I am working on a post about praying and listening to a speaker on ISN (the It’s Supernatural Network) talk about the Lord’s Prayer. During the talk, he talked about an old principle he called ‘the prayer tree,’ so I googled it. What I found follows. I hope it encourages you.
Older co-worker to younger co-worker: I bet you don’t even know what Fantasy Island is!
Younger co-worker: Nope.
Me to younger co-worker: You know that movie coming out where they put on the glasses and can go anywhere? Well, before gaming we had TV and Fantasy Island.
Younger co-worker: Thank you for making it relatable.
Dear Family and Friends,
It is with a temporarily heavy heart and an abiding gratitude that I write this year’s Christmas letter. As some of you know and others suspect, Mom is suffering from dementia. While we have known since at least September 2016, we have respected Mom’s wishes and not spoken of it. We are now beyond that point, except to not mention it to her.
To say that God is good is to grossly understate His care of Mom and her daughters during this journey. From the beginning we have seen God’s Hand guiding us through treacherous waters. From the initial incident last September that brought us together to ‘make a plan’ to Mom’s fall in February that proved our plan was God’s plan to the smallest and craziest details being under His control, it has been an amazing journey. And throughout all of it, Mom has continued to be a godly example to me.
Several years back God walked Mom through a journey of forgiveness that laid the foundation for her peace now. Even though she feels I am constantly taking her things, etc., she forgives me and moves on. This has allowed her to have much joy in this troubled journey. Also, she has gone to prayer even more quickly than before, and it has blessed so many people. She is truly sweeter now than I have ever known her to be (and she has always been sweet).
So as her dementia is more pronounced and she moves between not knowing how to eat to playing spider solitaire on her computer - how does the brain yo-yo between confusion and clarity like that - we are privileged to walk this journey with her, knowing we are all held in the loving hands of God.
I would like to say how much we have appreciated all of the family and friends who were able to spend time with us this year. We are so grateful for the love you have given us. And we treasure all our friendships and long to see you all again someday soon (so please keep visiting).
When Mom heard about Irma, she wanted to pray for protection. I always say yes when she wants to pray, so we did. As I was praying, I got the sense of angels blowing and prayed that God would send angels, like the ones that blew open the Red Sea, to blow the hurricane into the ocean. Well, that isn't exactly what happened, but only because of my addition.
On the phone the following Wednesday night, my sister told me about what happened in the area where our other sisters own homes. The hurricane was supposed to destroy all the homes on the island where they live and there was supposed to be very large swells that would cover their area. Instead the hurricane didn't touch their area and a wind came behind the eye and blew all the water away, so you could barely see the ocean from the coastline. It was as if she was speaking my words back to me.
When I told her my prayer and what I saw/felt, she said that after the hurricane passed her home, the rain stopped because of the wind that came behind it. Normally there is a lot of rain that falls after a hurricane and that there wasn't is the only reason her home, and so many others, didn't sustain heavy damages.
Later she noted it was just like Amos, God doesn't do anything without telling His prophets first. How cool is that!
In the book, The Weigh Down Workshop by Gwen Shamblin, she talks about how thin people and heavy people define being full differently. When a skinny person is eating, they’re eating to satisfy hunger but they only eat to a point of not being hungry anymore. This is not usually the case for heavier individuals. If you are eating slowly and you stop when you're no longer hungry, the food that you've eaten that hasn't made it to your stomach yet will get you to a point of being full, while eating beyond that point means that even though your stomach is ready to be done there is still more food coming.
So what does dieting have to do with redefining repentance? The answer is that when we appropriately define our actions and motivations, it's easier for us to understand our need to repent and then to make the change that is a crucial part of repentance. When God talks about repentance in the Bible, He's talking about us adopting His view of a given activity, whether that is actually seeing the reasons for that activity or simply trusting God to know what is best, and then completely stopping that activity.
Consider how God feels about marriage and divorce. When God established marriage, He did it because we need community, we need partners, we need to put others above ourselves. Also, families are essential to raising healthy children. God established marriage because He wants us to have an understanding of the relationship He wants to have with us. God wants to be intimate with us. He wants to be so close that He is our top priority, our first thought. And He wants us to be confident that He loves us and that He will always love us.
When we allow divorce, when we allow personal desires and conflicts to build up and tear us apart, we are hurting ourselves, we are hurting everyone around us, especially our partner, and we are making what was meant to symbolize God's love for us a lie. So God wants us to hate divorce as much as He does because it's just wicked.
Does that mean that I think there is never a time for divorce? No. We live in a fallen world, and we are fallen people, and there will be times when divorce is the only option. But whether or not we destroy what God created for beauty doesn’t mean that what God created can’t be beautiful. We just need to turn our thoughts and hearts to God. And that happens through repentance.
So the next time you think about apologizing to God for something you know you shouldn't have done, followed by another empty promise to never do it again, think about how you’re looking at what you did. If you start to see your actions from God’s perspective, maybe you’ll find that what you did doesn’t look so attractive to you anymore and repentance won't be such an empty activity after all.
Psalms 103:17-18 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
17 But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children--18 To such as keep His covenant [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it] and to those who [earnestly] remember His commandments to do them [imprinting them on their hearts].
If you don't understand grace you will never understand rest (Heb. 3:7, 11, 18; 4:1, 3-5, 8-11; 6:6; 13:19) because it is only through grace that you can stop fearing death (Heb. 2:14-15) and stop striving in your own works (Heb. 4:10).
The book of Hebrews which is seen as so harsh by so many – Martin Luther even wanted it removed from the cannon – is all about grace. The problem with our understanding of the book of Hebrews, and what causes it to be so harsh, is that it lacks the one-step-back theology* that we love. I do believe this is on purpose because of its intended audience. An analogy might be drug usage. When parents talk to their children about drugs, they talk to them about the dangers, the consequences and worst-case scenarios. Parents tell their children how a single use of drugs can kill them or cause them to be hooked for life. They tell them about how many lives have been destroyed, and omit the possibility of it being anything else. So it is with Hebrews.
Hebrews is a letter written to a church under attack. It was not the frontal attack of the government, capturing and killing them, but the insidious attack of the Sadducees and Pharisees, driving them out of the temple by including phrases in the daily prayer that made Christians curse themselves if they participated, and other such changes to their religious practices.
Unlike Americans, the Jews of this era, and possibly all eras, saw themselves in relationship to the community. They would not have believed that participating in all of the prayer except that portion that cursed them would be acceptable. Standing in the temple during the prayer would be the same as saying and agreeing with that prayer. Not just part of the prayer, but all of the prayer. So the book of Hebrews was written to a group that was choosing whether or not to follow Jesus or to turn back to the old ways.
The choice being made was not a simple one. It was like the drug analogy where once the choice was made the consequences were inevitable. The author purposely left out the one-step-back theology just like parents leave out the possibility of not having major negative consequences for drug usage.
Understanding that Hebrews is not negating one-step-back theology but rather highlighting the severity of the circumstances that the readers were in allows us to see what the author was trying to point out which was the supremacy of Christ, the value of our salvation and the need to stand firm.
Our ability to stand firm is all because of grace by which we enter God's rest.
*The belief that taking one step toward God, through the acts of confession and repentance restores your right standing before God.
A few days ago, my radio station hosts were talking about a new fashion faux pas list that says we should not wear jeans after age 53. I have several thoughts about this.
First, we can wear anything we have the body style and chutzpah to wear. If you've got great style, you can carry off quite a bit that the pundits might say is inappropriate. I do not have great style, so I just wear what's comfortable, and will continue to do so, regardless of the list makers.
Second, I watch TV shows where they talk about people in their 50s and show tottering senior men and women. While we may not be living longer, we are looking better than they did a decade or three ago. Old age is not what it used to be for many of us. Of course, the current list was written by people today, but probably not by people in their 50s.
Third, I remember reading about how older people weren't supposed to wear bright colors. I was a teen at the time, and the story was about someone who challenged that rule and was considered odd. I am so very grateful that people have been challenging these silly rules for decades.
Recently I was walking into Walmart and saw a gentleman who had to be in his 60s wearing a very sharp skater outfit from the 80s that would have embarrassed any 12-year-old today but was probably all the rage when he was young. At first, I thought he looked ridiculous, and he should grow up. But then I was grateful that he had the liberty to wear what he liked and thought 'You go for it, dude.'
St. Augustine said, “In essential issues, unity; in non-essential issues, liberty; in all issues, charity.” I'm grateful we live in a time where there is so much personal freedom, but, sadly, in a time where that freedom has taken us down a path away from God. Are we more free? Are we truly better off for having abandoned the moral safeguards of years past? I don't believe so, and I'm trying to get back to standards that reflect the God I love versus the personal comforts I enjoy. The Bible points out, quite accurately, that we can't serve two masters. I want my master to be God, regardless of the cost. The reason I want this is that I know He is a loving and good God and the good He wants for me is far better than anything I chase after myself. In essence, my priority is to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and everything else inevitably falls into place.
The last couple of weeks have been interesting, to say the least. Along with the normal autumn increase in activities, my five-person department is dealing with a boss who has a mysterious and very painful illness that doctors can't identify, a database conversion, our busiest time of year of renewing our members, the key person for the database conversion and renewal process resigning, and now our support person resigning. As you might imagine, I've been a little stressed, but it's been a really good time, too. All four of my sisters have been in town, one of my sisters will be staying with us 4 times in a 32 day window, I'm tutoring 2 individuals in English for a little over an hour (each individual) each week, and Mom keeps me on my toes. The best part of this last couple of weeks has been watching the changes God has made in me that have allowed me to handle it. From telling my boss I will step up to getting the first portion of the renewal process finished on the given timetable by making a great team with my coworker to cheerfully creating a document that answered another supervisor's plea and got her to send a thank you to my boss, God has given me strength and peace that I was not expecting. I, like every other Christian, have God's grace at work in my life, but it's amazing what a difference it makes when I truly understand, or at least am beginning to understand, what that means.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (KJV)
While familiar, these scriptures have never been my friends. I wondered why anyone would ask God to show them more things that are wrong with them. Don’t we already know about more than we can handle? But recently my perspective has shifted. (My sister, whose devotional has been of such great benefit to me, called it ‘moving from guilt to grace.’) What if these verses are not about giving God an opportunity to point out my flaws? What if these verses are asking God to go into my hidden places? What if these verses are asking God to work on areas that I can't work on myself?
During the time, or possibly even before, I have been meditating on these verses, God has been bringing before me Philippians 4:6, which says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” (NKJV). It started with a Wednesday discussion by the pastor's wife, continued when it was my prayer card at a Bible study a few weeks later, and most recently was part of the Sunday sermon on being fearless. When I mentioned both of these Scriptures, Psalms 139:23-24 and Philippians 4:6, to another sister, she mentioned how one of the translations of the Psalms scripture includes the words for God to seek out 'my anxious thoughts.' Isn't it just like God to tie things together!
My website host is very good, but not perfect. Periodically it will post or not post things differently from what I have set up. (A post I had pushed out to September got posted in July; a post from June is missing, etc.) Since I have determined that the various host site glitches are God's way of telling me things, like 'Don't post that.' I am (happily) letting all of these glitchy posts be, and, specifically, I'm not reposting my June post.
While I'm not concerned about what I wrote, the June post bordered on a type of post that God has been steering me away from, which I find rather fun. I find it fun because it’s really cool that God is directly influencing what I share, fun that I can learn what I should and shouldn’t be posting, and fun that I can change what I’m writing in response to God’s direction for me. While I am curious as to how these changes relate to my spiritual gifting, I’m grateful that they directly relate to growing in how I share Christ.
If you're curious, I feel God limiting my blogs to subjects and examples that directly relate to me. The posts that haven’t made it onto the website are either using others as examples or using examples, like marriage, with which I have no personal experience. The June post that is missing is about the death of Prince and what others wrote about his life. Since this post directly relates to my spiritual gifting, it seemed appropriate, and I feel I was respectful in the way I wrote it. Only God’s use of the removal from the website makes me think that this is not an appropriate blog, at least not right now. It's possible I just need to wait a while before I post another like it, as another post He had prevented me from posting twice, He released me to use when it bumped the scheduled post.
I’d be interested to hear about ‘unusual’ ways God has spoken to you. (Ways I consider 'usual' are through reading the Bible, an inner voice and through other Christians, although there are times even these seem unusual.)
Hello and welcome to my website. I hope you enjoy and let me know if you have any suggestions.
Have a blessed day.