Faith


Prayer has always seemed like an amazing privelege to me. And this past year even more so as I have really dove in and taken it seriously. In hindsight I’m not sure what changed. It could be that I was going through some sort of spiritual crisis. Or maybe a mid-life crisis? Who knows. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter much as long as my prayer life is growing and going.

Today I spent some time studying passages that illustrate God’s response to prayer. Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord, crying out for healing (Isaiah 38). Peter was miraculously released from prison after the church fervently went to the Lord in prayer (Acts 12). Fellow believers, God has given us an opportunity to bring Him the requests of our heart. We should take this seriously!

So I would like to ask you to pray with me about a few things that are heavy on my heart. Will you join me in prayer? If so, then thank you. God will hear us. And I will wait on Him and trust His answers when they come…

  1. Healing for Jane – Jane is a faithful servant who has plodded away at Dare 2 Share for several years as a program coordinator, writer, editor, and recently content manager. She is a quiet pillar of strength devoted to communication and Truth. Diagnosed with breast cancer awhile ago, Jane took the news like a warrior. Surgery and treatment was going fairly well until a couple of weeks ago when she heard she had signs of uterine cancer. A full hysterectomy was hoped to be the end, but it isn’t. She needs to go through chemo and radiation too.
  2. Recovery for Tina and Emily – good friends of ours, Tony and Kris, headed to Ft. Collins to be with their daughter Tina as she gave birth to new little granddaughter Emily. The pregnancy had been normal, so no complications were anticipated. But a sudden C-section was required and Tina lost a lot of blood. She would require transfusions and has been too weak to even hold little Emily. Emily has problems of her own. What they thought was pneumonia is now looking like some sort of infection – bacterial or viral, doctors don’t yet know. She is in the newborn intensive care unit.
  3. TJ’s health – with TJ taking his last class for his degree we knew we were taking on some risk with him not having any health insurance. For the last few days he’s had a chronic problem that may need some medical attention if it doesn’t start subsiding.
  4. Mom’s health and travel safety – my mom has had numerous health issues, but the last few months has experienced so much weight loss that is alarming. She is down to 120 pounds and counting. I am going with her to her GI specialist next week to try to get some answers. Her and Dad are headed to Vegas for a wedding over the weekend, so I hope she is able to relax and enjoy without being sick.
  5. Ministry provision – The recession has hit many ministries hard and Dare 2 Share is not an exception. God has provided some amazing opportunities this coming week that could siginificantly bless the ministry! Several meetings out-of-state for Greg and some significant follow-up calls along with the submission of a couple of key strategic foundation proposals – pray for favor.
  6. Creative and strategic energy – there are also some pretty important meetings going on this week. We will be working with our program and production team on next year’s tour and new product ideas. We are also going to Colorado Springs on Friday to work with the Dare 2 Share Korea folks. We need an extra dose of creative and strategic energy during this time. We have been functioning in reaction mode for a few months so the shift back up to 30,000 feet will be tough.

Thanks for praying with me this week. I appreciate your fellowship and love. God bless you!

My hubby and I have a routine every Sunday. We get to the coffee shop early in order to sit for an hour or so, sip coffee, listen to our iPods, and read and study. This morning was no different. What was unusual was the violin case we saw sitting on the sidewalk outside. We walked by and then once inside we discussed our concern. Should we pick it up and bring it inside? Maybe someone forgot it? What a strange place to leave a violin!

Rick went out to get it but then returned empty handed. “Where is it?” I asked. But he said that when he opended the case the violin inside was broken to pieces, no longer worth anything. We wondered what this instrument’s story was… maybe a young student got angry because his parents made him practice. In any case, I began to think about how this instrument would never be able to provide music again. How sad…

Sometimes I feel like this violin. Broken and abandoned, no music left in me. But then I remember that the Lord never leaves us and that he is strong when we are weak. We need only to look to Him for refreshment and guidance. He will repair our broken strings. Matthew 11:28-30 says,

…Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your soulds. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

I know that Jesus does not promise an easy road but an easier load with His burden than with mine. I also know that he promises to be with me along the way. He is teaching me while providing love and rest. I am so thankful for His faithfulness!

Do you remember those words? If you’re like me, you heard them time and time again from mom and dad as they followed up your inquisitive “why?” At first I didn’t question them further. I just accepted the fact that they were the parents and that was enough. But as I grew older, “because I said so” just wasn’t good enough to motivate me to do anything anymore.

So now, as an adult, I am learning how to respond to this phrase all over again. This time from my heavenly father. Even though obedience is still something that I am working on, I had an experience a bit ago that brought this familiar phrase to mind once again.

After intense prayer and planning, our executive team knew we had to cut 4 staff positions. We prayed through the timing and put together a plan to move forward on Monday, January 5th. None of us wanted to do it. But the leadership team had already cut 600k from their budgets the first half of the year and we knew that even if we continued to cut expenses at that rate it still wouldn’t be enough.

That morning we met offsite one more time to pray… and as I got into my car to head into the office my conversation with God went something like this…

Lord, why are you making me do this? You know I would rather cut off my right arm then face these wonderful, committed team members and deliver this life-altering news. I do not want to do this. Please give me an excuse to turn this car around. Why me, Lord? Why us?

Simply put, this is the response I heard in my heart…

Because I said so.

And it was tough. So tough it has taken me weeks to even post this blog. I still wish I could have changed things. I still wish I didn’t have to deliver the news to my colleagues. But as difficult as it was, I have learned a lot in the days and weeks since then – that I need to stay really close to my Father during good times and bad. There is no replacement for spending time with Him and in His Word.

He speaks to me through His Word and through His Spirit – I just need to take time to listen. So I’m trying to create some space in my life to hear Him – just Him. Pray that I can find it.

A short time ago I decided that I needed to really nail down God’s purpose for me. I think the final motivational straw came as my small group was going through Gospel Journey Maui and we found ourselves, a group of mostly middle(+)-aged folks discussing our purpose in life (or lack thereof).  Interestingly, many of these folks were still searching too – even though most of them had already lived a half of a century!

Not coincidently, I ran across a book that had been sitting on my bookshelf. I have no idea when I got. I have no idea where I got it. But boy was it an answer to prayer!

So I dug in to Max Lucado’s The Cure for the Common Life. Lucado does a great job referencing plenty of Scripture and I like his simple writing style. So far I have taken the time to be sure to look up the verses and read the notes in my study Bible too. This isn’t the most efficient way to get through the book, but I like the rhythm and it has allowed me some great study time.

Today I was reading about why/how we should “applaud God loud and often.” Lucado referenced David’s prayer of praise in 1 Chronicles 29. It’s beautiful. But I couldn’t help going back to chapter 28 and diving into the whole story.

David was basically getting ready to hand over his crown to Soloman. In chapter 28 he makes the announcement in front of a crowd (and God, of course).  And in the midst of his speech he is sure to be very specific about what Soloman needs to keep as his “main thing.”

…be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God. …learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.

And then, as if he knew Solomon would be overwhelmed with the responsibility, he quickly adds:

The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.

As the story continues, David takes it upon himself to do everything in his power to setup Solomon for success. He gathers all the materials and gold and silver. He gives all of his own private treasures and then calls the crowd to give sacrificially as well. All the while he continues to encourage Solomon to be strong and to trust the Lord.

David demonstrates how to worship through is prayer of praise. Solomon, as well as everyone there, is left with no doubt about pure worship! But at the end of all this he offers up a final prayer, this time for the people.

…make your people always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes.

See a theme here?

  • Obedience
  • Worship/Praise
  • Trust
  • Love

I may not ever really understand the specifics of my role here on this earth. Or perhaps during those moments when I do get it I may become discouraged or afraid.  In any case, the Lord has used His Word to once again remind me of what must come first… and last.

Whew! What a week! On Tuesday, our friends to the south at Focus on the Family announced a reduction in force by close to 200. They are completely cutting their teen and youth programs. Many hard-working, Christ-serving, wonderful folks are facing unemployment during a national economic crisis.

That same day, I headed to Tennesse. The majority of the trip was focused on attending the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville. As we met with various ministry leaders, they too were feeling the pressures of these uncertain times. Attendance at events is shrinking, donations are drying up. But in the midst of it all, what I saw and heard over and over was ministry leadership fervently pursuing wisdom.

I truly believe that God is working amongst His people to focus them on His will. It seems that many have become distracted – maybe even by good things and with pure motives – but distracted from what God has called them to do.

Dare 2 Share is going through this process too. Only we started about 9 months ago in response to a board directive. The board’s timing was not coincidence. If this process would have started any later, we may well have been hit just as hard if not harder than many of our friends. Thank You Father, for convicting the hearts of the Godly men you have called to our board.

Proverbs 17:24 says,

Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom. But a fools eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Please pray with me for our leadership as we continue to work through this process. We need God’s wisdom now more than ever.

Of all the week’s in our nation’s history, I can’t think of a better time for Christians to really SHINE!

I began my study this morning diving into Philipians 2. I knew that our message today would be based on the passage and it also contains my “life verses” (vs. 3-5). But within the hour I was finding myself camping on vs. 14-18 and really trying to understand Paul’s message to the church of Philippi (and us).

Here he is in prison, probably awaiting his trial or something and he decides to write about how everything should be done without complaining or arguing. Why? So that this world could see “bright lights” and so that no matter what happens to him, he will know that the message and teaching he brought to them was not in vain. Hold firm, he says, and rejoice.

Well, that’s convicting! These past few weeks before the election have shown the world everyone’s true colors — and unfortunately, it’s not pretty. Not only has there been backstabbing and vicious mudslinging against the two “sides,” but even believers are arguing with each other. And when they are not arguing, my fellow co-laborers for Christ are complaining! Over and over I have heard… “Well, what are we going to do if…” Yeah, I’m guilty too.

Obviously, I have no idea what the outcome will be. But I do know one thing – we (Christians, that is) have a tremendous opportunity before us. SHINE! Rejoice! God will not be surprised by the result. He will still be very much in control. And who knows, maybe we will all be motivated to share Jesus with a bit more urgency than we have in the past.

Father – we pray for this nation’s leadership, no matter who ends up in the oval office. And I pray for all of us to remember how You have called us to live… as “bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Amen.

Dear Father –

You have provided mountain tops and valleys throughout my journey. And no matter what or where, more often than not I seem to forget that You are at the center of everything in my life. It’s not that I don’t love You. It’s not that I don’t know You are there. It’s just that in the midst of everything my heart and mind drift away… and focus inward. And it’s easy. I can even look like I’m centered on You on the outside, but on the inside I’m seriously self-centered.

But You know my heart, don’t You? And little by little You’re getting to me. You knew when You called me to a church where communion was offered EVERY Sunday that I wouldn’t be able to resist You, didn’t You? You knew that a message series on pride would hit me right between the eyes, didn’t You?

You know I want to run. You know I don’t want to do it anymore. You know I’m tired. You know, don’t You? You know my next step before it happens, and You know exactly where I’m at.

Yeah, You’re killing ME. And I think that’s exactly what You’ve planned all along. I do want to serve You. I think… Can I serve you and still bring ME along? No? Well, I’m not sure how that works then, but I guess I’m gonna learn cuz at the rate You’re going there won’t be much of ME left soon! And that’t a GREAT thing!

Letting go little by little, Your daughter

Yesterday I took some time to catch up and ended up watching a talk my friend, Doug Fields, gave at last year’s National Youth Ministry Convention. I was at the convention but didn’t have the opportunity to hear him. I was surprised by his vulnerability as he talked about how deficiant he felt when it came to caring conversations. He spent some time laying out what he called “faith blockers” and I quickly began to resonate with what he was saying. It’s a great talk for anyone in ministry, so if you have time check it out.

As Doug was summing up he brought the audience’s attention to Isaiah 40. Oh yeah, I thought to myself, I’m familiar with that passage. It’s the one that talks about the Lord’s sovereignty – “our everlasting God.” And as I moved into the next thing for the day I found myself humming the popular Christian worship song as well.

But for some reason the passage was on my heart again this morning. Could it be that these past few weeks of feeling worn out and weary were getting to me? As I opened my Bible I acknowledged my emotional state of being of late. Then I dove right in.

I prayed and meditated on the whole passge for some time. I read it out loud to Rick. And as I looked down at the words on the page again, something jumped out. In verse 31 it says, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.” New strength. Wow! NEW strength! Then I remembered that our God isn’t constrained by time like we are. He has the ability (and the desire) to constantly renew.

I am so encouraged that no matter where or when or for how long I am tired and weak, I just need to trust in Him and He will provide NEW STRENGTH. So my prayer is that when I am tossing and turning during those sleepless nights or wrestling to solve a problem or make an important decision during the day – that I may rest on this truth and be renewed.

For years I’ve struggled understanding the verb “abide” in the Christian vernacular. I’m not sure why. The word makes sense to me in other contexts. For instance, I am a “law-abiding” citizen! So this morning I happened to be spending some time in John. John 15 to be exact.

I know the Lord has got a lot more “pruning” to do as I continue to strive to remain in Him. But my desire is to be a Christ-follower that is not only faithful, but also fruitful. He has promised that if we remain in Him our joy will overflow! I know that I must consistently spend time with Him in order for this to happen. For me, it’s too easy to fall into a busy routine and focus on other things. That’s when I catch myself too… reacting to a crisis in the flesh, forgetting to put people before projects, forsaking balance in my life, feeling depleted and empty at the end of the day.

What an encouragement it is that Jesus considers us a FRIEND! I know I can go to Him any time, anywhere in oder to get centered and remain in Him.

I realize July is half over, but how was your celebration of our nation’s independance? Rick and I were able to get away for the weekend and spent it up at Red Feathers Lakes, in the mountains north of Ft. Collins. It was a fun trip and we were able to see a fireworks show that rivaled any we had ever seen in the metro area. I spent time sleeping and reading, but mostly sleeping. I was able to finish The Shack though and that got me thinking about something.

I decided to read the book because it was given to me by a close friend and I heard a tremendous amount of buzz. Some good. Some bad. I personally had to put the book down for awhile at least once as I wrestled with the way some of the ideas were being communicated (suppose that’s the trouble with Christian fiction??). Anyway, no matter what you think of the book or it’s theology, there is one message that spoke to me louder than life.

Humanity’s constant insistance on independance.

Throughout Mack’s (the main character) encounter with the three members of the Trinity he is consistently faced with the implications of this one simple idea. And even though it’s been a few weeks now since I’ve put the book on the shelf, I keep considering my own independance and wondering if I will ever learn how to fully depend on God.

From strong passages like 2 Corinthians 1:5-10 to simple ones like Proverbs 16:3 my head begins to understand. But then I pull into the garage after a long day and reflect back… did I really depend on Him fully throughout the day? Nope. Failed miserably.

This last week I had one particularly tough day. I did everything I could to shake the overwhelming sense of just wanting to drive off a cliff:

  • Prayed and asked the Lord for immediate guidance.
  • Tried to focus on the task at hand – be a professional and don’t sweat it.
  • Talked with Rick.
  • Took a long, hot shower.
  • Prayed some more.
  • Talked to TJ.
  • Had a good cry.
  • Prayed some more.
  • Went to bed early.

Yeah. I still have a long way to go.

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