Sunday Respite | Worship

Deuteronomy 10:17We have not loved our neighbor as you instructed us.
We have not spoken up for those who needed our help.
We have turned away from strangers.
We have not shared with others the gracious hospitality you share with us.

You asked for our hands,
that you might use them of your purpose.
We gave them for a moment,
then withdrew them, for the work was hard.

You asked for our mouths,
to speak out against injustice.
We gave you a whisper,
that we might not be accused.

You asked for our eyes,
to see the pain of poverty.
We closed them,
for we did not want to see.

You asked for our life,
that you might work through us.
We gave a small part,
that we might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive our calculated efforts to serve you
only when it is convenient for us to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so
and only with those who make it easy to do so.

 

The Worship Sourcebook, 2.2 Prayers of confession, 35 (p98)

Snippets of Posts and Quotes to Ponder: Take 3

the-future-is-bright

LOVE  IN  ACTION :

“The church needs to be the safest place on earth for children from hard places and for the families called to love and care for them.” —Michael Monroe

COMPASSION:

“We have a large and growing team of compassionate, respectful, Christ-following volunteers who love to see God work in the lives of those who learn differently.”  —Irving Bible Church special needs ministry

TRUE  MISSION:

“You cannot have true mission while ignoring the disabled! They too, are marred by sin, they too need to be told of the beauty of salvation, they too need to be our mission, they too are the church.” —Tim Challies   (http://www.challies.com/articles/the-disabilities-dilemma)

SUFFERING:

“I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. Thou divine love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my cross and the value of my thorn.”  George Matheson

GRACE:

“The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world!”  —Carl F. Henry

CHARACTER:

“All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because he is concerned with a much more serious problem—our character. While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you” — Andy Stanley

 IMMEASURABLE  VALUE:

“One of the topics we discussed frequently, as we journeyed from city to city, was the value of every human being. Not because of who we are, or what we do. But because of Whose we are, and what He has done for us. By endowing us with His image, God has imparted to us immeasurable value. As Professor Jerram Barrs from Covenant Seminary says, we should learn to look at every human being and say, “You are glorious!” We ought to see the goodness, truth and beauty of God in every person we meet. One way I like to think of the image of God is that it is like a mirror. We image God in the ways that we reflect the essence of His character through our God-given capacities. But the problem is this: because we live in a fallen/broken world, the mirror is cracked. We have cracked bodies, cracked spirits, cracked emotions, cracked minds, and cracked relationships. So here is the challenge: What will you and I focus on? Will we focus on the cracks? The brokenness? The marred aspects of the image? Or will we focus on the reflection—distorted as it may be?” — Stephanie O. Hubach  (http://specialneedsparenting.net/open-eyes/)

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“What the future of children’s ministry needs most for success is a return to an emphasis on the study of and teaching of the word of God, and less on making ministry easy for volunteers, attractive to families and processing large groups of children through fun environments. That hasn’t produced disciples who will walk  with Jesus for life. The future doesn’t need more technology – it needs deeper and better relationships. If technology can foster more connectivity or methods of relating, fantastic! But to often we look to the future as though it has some new things we need for success, when the truth is we already have everything we need.” — Karl Bastian

Sunday Respite | Give Thanks

Psalm 136:1

Dear Lord,

I often forget to thank you for your steadfast love, to remember that your love endures forever. My affections run amiss towards other things that can never last. Please open my eyes to see your goodness. Please refresh my memory to the times when you have rescued me from myself. To remember those times where you undoubtedly displayed your goodness and love towards me. 

I often remember to give thanks for all of the good things that happen…when life is peachy-keen and goes my way. Absolutely, I will thank you!

But then when something really tough happens, I grumble about it, start to worry, only to find myself leaning into that awful anxiety that has begun to take hold.  Please forgive me for a fickle heart, turning to what is not good and not lovely.

I pray to be steadfast in my love for you. 

I turn my thoughts on you, Lord. You refresh my memory of your goodness and faithfulness. There is freedom from fear and anxiety. 

Thank you for everything you have planned for me to experience, the comfortable and the uncomfortable. 

Everything changes from day to day. But your love never changes. Your love is steadfast. You are good.

With a thankful heart, I pray.

Amen

Snippets of Posts and Quotes to Ponder: Take 2

the-future-is-bright

GOSPEL-HUMILITY:

“If we were to meet a truly humble person, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” — Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

GRACE:

“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unloveable. Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.” — Tullian TchividjianOne Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

UNCOMFORTABLE  GRACE:

“God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own.”         — Paul Tripp

FAITH:

Bono: Who is Jesus? A rockstar talks about Jesus, faith and prayer.

PRAYER:

“A praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives. Learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. When life makes sense, it becomes a journey, a spiritual adventure. Writing down the adventure as it happens gives us a feel for our place in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we keep a prayer journal, we can reflect on what God is doing, on the patterns of our Father’s care instead of reacting to life. If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense. When we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have busy soul.”
 

KNOWLEDGE:

“…There are some who long to know, simply for the sake of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity. Others long to know to show off before others, and that is shameful vanity. There are others who long for knowledge to make a fat profit from it, or to make honors from it; and this is shameful profiteering. But there are those who long to know in order to be of service to others; and this is charity…” — Bernard of Clairvaux

GOODNESS:

‘His sovereignty is exercised in a way of grace. All shall work together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.”  — John Newton, Puritan Sermons

FAITHFUL:

“The word faithful can be illustrated by the image of the strong arms of a father that uphold and protect his helpless child. When the word faithful is used with regard to God, it means that He is worthy of absolute trust, and that we can depend upon Him without doubt or reservation. It is important to understand that God is faithful, not because He does everything we want, but because He does everything that He has promised.” — Paul Washer, The One True God

LEADERSHIP:

“Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.” — Peter Drucker 

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“Everybody needs someone who knows their name, and what’s happening in their life.”  — Lead Small

CONVERSATION:

“I believe that folks who are de-churched or seemingly apathetic toward Christianity are sending the church a clear message. They want us to demonstrate how a book written several thousand years ago could possibly have something to say to them in this day and age. I think we owe them that much, don’t you? …I think that real people talking about real faith in a relevant way is what makes sense in the real world.” — Doug Pollock, God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally

Sunday Respite | Needing Wisdom

James 1:5

After a year of being forced to stop running due to a physical set-back, I’m elated to be back on the road, pounding the asphalt, and tunes streaming through earbuds. My run this morning was especially wonderful with a cool temperature in the mid-60’s and the sun peeking out from behind the clouds.

As I normally begin every run, I started slow to warm up, and soon found the familiar and comfortable stride, in sync with the beat and rhythm of upbeat music. Before I realized it, I was no longer aware of the distance I had traveled as the exhilarating effect of a runner’s high resulted in a sudden increase of energy.

Once the runner’s high began to taper off, my mind wandered to daydreaming about wishful adventures, outrageous goals, and thoughts about painful, down-to-earth realities…such as the shock of learning that a good friend died and to process through some of the hard decisions my family will need to make.

I begin to pray. To talk to God about everything. The music is still playing in my ears, yet I’m not paying attention to the words of a song, only the words I am shouting silently to God, as I run. While I know I have God’s attention all the time, I particularly enjoy having his attention to hear my anxious prayers when I’m sweating and running.

Praying on this particular day, I asked God for one thing only and that was, “Lord, I need wisdom.” I’m facing a mountain of decisions and I need wisdom to discern the right choice. I need wisdom to navigate through the emotional pull from people in my life while my natural tendency is to “fix” their problems. I need wisdom to parent well, to discern when to speak up and when to shut up. I need practical, grace-filled wisdom…

And immediately there it was! I remembered this verse: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) There is incredible peace and joy knowing that God will generously give the wisdom I need.

I’m home now, sitting on the back porch, unlacing my running shoes and drinking a bottle of cold water. It’s been a good run and a fantastic start of a new day. When I stop and ponder how it is to receive wisdom, it amazes me again that the way of the wise is earnest prayer and extended meditation on the Word of God. I’m so glad that this conversation with my Heavenly Father will continue throughout the day.

Already, there is clarity and direction.

Proverbs 9:10

The Story of All Things New

All Things New

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

This is the first time we have lived next door to farmland and I’ve grown to appreciate the barren fields of a farmer’s life. To be unabashedly honest, when we first moved here, I would drive by those fields and glance at them with a disinterested nod. Oddly, I’m beginning to see the beauty in those flat treeless fields with straight lines of plowed earth.

All Things New

We moved here mid summer during a scorching heat wave with record-breaking high temps that made Arizona seem a cool place to be. The farm lands looked depressed lined with dead dry stalks. Then fall arrived with a picture book view of splendorous colors surrounding the brown fields. My husband and I began to prepare ourselves for the biting chill of winter soon to arrive. There was great delight when the harsh gray days were brightened by the sparkling glare of white snow covering those acres of barren fields.

Finally, spring is here. Trees are beginning to bud, daffodils splash bright yellow and orange colors surrounding strong leafless oaks and front lawns are bursting new with the fresh green color of vibrant life. The colors remind me that the fields are waiting for harvest to come. It reminds me that what God has promised, will indeed come true, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

I can’t wait for God to make all things new. For those barren fields to show new life, ready for the harvest. I can’t wait for God to make all things new in our lives, which can seem at times like a barren field. It is good to have our hearts turned and plowed. To feel the tug of the Holy Spirit groaning in our prayers; our efforts to grow are delayed by drought. Our hope is in the Lord, as we worship Him, to make all things new.

All Things New

I’ve been reading through the book of Ruth over and over again. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read this book and every time I finish reading it, I have a deep contented feeling, to inhale and exhale a deep hopeful sigh of relief and joy. In terms of storytelling, the story of Ruth begins with tragedy…pain, sadness, and bitterness yet it’s one of the most beautifully written love stories in the Bible that shows the providence of God; demonstrating his glory by way of his justice, kindness, and faithfulness to keep his promise, to make all things new.

There is a famine in the land. The barren fields have gone through the seasons of waiting for a harvest…a season of new things that will not come. There will be no harvest until there is a change in the people’s heart to love God and desire to honor him more than anything else. So much time goes by and the barren fields become parched, cracked and dead from lack of rain. This harsh reality and existence takes the lives of three men. The wives of these men, Ruth, her sister-in-law, Orpah and her mother-in-law, Naomi, have become widowed.

What begins as a heartbreaking story ends as a fairy tale of living happily ever after, only this is not a fairy tale, although I imagine that Ruth had hopes that her dreams of a knight in shining armor would come true. Finally, there is celebration and delight in worshiping the one true God. The rains came.

God causes the rain to pour down and the place where barren fields once were are now rich with all things new. Eventually, Ruth and her mother-in-law travel back to the place where God has deliberately shown that He is in control.

Through the providence of God, Ruth meets her “knight in shining armor” by way of a brave and courteous announcement of her presence. God has been designing this introduction for many years already. I love the fact that God writes a magnificent love story! While reading this awesome story, I pray to become more like Ruth. To live my life story in anticipation of God making all things new. I appreciate Ruth’s bravery to glean from the harvest that God has caused to grow. She is bold and self-confident and trusts a wiser and older woman, Naomi, to coach her. I value her humbleness in listening to wise counsel.

As the story of Ruth unfolds, we read that she left her home for a greater purpose. Even though Ruth had no idea what was before her, she packed up and moved because she believed God had called her to something greater…the “something greater” was to worship God alone. Ruth met her beloved kinsman redeemer, her knight in shining armor while gleaning from the harvest that occurred after a dry season of barren drought. God rescued her by providing a “knight in shining armor”…a redeemer! I  love this picture of God’s ultimate kindness and grace towards us.

This causes me to ponder…

I place myself into the story of Ruth. I am rescued.

When the fields are barren, this is the time to worship God.

When I glean from the fields, this is the time to worship God.

The story of Ruth begins with barren fields and ends with rich crops of grain and a bountiful harvest. A love lost and a love found. She ventures by faith to meet her kind redeemer and through God’s providence becomes linked, in a very significant way, to the genealogy of Christ.

This is me. This is us. We are, by God’s providence, linked to Christ. We are living every day experiencing God making all things new.

All Things New

A Praying Life is a Journey of a Lifetime

Skagway, Alaska A Praying Life

I’ve taken time this summer to think about the coming year. To think about the future. My soul has felt restless and busy.

There were many days when I stared at the whitespace on this blog, hoping my fingers would move swiftly to fill this space, to communicate the words locked deep inside. That didn’t happen.

While I couldn’t write here in this space, I’ve been journaling prayers in a small notebook … conversations with God. Interestingly, what I’ve noticed from going back and reading these written prayers is how God has lovingly been working on my character.

I can honestly say, for the past year, my prayer on a daily basis has been reciting the Lord’s Prayer. This summer, I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer with more persistence and intensity. Not simply saying the words, but really saying the words back to God. Praying them with conviction and hope and surrender. I found myself lingering on the second phrase of this prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

The prayer journal has a punch list of items that I pray for, such as family members (yep, real people are noted on the punch-list), health needs, financial needs, and certain goals I want to accomplish. At the beginning of this prayer journal, the prayers for thy kingdom come, thy will be done were more connected to checking off the list rather than His kingdom come and His will be done in my life.

While I hope that God appreciates this punch-list of items, it’s not the key to tuning into my Father’s voice above the noise of my own heart and my surroundings. I truly believe that God is more interested in shaping my character to reflect His grace than the goals I want to accomplish. Learning to “watch and pray,” as Jesus told his disciples to do, takes perseverance. As Paul Miller says in A Praying Life: “Don’t pray in a fog. Pray with your eyes open. Look for the patterns God is weaving in your life.”

I’ve been looking for those patterns, or more specifically, I’m discovering what it means to be attentive to God. Continually asking God to make my heart soft and teachable. I read that you can’t walk with God and not begin to change. His presence allows us to take an honest, interior look. I’m thankful for that!

When life makes sense, it becomes a journey, a spiritual adventure. Writing down the adventure as it happens gives us a feel for our place in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we keep a prayer journal, we can reflect on what God is doing, on the patterns of our Father’s care instead of reacting to life. If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense. When we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have busy soul. ~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life

I think I’ll keep writing down the adventure as it happens, chronicling prayers and discovering timeless truth in God’s word. A praying life is a journey of a lifetime.