When I Don’t Know What Else To Pray

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I’ve decided to pray the prayer that never fails…

Lord, Thy will be done.

Four words. That about covers it.

I believe in prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in talking to God, listening to God, and conversing with God. I believe God hears my prayers and I believe I can hear His answers. I believe in praying God’s Word–His heart–and I believe in praying my words–my heart. I believe in being honest with God about my emotions and my feelings, good and bad. I believe in exalting God’s name and giving Him praise. I believe in rejoicing in what God has done and thanking Him for what He will do. I believe in confession and repentance. I believe prayer keeps me near to my Father’s heart.

I believe…I believe…I believe.

But, sometimes…I think God is calling me to a greater trust. When I’ve prayed it all, when I’ve bared my heart and soul, when I’ve exhausted myself and cried a bucketload of tears and don’t know what else to pray, maybe it’s just time to go to the prayer that never fails.

Because when it comes right down to it, I want to have a heart that reflects the will of the Father.

I was reading in Matthew 6 this morning where Jesus’ words have become so familiar that I often read them without a lot of thought. It’s here in this passage that Jesus teaches us how to pray,

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (verses 7, 8)

The Father knows what you need….

Yes, I believe the Father wants us to ask, “You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2b

Yes, I believe the Father wants us to persist in prayer, “…pray without ceasing…” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Yes, I believe the Father wants us to take all our cares to Him, “…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Yes, I believe in praying like this even though He already knows what I need, even though He already knows how He will answer, even though He already knows what’s best for me.

Yet, these familiar words cleansed me with a heavenly rain this very morning and brought my troubled spirit some rest. I read them while quiet tears fell unashamedly and a powerful truth washed over me,

Pray then, in this way:

our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your. Will. Be. Done… (verses 9, 10)

…and I realized that the one request I’ve been praying for what seems too many days and nights, months and years, the one thing I’ve been asking God for over and over again, the one repetitious prayer, the one prayer of earnest persistence, the care of my heart with all the worry and anxiety and fear, was something that God, in all of His Sovereignty, wanted me to fully, completely surrender to His will.

Period.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think there comes a time when God says,

My Child, will you trust me? Will you let me have My way, no matter the outcome? 

Well…will you?

My heart wants to say, Yes. My will wants to say, Maybe. My flesh wants to say, No.

But the words of Jesus ring loud and long…“My Father knows what you need.”

I believe God is calling me to trust Him in a way I never have before. His will–what He wishes and what He determines; how He purposes to bless me through Christ; what His desires and pleasures are for me–is perfect because He is perfect, so He is perfect in all of His ways.

And I am not. So, I’m still learning in my walk of faith. I’m still learning how to pray. I’m still learning how to surrender. I’m still learning to trust. I’m still learning what it really means to pray four powerful words that cover it all,

Your will be done.

The Whisper of Hope

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I just love it when God wakes me up with a song on my heart, inspiring me to put my attentions on heavenly things before I even put my feet on the floor. Things like hope.

When I was in the third grade I auditioned for the school talent show. I had only been taking piano lessons for two years when my piano teacher gave me my first piece of sheet music: Whispering Hope. I not only learned to move my undersized fingers over those ebony and ivory keys, making some pretty sweet music in the process, but the constant repetition of practice and patience left the words to this hauntingly beautiful old hymn forever engraved on my heart.

Whispering Hope was written way back in 1868 by Septimus Winner. I listened to a few versions sung by various artists on Youtube with the volume turned up on my computer and plugs stuffed tight in my ears. Even without hearing all the words I still shed a few tears because the melody itself is just that beautiful.

I like Willie Nelson’s version of this old song the best. He sung it on his album The TroubleMaker in 1976, the year I graduated high school. Being hearing impaired, I didn’t own a lot of records and albums and I didn’t listen to the radio much because I couldn’t understand speech through sound waves mixed with static and electricity coming through a portable radio-stereo combo. I had no idea Whispering Hope was even on anyone’s mind the year of our nation’s bicentennial. Up until last week, I hadn’t thought about it in several decades myself.

But last Wednesday morning, in that place between dreaming and awakening, the words rang true. There the message descended from heaven with a promise. There I lay while silent tears flowed freely and my spirit sung silently along with angels. God whispered hope into the quiet place of my heart and soul and, in the silence, spoke loud and clear.

How I needed me some hope.

I volunteer at the Pregnancy Care Center just two hours a week. I mentor. One on one. Side by side. Face to face I sit with women desperate for hope. Stuck in cycles of defeat. Poverty. Loneliness. Brokenness.

Some weeks I wonder what in the world I have to offer these women? What difference am I possibly making in their lives one measly hour of my seven-day week? Who am I to think I can understand anything of their world? Or speak anything of value into their broken lives? And yet…I can’t help myself. I go back. Week after week, I give them the only thing I know that will save them. I give them Jesus. I open the pages of God’s Word and I give them truth.

I whisper hope.

It’s the only thing I have to offer. The only thing of value. The only understanding I need. Because I know that without hope there is no light in the darkness, no purpose in the pain.

A few weeks ago I sat on a comfortable little couch in a comfortable little room and I listened as one of these precious young women told me through tears that she’s angry, she’s frustrated, she’s confused…at God. The God who says He loves her, values her, and protects her allowed her four-month old baby daughter to die. Her weak little heart was just too sick to keep blood flowing through her delicate frame.

There is nothing comfortable about this. How do I explain when I’ve never known this kind of pain? How do I help her grieve when I’ve never known this kind of sorrow? How, God?  How do I get into this brokenness?

So I do the only thing my heart says do…I weep. I get on my knees before her, I take her hands in mine and I cry. I pray. I look into her eyes and I plead…answer me truthfullycan you still believe even now, that God loves you? With tears of her own she whispers, yes. 

Together we talk Truth. We read Psalm 23 and somehow…someway…God allows me to walk through this valley of death with her. I can see Hope speak into her broken spirit through the voice of the Good Shepherd. I tell her to let Him lead her to greener pastures, to allow Him to sit with her beside still waters. I tell her she may not believe it at this very moment, but He will restore her soul. One day. I tell her one day…she will heal.

Somehow…someway…I want to walk this journey with women desperately in need of a Savior. I don’t want my heart to become hard or cold or insensitive. Sometimes I need to remember the pain of the present that I might never forget the hope of the future.

I realize that even when I think I have nothing to offer, I do. My heart really does know brokenness. Maybe not the kind that speaks to physical poverty or the loss of a child, but I have been broken. I have grieved the loss of an eye, I have lived in cycles of personal defeat, I have experienced poverty of soul and spirit. This I understand. This I know. This I share.

Truthfully, without this hope I’d go crazy. Hope that this life is not all there is. Hope that even though I live in a broken world, surrounded by broken people, I am certain there is a God in heaven. I am certain there is life in Christ. I am certain His love is as real as the beat of my heart. I am certain that He weeps with those whose tears are their only food, whose cries are their only speech, whose prayers are their only sustenance.

It’s in this poverty of soul and spirit that Jesus whispers the only thing that He can…Hope. It’s in this place that my heart overflows with the blessed peace of His presence. My ears ring with the blessed truth of His words. My eyes water with the blessed comfort of His tears.

And because I believe it, my voice whispers back…back into the heart of a young woman who dares to hope. It’s the only thing I know to do.

“…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…” Hebrews 6: 18b-20a

Willie Nelson/ Whispering Hope on http://youtu.be/-Q2AGSq6s94

Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice…making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

Sweet Jesus

 

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This morning I woke up about 3 a.m. with the words to an old hymn on my heart. It’s not even in the newer hymn book we use at my church. I haven’t heard it in a long, long time. I guess God wanted me to do some pondering about the message behind the words this morning so I never went back to sleep.

When God speaks, I want to listen, no matter what time of day it is. So this morning I cherished these words:

“Ev’ry day with Jesus, Is sweeter than the day before;

Ev’ry day with Jesus, I love Him more and more.

Jesus saves and keeps me, And He’s the One I’m living for;

Ev’ry day with Jesus, Is sweeter than the day before.” (Music and lyrics by Robert C. and Wendell P. Loveless, 1936)

I love to think of Jesus as sweet. I pray Sweet Jesus. I cry out to Sweet Jesus in moments of tenderness and compassion and I sometimes proclaim Sweet Jesus! in my zeal and excitement.

Sweet is an adjective that means: 1. having the pleasant taste characteristic of sugar or honey; not salty, sour, or bitter 2. pleasing in general; delightful.

How fitting. How appropriate. How…sweet.

Life sometimes loses its flavor. Life is sometimes sour. Sometimes it’s even bitter. Yuck.

When I want to spit the bitterness of life out of my mouth I’m so glad I have Jesus to put the sweetness back in. Like honey…

“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

Several times in Scripture the Word of God is referred to as sweet and the first chapter of John’s Gospel tells us Jesus is the Word made flesh. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone to the Word when life has handed me lemons and made some of the sweetest lemonade ever! And I don’t even like lemonade. Seriously. Never have cared for it. But Jesus has a way of taking the sour out of a lemonade life.

Can anything be sweeter than honey? Especially when it’s fresh off the comb.

Of course, you wouldn’t catch me trying to steal a bee’s honey. I don’t know anything about bees, but I know people who keep hives and cultivate honey. I’ve even heard of bee charmers. Did you know that most of the references to honey in Scripture are toward wild honey? It was a luxury and used for trading. In fact, the Promised Land was referred to as “the land flowing with milk and honey.” It was a place where God’s goodness abounded. Where the sweetness of His presence would be experienced in Israel’s prosperity, provision, and protection, as long as they depended upon Him and Him alone.

Hmmmmmm….the sweetness of God’s presence.

The sweetness of Jesus. His presence, His Spirit within me. So why can’t I be more sweet?

I want to be sweet. I want to be good. I want to be like Jesus. But sometimes I’m not. The enemy comes and steals my sweetness. Sometimes bitterness creeps in. Oh, how I need the Bee Charmer to extract that bitterness and replace it with pure honey. Plain and simple. I need to taste and see God’s goodness.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

O fear the Lord, you His saints:

For to those who fear Him there is no want.

The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;

But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” Psalm 34:8-10

God is good. Yes. And Jesus is sweet. Any bitterness I find taking root in me I need to put away by turning to Jesus. He’s like a Bee Charmer. He can extract the bad and cultivate all His goodness in me when I let Him so that what comes out is…well…sweet…sweeter…sweetest.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Bitterness is a root that causes all kinds of trouble. It not only tastes bad, it looks bad. It acts bad. It spreads badly. Like a cancer. It eats me up inside. It’s like lemonade with no sugar. It kills the sweetness of Jesus.

And that breaks my heart.

I want the root of kindness and tenderness to well up like an underground spring inside of me. I want forgiveness to grow and blossom and bear fruit for the Kingdom. Because this is what’s good. This is what’s right. This is what’s sweet.

And you know? The longer I walk with Jesus, the sweeter He grows within me. Every day can be full of flavor, flowing with grace, and flourishing with promise. Every day with Jesus it’s possible to love Him more and more.

The Amen Of God

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“…The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this…” Revelation 3:14

Revelation 3:14 was written by the apostle John on the island of Patmos, exiled for his faith. He was writing to the seven churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And what a message it was! One that has convicted me more than once in my spiritual journey. I’m not writing about the letter, though. I’m writing about the Name. I’m writing about Jesus, The Amen.

The Hebrew word, amen, means: surely, indeed, truly. It’s root word, aman, means: to be firm, steadfast, trustworthy, faithful. When we say amen at the end of a prayer, we’re saying we agree with the words we’ve prayed. When we interject amen during a pastor’s sermon, or a Bible teacher’s message, or a friend’s wise advice we’re saying we wholeheartedly agree. We’re confirming we believe what is said is true.

“Indeed, Your Word is surely true because You are surely trustworthy, Jesus. Amen.”

We throw this word around a lot, but somehow I think Amen-ing is serious business. I know it doesn’t always sound so serious and sincere when I say it. I’ve been known to take the more southern pronunciation and draw out the A with pomp and circumstance…you know what I’m talking about…with a long A and a singsongy voice….

A-A-A-a-a-MEN! Let’s not forget the Hallelujah’s and the Praise-the-Lord’s that follow. I can’t help it. It just comes out in one long profession of faith. I say it. I proclaim it. I mean it. Somehow, the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I cling to Him, the more I earnestly seek Him, I come to believe Jesus is The Amen in my amen’s. 

I want to live an Amen life.

A life that says Jesus is faithful. A life that says Jesus is trustworthy. A life that says Jesus is unchanging. The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. And everything In-Between. The Same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Forever One.

Oh y-e-s, sir! I hear an A-A-A-a-a-a-MEN! threatening to quake the walls of my heart and shake the foundations of my soul. There is power in an amen that truly believes. However I say it, however I proclaim it, however I shout it out, when it comes from steadfast faith it speaks right into the heart of The Amen.

Jesus is the Amen of God. He made a way for me to the Father. He is my way. My truth. My life. All that I am is because He is. All that I need is fulfilled because He gives. All that I crave is satisfied because He sustains. All that I hope is realized because He promises.

And so I continue to amen The Amen. As much as I can, for as long as I can, I will strive to live it. Breathe it. Believe it.

So can you.

Reflections On The Psalms Takes Off

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He (Jesus) replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:21

God is so faithful, you know? Even when I’m not, He’s still so good to see me through seasons of doubt. I’m just being honest. It amazes me what a little bit of faith can do. It can be as tiny as a mustard seed and still move mountains. If that’s what a little faith can do, can you imagine what BIG faith will accomplish? I’ve found that God will really stretch my faith when He’s doing something new in my life. Last year, my word for the year was TRUST. I think I’ve discovered why…

If I trust more in my ability to make things happen I’ll most likely make a mess. I’ve made a few of those over the years and God is really good about showing me how to clean them up. Sometimes we learn best through the messes we make when we try to do things on our own without God’s direction, guidance, and strength. I love God’s way better. Waiting on God is hard, but His timing is always perfect.

Today, Relfections On The Psalms: Connecting With God Creatively, begins it’s public launch. You can find it on Amazon.com, at http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore, and you can order it through any data base in most major book stores across the country. I even have some copies of my own to sell if you’d like to contact me via Facebook or email at gracedtolive@gmail.com.

This book is and always has been God’s BIG idea for me. It’s His vision. I’m just His voice. Writing out the bits and pieces of my testimony and my faith journey was sometimes bittersweet. I cried a little bit and I have a few favorite devotions that still spark a tear or two when I read them, but today…

I’m reflecting on the faithfulness of God in my life. My story is His. My testimony is His. My journey is His. So is this book and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies…” Psalm 36:5

To those of you have purchased copies of Reflections On The Psalms, I want you to thank you from the bottom of my heart…with Sherry French, who is probably one of the most creative women I’ve ever met in my life. Her artwork graces the pages of this book and tells a story all its own.

And don’t forget…all my Frederickburg, Virginia friends! Sherry and I can’t wait to see you at 25 30 Espresso on Saturday, February 21st from 11-2.

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In The Shelter Of The Most High

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This morning I sat at my kitchen table and observed one of several stray cats that consider my deck their home. I had just uncovered the cage where my zebra finch, Muffin, had taken a long winter’s nap. I had given her fresh water and her daily portion of seed. She was in birdie heaven. I’m telling you…when I take the covering off her cage every morning and open wide the curtains to let the sun in she becomes an instant song bird. She takes a bath, flapping her wings and preening her feathers. She eats, tossing her gravel and flinging her seeds. And then she sings some more.

Muffin…no, I didn’t name her…may live in a cage, but somehow she doesn’t seem to mind. It’s all she’s ever known. I guess if I propped the cage door open she would fly away, but she wouldn’t get very far. She would still be confined to the walls of my kitchen. I guess you could say, she’s well protected.

Protected from stray cats, a finch’s worst enemy.

As I watched the enemy watch his prey a powerful truth washed over me. That cat sat right there at the windowsill for a good hour hoping to make a meal out of my Muffin. She was a mere foot away from his piercing eyes and he couldn’t touch her. All of a sudden I found myself laughing.

How often does the enemy sit at my window and watch me, unable to touch me because I’m protected by El Elyon, God Most High?

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

There’s something in this verse profoundly significant. I have to dwell in the Shelter to be protected. I need to trust the Almighty to know what’s best for me. He sets boundaries for me because He knows I’m easily tempted and easily lured away from His protective covering. He doesn’t keep me in a cage, though. He gives me free will, but as long as I choose to dwell…to make my home…in His place of safety I’ll find the rest I desperately crave.

The kind of rest that says I. Need. Not. Fear.

Sometimes, doing things God’s way is hard. There have been too many times when I thought I knew what was best for me, but can I be honest? My way makes me easy prey for the enemy and it’s too scary out there to fly around without God’s protection over me. Yeah. I’ve had to learn a few things the hard way. I think God really does want me to fly high, but I think the whole idea of flying free means I fly under the shadow of His wings where the enemy can’t get to me. Believe or not, God wants me to soar. Isaiah 40:31 even says He wants me to fly like an eagle,

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 

Sometimes it looks awfully tempting on the other side of the window pane. It’s easy to think God is holding out on me, but I’ve been on the other side of that window and I can tell you…the enemy has some pretty powerful claws and some mighty sharp teeth. He can do some serious damage, too. I’ve been wiped out by flying solo without the Almighty’s shadow hovering over me. It’s much nicer flying with the wind of the Spirit guiding me. Leading me where He wants me to go, guiding me to the place where His best waits for me. Not to mention, God’s protective power is no match for the enemy.

God, My Shelter, shelters me. Covers me. Protects me. Yet, still gives me wings to fly. Wow.

Every morning, He opens wide the window to my world and warms me in the Light of His Son. He gives me an abundance of Life-Sustaining Water and the Bread of His Presence. He meets my every need. What can I say? I’m in birdie heaven.

And when I look out my window, most days I don’t even see the enemy. He may be watching me, but I’m too busy flapping my wings, preening my feathers, singing a song, dwelling in the Shelter of the Most High and resting in the Shadow of the Almighty.

 

“Hold me close

Let Your love surround me

Bring me near

Draw me to Your side

And as I wait

I will rise up like the eagle

And I will soar with You

Your Spirit leads me on

In the power of Your love.” (The Power Of Your Love/Hillsong lyrics)

Princesses Don’t Whine

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I remember the first time I realized I was a whiner. Yes. I remember. I remember distinctly where I was and what I was doing. It was 35 years ago and I was fussing about something (the something is what I canNOT remember).

Seriously…when I fuss it can be quite comical. Animated. Hands flying everywhere. The facial expressions, the body language…goodness, now that I think about it, it’s quite exhausting.

The one who was listening patiently to my rant waited for a pause, looked me right in the face and said, “Can I have some cheese with that whine?”

I stood there with this ridiculously dumb look on my face, I’m sure, and replied, “Excuse me?”

I didn’t get it and she didn’t bother to explain herself.

Isn’t it funny how I’ve never forgotten that? Maybe it’s not suppose to be funny, but as age and wisdom have grown on me it now brings a smile to my face. What does God think of my whining? I’m at this place in my walk with the Lord where I picture Him hanging His mighty head and shaking it back and forth while He declares to His Son who sits at His right hand, “Here she goes again.”

Lord, have mercy.

Whining is something the good Lord and I have battled with for a long time. Some habits are hard to break. It takes persistence, perseverance, and patience. It takes the power of God.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation, in which you shine among them like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Philippian 2:14-16

I am a child of God. As His child, one of His greatest desires is for me is be conformed to the image of His Son and Jesus didn’t whine or complain or grumble. His Spirit will forever work in me as much as I give Him control, as much as I rely on His power and strength, as much as I depend upon Him…I can become like Jesus, not because I have to, but because I want to.

And Jesus shines not whines. He lights up the world. He radiates. Like a star in the nighttime sky, He glows. He sparkles.

Whining extinguishes the light of Jesus within me. Whining robs me of my joy, but here’s the clicker…

whining has the potential to steal the joy right out of every single person I unload it on.

Sweet Jesus, who wants to eat my whine, for crying out loud?!? For all the cheese lovers out there, I don’t care what your favorite cheese is, I don’t think there’s any kind in the world that will improve the taste of a whine, no matter how animated it is.

The book of Philippians is often referred to as the “book of joy.” It’s the underlying theme in all 4 chapters of this tiny book: joy in suffering, joy in serving, joy in believing, joy in giving…these are the chapter titles in my New International Version of the Bible. In chapter 2, Paul reminds us of the joy Christ had in serving people and He’s reminding us that we’re to imitate His example in serving others. He reminds us,

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” verse 12

Immediately following is the admonition to “do everything without complaining and arguing.” 

The life of a child of God is a high calling. It comes with a responsibility to grow up in our faith. Becoming more like Jesus is a work in progress. A journey. A progression. Because of Christ’s love for me and because of His example, I want to grow up in my faith. I want to accept the responsibility that comes with a continuous work to change the parts of me that don’t shine, that don’t radiate, that don’t sparkle. That means I want Jesus to have His way in me. I want Him to change me, to make me more like Him. I can’t do it on my own. I need the Holy Spirit’s power within me.

I want to act like the princess I am as a child of the King…

…and princesses, as part of their royal heritage, are called to serve. Before a princess can even rule as a queen, she must first be trained, taught, even tested. A princess learns to lead by example by watching and learning from those who have gone before her. A princess learns to love her people. She learns early in life that to be royal means accepting responsibilities that come with her position. It means the eyes of the world will be on her. She has to understand her calling.

The eyes of the whole world may not be on me, but in the little part of the world where God has planted my feet I want to shine like a star. I want to let God work in me so that He can work through me. That’s why I persist, persevere, and patiently depend upon the power of God to change me.

When I take my dogs out for one last potty run at the end of every day, I realize how very blessed I am to live in the country. When there are no clouds in the sky, I look up and find myself in awe of the stars in a vast expanse of darkness. The darkness doesn’t seem so dark because the stars really do sparkle and shine. It’s a happy feeling. One of joy. I’m reminded that I’m to shine just like that.

I may still stumble and fall as I work out my salvation, I may still succumb to bad habits on occasion, I may still throw my hands around and fuss every now and then, but I think the whining becomes less and less as time goes by. As I give Jesus control, as I depend upon His power, as I learn from His example, as I accept my responsibility to grow up in my faith, I learn to shine like a star.

I picture God lifting up His mighty head and nodding it up and down declaring to His Son who sits at His right hand, “Do you see that? She’s getting it! I’ll have some delight with that shine!”

God, The Name-Changer

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I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post. When I began this blog in the fall of 2013 I had every intention to post at least once a week. There have been a few weeks when the busyness of life got in the way, but I was able to post twice the following week. Fellow bloggers will understand when I say that sometimes…sometimes…writers need to take a break. The every day of life can either be a blessing or a curse, a roadblock or an open road, a motivator or a hindrance. Sometimes the thoughts don’t come, the words don’t flow, the inspiration doesn’t materialize.

January and a new year tends to make me want to evaluate my life…what I’ve done, where I’ve gone, how my walk with the Lord has progressed. In all honesty, in this self-evaluation, I can do myself a lot of harm if I don’t keep a proper perspective. Thank goodness the Word has a way of helping me stay proper.

I was reading in the second chapter of John this morning and received a wonderful reminder from God. He is in the name-changing-business.

When Peter met Jesus for the first time, Jesus took one look at him and said,

” ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” John 2:42

Jesus would later confirm Peter’s new name in Matthew 16:18,

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona…I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church…” 

I began to think of what I’ve learned about Peter in Scripture…he was impetuous, he often acted before considering, spoke before thinking, denied before remembering. He was a man of passion. I wonder if he was a sanguine like me, with a little bit of drama going on that sometimes got him into trouble.

And yet…and YET! Jesus took one look at him the first time He saw him and looked into his very heart. Jesus saw a rock!

And I can’t help but be full of wonder…

Jesus doesn’t see me for who I am at the moment of encounter. He sees me for what I will become. Peter had a long way to go before he would actually live up to his new name. The Christian walk is a journey and the road to sanctification (being set apart for God, being made holy by conforming to the image of Jesus) is a process, but I can’t give up on myself because Jesus doesn’t give up on me! If Jesus believes in me then I can trust what He sees!

God never gives up on me. He never gives up on you. He never abandons the work of His hands. Jesus gives me the power to become the person He wants me to be. I can’t help but wonder what my “new” name is.

I remember when I was a young girl asking my mother what my name meant. “Little girl”, she said.

At the time, “little girl” seemed okay because that’s what I was, but as I grew up I wanted it to mean something more. I can’t even begin to describe to you how I felt the day I did a little digging and researching into other meanings of my name and discovered that in Hebrew my name means “Grace.” I cried. In fact, the tears are flowing right this very moment at the thought.

Nina, with a long i, means grace. And I wonder…does God really see me as a woman of grace? Oh, how I hope He does. It would be one of my greatest joys.

God is in the name-changing-business because God is in the heart-changing-business. Names were very significant in biblical times. Names were very significant to God and He often changed the names of those who would turn their hearts toward Him. Their new names became reflections of their new nature. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel.

Simon became Peter.

The Little Girl became Grace.

When I think back over the past year of my life, I may not be where I want to be. YET. That’s okay. Jesus meets me where I am and takes a good look at my heart. He sees me…where I’ve been, what I’ve done, how I’ve progressed in my walk with The Father. Thank goodness I’m not where I started when I first encountered Jesus. I guess you could say, I’ve come a long, long way, baby!

Thank goodness Jesus sees me for what I am becoming…thank goodness.

As for my new name…I can’t wait until I see Jesus face-to-face on streets of gold and hear Him call my name. It’s a name He has chosen just for me and you know what else I think?

I think Jesus knew when He first saw me that eventually I would live up to my name. And the tears flow…

Reflections On The Psalms

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Can I just say…Oh. My. God. Yes, My God! A long awaited dream is about to become a reality and God made it happen. I am beside myself. I want to laugh and cry all at the same time.

Three years ago this very month God gave me the vision for Reflections On The Psalms, Connecting With God Creatively. I had written a few devotions for a Bible study I taught on the Psalms a couple of years earlier. They were really just reflections from my own personal life experiences. There wasn’t anything fancy about them. It was just me putting to words the different ways God worked in my spiritual journey. It was just me journaling the journey….creatively.

God is the Creator of all emotion and feeling. It’s what we do with it that makes it right or wrong. It’s how we act it out that makes it holy or unholy. It’s why Paul tells us in Scripture that we’re to “put off” certain emotions and “put on” others. I have a responsibility to use the emotions God has given me in a way that honors Him.

Scripture also tells us “nothing is hidden from God.” That means He knows what’s hidden in the deep places of my heart and soul. He’s able to take what I give Him, no matter how ugly it is, and make an honest woman out of me by washing me in the water of His Word. Sometimes I have to confess what’s not very pretty to receive the cleansing needed for beautiful change.

That’s why I love the Psalms. No matter what emotion is expressed the focus is always on God. The psalmists express themselves freely, transparently, openly…honestly. Every emotion is revealed…the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s all there. And, yet, in every psalm God is still glorified because these psalmists were God-seekers and God-seekers want to know their God to have the heart of God.

Not only did God give me the inspiration for each devotion, but He also inspired me to ask my friend, Sherry French–a very talented artist, to create 30 mixed media illustrations for each devotion. The original vision was to have the daily Scripture or some thoughts from each devotion written or uploaded onto the illustrations and have each devotion preceded by an illustration, but the publisher informed me this would be very costly. Color is insanely expensive so this didn’t happen quite the way I planned, but Sherry and I still believe God will be glorified in the pages of this book. Her illustrations are still there for all to enjoy, beautiful and splendiferous. (That’s her artwork right there on the cover.)

So, here’s a little tease from the Introduction:

 

“This isn’t your average devotion book. It’s designed for creative expression…

I learned a long time ago the importance of being completely honest with God about my feelings and emotions.

The Book of Psalms helped me learn to bare my heart–to “let it all out.” As I’ve read, reread and studied the way the psalmists expressed themselves to the Lord, I learned that the best way for me to draw close to God is to be honest with Him about what is in my heart. The more I talk to God, the less I want to unload on the people in my life who mean the most to me. Writing and journaling my thoughts becomes a sweet release for me, and I believe it becomes a sweet aroma to Him.

Did you know that the Greek word for psalmos, which is where we get our word psalm, means: “A poem sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments”? I don’t know about you, but that means a lot to me. So many of us have this idea that we can only talk to God by praying reverently with our eyes closed and heads bowed low. Don’t get me wrong; I pray like this too, but what if we allowed ourselves some room for creative expression like the psalmists? After all, Scripture tells us that King David not only sang before the Lord, he danced too, and the patriarchs set up memorial stones to remember those times and places when God did amazing things in their lives. Sounds a lot like creative expression to me.

I’ve written thirty devotions from my heart. Sherry French has created beautiful artwork from hers. This is a collaboration of two kinds of God-given inspiration. Following each devotion you will find a blank page where you can explore ways to connect with God creatively. Maybe you like to draw or paint or write. It’s not about what creative style you have; it’s about connecting with God creatively. Let God guide you, and enjoy the process. Instead of a prayer prompt or question to ponder at the end of each devotional, let the daily Scripture verse speak to your heart. Ask God to show you how to apply it to your life, as He showed me how to apply it to mine.

As Sherry and I have shared our hearts with you, we pray that you will be inspired to share your heart with God. Be real. Be honest. Be creative. But above all–connect.”

 

 

Reflections On The Psalms will be released on February 10 through Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC. You’ll be able to find it in the data bases of most bookstores and Amazon.com. Sherry and I will keep you updated on our blogs. (Sherry’s website is http://www.thesplendiferouslife.com.) There will be a FaceBook page where you can order books OR if you’re somewhere nearby Sherry and I will be hosting book signings, as well as mini retreats/workshops to help you find your creative voice.

To all of you who have read my blog over the past year I’d like to thank you. I may not have many followers or even many viewers,  but I know God has given me the gift of words. And now, He’s given me another gift…a published book. My honest little heart is full of emotion right now.

For those of you who may consider purchasing a copy, can I just say….Oh. My. God! Thank you. I am beside myself. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but may the focus be entirely on Him!

The Gift Of Time

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Dear Friends,

The older I get the more I understand what it means to see time fly. I’m so glad God in His infinite wisdom chose not to give me the gift of foresight. I can’t imagine how much differently I’d live my life if I knew what tomorrow held in store. I can’t say all the choices I’ve made in life have prepared me well for my tomorrows, but I know one thing…God knows, God sees, and God holds my future in His hands. When life hands me the unexpected or fills me with surprises, when my flesh may fail or my heart grows weak, when my enemy comes against me or temptation knocks on my door, I can live my days knowing God is still on His Throne. He is still in control. He is still in charge of time.

Like a watch-maker, God has fashioned my life’s clock to fit me. Somehow, I don’t think I run on a battery. I think God takes great delight in winding me up with gentleness and a whole lot of love to keep me in time with Him. He knows when I’m off-balance. He doesn’t ever forget to wind me and He doesn’t wind too tight. I do that to myself. When I’m not on His time schedule I can be a real piece of work, but the Watch-Maker knows how He puts His time-pieces together. I think I can trust Him to keep me ticking in a way that honors Him when I let Him take care of my inward parts.

As 2014 comes to an end and I reflect on all that was good and right or bad and wrong, I’m reminded that time is a gift. For every day God sees fit to give me breath I want to live as if there’s a purpose for every minute of every day. When time seems to fly by I can rest secure that in God’s economy time never really changes. It doesn’t fly across the friendly skies at the speed of light. It doesn’t walk at a snail’s pace or race around a track like NASCAR. It doesn’t sail across the oceans like a speedboat or gallop across the plains like wild horses. And even when I wish time would stand still, it doesn’t. Time is just…well…it’s just time.

I think it’s time for me to experience time through the eyes of my Time-Keeper.

As I approach 2015 I want to learn to truly appreciate this gift from the One who holds the Kingdom Clock. I want to treasure it and use it well. This is my prayer. I don’t want to hoard it or throw it away. I don’t want to neglect it or worship it. I don’t want to wish I had more of it or less of it. I don’t want to lose my patience because it doesn’t move fast enough or lose my mind because it moves too slow. I want to make the most of the time God has given. I don’t know what that means for me. I don’t know what it means for you. I just know I don’t want it to pass me by. As of this moment, time no longer flies.

It lives…one day at a time.

So, my friends, here’s to a new year and, hopefully, a new attitude. I’d love it if you’d join me in treating Time as precious. May we see God move mountains, enlarge territories, and part rivers in the new year….in His time and in His way…for His Name’s Sake.

Jesus Joy,

Nina

 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, 14