One of those where you’re praying hard, and yet, at every turn, you’re not sure God is on the same page…or you, with Him.
On happy, normalish, carefreeish weeks, we skip along, through time in the Word, time in prayer, time with friends and family. Even time at work and play. God’s got this, right?
Then there are weeks like this…no end in sight on some struggles. It is easy to wonder if we have lost favor with our heavenly Father. It’s way too easy to cry out to God, like the prophet Habakkuk did:
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? – Habakkuk 1:2a
I am so grateful to God that even His “little faith” children are beloved. He is a good, good Father. That isn’t just some praise song embedded in my brain. That is what I’ve come to know through decades of following Him…ever how imperfectly.
The Holy Scripture also reveals His character and the journey of His children over and over. We can know and anticipate that there will be weeks like this…even years like this for some…through His Word.
What else we can know is that God is present in all of this. We also know that, as frail humanity, we cannot possibly know or see or explain the thinking or activity of God. His ways are not our ways.
Trust comes to play in weeks like mine. Truthfully, it comes with wrestling before the Lord in prayer and staying in His Word and the company of His people.
In the brief narrative of Habakkuk, as he struggled in prayer with God, he went from complaining to worshipping.
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.– Habakkuk 3:17-19
This has been a hard week. Most of the situations continue unresolved. God continues quiet to my dull ears. Still…He speaks. In ways that I can hear.
Habakkuk was the topic of reading in my read-through-the-Bible calendar for yesterday. I read through – from the first verse of his cry almost against God to the last verses of his restored peace and joy with God. I read through…and God did the same to my own heart.
Are my circumstances changed today? No. My heart is changed. Even last night, I was recounting, to my mom-in-law, one joyful finding. It was an ultrasound followup on a potential problem for our in utero granddaughter who turns out to be growing and wonderfully healthy after all. And my Godly mom-in-law’s response? “Praise God, another answer to prayer.”
Another answer to prayer…
This morning I am rejoicing in the Lord. Is everything made right? Not yet. Not that I can see…but I know it will be.Photo Credit: Ben Steed, Precept Austin
1) Answered Prayer – This week has been wave after wave of answered prayer…so much so that I’m without words…almost. Many times when we pray, we have to wait…sometimes for years. I have prayers on deposit with the Lord that (at least on this side of life) are still “in waiting” for his perfect timing. We pray on. Then we have the acute occasion when we seek a quick and crucial response. My brother spent a night this week in ICU because of a hard fall to concrete. How grateful I am for people who stand “in the gap” for each other in prayer, no matter the time of day, or whatever is going on in their own lives. For hours we prayed and waited for news that he would recover…and tonight he sleeps in his own bed at home. Just. Like. That. Photo Credit: Pixabay
Answered prayer does not always turn out the way we want. When our mom got cancer, we all prayed she would be healed. Her prayer, through the three years of fighting that dreadful disease, was a constant “for His glory”…only. Her prayer was answered in the positive, countless times. Our prayer was answered with healing in Heaven. Still, we praise God with all our hearts for how we saw Him draw near to her in the hard places. Her tender communion with God in those days was the sweetest I had ever seen in her life.
What might we see altered in this world, were it not for our prayerlessness. This week, because of my brother and othersacred turns of events, I am again reminded of great and present value of prayer. Not just in what we secure from God’s hands…but the journey with God Himself.
2) Avengers on Classical Guitar – I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my summer film list. Like with other arrangements of Beyond the Guitar, I look forward to hearing this now familiar melody rise and fall in the background of the film itself. Since Nathan’s Fortnite Dances video debuted, his viewership and YouTube subscriptions have taken off. Become a subscriber or Patreon supporter to be a part of the team that guarantees we see more and more of this young classical guitarist’s creative work. His arrangement for Avengers follows:
3)Financial Security – Sociologist and elder rights advocate Dr. Brenda K. Uekert has written a fascinating piece on losing her job in her 50s and the financial safety net that got her through that time. Take the time to read her story, but here are her 6 safeguards to consider in our own financial journey.
Pay off your mortgage.
Max out retirement contributions.
Max out accumulated leave.
Be wary of dabbling in individual stocks.
Shore up your taxable accounts.
Be careful in your spending, in general.
The simplicity of this is its own brilliance. Thank you, Dr. Uekert.
4) Community – I write about community often. It’s hard for me to imagine maneuvering through this life without the constancy and care of community. For the last couple of weeks, some of us have been briefly in the life of a homeless woman who, it turns out, was just passing through Richmond. Her story had the sad markings of one who had either lost community from no fault of her own or had burned bridges with community across the years. She had to reach out to strangers because there seemed to be few else who would or could help. The margin we have to thrive in life, thanks to community, was difficult to even discern for her. I have no idea where she is right now. We did what we felt we could do, hopefully without being a toxic influence in her life…and now she has moved on.
It reminded me, all over again, how thankful I am for real and deep community. I pray that for us all.Community Group, Movement Church
5) Moms – This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day in the US. For some, it is an uneasy day… Not all of us have had loving, nurturing moms. Not all of us have become moms…or not yet anyway. Mothering can also be a painful experience. I think of dear friends who are estranged from some of their children…and other friends who have lost children, either through miscarriage or death.
Mother’s Day can be painful. Even in the pain, celebrating mothers ever how we can is a good thing. None of us would be where we are today were it not for mothering, whether good, bad, or just imperfect.
Today I remember the two women who have had the most impact in my life as mothers, and it is all for good. My mom and Dave’s mom.
As with all of us, through the years, other women have captivated us with their love, their servant hearts, and their wisdom. I celebrate them as well.
My friend Carol Ann Lindley captured the hard and even awful when mothering didn’t happen or go as we had hoped. Read her words:
I am all for celebrating moms…I look forward to celebrating my two miracles every year. I cherish it because I waited so long. I rejoice with my friends who have endured long years of waiting and have the chance to celebrate. I am aware of some who will be missing a mom this year. Mother’s Day is special because motherhood is such a gift.
But don’t forget to look around and remember the ones who ache this Sunday because they hoped that this year would be different. The ones who watch the celebrating and remembering from a distance, hoping to join in next year. I never ever resented the celebration…I just longed for the chance to celebrate the fulfillment of my heart’s desire.
I have had some hard Mother’s Days. I have had the “maybe next year it will be me” Mother’s Days. And I have had the “I’m missing a baby that I lost” Mother’s Day. Today, I am thinking of our 3 little ones who are celebrating with a different Momma. But I am also rejoicing over God’s two miracles that I have the privilege of being Mom to.
No one said Motherhood would be easy. In fact, the journey to Motherhood is hard. The day to day mothering of littles is hard. And I’m sure I will face other hard days in the future. But it is a precious gift from God and I rejoice in it every day.
So, you Moms who are enjoying this Mothers Day. Don’t feel bad. When I was waiting, I never wanted my Mom friends to skip out on Mothers Day. Enjoy and it and give your kids extra kisses. And look around and see who you can hug and encourage. I had those people on those hard days and their acknowledgement of my “hope deferred” made all of the difference.
And you Moms who are waiting for your babies or are missing your babies. I’m with you. I know how you feel. This is a hard day. But I can promise you that God is faithful and will not waste your tears. The desire to be a Mom is a good one and you are not wrong to feel sad today or to feel like a little piece of your heart is missing. If I could hug you, I would. And I am definitely praying for you.
Here’s the verse that pretty much sums up my journey:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
The Friday before Christmas…only children long for this day to come quickly. The rest of us try to balance work and to-do lists with the celebrations and the sweet kindnesses of this season. Sometimes our health doesn’t cooperate as I am fighting a cold writing this. Still, the weekend has arrived and Christmas fast approaches. Here are my faves for this week.
1) Answered Prayer – What an incredible thing that we can cry out to Almighty God, the Creator of all things, and He hears and responds. For several weeks, I’ve been wearing a prayer reminder on my wrist to keep a young woman in my thoughts and on my lips before God. She has been going through an unimaginable trial over many months and it seems only a merciful intervention from a loving God was going to make her situation turn around. Who knows how many people prayed for her….hundreds, for sure. I have never met her, but we were bonded together by her need and a God who calls us to come boldly to His throne…in prayer (Hebrews 4:16). We can’t presume on how God should move in a situation, but we can absolutely trust His wisdom and goodness. Over the last several days, we were able to see a miraculous turn of events…and her situation is redeemed. Does God always act in such a way? No…but He always acts on our behalf…
Any prayer that you have had answered that you could share in Comments below? Anything you continue to wait for God’s intervention? I would be pleased to pray with you.
2) Christmas Cookies – I don’t make Christmas cookies but love that others do. Just this week, we received several from sweet friends and my daughter. They are so cheery. It seems they also taste especially nice with coffee in front of a fire on a cold winter day. Hope you got to sample some this year.
3) Rogue One – On the Christmases when a Star Wars film is released, viewing it as a family has become one of our traditions. Photo Credit: Independent
Rogue One was really good. No spoilers here. It could definitely stand alone but also had several happy reminders of other Star Wars films. It is actually a prequel to one of the films, but I won’t give it away. We still get to look forward to more from LucasFilm to follow the 2015 A Force Awakens.
I love Bill Peel’s article Christmas Truth in Star Wars where he points out the themes of these films: “extreme evil, great good, desperate danger, genuine love, hopeless odds, and costly sacrifice”.
“Star Wars’ heroes are nobodies from nowhere, insignificant and irrelevant individuals as far as the world is concerned. Yet they change history.
Like Star Wars, the key characters in the Christmas story are nonentities: powerless peasants who live far from the halls of influence. A homeless couple with a powerless child born in an obscure village. Yet in fiction and real life, things are not always as they seem. These seemingly rag-tag nobodies are part of a web of cosmic events they cannot understand nor resist and take center stage in God’s kingdom.”
4) Christmas Babies – A friend of mine had her first child this week…and on her birthday. This Christmas baby had a Christmas baby. Babies any time of the year are lovely, but at this time they dress up Christmas cards so beautifully. So darling, right?Photo Credit: Nameberry
Nathan of Beyond the Guitar posted a special Christmas greeting in his rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Enjoy!
5) Unconditional Love – Christmas and the birth of Christ remind us of a love that we don’t deserve and cannot earn. Our parents showed us that kind of love and introduced us to the love of God.
Mom went to be with the Lord 14 years ago, and our Dad is days away from that same Homegoing. So thankful that because of what Christ did for us, we will see them again…and we can one day be face-to-face with the Lover of our souls.
May you have a blessed Christmas, drenched in the joy of the truth of the season…whatever your circumstances currently might be. For those who read this but do not celebrate Christmas, my prayer is that you know the love of Jesus…through those who follow Him…until the day you are personally acquainted with Him.
I look over at their pictures, Sittin’ in their frames. I see them as babies: I guess that’ll never change. You pray all their lives, That someday they will find happiness.
Then they do, and that’s how it is. It’s just quiet in the mornin’, Can’t believe how much you miss, All they do and all they did. You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true: Then they do. – Trace Adkins, Then They Do
We weren’t there for Daniel’s birth. He was half a world away in the care of hospital personnel. His entry into this world was a bit rough and he’s certainly had bumpy bits ever since. Yet, his courage and resilience then and now are part of who he is…this boy, now man.
Today is Daniel’s 26th birthday, and, on this quiet spring morning, he’s out walking with our neighbors. Home for this special weekend, he’s looking forward to Lebanese food for lunch and time with siblings later…more birthday celebration will follow in the days ahead, but for today, he spends it quietly…recovering his heart from a stressful week.
Daniel came home to us 25 years ago from South Korea. With each birthday, I think of his very young Korean mama who carried him but couldn’t keep him. She must mark this day with us every year, so far away. Thank you, Mama, for letting him live…when abortion was an easy and acceptable solution for your situation at that time.
Daniel has had challenges through life, related to his traumatic birth (premature with its various complications). During our adoption process, his case worker (who had visited him in Korea) talked about what a survivor he was…his personality was so winsome and his determination so strong. All growing up, Daniel wrestled with the hard things of his life with that determination and courage…and the love of a powerful God, imperfect parents and siblings with their own challenges. He has known the impact of much answered prayer on the part of his parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. We are so proud of him and how much he has accomplished.
[This blog might be a bit awkward to a man in his “late twenties”, but if Daniel reads this, hopefully he will give grace to a mom who’s trying to find her way as well through this adult relationship of ours.]
Daniel, happy birthday, Son. We are so grateful to God that He brought you home to us. Even as you face what’s before you in the days ahead, we pray for you to have the courage and hope befitting of your age and life experience. You have seen God work in your life to bless you and others through you. You have known success and love…and you always will.
[Sidebar: If you know our Dan, you know he surrounds himself with music. His taste has changed through the years, and I won’t even give a try at identifying his favorite genres right now. It is definitely not country music. Still, in this early morning of his 26th, my heart toward him is in such a tender state, country music is all that will suffice.]
So…I just want to put up pictures and close with Mark Harris’ song Find Your Wings. Happy Birthday, Daniel. Love you forever.
It’s only for a moment
You are mine to hold; The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I’ll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I want to know
You’re walking in the truth
And if I never told you
I want you to know
That as I watch you grow
I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams And that faith gives you the courage To dare to do great things I’m here for you whatever this life brings So let my love give you roots And help you find your wings
May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh but more than memories
I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings
It’s not living
If you don’t reach for the sky
I’ll have tears as you take off
But I’ll cheer as you fly
“May Yahweh answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary & sustain you from Zion. May He remember all your offerings & accept your burnt offering. May He give you what your heart desires & fulfill your whole purpose. Let us shout for joy at your victory & lift the banner in the name of our God. May Yahweh fulfill all your requests.” – Psalm 20:1-4
Have you ever laid awake at night fretting or even despairing over a loved one’s situation or life choices? Have you felt the choking hopelessness not thinking you can do anything to help? God forbid, we deal with a request for prayer as new fodder for gossip, or we just click “Like” on Facebook and never really pray. Never really pray as if all the powers of Heaven might come to bear on a situation if we did. Pray.
A new film by the Kendrick Brothers opened in theaters in the US on August 28, 2015. It’s called War Room with the subtitle Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon. I had the opportunity to see a pre-release screening and it so lifted my heart. It’s a compelling story about a married couple, Tony and Elizabeth Jordan (T. C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer) whose relationship is crumbling by degrees. Ambition, pursuit of pleasure, entitlement, and unforgiveness have dealt mortal wounds to their marriage. Only a miracle would save their marriage.
This glimmer of hope arrives through the friendship of Elizabeth with an elderly woman, known only as Miss Clara. (Karen Abercrombie). This tiny old woman is a serious force of nature…wielding supernatural weapons, in her faith in God. She wages battle daily for those God places in her path. Unbeknownst to them at first, Elizabeth and Tony would soon see the very God of the universe draw near to them in response to His daughter’s cries for help. If you see this film, Miss Clara may remind you of your praying grandmother. So much love. So much power.
The film opens on a war room with military officers pouring over maps and coordinates as they planned strategy for battle. When Miss Clara enters the story, a very different war room is introduced. She prays all the time, out loud and confidently. Yet there are times during each day, she enters her war room – a tiny closet, with a chair and Bible, and notes taped up all over the wall. Those notes were prayer requests and Scripture promises. Complete focus on God and on the ones she was praying hard for…no distractions.
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. –Matthew 6:6
Some situations need excruciatingly intimate business done with God. Prayer requests in a meeting or through social media make a difference also. However, we don’t see answers to prayer sometimes because we think the problem is too great or the situation too far gone. Miss Clara kept her faith…whatever the outcome, this should be our heart toward God. He is able.
When we battle in prayer for those we love, this moves the heart of God. What are you praying your heart out for right now?
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17
What a weekend we’ve had…whew! Over the course of a few days, we’ve seen God answer prayers that have been daily raised to Him for several months. His timing is perfect and I’m reminded of that every time His answers come at what seems, for us, the eleventh hour.
Above my kitchen sink is this small pile of stones. I’ve loved rocks since my childhood trailing around behind a mom who loved rocks. She has moved stones in and around our yard for years, making rock walls and garden paths. We’ve collected stones from around the world, weighing down our bags with precious finds from ocean beaches, mountain trails, forest streams, and rocky deserts. These became stones of remembrance from those trips.
My little pile of rocks has no particular answered prayers attached to the stones. They just remind me, every time I look at them, of the faithfulness of God. It’s not like I always need visual reminders of God because we are surrounded by them. These windowsill sitters do help me to remember His constancy in my life and His care of His people throughout history.
Here…above my kitchen sink…”I raise my Ebenezer*” (from 1 Samuel 7:12) – my stones of remembrance that say, to my heart, “thus far the Lord has helped us.”
You may be waiting for Him to answer a prayer of your own. Don’t let your circumstances blur your vision of God; keep your eyes and heart fixed on Him. Sometime in the days ahead, you will add a “stone” to your heap of gratefulness, as you see Him move…either in the situation, or in you, or both…most probably both.
I leave you with an old hymn written by Robert Robinson who, as a young man, would have destroyed his life, but God had a different plan for him. Robinson wrote beautifully of this faithful, loving God who does not let us go.
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing**
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer*;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.