness for those who name-call or judge? 

Besides the prayer to receive Jesus into your life, this one seems of paramount significance. The Lord told us to forgive others so that God will forgive us. (Matthew 6:14) That alone causes me to inquire of Him to reveal anyone I may not have released in my heart from past or present wrongs. Is there someone you haven't forgiven? Pray the prayer today that will set you free from the bondage of grudge-holding. It's ugly, and a big waste of time. Names and words do hurt, however, God restores relationships and wounded hearts. 

 When my old hobbies become useful to my kids! It's wasn't a waste of money :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Day Twenty-Five: Why Or Who?

The conversation centred around the topic of what is the proper way to communicate with God. The women gave their opinions and were thankful the Lord can handle their "why me-s?" and their wonderings. My girlfriend agreed that David questioned God over and over but then she shared that she'd heard something she'd never forget. Our "whys" are focused on ourselves and our circumstances and so we yearn for answers. She said when we ask, "Who?" (is taking care of my heartache, my future, my finances), we can rest easy because we know our great God is capable. She reminded us that in order to get to this place, we first need to know the One to Whom we are praying: His power, His glory, His ability, His love for us. That resonated with me like a familiar song. Gratitude for that tidbit happening here :)


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Day Twenty-Four: Real Men Pray

She peered into the back of my husband's pick-up truck and jeered, "That baby car seat looks so funny back there." She continued to chuckle.
Terry simply stated, "That car seat makes me a man."
He's the same man who believes in prayer and knows it's not just "women's stuff".
My husband grew up watching a father who took prayer seriously. He prayed on his own and with his wife (and still does), but just as importantly, he prayed with the family after every suppertime. Paired with reading a portion of the Bible, he trained his children to have a firm faith, to remember Scripture and to go to God no matter what. Those prayers clung like static to my heart as I, the girlfriend, sat awkwardly and shyly with the ever-outgoing and fun-loving Vanderkruks. My blonde-streaked haired boyfriend was learning how to lead his own family without really thinking about the future. Real men pray and now, he's one of them.
Sunday afternoon soccer fun with cousins:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Day Twenty-Three: Somebody's Praying Me Through

My thumbs quickly texted the words as I prayed. I didn't know if there'd be a response from the girl or if she would ignore my message, but I felt prompted to let her know God keeps bringing her to my mind. She's a single mom and recently aborted her second child. My heart aches for her. It aches for the pain that led her to that decision and the pain she'll endure in future years as she tries to settle the choice in her spirit. I know she felt trapped. She felt abandoned by her parents and desperate for other options. 

I pray she'll encounter the greatest Love of all and that she'll know His powerful forgiveness. I pray she'll feel His embrace and His adoration for her. I pray she'll turn her life over to Him and finally experience peace that passes all understanding and extravagant joy. 

She texted back. She was thankful for the prayers. I didn't add anything else, but lifted her up to Jesus again as I sat alone in my truck. The door is open for her to wonder and ask about prayer. I'm here. What's more important, is that Jesus is present with her as soon as her lips utter their own appeal to God. 

Listen to this song with lyrics that bring me to tears when I think about someone praying me through.

 A private gymnastics class--cousins only? Yes, please!
 They might be gymnastic newbies but they're having a blast!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day Twenty-Two: A Comedy of Prayers

Sincere prayer is what God desires from us. As believers, we may be tempted to pray hurried, half-hearted prayers simply because someone asked us to pray. Are we truly thinking about what we're saying? About Whom we're addressing? Our petitioning can turn into a comedy of errors, or worse yet, a comedy of prayers. Listen to your word use the next time you pray. Check your heart. An honest one is accepted by God, no matter what the style, however, as we grow in prayer, we can model the effective pray-ers in God's Word, especially Jesus. 

Watch this video of a comedian who is a Christian. He makes fun of how believers pray without thinking of what they're actually saying. Please view with a humourous spirit as laughter is indeed the best medicine :)  (Proverbs 17:22) 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Day Twenty-One: Unanswered Prayers

Country singer, Garth Brooks twangfully mourned that his earnest plea to make a beautiful girl his own went ignored by God. Later in life, as he appreciated the gift of his wife, he understood the bigger plan that was accomplished to protect him from second best and how everything worked out just as it should. He ended by thanking the Lord for unanswered prayers. If only we could see all of our seemingly disregarded requests from tomorrow's rooftop. But since we don't get to know the future, we must trust that God has our best interests in mind. That all those desires don't go without a reply, but sometimes a "not yet" or even a "no" for our own good. 

It's important to look at some reasons the Bible gives for God being silent at certain times in our lives. Because we can't calculate the reason perfectly for every instance, we need to whittle down the possibilities so we can be sure we're living according to God's Word. First and foremost, God is Lord and we've been given finite minds that cannot fully comprehend His breadth. However, we can do our best to align ourselves with His will. How do we know His will? By reading His Word. It's impossible to be reading daily and not come across Scriptures that demonstrate what God yearns for of us and what he abhors. 

The Bible clearly states, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:3) Do you have poor intentions? Can you be honest with yourself?Another reason for unanswered prayer is the verse in Psalm 66:18 that challenges us to play a game of introspection: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." Is there someone you haven't forgiven? Is there some constant sin you keep returning to? We all sin every day but if we live in sin, we block God's response to our prayers! How sad! And we blame Him for not caring! It's like a brash teenager who smashes up the car more than once, is unremorseful and then doesn't understand why we don't just hand over the keys the next time they beg to go out.

Yet, if the Holy Spirit is not revealing anything in particular to you that needs change, consider the possibility that there's an intricate design being painted on the canvas of your life. God sees the end product in all its glory. You must trust that the Master Artist will complete what He began in you. Job and the blind man (John 9:1-3) testify the trials that happened in their lives were not a result of sin, but to glorify God. Honestly, I'd really like for the Lord to share the exact colours, textures and shapes on my canvas, but if He doesn't, I'll do my best to be thankful that He takes joy in working on the masterpiece of my life. And any unanswered prayers? I pray patience and trust will lead my doubts, my emotions, and my prayers.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Day Twenty: Jesus Take The Wheel!

"Just leave it in God's hands." I hated that phrase...and it was used a lot as I grew up in the church. What exactly does that look like anyway? I didn't get it. I knew about prayer, I prayed, but sometimes the Christian-ese just didn't suffice. Something sounding a little like Carrie Underwoods's Jesus Take the Wheel echoes in my mind. 

So what taught me to stop worrying and to trust God with my concerns? Reading Scripture. Memorizing Scripture. Hearing Scripture by great pastors, teachers, women's group leaders, video studies, etc. The Holy Spirit makes the Word of God alive to us and in us. The truth of it sinks down into our souls when we know it. The Bible is sharper than any two-edged sword and it's that word that assures us the Lord has our lives in His hands. There is nothing to fear or be anxious for when we know we can pray with the stories, poetry, prophesies, teachings and letters of Scripture to remind us we're not alone. God's got our backs and our present and our eternity are safe with Him. I'm certainly not a perfect example of peace and rest during difficult times, but in the depths of my soul I get it now. There is really no sense in fretting when I humbly tell the Lord that I can't do this thing on my own and I'm trusting Him to be in control. His way is the best way and somewhere in that tunnel is a Light that will get me exactly where I need to go in this life--He's got the wheel.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all the things I said to you. (John 14:26)

"For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
 Thanksgiving weekend