When a Lonely Place Becomes the Best Place

the best place 2

I wish I could say that my heart has been consistently joyful and at peace when I’m faced with an unexpected interruption, however my first inclination is to worry, fret or to be annoyed by the inconvenience. How I respond to an upset in my plans reveals the condition of my heart.

My heart needs to be turned towards caring. My soul needs to be softened and molded to show God’s peace and joy.

Unexpected events are not simply interruptions of our daily work but the way God molds our heart to be more patient, more caring, more selfless. I need a holy intervention to move gracefully through interruptions, to see the beauty of community with friends, the importance of sharing life-on-life.

It’s there right in front of me … this holy intervention. I need to be quiet, to withdraw from breathless activities. To pray. This is when a lonely place becomes the best place.

I love this photo of my daughter sitting next to her daughter, talking quietly while comforting her daughter and meeting her needs. When I realize that people are the primary cause of interruptions my perspective towards being inconvenienced changes. My prayers shift from being self-focused to people-focused … a concern for others is motivated more by their needs than my own.

In the morning, long before dawn, [Jesus} got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. (Mark 1:35)

In the lonely place, Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own. It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. ­[1]

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. (Isaiah 50:4)

A lonely place becomes the best place for God’s goodness and care to be displayed. It is in the lonely place that I find peace that God will answer prayer.

[Jesus and his disciples] went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many recognized them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, “This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:30-44)

Jesus is in a lonely place with his disciples and five thousand other people. It is in this best place where God overwhelmingly answers Jesus’ prayer through a young boy’s simple gesture of giving away his meal of five loves and two fish.

When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own. In short: then you can care. Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest but let us not forget to once in a while get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place. [2]

“I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.” Henri Nouwen

Receiving more grace in the lonely place indeed becomes the best place.

the best place[1] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 18  |  [2] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 30.

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

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.

Sunday Respite | Here I Am

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Now Moses was tending the flock … and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

Exodus 3:1-4

In the solitude of the wilderness, little did Moses know that today would be the beginning of a new chapter in his life. The burning bush was one of those life-altering events which happens but a few times in a person’s life.

Do we dare to ask God for a “burning bush” life-altering event?  Are you quiet enough to hear him call your name? Perhaps being in the wilderness is a good place to be … stop running away. God is here. God is with us. When you hear God’s voice, answer him, “Here I am.” Be deeply impressed with the holiness of God and live your life as a gift, an offering … embrace this time and place, choose to see what God is showing you. Open your eyes to the possible. Press on.

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Possibility

~Dave Harrity in Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand

Jumping Tandem
Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday

Worthy is the Lamb: A Prayer for Maundy Thursday of Easter Week

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb |A Prayer for Maundy Thursday of Easter Week | 40 Gifts of Lent | Gift 38

Today’s Reading:  Revelation 1 – 7

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  (Revelation 5:11)

Dear Gracious God,

This is my prayer today. To stand in awe of ultimate excellence—to admire Jesus Christ the Son of God—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Time is drawing near. Create in me a clean heart. Help me to believe. You were once dead but now you live forever. I would fall down dead to stand before you and gaze into your holiness, in all of your glory and brightness. Yet you welcome me to your throne and tell me, “Do not be afraid” (Revelation 1:17). I repeat those four words, do not be afraid and I am overcome with worship and praise because you hold me firmly in your tender grasp until the final moments of my life. You have robbed the grave of victory and taken away the sting of death. Please free me from fears to live more fully for the praise of your glory.  

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  (Revelation 5:11)

In your holy and powerful name, I praise and pray.

Worthy is the Lamb 2

About 40 Gifts of Lent 

I am anticipating the arrival of Easter and celebrating the most amazingly good gift I’ve ever received. I want to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. To continue reading, please go here: 40 Gifts of Lent

#LentChallenge

 

Remembering him in my prayers

Remembering him in my prayers

Remembering him in my prayers | 40 Gifts of Lent | Gift 29

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 1 – end

Remembering you in my prayers…I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened… Ephesians 1:15 – 23 (NIV)

Fast and furious, he maneuvers the skate board down the steep hill. The thrill of speed and wind and conquering the downhill ride is all that matters. He can do it! And he does this well…for days and weeks and months the adrenaline pulses with each victory. There is no fear of danger, just the triumph of victory over that hill.

And then one day, he crashes.

It’s the simple things that become the biggest thing that bends the knee. A deep cut, a nasty scrape to the head, a broken bone. The physical trauma becomes our spiritual cause to pray. And our prayers are fervent and relentless for his physical healing.

Years pass and he becomes a man baring those scars deep on his skin from the adventures that sent his parents to their knees. He is now a man, maturing through the resilience of pressing on, for he has been faced with much more than physical brokenness.

And then one day he crashes.

It’s the complex things that become the biggest thing that bend the knees to pray. His spiritual trauma becomes our cause to pray. Our prayers are fervent and relentless for a true vibrant grace-giving healing in his life.

The gift is answered through our prayers: “Father, grant him a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of yourself. Please, don’t leave him to himself. Help him to feel awe and trembling and sense your beauty and sweetness and glory. Have mercy and by your Spirit awaken in him a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that when he reads or hears your wisdom and your words he will have ears to hear and eyes to see the wonder of it.”

This is a prayer that keeps on praying and keeps on seeing God answer. Through the storms and through the fray he is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ better and better.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better... Ephesians 1:15 – 23 (NIV) 

Prayers for him

[1] An adapted prayer for my family from, Desiring God |  Be Constant in Prayer for the Joy of Hope

About 40 Gifts of Lent 

I am anticipating the arrival of Easter and celebrating the most amazingly good gift I’ve ever received. I want to focus my heart on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. To continue reading, please go here: 40 Gifts of Lent

#LentChallenge

Three Things to Do When the Pain Won’t Quit

Romans 12:12

Three Things to Do When the Pain Won’t Quit

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 (NIV)

I once wrote about the rough edges of a smooth life. I remember a chaotic and exhausted feeling from fighting a never-ending bout of nerve pain. I had to make an active choice to be joyful because choosing to be joyful while enduring serious pain is not a natural tendency for any of us. It was not easy to do. It required a lot of perseverance and clinging to hope. Not just the hope that this would end “right now!” but a deeper hope that all of this painful mess was designed for a greater good.

The more I focused on finding joy outside of myself and focusing on the presence of God, hope became a vibrant reality. This new-found hope is strengthening my patience to endure a little longer. One day at time…just a little longer, to be patient with this interruption in life named affliction.

So two of the things to do when the pain won’t stop is to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction. The third is to be faithful in prayer.

I’m not joyful and I’m not patient unless I am faithful in prayer. I don’t want to settle for mere relief when God is offering all of himself. It’s because of this relentless discomfort that I am praying more. Not just praying for myself but for family, friends, for people I haven’t met yet, for the city I live in, for the church where I worship and serve, and for the community of relationships I have across the world serving in Haiti, Togo, Mexico, the Ukraine, Thailand, the Philippines, Belarus, Indonesia, Uganda…I know there are more. This is becoming a worship experience during the very early hours of morning when the sky is still dark and everyone else is sleeping.

Three things to do…and all three are gifts from God, comforting us in our heart-of-hearts, giving us much more than better circumstances.

Be joyful in hope
Be patient in affliction
Be faithful in prayer

Romans 12:12 2

Always Awake and Always Keeping: God Works for You

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:1–3)

Do you need help? I do. Where do you look for help?

Today, I was reminded again that God is the mighty creator over all of our problems. How thankful I am that He never sleeps. God is a tireless worker. He works around the clock to keep our feet from stumbling. God is eager to help and is looking for work to do on our behalf.  “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is whole toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9) [1]

Whatever hardship we are facing, it is not a surprise for God, however much it may have hijacked us. For the Lord is our keeper. He will keep our life. He will keep our going and our coming in this day and forevermore. I am amazed that God is working for us!

God loves to show his tireless power and wisdom and goodness by working for people who trust him. And why shouldn’t we trust him? He is the unsleeping ever-keeping God.

Mountains and hills

[1] God Works for You, Daily Devotions by John Piper, May 21