What She Needs Most

winter trees

I have a friend preparing for battle. Actually, it’s the same type of battle she has fought before but this time it’s different, because she is already tired from fighting it for a long time already.  Previously, she had enjoyed a lengthy respite with joy and hope that the good health would last and last and never stop. What she needs most is not to lose her grasp on hope but even more importantly she needs to know most that God has not loosened his grip on her.

But the respite did cease. The ensuing battle has caused her to suit up again with the armor she has worn many times before, so many years ago. Not quite as shiny as the first time she put it on, but still ever so beautiful and true to fit…in perfect design by the one who made it for her. There are some battle scars on the armor, which I hope and pray will remind her of victory and not defeat. If truth be told, she has never taken that armor off. But perhaps it had felt lighter during the wellness years and may seem quite heavy and difficult to wear right now. I want her to believe that the armor is light while resting upon her yet heavy enough to protect her from stinging discouragement and fatigue or the feeling of hopelessness or to be tempted to doubt the promises of God.

Winter Tree

I want her to be brave, once again and suit up in the protection of that spiritual armor. Putting on spiritual armor simply means that she continually clothes herself in the Lord, relying on His gifts and graces through this trial. What she needs most is for her friends to stand firm with her, to help hold the armor in place through prayer.

She is one of the strongest women I know. Perhaps her strength has come from those previous battles and dark storms…her leaning into God, listening to his voice to calm anxiety. No, anxiety sounds too simple of a description. It’s more like a tsunami of everything difficult. I don’t think of God’s voice as being soft and quite, otherwise, how can we hear him over the chaotic noise and pain of the battle rushing and overwhelming us?

God speaks with words and remarkable things happen. What she needs most is to hear God’s loud words, his voice to speak into her storm.  For her to know his presence with her and to have an unreal, supernatural peace from the gospel of grace in her life. What she needs most is to know she is treasured.

She has been a voice of grace words and peaceful comfort to so many in need, reminding them of the strength they have through Christ. What she needs most is the relentless prayers and grace words from friends to lift her up.

Late Spring Tree

She is a warrior. She has hidden so much of God’s word in her heart. Memorized it. Feasted on God’s word and experienced the sweet satisfaction of God forever keeping his promise to give her what she needs most…at the time that she needs it.

What she needs most is not to forget that it will be so.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5

Spring

The Whole Armor of God Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God… Ephesians 6:10-18

The Rough Edges of a Smooth Life: New Year’s Eve

Focus

It’s New Year’s Eve! It’s that time of year again to focus on the events of the past…those good and bad things that naturally happen to all of us and so we begin to plan new year resolutions to not repeat the bad things that we made a mess of and to aim for more of the good things. But not the same good things, definitely better and much greater! We want to forget the messes we stirred up and the mistakes that we made.

Frankly, I’m done with planning New Year resolutions. In the past, I’ve written grand lists of self-centered improvement tactics that only infuriated me when I continued to do the things that I wanted to stop doing. I kept getting in my way of being successful. I need to continue to plan today to be productive tomorrow. 

Secondly, bad things and messes and mistakes will always occur. There will always be rough edges of a smooth life. While I don’t wish for anything awful to happen or to experience difficult situations, I know for a fact that I will, because every smooth life is designed with rough edges.

It is the rough edges that add the character development for self-improvement.

What I enjoy most about New Year’s Eve is reflecting on the year that is coming to its end. I like to think about the year in reverse. Instead of beginning in the winter of January 2013, I begin with September and the first beginnings of autumn. A family birthday celebration at the beach and early morning walks along the shore before the sun announced the new day.

A Better Story

Andy Layla

Remembering the season of red and orange leaves and the glorious days of family outings at a pumpkin patch, watching our little one march happily from pumpkin to pumpkin and climbing over hay bales. With each little foot step our little one takes or the squeeze of a tiny hand in mine, I am reminded that God has gone before us on the path our family has journeyed and he is holding us firmly in his strong right hand.

Layla at the Pumpkin Patch

Isla and Pumpkins

I remember a chaotic and exhausted feeling from fighting the never-ending bout of nerve pain. Those peaceful walks along a wooded path under the beams of sunshine cascading through golden leaves reminds me of God’s presence then and to celebrate that he knows the pain of those rough edges I felt and he did enable me to be vibrant through the rough.

Rough Edges of a Smooth Life Rough Edges of a Smooth Life

After autumn, I have a flashback to the hot days of summer and those oscillating fans blowing on my legs and face. I ventured on a missions trip that stirred my heart to move out of my comfort zone…to search for rough edges in the deep of another’s person life–to help them experience a smooth life, in some kind of way.

I am thankful that God has placed this longing in my heart to venture into the rough of an unknown community. It was good (and still is) to feel the sharpening of the Holy Spirit on those rough edges in my heart, melting them away, smoothing the edges with more mercy and grace.

View from the flag pole

When I think about spring, I remember having a new appreciation for the handiwork of God, the creator. I learned to have a consistent time of personal worship. I remember wanting more of Jesus and praying for God to change my heart. It’s good to look back through the year, as now I can understand that those rough edges in my life were being formed and shaped by the one who loved me the most, God. I was running four miles almost daily and felt like my space in this world could not get any better than running with worship tunes streaming through ear buds. My smooth life as I once knew it was soon going to change.

New Growth 2

Bird Song

Through daily personal worship, I began to see God in the smallest of insects or in the buds of a tree about to burst in color. I think back to those lonely days of adjusting to being alone yet being completely filled with joy and peace in the Creator, thankful that he sprinkled a bit of his creativity onto me through watercolor painting. God was beginning to show me more of the rough edges in my life that only he could smooth out.

Watercolor by Donna

Watercolor by Donna

And now, here we are at the winter and the close of a new year. A year of surrendering to the handiwork of God, creating and shaping my soul to want more of him, to want to be changed because of his grace alone.

It would take a year feeling the tenderness of more grace in the rough edges for me to surrender my strength and become even stronger through weakness and to know that a smooth life can still be smooth through the trials when it is God who is giving the strength to keep going. There is a void from a loss of a family member and we celebrate that God is making all things new.

Winter

I did something completely different this Christmas while celebrating Advent. While wanting to take the time to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming, I also wanted to focus on the freedom I have in Christ to overcome an obstacle…a very rough edge. So, I began a “Lent in Advent” with the purpose of giving up something for the 25 days of celebrating Advent….a self-inflicted rough edge that controlled me. While focusing on the one…God’s Son, the one God promised to send to rescue me, I struggled through the Lenten process of giving up, running away from it and running into the fulfilled expectation of Jesus first coming and all that he accomplished for me (for us) on that cross. It is day 31 in “Lent for Advent”.

Looking back through the year shows me how God has kept his promise to love us no matter what. He has given us a gospel-centered community to intercede for us in prayer, encouragement and friendship. He is constantly rescuing us. Revealing his story to us when we need him the most. The storms and trials are rough yet Jesus is in the boat too. The storm knows his voice and life becomes smooth.  Without the rough edges, those hard trials, I would not have been able to celebrate real joy and victory through Christ. I would not want a smooth life any other way.

I am eager and excited to welcome 2014! I can’t wait to live the better story God has for us!

Happy New Year!

Don and Donna

The links on this page will take you to posts that I’ve written this year. Move the curser over the link for the title of the post. I hope you will be encouraged by reading. -Donna

How to Pray When Words Won’t Come: A Prayer for the Philippines

Photo from Associated Press

Photo from Associated Press

The following is a prayer written by a friend of mine, living in the Philippines. Along with Melody, her family and many others, I am praying this prayer for them. Will you join us?

In Melody’s words: “With unprecedented force, Haiyan is possibly the most powerful typhoon ever recorded… ever. The full impact is still being revealed, but thousands were killed and many towns and villages decimated. We were spared here in Manila, but our hearts grieve with this country. “

Photo from Melody

Photo from Melody

Melody’s Prayer

I hardly know how to pray, Lord, for faces (seen and unseen) whose names I do not know. But You know every one, see their need, understand their sorrow. Help me to pray.

I hardly know how to grieve, Lord, for all the lives lost and all the lives never the same. But You, Lord, grieved with Mary and Martha even when you knew resurrection was just around the corner. You know and care deeply about the pain in every heart. So help me to grieve, Lord — with You, with this nation, and with each heart that bleeds.

I hardly know what to do, Lord, when what is needed most is in the hands of other people. Resources, coordination, infrastructure to deliver relief assistance. But You, Lord, know exactly what is needed, and when, and by whom. Help me to do what is mine to do, and pray for others as they do what is theirs to do.

Lord of impossible resurrections, please cause Your kingdom to come and Your will to be done amid this chaos. Pour Your mighty strength into and through Your servants (those who know they serve You, and those who don’t), that they may serve the hurting in Your name even as they themselves are hurting, too. And give all of us strength and commitment to keep doing our part — praying, giving, caring in the name of the One who first cared for us.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

“Thanks so much for your prayers with us. I imagine the incense rising before the Throne, and believe our loving Father is moved by the heartfelt cries of His children that echo His own heart desire to touch and comfort the victims of this disaster.” –Melody

logo

Mission to the World Global Disaster Response

A way you can help In response to this disaster: http://www.mtw.org/Pages/Disasterphilippines.aspx

In Pursuit of a Gospel-Centered Community

The following is a few thoughts from my Sunday devotional: In Pursuit of a Gospel-Centered Community. Where is this community? Wherever I work, live and play. There is nothing deeper and stronger than the gospel on which to build community.

Let Love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 ESV)

Let love be genuine: True gospel-saturated community is authentic.

Abhor what is evil: A gospel-centered community will embrace people in their brokenness while making war on sin. Don’t abhor people but abhor evil.

Love one another with brotherly affection: A Jesus-centered gospel calls us to possess a deep brotherly love as we would for our own family, this is a familial affection.

Out do one another in showing honor: Affection for the Lord leads to affection for others, resulting in out doing one another in honor. [1]

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord: Relationships go deep when arms are linked in a great cause that you are ready to lay down your lives for. Stir up zeal for God and for the cause of God and truth and life. Be passionate in your spirit. [2]

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer: When life is hard, we can either give up on hope or get it from joy. Tribulation drives the roots of joy down into hope  and fight to be constant in prayer, God acts when we pray. [3]

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality: Lavish mercy, give from your wealth, mentor others, teach a skill, open your lives and the doors of your home.

Being in pursuit of a gospel-centered community is a “forever journey.” The only way that we are able to do any of this is answered in Romans 12:1 (The Message)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

[1] Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word, page 59    [2] John Piper:  Be Strong and Fervent in Spirit,  ❘  [3] John Piper: Happy in Hope, Patient in Pain, Constant in Prayer

Intercessory Prayer ❘ The Mat Carrier

Grandaughter,Grandmother, Great-Grandmother

Intercessory Prayer Through the Generations.
Grandmother, Granddaughter, Great-Grandmother

“Intercessory prayer is less about changing God’s mind and more about participating in His mercy” shereadstruth.com

“It seems the secret to real success is not found in a public place of power but in a secret place of prayer.” Jesse D. Lane

Have you ever been asked to join a prayer team? I was asked. I signed up! This is what I learned from years of intercessory prayer.

Please, don’t take that request lightly. Don’t think that praying for other people is easy and your participation on the prayer team will be the “piece of cake” action that makes you feel better about yourself and your “service in the church.” Intercessory prayer is not easy. If you think praying for others is easy and random, then you aren’t really experiencing the work of intercessory prayer.

Making a commitment to pray for others is arming yourself to work hard for people whom you may never personally meet.  Intercessory prayer requires a discipline of time, discipline to show mercy, discipline of thought…put yourself into their story…to envision yourself as their “mat carrier.”

A mat carrier is one that helped to carry a friend to Jesus. Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man who couldn’t walk and was confined to life on a mat? I’m sure he was a real likable guy because he had four friends that would do just about anything for him. I imagine they may have carried him to the temple to worship or perhaps the market to buy food. Perhaps they took care of his physical needs at home. The four friends worked together to lift up the four corners of his mat and carry him  from place to place. I imagine them struggling to fight fatigue and being surprised that interceding for a friend would beckon them to work hard…to get messy in the process.

The four mat carriers interceded for their friend…they would do anything to help him receive peace, grace, healing…they carried him to Jesus. They believed Jesus was the answer to satisfy the needs of their friend. They hoped Jesus would heal him. They knew Jesus would take care of everything their friend needed. The friends brought the needs of this man to Jesus (literally) and left him there…in front of Jesus. And Jesus saw their faith.

Do you know how this amazing chapter in the life story for this paralyzed man ends? Jesus, is compassionate and kind and changes the man’s heart with speaking the only words of truth that will grant real forgiveness. And then Jesus tells the paralyzed man to get up and go…walk out of the house and show people that he was completely healed inside and out…and “don’t forget to carry your mat, too!” (I embellished this story in my own words. Please read the full bible text here.)

I find this act of service and love by the four friends amazing. Wherever Jesus was, a crowd was sure to gather. The homes were probably small and it was shoulder to shoulder “standing room only” inside.  I imagine the over-flow lot was full of people too. Pressing in close and tight to one another just to hear Jesus, to see Jesus, to try to touch him. It was hard enough for one person with healthy legs to manage the crowd…much more harder for four people carrying their friend on his mat.

I appreciate the friends were also creative problem solvers. Their friend needed to meet Jesus right then and now! So they devised a plan to hoist and carry their friend up to the roof of the house. Then they started digging their way through the roof of the house, creating an opening large enough to lower their friend safely down to where Jesus was. The “mat carriers” were willing to get dirty and messy and take a risk. There were persistent to help their friend.

In conclusion, this is what I learned about intercessory prayer:

  1. Don’t take prayer lightly
  2. Intercessory prayer is hard and it requires discipline
  3. Ask God to help you to show mercy and love through prayer
  4. Put yourself in their story
  5. Imagine their sorrow or anxiety or loss
  6. Talk to God about their needs.
  7. God is never annoyed by “debris”
  8. Trust God to do what God will do
  9. Celebrate the answers of prayer
  10. Be a mat carrier. Period.