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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day Nineteen: Praying Kids

Her beaded hair braids click, click, click as she wiggles and tosses around in her little white toddler bed. I tuck the blankets up under her chin and cocoon her all the way down her tiny figure. Maybe that will hold her for a minute. Wishful thinking. I tell her its time to pray and she folds her hands, and with legs bursting from the chrysalis she begins in that raspy voice, "Dear Jesus, please help Mommy to feel better (That's me). Please help Emily to get her pyjamas on. Please help Oliver to play with the ball. Please help Mommy to buy soap. (That's Valerie.) God bless Daddy and Meghan and me and..." (lists a few more people) After a pause, I say, Amen, and she echoes that. She doesn't need to open her eyes because they've already been darting all over the room. I'm smiling because I'm walking down that lane of memories where four other little voices piped out darling, innocent chats with God. She's sliding her pyjamas up her leg to scratch an itch and babbling a story about the day. I'm silently praying she'll take this practice of prayer and make it her own one day.

Indoctrination? Oh, yeah! Why? Because when you believe with all your heart that Jesus is God's Son and that He died and was resurrected and lives today, you want to pass that hope onto your children. When He's held you through trials and spoken to you in your confusion to lead you in a way you couldn't see, you don't want those kids to miss out. When you know their futures will hold fabulous moments and painful challenges, you desire nothing less than the God of their universe be close to them and that they trust in Him. They will each stand at a crossroads one day and decide whether or not this communion with the Almighty did any good. I know for a fact they will say, yes. Praying kids become praying adults, and that's my great expectation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day Eighteen: Praying For Yourself

The question hung like a thick fog for a few moments while the women collected their thoughts around the table. How do you pray for yourself? Finally, one bold lady with the purple scarf cleared her throat and laughed, "I sometimes don't get around to praying for others because I have too many requests for myself!" Some of us with the same confession chuckled. A few others nodded and smiled. 

Then, another timid woman quietly responded, "I don't feel like I should pray for myself. There are so many suffering people in the world." The women were sober again. 

Then one piped up, "If God sees the sparrow fall, how much more does He care for His people who are made in His image?" The ladies were nodding again.

The world is full of desperate humans reaching up to pull a little heaven down and squeeze out its power. But if only they knew that the Spirit of God, who dwells in believers, is always right there for an intimate connection, anytime, anywhere. God cares so deeply for them that He longs for them to ask Him to meet their own personal needs. But the query remains: how do you pray for yourself? Thankfully, the Bible is jam-packed with illustrations of people entreating the Lord for various desires or necessities and we're able to see His responses. 

In the Old Testament Hannah cried ugly tears of anguish, at the temple, over being childless. The priest thought she was drunk. She assured him, "I was pouring out my soul to the Lord." God remembered her and gave her a son soon after. In a long list of geneologies this next small prayer is oddly included. I wonder if God's intention was to show us what we're allowed to ask of Him! Jabez inquired, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” God granted his request. (I Chronicles 4:9,10)

But what about the prayer that is not acknowledged in the same way? In II Corinthians 12, Paul says, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Wow! To understand in the midst of a trial that there is a good reason for it! And the result? Christ's power rested upon him! Are we able to pray for ourselves no matter what the answer? No matter which way God desires to see it through--for our good? Does that change the way in which we ask?

Nevertheless, Jesus declared that if we knock, He'll open the door. If we are seekers, we'll find what we're looking for. And if we ask, we'll receive. (Matthew 7:7) The promise that He has a plan to prosper us is security for approaching God's throne courageously for ourselves. The fact that He works all things for our good according to His purpose, gives peace of mind. (Romans 8:28) And like a tree absorbs nutrients from the soil, we are strengthened in prayer, delivered, healed and comforted. Finally, we can do all things we need to do for the journey ahead because of what Christ does in us. (Philippians 4:13) If that's true, pray for yourself with boldness and fervency!

1962. panicking then realizing Caleb is a really good driver :)

1963. the leaves, oh the leaves!
1964. fossil-ish finds
1965. fields big enough for running
1966. growing alongside cousins 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day Seventeen: Praying For A Whole Country

When my husband read the terrible news of the attacks, my first panicky question was to know if our friends were safe. Thankfully, an email assured us they were okay, Khristin had been relaxing in a restaurant in Paris with some of her friends at the time of the wicked murders/suicides. She and Dave and their little girl, Blythe moved to France a few years ago and so we were concerned for them. Khristin exited the restaurant and couldn't find a taxi anywhere. She was left to hike four kilometres, arriving at home by 1 a.m. Pray for Paris? Yes! But how do you pray for a whole city or nation when you sometimes can't figure out how to pray for yourself? You realize God uses small numbers and seemingly insignificant people to do amazing things.

Imagine a huge enemy army "as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore" (Judges 7:12) ready to attack. Your own army boasts thirty-two thousand, but God, through a series of tests brings it down to three hundred men. What's more, He wants the battle to be accomplished by breaking clay pitchers and blowing trumpets to confuse the enemy. He does it just as He promised and Gideon, the captain, becomes a hero in the Bible because he listened to the Lord and trusted His ways. Jesus taught twelve simple men who, without power or money or much education, spread the gospel across the whole world.

So how do you pray for a nation? First of all, you believe that your God is the King of the universe and cares about what is happening on earth. Next, you believe that your prayers are being heard by Him, even though you are seemingly inconsequential. Then, you understand that throughout history, God used sinful and often overlooked people to do His work. Think of "inadequate" Gladys Aylward, who led one hundred children to safety over the mountains in China during the Japanese attacks. Wounded and exhausted, she survived on prayer. Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boom. There are countless others. If they can sacrifice to help their suffering brothers and sisters and be remembered by the world, we can make a difference through prayer. Why? Because the One who empowered them to rescue the persecuted, hears your cry to save France and your own country. Let's keep praying for the world and for peace. Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Thank You, Lord for keeping Dave, Khristin and Blythe safe!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day Sixteen: Praying With And For Our Children

"...and please, Lord, help him to grow up to be a..."

I don't even hesitate and Oliver chimes in: "to be a mighty man of God. I know, Mommy." He has my prayer for him memorized and it comforts him. He shifts down under the covers a little more and asks why his own prayers are never answered. I pause for a moment, a little surprised as his faith always seems to be strong.

"Well," I begin, "are you feeling sick right now?" He shakes his head. "Remember it was only two days ago you were hanging over the toilet begging God to heal you? I'd say He answered then, didn't He?" My boy smiles and rolls over satisfied with that response... for now.

He'll wonder again one day and he'll question God when things don't go well for him. That's okay, God is not surprised by His queries, nor is He too distant to handle them. The Psalms are full of David crying out to God for answers. We know the Lord does acknowledge David with encouragement and help as we read more Psalms of gratitude and peace. My son, will be content with my explanations for a while, but he will have to come to his own conclusions about God in the future. He will learn about God's timing and His process, that is often unexpected. Because my husband and I are praying for his soul, we believe Oliver will be overwhelmed with evidence of who his Creator is and that God will undoubtedly reveal Himself in a powerful way to him.

Where our words fail and our attitudes don't always align with Jesus, we can trust that the Lord loves our children more than we do. Our girls are included. We pray for them and with them and they grow in peace and strength with this practice. They ask for it. They pray for each other. We're not a perfect family, so we need it! At the end of the day, whether I'm tucking in my youngest or sharing daily news with my oldest after the other kids are in bed, I'm thankful that all my deficiencies can be left at the feet of the One who pardons and restores. My children hear my request for forgiveness often. They know God loves them even when they sin. Humbling myself and modeling prayer helps them to catch a theology I can't teach them in my own words. Somehow praying changes our voices, our character and our vocabulary. My children notice the difference, which just might explain why they ask me to pray :)   
praying Jeremiah 29:11 over this one
praying Zephaniah 3:17 over her (not because she needs rebuke :)
praying Joshua 1:8 over my oldest
praying Psalm 4:8 over this one
praying I Samuel 10:26 over my boy

For further interest... 7 Prayers a Day, by Angie Smith

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day Fifteen: Just Do It

If My people, who are called by My name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek My face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land.
(II Chronicles 7:14)

The promise of God is simple. We complicate it. When I read this Scripture, I notice there's not much to do on my part. God's part is to forgive my sins and heal my land--my life, my circumstances, my territory, my family. Why do we wander and wonder instead of follow these covenant words? I want the fruition of that obedience, don't you? Let's just do it! 
school outside in November? yes please!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Day Fourteen: Unbelief

Every independent action to fix a situation,
 in the life of a child of God,
 is a demonstration of unbelief. 
Beth Moore

I prayed for God to handle the monstrous pile of rubble that was left on my doorstep by life. Yes, I had also dumped a bit from my pockets that I'd collected too. But I took my prayers back. Truly, I wanted to believe He could take care of it but the pile was being added to almost daily and I was no longer able to see above it. I thought if perhaps I shifted a few rocks, took a couple off the top, pushed the pile, then maybe, it would move--the whole thing--would vanish, just like that. But He'd given me a distinct sense that I shouldn't take a step in removing the accumulation on my own. He had a plan and desired to demonstrate his love, glory and power but I got in the way. His still, small voice made me shiver when I opened my mouth in that conversation, the one where I attempted to dig away at some pebbles in the pile, but I kept talking anyway.

I wondered why my prayers weren't being answered. It felt like a lifetime waiting for God's move. All along He was waiting for me to hand over the shovel. Finally, when I understood my unmitigated dependence on Him, He began pulling away the rocks. One at a time at first, and then suddenly, they were all gone. The way in which He did it surprised me and I prayed I'd never pick up the spade again--unless He asked me to. 

Cast all your anxiety on Him 
because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

 For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are My ways your ways, declares the Lord. 
(Isaiah 55:8)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Day Thirteen: Who Does The Work?

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. (James 5:17)

There is hope, friends! Have you read the stories of Elijah and the earth-shattering miracles that followed him? The Bible says he was a mere human being like us! All he did was pray earnestly and the GOD who does the work did the work and the rain stopped. It's all about God and His power. Thank goodness, because I was beginning to wonder how I was going to cure all the cancer, rescue people from poverty and glue marriages back together. Phew! All I have to do is walk in obedience to His Word and pray in faith. (v.16) He's got the rest covered...according to His will and timing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day Twelve: Groanings of Intercession

"For some reason, Auntie Kathy keeps coming to my mind when I pray," declares my girl as she snuggles closer to me on the couch. We've just concluded our family prayer with a big, Amen--Ashanti shouting the word with emphatic declaration. "I think it means I should pray for her," Molly continues. I agree, and so she bows her head and lifts up Auntie Kathy to the Lord for whatever reason she is in need. My daughter is learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit's voice and intercede for someone else.

I believe there is a difference between rattling off a list of people who are ill or in demand of something, and true, empathetic prayer for them. The dictionary definition for "intercession" is: an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person. The word pleading itself denotes intercession is more than just a mere request. Our greatest example of this type of prayer is when Jesus sent His Spirit after His ascension. The Holy Spirit aches for us and presents us to the Father. What love! What care for us! There's a whole lot of groaning going on in Romans 8:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Have you ever experienced gut-twisting pain for someone? To know that a Person of the Trinity groans for us is surely a comfort. He is aware of our weaknesses and intercedes for us. Just as Molly is tuning in to the possibility that God is sharing the burden of a soul with her, we can all listen acutely to where the need is in our world. Intercessory prayer is ongoing. It never gives up. It's spiritual warfare. It wakes you up at night. It involves acknowledging that Jesus is capable and in control. It involves resisting the enemy in order to be effective. It includes fighting for breakthroughs by praying fervently for God's will to come to fruition. I'm thankful that Someone is always going before the Father on my behalf in such a way--with groanings. With that in mind, how much more powerful can my prayers be for others?

sister love

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Day Eleven: Lest We Forget

She slapped my hand when I sat down beside her at Bible Study this morning. I flashed her a quizzical look and she chided, "Where's your poppy?" I promised her I'd purchased several from the boy standing in front of the grocery store but they fell off. Poor excuse. It is Remembrance Day and I dared to be seen in public without donning the crimson symbol to honour my country's brave men and women. To make matters worse, my friend was a former medic in the military. She was slightly offended by my carelessness, but she forgave me. Later, a two minute period of silence to remember those who fought valiantly for our freedom and then off to continue with our day.
Our nursery sign and the church sign both read, "Lest We Forget". Driving past, the message brought me back to pray for our soldiers, for their families, for our country. The Holy Spirit drew my mind to another sacrifice that delivered freedom for our souls. We'd just celebrated Jesus' death and resurrection with communion on Sunday. (Luke 22:17-20) Lest we forget. Could we possibly? I imagined the families of the war-torn perished ones. They'll never forget and probably hate the indifference of some on this special day. God gave His Son so we could be united with Him eternally, so that we didn't have to pay the price for our own sin. How could we forget? Why do we wait for Christmas and Easter or Communion to even act like we care, that we remember?
Prayer gives us the opportunity to tell the One who died to rescue us, that we remember. What's more, we get to communicate and hear what instruction He has for us and to hear His encouragement for the day. Pray, lest you forget.
practicing prayer (2005)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Day Ten: The Threat of Prayer

Now I sit me down in school,
Where praying is against the rule;
For this great nation under God,
Finds public mention of Him quite odd.
Any prayer a class recites,
Now violates the Bill of Rights;
The law is specific, the law is precise;
Praying aloud is no longer nice;
Praying out loud in a public hall
Upsets believers in nothing-at-all.
In silence alone we can meditate,
And if God should be reached, well, that's great.
This rule, however, has one gimmick in it,
You have to be finished in less than a minute.
So all I ask is a minute of quiet,
And if I feel like praying, then maybe I'll try it.
If not, O Lord, this one plea I make:
Should I be knifed in school, my soul You'll take.
No one agrees who the anonymous student is who penned this poem, but the frustration of the poet is shared amongst its readers. How could something as benign and harmless as prayer be removed from schools? Because prayer is not innocuous, it's powerful. The name of Jesus, especially, makes people feel squirmy and uncomfortable. Why? The same reason: his name is dynamic, influential and authoritative! There would be no need to ban an impotent activity. Pray fervently, friends! Use the name of Jesus and be sincere. Watch how this millennia-strong exercise moves mountains and the hearts of kings! Catch a glimpse for yourself as to why it was even a topic of debate in the realm of education! If this claim is true...  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. James 5:15, I can understand the threat ;)