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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Shoulders slumped, the Farmer gazed at the cracked earth.  Reaching down he plucked a stalk from the edge of crop.  Nothing.  The hulls were empty…worthless bits of wheat lay scattered across the ground.  The potential for harvest was dim and the Farmer shudder.  Who will provide for my family?  Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for rain?  Doubt fell  across the Farmer just as the drought left the cracked earth and shriveled crops in its wake. 

Moving away from the evidence of failure, hopelessness, and defeat the Farmer turned away.  Wait…it couldn’t be.  A cool, damp breeze–the promise or rain, the promise of tomorrow, the promise of God’s faithfulness–brushed across the Farmer’s face like a the dampness of a tear cried by a child’s mother at her little one’s suffering and fear.  

God understood the Farmer’s need and He understands our needs.  Praise God for the relief offered by the very breath of refreshment and hope!

He has not forgotten.  The True Gardener sees the need and offerer his assurance.   

 

Verse for Reflection

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

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calendar

The to-do list sat passively on my desk as if mocking my attempts to cross each item off.

  • Call the doctor’s office.  (Schedule three children on different days to avoid missing work.)
  • Write Christmas thank-you’s. (Never mind that it’s almost Valentine’s Day.)
  • Finish that writing assignment.  (Remember, it’s due tomorrow.)

I did manage to arrange appointments between bites of chewy, warmed-over Sesame Chicken but my little notepad is clearly lacking a display of satisfying check marks–and I love check marks.  There is something so wonderfully tangible about slashes of pencil disecting the daily chore list.

I used to fall into the same self-affirming practice with my faith.  If I could just stick to the plan, complete the list, maintain the ritual–then I would have done something worthwhile.  Moved ahead.  Prove myself worthy of God’s love.

  • Get up before the sun and read X number of Old Testament chapters.  (Forget that I can’t concentrate before 6 a.m. unless I go to bed by 10:00 p.m.–a minor miracle in a home with four children.)
  • Forgo the laundry for prayer time.  (While there are times to kneel in prayer without the encumbrance of Fruit of the Loom in my hands, I’ve discovered the attitude of prayer is as important as the circumstance of prayer.)

Self-affirmation of faith doesn’t get me–or anyone–anywhere.  It only reveals our need for Someone to erase the unattainable list we’ve created for ourselves.  And Christ is that Someone.  There is no list.  The slate is wiped clean.  Dear friend, let’s find our satisfaction in Him today.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-2

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A child reacts to police and fireman staged nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. REUTERS-Adrees Latif

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…Isaiah 42:3

Like the rest of you, I’m in mourning today for the horrific and senseless loss of life in Connecticut. I sit helplessly in front of my computer screen–watching in stunned silence–wanting to do something, to help someone, to erase those fatal moments from history.

I cry and wonder aloud, How could something like this happen to innocent children? What if these were my little ones? Why would God allow such evil?

I don’t have the answers to the hard questions. I wish I did–or that someone did.
All we can do now is to bend our knees in prayer for those families who have been robbed of the gift of their precious children.

One day there will be justice for this unjust loss of life–for the children.

Lord,
We can’t begin to describe the sadness, anger, and bewilderment we are feeling. We can’t begin to understand how such an evil act can occur within the walls of a school building where crayons and books are the norm. But you, Father God, are the Comforter and Healer. You are the Rock and Sustainer. You bring about justice and offer us life everlasting in Jesus Christ.

We ask you to surround those families who have suffered and lost all hope today. Act mightily in their lives and turn our nation toward you because we are desperate for our Savior and in need of his redemption.

Amen

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany years ago a Far Side cartoon featured a small dog and it’s owner.  The words in the bubble read, “Blah, blah, blah, Minnie.”  Like Minnie’s owner, I’m certain my words–though spoken–are often unheard.  I imagine it something like this.

Tammy:  Child 1, please put your toys away when you’re done playing with them.

Offspring’s Interpretation:  Child 1, blah, blah, blah…play with your toys.

And…

Tammy:  Child 4, call if you’re running late.

Offspring’s Interpretation:  Blah, blah, blah…run late.

Or…

Tammy:  Child 3, when you calm down then we can talk.

Offspring’s Interpretation:  You can talk.

You, too, might struggle with a similar problem.  Maybe your colleagues don’t consider your opinion, your children disregard your guidance, or your husband ignores your input.

Christ understands, friend.  His words fell on the ears of the religious leaders of the day, but they ignored the forgiving call of his voice.  The masses dismissed him as worse than a criminal and overlooked his promises of freedom.  Even Christ’s own family dismissed him as deluded.

But there are some who listen…some who respond.  They are the ones He came to save.

Scripture for Reflection:  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  (John 10:27)

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One mid-September evening is etched indelibly in my mind.  My two preschool aged sons and I were hunched under the stairs in a closet made to accommodate nothing more than a vacuum cleaner and a few jackets.  Trying to forget the swaying of the house, Ben, Connor and I imagined we were pirates tossed about by the fiercest of storms.  “Lower the main sail!” one shouted.  “Aye, aye, cap’n.”  The children, delighted by our game, were momentarily distracted from the real danger screaming outside our front door.  Hurricane Floyd had crossed the threshold from sea to land, poised to lay waste to all of Hampton Roads, Virginia.  “Will these walls protect us tonight?” I wondered.  “Is the foundation solid enough ?”  Only time would tell.

As Christ taught, a house built on shifting sand can’t stand because it lacks a foundation.  In other words, my faith is only as strong as my spiritual foundation.  Without the stability of a solid foundation, I tend to suffer damage and, occasionally, even crumble when surrounded by life’s storms.    Such inattention usually results in my faith requiring a major overhaul.  The foundation needs to be stabilized or renovated.  But, where to begin when my relationships, finances or health are lying in a shambles?

Simply on my knees.

I have to choose to take my eyes off the storm and direct them heavenward.  Otherwise, I begin to doubt God’s love or his reasons for allowing a tempest to crash into my life.  I feel my spiritual foundation begin to crumble and then, like the disciples, my preoccupation with self and fear results in a desperate plea, “Lord, don’t you care if I drown?”  (Mark 4:38 NIV)  But, when I turn the focus away from myself and toward Him, I can look beyond the storm knowing that at his command, the wind and waves will be quieted.

When I meet alone with God and lay my burdens down, I discover a place of shelter and calm—a respite from the tumult.  Doesn’t the promise of such a place encourage your heart?

Scripture for Reflection

“Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!”   Psalm 116:2

Lord, help me to entrust all of my life to you today knowing that you can quiet my heart even if you don’t quiet the storm.

 

 

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This week, I’ve been creating a new kindergarten report card that includes all of the new state standards.  What a chore!  There are broad standards, specific standards, reasonable standards, and unattainable standards.  How can I possibly put together a record that will convey each child’s unique qualities, abilities, and weaknesses?  Will it be fair?    Accurate? 

Hunched over the computer keyboard, I’ve been struck by the thought.  What if God used heavenly standards to determine MY position with Him?  Without Christ, it would look something like this.

Work Habits

Works for God’s glory rather than glory of self.     Needs Improvement

Communication Skills

Responds to the promptings of the Holy Spirit willingly and in faith.  Sometimes

Expresses self through prayer rather than complaint or worry.  Needs improvement

Spiritual Habits

Consistently demonstrates love to others.  Inconsistent

Comments

Tammy tries hard, but often forgets she has can’t earn her way to heaven. 

 

Thank God for His abundant love.  Dear friend, you and I can rest in the assurance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We don’t need to meet an impossible standard or live up to unattainable expectations.  We have the freedom to mentally tear up our imaginary progress report and throw it in the circular file. 

Why?  Because Christ IS the standard. Through Him, we can approach Heaven’s throne with confidence–void of condemning red pencil marks or fear of not having passed the final exam.  Jesus’ never fails.

Verse for reflection

For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle.  (1 Corinthians 4:7-8)

Prayer of praise

Father God, thank you for your boundless mercy.  In your overwhelming love and kindness, you offered up your son as a sacrifice to present  me as an unblemished example of your glory.  Because of His sinless life, I can call you Father and stand unafraid in your presence–certain of my standing as your forgiven child.  Help me, Lord, to live this day for your glory with a heaven-focused heart.  Amen

 

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Motherhood would have been much easier if a wiser, older woman had designed a series ofcollege prep classes designed just for expectant mothers as well as confused, more experienced counterparts.  The course line-up might look something like this—Potty Training 101, Night Terrors and Two Year Olds, and Avoiding the Parent Tantrum.  More challenging topics might include Managing Mom Guilt and Maintaining Marital Romance between Diaper Changes and Bad Hair Days.  But, if I had to guess, What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do would be the course certain to fill every time.

When faced with the struggle of not knowing what to do, some of us may turn to our mother or Dr. Phil for parenting advice.   I tend to hole up in the library for long periods of time, research my topic of confusion exhaustively, and attempt to formulate a plan.  The problem?  While I might learn a lot about tantrum triggers or ways to combat sassing, knowledge fails to solve all of mothering’s difficult issues.

One of the greatest parenting challenges I faced recently was the discovery that my little boy suffers from clinical anxiety.  His symptoms?  Extreme expressions of fear, inability to make eye contact, and unexplained melt downs.  In typical fashion, I consumed books until my vision blurred.  Within days, I could list several forms of childhood anxiety and discuss types of treatment.  But, I couldn’t make Seth’s struggle any less real—I couldn’t take it away.

What should I do?  Uncertain of my ability to cope—especially with my dependable, level-headed husband on deployment—I turned to the only One who has all of the answers.  Well-meaning relatives, educated professionals, pop psychologists, and research-based textbooks might provide some direction, but I held on to the words recorded in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace.”  (NLT)

Learning not to worry is more difficult for me than training to be the next Olympic heavy weight boxing champion—and I’ve never even put on a pair of boxing gloves.  But, this verse reminded me that Seth and I could both set down our concerns and anxieties and expect His peace.  The process hasn’t been easy.

It’s taken almost a year of regular, earnest prayer and months of meeting with pediatricians and specialists to finally decide on the best ways to help Seth learn to cope to with his “big feelings”.  But, in the process I’ve decided that the best thing to do when I don’t know what to do is to pray—because God cares about me and my little boy.  Now….about those classes.

 

 

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My dear son (daughter),

I am taking a chance and hoping you will set aside your anger long enough to read this letter.  Honey, I know you feel like I keep hounding for things you are doing.  Please, try to understand that I would never put you through any kind of pain if I believed there were an alternative.  Instead, I want to spare you from long-term hurt and pain in your life because of foolish or immature decisions.

In my heart, I pray my concerns are unfounded.  Given some of your previous experiences, though, I felt it necessary to protect you—even if that means I have to suffer your disdain and anger.  The anguish I am currently feeling is only surpassed by my love for you.

Please know there is nothing you can ever say or do to make me love you less.  You are, and always will be, a special treasure in my life.  You may not believe it, my son (daughter), but I am your champion.  I believe in you and see such potential just waiting to be tapped.  If you will seek the Lord, I believe He will do amazing things through you to impact the lives of others—I trust you are going to make a difference in this world!

Even before you were born, your dad and I prayed God would claim you as His own child; that He would protect you; and that you would recognize Him as not just your Savior but also the Lord of your life.  My precious boy (girl), I urge you to renew your commitment to Christ.  Turn back to what you know as true before the Holy Spirit has been quenched and your heart is unwilling.

Trust in the love your dad and I have for you.  Above all, trust in the one who formed you and knew you before Creation.

Your loving mother,

Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.”

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Gene pool?  Birth order?  God’s design.  It’s a mystery, but our children are different in defining, beautiful ways.  One is a rule-follower and lives life as if there are no shades of gray.  The other thinks outside of the box and bends the rules–challenging for his parents, but a trait that holds promise if used for God’s glory.

Both keep me on my knees–battling against two disparate traps–perfectionism and rebellion.  I believe God wants me there.  Interceding.  Calling out.  Relying on the one called Abba, Father.  If you are in the same position,  praise God for teaching you to rely on his bountiful grace and mercy.  Do you remember His words?   “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

If my fallible heart can be so consumed with love for my children; grief for their suffering; and yearning for Godly living then how much more must God love His own?  Dear friend, He gave everything-position, power, prominence–to give up Himself for us.  Are you amazed?  Then have faith!  Claim His promises for the children He has given you.  It doesn’t matter if they are newborns, teens, or middle-aged.

There is hope.  There is tomorrow.  There is Christ.

Action Steps for Today

  • List 3-5 ways you can pray for your child.  Track each prayer request and check it off as it is answered.
  • Commit to praying with another parent. We need other people to pray for our children, marriages, and families.

Recommended Reading

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The word bold is used to describe coffee, clothing, and cuisine.  It’s applied to rebels, risk takers, and revolutionaries .  But, this is one term rarely attributed to mothers–and certainly not to me.    Recently, though, I’ve learned to be bold in both my decision-making and prayer life.

Last year, my husband deployed to warm, sandy places and I was in the midst of a maelstrom at home.  Seth, the youngest of three sons, woke each morning in a panic.  Why?  At the tender age of six, my little boy was overcome by fear.  He clung to me in desperation as we crossed the school’s threshold and wept uncontrollably when I picked him up at the end of the day.  Convinced the house was no longer safe, Seth locked the bedroom door and huddled near the end of the bed where he slept—though fitfully.  The markers of anxiety continued to flash brightly in every area of his life—school, church, and home.

Seth’s fears became my own when I realized comforting words and gentle arms did little to help my son overcome the giants of Worry and Anxiety.  Lord, I don’t know how to help him.  What do I do?   For the first time I understood what it meant to pray continually. 

I began going before God boldly with my prayers and interceding for Seth–regularly and at random times.  Help him, Father.  Now, after more than a year’s worth of doctor’s appointments and interventions, Seth has made huge strides.  His fears are no longer giants.  Instead, they are close to just-above-average size–and they continue to shrink.

And, I continue to approach the throne of mercy in boldness–knowing that the King of Kings answers the prayers of even those who are timid. 

3 Simple Ways to Pray for Our Children

  • It’s a Date- Schedule specific times during your day to pray for your family.  The times that work best for me are those quiet moments just after school drop-off when I’m driving to work and early in the morning before the chaos begins.
  • Between the Lines-Keep a journal of prayer needs AND answered prayer.  This activity helps me stay focused and reminds me to notice how God is working in the lives of my children.
  • Do It Together-Make time to pray for your children with your spouse and/or a close friend daily, weekly, or monthly. 

 

 

Scripture for Reflection

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. [2] He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. [3] And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

[4] “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, [5] yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ “

[6] And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. [7] And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? [8] I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.  Luke 18:1-8

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