Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Weapon of Prayer



Battles. We wage so many spiritual battles. Life is not for the faint of heart, for sure.


I was thinking recently about something I was taking to the Lord in prayer. Something that weighed heavily on my heart. It grieved me. And I thought, “Oh, but if more of us were grieved - how many more things would we fight for? How many more would we take to the Lord in prayer?”


There have been many “things” and “people” over the years that have weighed heavily on my heart. Things that just won’t leave me. Not for a second. 


I pray, but with these situations, I have prayed heavily. Heartily. Daily. Moment by moment. For somehow, I recognized the life or death balance that was going to be decided. And I wasn’t about to give satan victory.


So many times, we pray privately over things and people. Which prayer is NEVER bad. And we certainly don’t want to gossip about people or betray trust or relationships. But there are times (probably more times than we’d admit or acknowledge) when we need to invite others into our fight and into our prayers. 


I’m not sure why we keep things so quiet. Maybe it’s because we’re ashamed or don’t want someone else to be ashamed. But maybe - just maybe - we need to go public a little more often as we battle for someone’s soul.


Oh, how the earth may tremble as we cry out God’s name in earnest for someone we love!


I think we need more of that.


So, this time, I did that. I waged war with satan. I invited others in my prayers. Into my heart. Into my grief. 


“Where two or three are gathered together in my name….”


More of our prayers need to be waged in earnest. In yelling for intervention. In longing. In grief. 


We’ve grown too apathetic. To blasé. Too calm about our prayer life and in our fight for those we love.


Let’s run into those moments with our shields on, our armor up, and a backbone ready to fight.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

That's What a Father Does


God has  a great way of keeping me humble. I’m so thankful He does that in my life, because that’s the kind of person I want to be - humble, compassionate, kind, generous. But it can be painful to get this lesson straight from the heart of God.


Just when I’m in a moment and on the edge of losing empathy… God comes down and speaks straight into my heart, my life, my world. He knows when I tend to lose the very qualities I long so much to hold close. He knows when I’m growing just a little bit harder, colder, critical.


He knows I need reminding of what’s important.


God knows when to have me deal with health issues, so that I regain compassion for those who constantly struggle with health.


God knows when to sting my heart with loneliness, so that I am reminded to love on the one who is all alone.


God knows when to say “no” to  my wishes and dreams, because I have overlooked how blessed I already am.


And God knows when to be gentle with His nudges, and when I need a bold dash of lightning from Him - so that I soften my tongue, gentle my heart, slow my assumptions, and melt my bitterness.


He is so perfect.


I am in need of grace. I have been in need of mercy. I have stuck my foot in my mouth. I have judged. I have had a hardened heart. I have failed to forgive at times. I have been proud. Yes, I have done and been all of these things. Some in moments, some lasting longer.


But I am so thankful that my God doesn’t like to leave me there. Just when I think I know something decisively, He shows me how little I really knew. Just when I stand my ground in firm decision; He shows me how much ground I have yet to walk. 


For He loves me. 


That’s what a Father does. He does what is best for His child when He knows they have so much more potential to give. And He corrects when correcting is needed.


This world can so easily chip away at our character. Without seeing or knowing it, bit by bit, we harden. We turn our back. 


We ignore.


I’m so glad my Lord continues to readily soften me. Remind me. Restore me. Turn me back around and bend me. 


For I can always use MORE. More compassion, more humility, and MORE of Him.


Undeserving, as I am, I am eternally thankful He doesn’t leave me the same.

Monday, November 15, 2021

I Just Want to Enjoy The Ride



Life is a journey. And the saying goes, “I just want to enjoy the ride.” 


That’s true - to a degree. Life is such a gift to us. It is here for our enjoyment. The travel, the celebrations, the restaurants, the concerts, the fun photos we take….. all of it.


But there is so much more to life, than just “enjoying the ride.”


When I’m 80, I don’t want to look back at my life and simply see how many plane rides I took, or many shows I attended. I want to see how many relationships I built, and how many lives I was able to invest in.


Life is about relationships.


It’s about sitting up at 2 in the morning and holding a friend who is in the grips of grief. 


It’s about feeding those who are hungry. 


It’s about offering that empty room in our house to someone who needs some “love time” and can get it nowhere else.


It’s about standing up for the person no one else will stand up for.


It’s about our children watching and learning from us as we kneel in prayer, are honest when we think no one is watching, are generous with our money, and investing our lives into others.


It’s about people. 


Life is about hugs. Embraces. A shared laugh. A phone call after 20 years. A tired body and soul that gives up its days for ministry.


Contrary to what we are told in life, it’s not about doing what’s right for ourselves. It’s knowing who we are, and being right with ourselves ,and throwing ourselves into doing, loving, and investing into OTHERS.


Others.


That is the real journey. The real ride.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Herd Mentality




People don’t know how to stand out anymore. Not really.

If everyone watches a certain show, do you feel like you must also see it?

If everyone goes to eat at a certain new restaurant, do you feel you must also go try it?


If everyone arounds us tends to stand for a certain Presidential candidate, so many of us find ourselves following the group and leaning that way, as well.


If most people in our lives partake in a certain behavior, whatever that is, have you found that you tend to lean into that activity as well? Even if at one point you felt differently about it?


If you work at an organization and everyone is coming up with statements on certain social justice issues - do you find that you feel your organization must do so as well?


It has a name. It’s called “herd mentality”. And we fall into it so often.


It’s not always bad. Sometimes “herd mentality” can lure us out of a sedentary or solitary existence. Sometimes it can beckon us to take care of our mental or physical health.


But a lot of times, it can woo us into things that we otherwise wouldn’t have partaken in. 


It can, without us realizing it, cause us to get used to allowing boundaries to be broken, compromise to be common-place, and discernment, to be pushed aside in our lives.


And that is so, so dangerous.


“Herd mentality” can convincingly shut up our individual thinking, and our distinct voice in a world that needs it.


We were created to be unique and diverse.. And society has cunningly stifled any unique, wise, individual, or different thinking - right out of us.


We are becoming carbon copies of each other.


We have been lured into “sameness” in the quest for acceptance.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like everyone else. The most fascinating people, are the people who are comfortable in their own skin. Walking in their own trails. They look different. Talk different. Feel different. And are comfortable “standing out”.


They stand on their principles. They are comfortable being left out of a circus that they know they don’t belong in, or don’t want to take part in.


They may be called rebels, in a world where the true rebels are the ones who all take part in what once was “disdained” - together. 


They lead the pack, instead of simply walking in the middle of a herd that they aren’t really sure knows where they are going.


They know their voice, their thoughts, and their feelings. And they’ve kept them.


There is a lot of pressure to conform. There is a lot of “wooing” of us to take part in what everyone else is doing, and thinking.


Don’t fall for it.


Stay individualistic. Stay discerning. Know your own beliefs.


Stand by them. For them. With them.


And then help others learn how to do the same.


We were not created to all be alike.


It’s okay to “miss out”. Don’t watch that show. Don’t get that ‘thing’. 


Listen to your heart. Your gut.

Stand out. And feel free.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The "Christian Left"




I first heard the term “Christian Left” on the John Cooper podcast. I had never heard that coined phrase before, but as soon as I heard it… it resonated.


Loudly.


So much is going on in the world right now. I think we’d all agree with that. But so much is also going on in our own circles. In our own faith and churches.


We, as Christians, have compromised who we are and what we believe.


We pick and choose God’s Word as if it’s a menu. We like this, don’t like that, want to alter this verse, etc. etc.


In Mark 3:25 God says, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

I always took this verse literally. Especially as it applies to marriage and divorce.


But God brought this verse to my mind as soon as I heard John term the words “Christian Left”. 


It all made sense.


We, as believers, are God’s Church. Together, we can do so much - as a house of believers. But divided? Divided, we cannot stand.


Divided, we cannot win the war on culture.


Divided, we will be persecuted heavier, than if we’d stood up together, as strong warriors.


Divided, we will battle each other.


Divided, we will look like hypocrites (and be called so, as well).


Divided, we will fall.


All because we have compromised who we are and what we believe.


And as believers, we have become divided. Divided into the “left” and the “right”.


Listen, I get it. I GET IT. It’s hard to be the only one in the room who stands for something. It’s hard to be made fun of. It’s hard to live in fear as you stand counter-cultural.


But God never promised us easy. He only promised us victory in eternal life.


And as blatant as that truth is, I understand that hard AND easy will come into my life as a result of walking faithfully in His Word. Not all the time. Not every day.


I will have hard. But at times, I will also have easy. Just because He loves me. Just because He wants to bless me. Just because I was faithful in prayer and obedient in actions.


And I can praise, rejoice, and be so thankful when those moments come. But I have to be prepared that hard, WILL come. 


We are a family. We are God’s family. His beloved sons and daughters.


He loves us. Dearly.


We are damaging each other, hindering each other, and causing division…. Simply because of our concern with our image, our selfishness (if we’re honest), and our immersing ourselves in culture, instead of Godly things. 


Instead of GOD, Himself.


“Christian Left.”


We say we believe, but we straddle the line. Never truly committing to one OR the other. Going where the wind blows to be acceptable.

Accepting what we shouldn’t, and compromising our moral compass.

We are weakened, because we do not stand strong TOGETHER. We are weakened, because we falter. 


The Christian “left.”


It’s time to dig deep inside and find out just where we stand, and just what it is we stand for.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

This Is For Keeps




This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Ephesians 6:12 (MSG)



The good and the bad in life. Sometimes I think we forget where it all comes from. Maybe we think it’s coincidence. Fate. Our own doing. I guess sometimes it is. But it’s also a battle. A very real battle that is going on all around us…for our very souls.


When that bad man shows up at our house at night to rob us and maybe do worse, was our house really picked at random? Or did Satan target us? When everything seems to fall apart when we already are dealing with a health crisis, got laid off, and are feeling lonely…..is it just bad timing? Or is Satan doing everything he can to steal, kill, and destroy us?

When we are tempted at our very weakest moment? What is THAT about?


Life is for keeps. There are no re-runs. No repeats. We can’t just wave away things in the hopes that they don’t matter. In the desire that they’ll go away. For we are in a fight whether we like it or not.


I know a lot of people get freaked out and really scared when they think the “devil” will aim for them. And rightly so. He is clever. Deceiving. Yes – powerful. He knows just where our buttons are, and how to push them. The thing is; no matter how much we might be afraid of him, it doesn’t protect us, or make us safe. We can pretend he’s not out to get us, but pretending isn’t reality. It doesn’t arm us or give us strength to battle him. No, it only makes us easier targets.


We need to take the blinders off and realize that the battle… the fight, the war has come to us. Like it or not. It will engage us on many levels and in so many ways.  Will we be ready for it? 


Everything we need to protect ourselves and get battle ready, is in God’s Word. We need to read it. Ponder it. Embrace it. USE it. 


God put it there for a reason. 


He loves us. Oh, how He loves us! And He doesn’t want us to have to struggle so much (although some struggles are necessary, and even productive.) But as our Father, He cares about us and the wars we will fight. He wants us to call on Him. So let’s LET Him guide us. Let’s let Him ARM us.


And the next time Satan comes calling, he’ll find us ready for him. 


Make him flee.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

It's Time To Look Outside of Ourselves For a Change




We have gotten really good about knowing what we like. And what we don’t like.


We’ve gotten to be excellent at knowing what we prefer, and what we don’t.


The world has done so well at getting the message across that we need to, “Be true to you.”


For so long, I think a lot of us denied our personal preferences. We failed to speak up about what was good for us, and we simply felt pulled along by the tide of life.


So it’s good, that we now feel strong in our boundaries and what comes into and out of our lives.


Or is it? Is it really “good?”


I’m not so sure. I think it WOULD be good, if we had balance. If we knew when not to speak up about our food preferences in the company of someone else’s home. Or if we knew when not to deny a gift extended to us because we don’t really like it, or won’t use it.


No. I don’t think those times or instances are GOOD.


We have gotten so GOOD at knowing what our comfort zones are, that we have, instead, made others uncomfortable.


It’s ok that you’d rather eat sugar-free or vegetarian. But do you have to tell your host who just worked a couple of hours to create a great meal for you in their home? Wouldn’t it be more of a blessing, to simply partake of the foods you CAN eat, in quiet manner without drawing attention to the fact that your host… gasp.. failed at filling your stomach?


And maybe you won’t use that gift that someone gave you. Maybe you don’t like it. But isn’t refusing it, or giving it back to the giver… kind of… rude?  Isn’t it denying them the blessing of loving on you and thinking about you? Isn’t that more important than sharing with them that they too… didn’t meet your personal requirements?


You see - it’s okay to have guidelines in our lives. In fact, normally, it’s healthy. To know our limitations, to see where our temptation areas are, or the things we need to abstain from - that’s a really solid thing to implement. BUT…. We often go too far.  We forget the feelings of those we are with and we inflict our own personal standards onto them.


And it usually hurts someone else.


We have no right to put our self-imposed boundaries on someone else OR to insist that they abide by them.  


So, if we aren’t comfortable not knowing what food will be served - we need to figure out a game plan to deal with the situation ahead of time. Then, we can still enjoy the love that is seeking to be lavished on us.


And if we aren’t comfortable receiving a gift that we feel will clutter up our home, or one that is just not “us,” then we can come up with a plan to pass it along to someone else who will truly enjoy it in a quiet, gentle manner at a later date… without refusing the blessing that someone who cares about us tried to gift us with.


These are only two scenarios - but they are examples of how we have used what is comfortable to us - and ended up EXPECTING it in all situations and circumstances. And you know what? Life just isn’t like that. And we end up getting a little self-rightous, and arrogant about it all.


What matters the most in our relationships is love, grace, mercy, humility, and kindness. It doesn’t matter that someone failed to understand what you prefer or how you have to live.


OF COURSE, there are always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes it’s a matter of life and death - when it comes to food, drink, etc. But even in these times, I’m sure there are creative ways to lovingly express and make up for the gap that needs to occur from sharing time with someone else.


PEOPLE matter. Their FEELINGS matter. Their investment of time into us, (and thank heavens they WANT to spend time with us! - those all matter.)


So let’s re-look at what we’ve implemented or demand in our life and see if it’s really “good.”  See if others feel “good” about it or if it causes them extra efforts, pains, and time to just simply share our presence.


If we can help it, let’s never cause those in our lives to feel uncomfortable by making them abide by OUR standards or being extra difficult to have around.


It’s time to look outside of ourselves for a change.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

We All Hide




We all hide.


We hide the depression and anxiety we are feeling. We hide the insecurities, the burdens we carry for those we love. We hide our flaws. Our feelings of inadequacy. We may even hide behind our feelings of not knowing how to be a man, or a woman.


It’s different for each of us. But we still hide something.


What if we didn’t? What if we openly carried those things that we hide? What if we walked around letting everyone know that we cut ourselves? What if we openly shared that we struggle with drugs or pornography?


The feeling of being judged is so great. But if we all shared our weaknesses, our failures, our struggles - what then? Wouldn’t we have a common bond? Wouldn’t we have more empathy and love for each other?


EVERYONE struggles. 


Just because you haven’t talked to someone in awhile, doesn’t mean they are “fine”. Just because someone doesn’t share their heartaches, burdens, or prayer requests with you, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. 


It simply means they are kept private.


It grieves me. Oh, how it grieves me.

Oh, how so much pain, hurt, loss, heartache, and loneliness is felt in the dark moments of our lives! Oh how many tears are shed, because we didn’t invite someone into them with us!


I have found that once you bring something out into the light, it loses some of its hold over you. It loses some of that power that holds you in its grip.


But those steps are scary. I get it. I do. For ALL of us struggle.


If I could beg of you one thing - I’d beg of you to not walk your road alone. To not “hide”.

I’d beg of you to invite someone who truly cares, into that struggle with you. (And someone DOES care. Sometimes you have to look harder for them. But they are there). 


Let someone bring you into the light. Let someone love you. Let someone show you, you are everything you want to be and fear you are not.


You are valued. You have value to give.


You matter.


Please don’t stay in the darkness alone any longer. Reach out for help. And reach into someone’s open arms.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

When I Feel I Should Be Stronger




I am weak.  I know it.


I hate going through heartache, pain, confrontation, dealing with difficult people, or anything that is just plain HARD.


I realize these times draw me closer to God. They pull me to Him on my knees, asking Him to spare me.  


Asking Him to remove the difficult challenge, the pain… the battle.


And often, He does.  Sometimes, He does not. I writhe in deep misery for a bit.  I cry.  I cling to Him wondering when that ‘thing’ I’m dealing with, will be over.


And I learn. Always, I learn.


He grows me. He teaches me. He gently reaches down carrying me through. 


Every time.


He is such a faithful God.


And yet, I somehow feel like I should be stronger. That the goal should not be to have God spare me - as much as I welcome it. As much as I cling to that hope.


The goal should be not for me to ask Him to REMOVE the hurts, challenges, and pain. It should be that I am strong enough to ask Him to simply give me strength as I walk THROUGH them.


Oh, that one day I won’t ask Him to remove them. But that I will simply be strong enough to have inner peace knowing that I will be more like Him, because of them.


That is a gift I could give to those I love who follow me. To show them that I can be faithful and obedient DESPITE what comes my way, knowing that my God is good - EVEN through the powerful storms that sweep through my life.


I am not there yet. I don’t feel anywhere close. But I admire those who are. And my heart hopes that someday I can find my feet standing where those before me have walked.


In hope. In peace. And in strength. Not with the storm subsiding, but with it raging all about me - knowing I am safe, I am loved, and I am sealed with His blood.


Nothing this life can ever touch.