Monday, January 30, 2012
There she was discouraged and reduced to tears. Her lips were moving but nothing was heard by the man standing near. He assumed she must have come into the tabernacle drunk with wine. Having enough he demanded that she must have been drinking and to throw away her wine.
“Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring my heart out to the LORD.” 1 Samuel 1:15 NLT
Hannah had plenty of reasons to wallow in gloom. Unable to bear children and her husband’s other wife was taunting her. She shared some of her sadness with her husband but she knew only God could truly hear her pleas. She got up from the dinner table and found a quiet place in the Tabernacle to begin spilling out everything within her that breathes.
Have you ever had a day like that? A day where it seemed you could do no right? A day when everything was falling apart? Have you ever felt like you needed to spill out everything to God?
The definition of prayer is a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession. It is simply talking things out honestly with God or maybe even writing them down.
I confess that I have found that at times my prayers have been a list...a list of wants, needs, hurry up and do type things. But when I pray, when I really pour myself out to God I learn that He is listening and planning out to lift me up.
Recently I was having one of those days. Discouragement was my shadow that day and it didn’t seem to be moving away anytime soon. I finally got to the point that I spilled it all out to God then said, “Please God can I have something to know that you really love me today?” Not only did He show me once but three times within the hour that He loved me. I know had I not spilled out everything within me that I would most likely not have been looking for His love. Although I was still facing the same things He lifted me out of the discouraging moments.
So have you spilled your very being to God? He has a big shoulder and can handle it. He’ll be there listening. I promise!
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The little booklet sat there for some time on the kitchen island. It had arrived in the mail one day packaged with catalogs of resource and study items. A little booklet that caught my eye, not enough to read immediately and not enough to throw away either. So there it sat receiving glances each time I passed by.
Finally I decided it was either time to read it or throw it in the trash so I snatch it up and sat down to see what this was all about. That was when my mind and heart received a challenge.
This little booklet opened with the Talmud Jewish literature story of a man. An eccentric sage that lived during the time line spread during the silent period between the Old and New Testaments. A man named Honi.
Legend has it that during a great drought Honi went out into the village and drew a circle in the sand. He then stepped into the circle and began praying stating the he would not leave the circle until God sent rain. As his prayers continued God sent a light sprinkle of rain and the people danced with joy but Honi said to God, “This is not what I am praying for.” God then sent a torrential rain, people ran to their shelter but yet again Honi prayed, “God this is not what I am praying for and will not leave this circle.” At that time a nice steady rain was provided by God and Honi stood and left the circle.
Upon reading this little booklet named “Be a Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson I really began to think about prayers. Although this is not a Biblical example we do find many times is scripture where a bold prayer was lifted up to Elohim The God of all gods. My favorite example is in the Book of Joshua in chapter 10. When facing an overwhelming number of enemies Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people asking God to let the sun stand still. So the sun stood still upon God’s command and victory was theirs.
How do we now put these two accounts together and infuse them into our lives? Can we do that? Is that something from Biblical times to never be repeated again? My God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow so what stops us from praying with boldness?
Although on the day the sun stood still Joshua didn’t draw a circle but what about Jericho? He did seek the Lord and the Lord told him to lead the people to walk in a circle around to walls. Maybe this is not an actual drawing of a circle but a showing of persistence and consistant calling upon the Lord in faith. Not a praying once then tucking our heads and not mentioning it again. Maybe we are to cover every side of that dream, diagnosis, fear, situation, etc. with prayer. Maybe as we circle that thing we will begin to see it more through God’s eye and learn more of how to pray in a way that lines up with God.
Thoughts on prayer are flooding my mind. I want to dig into prayer a little more in the next few post or however long God leads. Questions fill me and I know God’s Word has much insight and answers. Questions like when does bold become bossy? God is not our puppet so what does His Word say about how we approach Him and pray.
Hopefully my post will come more often than every Monday because of this topic. (Or as in this case Tuesday. Please forgive me on my tardiness) I do hope you will join me in the conversation and let’s grow together as we seek a prayer life that pleases the One to which we pray.
1 John 5:14 “and we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.”
Let’s learn what that means!
Monday, January 16, 2012
There I was, standing in the closet looking for something to wear. Oh I am such a creature of habit by grabbing the clothes that are hanging right in front therefore causing me to wear the same old thing time and time again. “Not today.” I determined. I moved further to the back of the closet and started rummaging through items that not seen the outside world in a while. As I sorted through long forgotten (as in out of sight out of mind) garments my hands fell on a piece of fabric that almost made me laugh and cry at the same time. Wrapping my fingers around the hanger and I pulled out a dress that I have kept for too many years. The blue suit I now held before me was the dress I wore away from my wedding reception. The corners of my mouth lifted upward and my eyes brightened as I remembered the day this dress was first worn. As the memories slowly passed through my thoughts I shook my head and questioned…”why had I kept this thing hanging around for so many years?” My husband and I just last month celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I had worn the dress several times those next few years but now it just hangs there. Yes for 25 years, hanging in my closet. Can you say antique?
Oh, I have cleaned out my closet many times over the years but time and time again I would hang this dress back into the recesses of the dark abyss. Each time making excuses why to not discard it. Can you just imagine my reasoning?
“I will wear this again. One day I’ll be back to that size.”
“I will regret if I get rid of it, of course it will come back in style.”
“I’ve had it this long, would it be bad luck to discard it now?”
Crazy thoughts I know but hey you never know when you will need that exact style. Maybe for 80’s dress up day? LOL
Why can’t I let go of it? I have found that it’s not just sentimental dresses or other material things that are hard to let go but some action and emotions as well. Why are there things we simply just hang on and on to? Whether it is something that is weighing us down keeping us from moving quickly to where God wants us or an emotion caused by a hurt inflicted on us. Why do we find it hard to release that which is either old, no longer of use or that which is being a hindrance to our lives? Letting it wrap us in tightly in strips of bondage keeping us from freedom.
Unfortunately we (I) often keep those feelings around just like that old dress of mine. Finding reasons to hang on and not let go. Often justifying why need to keep those things, thoughts and feelings around. Maybe it is better called just like it is…being stubborn or holding a grudge. We’ve gotten a little comfortable having it around.
We may rationalize in our thoughts…
“It doesn’t hurt having that in my life because it has always been “by my side”. I might not have the same life if I remove it.”
“I am going to keep this in my little thought book and remind them of how they hurt me.”
“If I let that go surely I will need it again.”
“It is too soon to let this go. They’ll have to apologize first.”
“I might need that to recall if this ever comes up again.”
“I don’t think I can live without it.”
We can even get to the place when we know we must let go but have no idea how.
I have learned over my years that some things have come into my life or happened that have been easy to let go. I was quickly able to let the waters wash it away never to be seen again. That is such a great feeling and comfort!
However there have also been times where the hurt is so deep, the betrayal so harsh, the pain so severe or the safety of it being there has caused letting go very difficult.
So how do we learn to let go? How do we let the waters wash un-needed things away so we can live with a peaceful and even forgiving heart?
Sadly I, and maybe you, have been at this juncture very recently. I know God wants me to let it go into His strong and ready hands. He wants to wash it away from my battered soul or relieve me from the weight that is dragging me down. But I am often the one hesitating in letting this happen.
I get angry as to why that person who hurt me doesn’t have to admit their wrong. Or confused how they can walk around me with smiles on their face like they didn’t filet me open and leave me gaping with wounds?
Standing confused as to how and why God calls me even requires me, to let it go into His hands.
God is teaching me that it is only when I take my hands that are cupped, holding this hurt or object then place them over His open hands letting it flow out of my hands into His can I truly let it go.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” And in Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
Cast means to roll it over, to place all that weight on something else. Isn’t that just like Jesus, wanting the weight of that hurt or object to be placed on Him instead of us?
As we release that which is in our hands into His He will keep us from falling, falling from the weigh that we are trying to bear on our own. But, there is one thing we must remember. Nowhere after these verses does it say, “To let Him have them just for the moment or just for the day.” It never tells us to hang them back in the closet for future use because we might need them again.
I don’t know about you but this is probably the hardest thing for me. To let it go. To let that which is entangling me and hurting me fall into His hands and let Him wash it away. I am learning to ask God, “What does that look like to let it go? Please teach me how. Help me to let you wash it away.”
Some days are easier than others. Some days I have to repent from wanting to take it back but I believe that since I am asking God to show me how to do this He will be faithful in teaching me! For a life unhindered by burdens and hurts is something He wants for all of us.
Oh Father, teach me to let it go!
Monday, January 9, 2012
There was an electric buzz around the main conference room that night. “Aren’t you excited about the speaker tonight?” “Have you read her book?” “I can’t wait to hear from her. That book changed my life.”
My friend turned to me and asked me straight on if I had read this book everyone was chattering about. My reply was a simple “No” and a slight shrug. I had seen the book advertised in Christian book catalogs so I was vaguely familiar with the title but in the recesses of my thoughts I could not convince myself to pick up this book, “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann VosKamp. I really didn’t have time to read through 1000 things that someone listed as gifts they had received.
The chatter simmered to a low as the evening speaker was introduced. I admit, since there was so much hub-bub, I was intrigued to learn more about this author. She took the stage in a way that drew me. She didn’t command the audience with exuberant over confidence but rather with humility…she didn’t even have her talk memorized. She scanned her iPod with hair falling into her face but the words she shared captured me.
As Ann began relating her journey of counting 1000 gifts she recalled the story of the birth of her daughter and the first words the doctor said. In the delivery room, before he announced whether it was a girl or a boy, he said, “Look at her hands.” The hands of this little bundle of joy were clenched shut. Hands, balled into a fist tightly keeping out this new world.
At this point Ann began to relate this to us sitting around tables intently listening to her breathing out the words God had given. She stated that so many of us go through life with closed fist. Tightly held fist that are closed to the world around us and to the blessings of God. Sometimes even unaware of what we were doing.
Her talk covered many more meaningful topics that weaved back to that first point, a point that resonated within me. I clearly saw how I was a clenched fisted woman.
Over the next few days, even weeks, I began to notice my hands and their natural tendency to curl to close. How many times had I stood with my fist balled up without even realizing their action? There were even times when I held my fist so tight that my nails imprinted their names on my palms. How, when hanging loosely by my side, the ends of my fingers would slightly roll inward toward my palms. Even when offering my hands in praise to the Lord, with palms up my fingertips would curl inward not allowing my open hands to be fully exposed to anyone, not even the Lord.
Fully or partially clenched fist had become a norm without me even noticing. Could this be an outward reflection of an inward situation? Was I outwardly expressing unbelief or fear that resided in my heart? Was I revealing unbelief or fear that I might not be worthy of the full blessing? What was causing me to live clenched from this world and God’s blessings?
As we were getting ready to step into 2012, many were placing challenges out to find a verse, picture or a word to label your 2012. The first word that popped into my mind was UNCLENCHED.
I want to learn to live with my hands fully open to all that God has in store for me. I no longer want my closed or slightly closed hands to be a hindrance deflecting the blessings He is trying to pour into them. I want my hands to be fully open in order to take His hand.
I want an open fist to be my new norm.
What about you? Do you find your hands closed in a fist? Are you willing to be open fisted and unclenched before God and this world?
This is my prayer and desire for 2012. For both of us!
Out of the Shadows….Unclenched!
Sunday, January 1, 2012
The year of 2011 was an interesting year for us to say the least. My family experienced joyful times, quiet times, trying times, times of sorrow and heartache. We walked a road that we never thought we would traverse and since have been learning how to heal.
Several years ago, God led me through a time teaching me trust. Not in trusting myself or others but trusting in Him alone. Trust is that reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety of a person or thing. He was leading me to have confidence in Him and put my reliance on Him. Oh how frustrated I got when that topic was always being taught or talked about. I did not want to hear those words again and even wanted to avoid a conference for women because I “knew” the topic would be on that word. In my mind I threatened to throw marshmallows at the speaker if she brought it up. Yes she did and no, I didn’t but I did giggle when it happened.
Surely I had trusting God down since I had given my heart to him. Surely I did, right? Not so much. God knew what was coming my way and knew I had to fully trust Him to carry me through. I would not be able to rely on family, friends, or other Christian acquaintances to scoop me up and carry me across the valley. Oh I wanted them too! I looked for them too! I even wrongly, expected them too! I placed a burden on their shoulders without even letting them know. I got confused, hurt and even got to the point of understanding why people walk away from the local fellowship of the church. I realized how much we can hurt each other more deeply when we don’t fully understand what has taken place. Through this experience I am learning even more what it means to encourage those that are hurting and not push them down further but instead walk with them on this journey to freedom.
At the beginning of 2011, God placed a verse before me to memorize. I never knew how many times throughout the year I would recall Psalms 65:11 “You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Through this trying year I learned to rest on God’s integrity, His Strength and His ability. I can look back on the paths we walked in 2011 and although I remember the pain of each step I can now see the overflow of abundance. Without my feet sounding like a thud on those hardened pathways some of the great things that are occurring now might have been slower in happening or might not have happened at all. With God’s grace and peace I can now be thankful for the paths we walked this past year.
Now as I look forward to 2012 I don’t have a clue what paths I will walk down but I do it expectantly.
Just today I read 1 Peter 1:3-9:
I guess the part that really caught my eye was “now we live with great expectation.” What a way to look at the calendar of 2012! With great expectations!
According to Dictionary.com, Expectations is the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.
Excitedly I began to think about what I might be expecting in this new year and came up with a list. So here are a few of my expectations.
To live unclenched. (I’ll explain this in another post)
To let joy overflow.
To get my fingers and toes dirty by digging into the WORD more.
To follow a dream that I have let slip by the wayside.
To live up to my inheritance.
2011 almost zapped me but I am determined to not look back over that year with heartache but rather to glance back and see the overflowing abundance that God gave to me. Now I know that I can be truly glad for there is wonderful joy ahead and it is more precious that gold.
So what are you looking forward to, anticipating in 2012?
Out of the Shadows,