Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Fill ‘er up!

Meditation is a cultural buzz word these days. I hear it everywhere from Dr. Oz to Julia Roberts. It seems as if this word is thrown around like a Frisbee to anyone who wants to play! And I know that I’m stepping into controversial waters with some, but I just have to say . . .

I don’t believe that Christian meditation and eastern meditation (or perhaps more appropriately, “popular meditation”) are the same thing.

Eastern mediation involves emptying your mind. Your only focus—if any—should be on your breathing. The goal is to reach the state of No Mind,” which is praised in Zen literature.

In contrast, Christian meditation is about filling your mind with God’s truth, His Word and listening for His still small voice. Instead of pursuing “No Mind,” it is taking on the Mind of Christ.”

First of All

I think many are being duped into thinking that one is as good as the other. In my opinion, there is no comparison. One may bring calmness, but the other brings truth and life. I also believe that although eastern meditation may bring a sense of calmness, it’s a dangerous practice that leaves you open and vulnerable to spiritual influences. Remember, you are to . . .

“Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.”  Proverbs 4:23 (CEV)

And

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11 (NLT)

Second of All

Even though “meditation” has become popular in our culture, for Christians, it is an often neglected yet important spiritual practice. Just as our gas tanks run empty, so do our spiritual tanks. We need to “fill ‘er up” so to speak and here are some ways to do so with meditation . . .

Ways to Meditate

  1. Memorize a Bible verse and meditate on it when you’re facing a stressful, tempting or painful moment.
  2. Pray a Bible verse, using your name or personal pronouns where appropriate.
  3. Read over a special verse, stopping and focusing on the first word to really absorb its meaning. Then reread the verse focusing on the second word this time. Repeat until each word has been given special focus. Consider if the verse has taken on a new meaning to you.
  4. Envision a Bible passage, such as the 23rd Psalm. Imagine a scene with Christ, as your Shepherd, leading you beside still waters, etc. What does it feel like? Look like? Smell like?

These are just a sampling of ways. It certainly is not an exhaustive list.

Do you have some ways that you meditate on God and His Word? If so, share your ideas with us!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”Romans 12:2 (NLT)

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Making Time for God

I’m a ritual loving girl. I love getting up in the morning, exercising, eating my breakfast (steel cut oatmeal with fruit along with a cup of coffee).

When I can, I love taking another coffee break in the afternoon, while I chill with Dr. Phil or with a good book or some fun blog surfing.

I love going to my small group Bible study at Borders every Thursday morning and getting my raspberry latte, fat-free, extra hot from my favorite barista, Angela.

I love having a cup of tea or hot cider in the evening with my hubby while we talk or watch a favorite tv show together.

But most importantly, I love making time each day to meet with God through my Bible reading and prayer.

When I don’t get to do one of my “rituals,” I feel deprived and out-of-whack. And when I don’t get to spend time with God daily, I find that I also experience so much more stress, conflict and discontentment than I do on the days when my ritual has been kept.

I have made a habit or ritual of meeting with God since I was a teen, so it’s deeply embedded in my daily routine. But for many, this practice is hard to develop. So I wanted to suggest that perhaps you need to make your daily time with God a “ritual.”

And the way that you make it a ritual is by…

  • Keeping it at or near the same time each day
  • Building it around other pleasurable rituals

For me, I have my morning cup of coffee during my time with God. That gives me an “I-can’t-wait-to get-to-it” feeling, thereby associating and reinforcing a positive experience with my time with God.

  • Setting the mood

I love to plug in my iPod and listen to soothing music while I read and pray. The point is to block out distractions and give yourself a private space to meet with God. Now, if you have young children, you might not be able to “block out any distraction” completely, so be sure to choose a time when they are either napping or being watched by your hubby.

If these suggestions don’t help, then you might want to also…

  • Seek out accountability

Find a friend who will ask you on a regular basis about what you’ve read this past week or how your time with God is going.

  • Keep a checklist

If you have a checklist, you’re much more apt to stick with the commitment you are making. It’s simply a way to be accountable to yourself.

  • Join a Bible study group

This is helpful even if you’re already making time for God daily, but especially if you just need to learn how to study your Bible and want the support of friends to help you form the habit ritual.

So, tell me what keeps you on track with your time with God?

Or, tell me what gets you off track, and I’ll promise to pray for you!

Earthly vs. Heavenly Father – Which One is Winning Out?

I never had a strong relationship with my dad. He was a pastor and kept himself super busy “visiting” members and prospects of our church when I was a child. But when he was home, we didn’t interact much there either. He just didn’t seem to know how to interact with others, especially loved ones, on anything more than a surface level. I don’t blame him for that. I also don’t ignore it. I accept it as the way things were.

As I grew into adulthood, I tried to reach out to him more. He was much older when I was born, so the generation gap was wide. But this age difference gave me even more incentive and urgency to get to know this mystery man in my life on up to his death in 2007. I am so glad that I made that effort. I had no regrets after his death. I felt content that I had done all that I could to bridge the gap.

Here’s where my story is going, though,… I feel like I’ve applied some of those same awkward and distant feelings to God, my heavenly Father. I’ve viewed Him at times as detached. I’ve viewed Him as someone who doesn’t truly care for me or have affection for me. I’ve tried for years to work on my perspective toward my heavenly Father, and I think I’ve made progress. But there is much more work to be done in my heart and mind.

In fact, just recently I’m challenging myself to refer to God in my prayers as “Father,” rather than “Lord” as I’ve done all of my life. This little adjustment has been slowly moving my heart to a warmer, closer place with my Father.

Rather than focusing solely on His heavenly and holy attributes, like some ethereal, majestic Spirit on a gleaming bright throne (which tends to make me feel removed and unworthy of Him), I’ve begun to give attention to His Fatherly attributes. I’ve pictured Him still as King, but also as my Father, who’s welcoming me into His presence. And I’m not just being asked to come and bow at His feet, but to climb up into His lap and feel Him wrap His loving arms around me!

This new perspective shift is changing my relationship with God. And it’s changing me too! It’s making it so much easier to trust Him. It’s bringing a lightness to my step. It’s healing the old wounds that were left by an earthly father who didn’t really know how to love. This new perspective is giving me a hope and joy like I’ve never known before!

I hope that you are experiencing an intimate view of God our loving Father. And if you aren’t, tell me about your struggles, so that others won’t feel alone in their struggle, and best of all, so that we can pray for each other!

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a (NIV)

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Resisting or Resting?

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Generally, my condition is well-controlled by the medication I take. But I have this rogue knee that gives me trouble almost constantly.

When I was 13 I had surgery to remove a torn cartilage in one of my knees. Decades ago, that was the way doctors handled that kind of problem. Nowadays they’ve realized that they need to leave a whole lot more of that natural cushion in our knees than they first thought was needed. So not only do I struggle with RA in that knee, but bone on bone, osteoarthritis as well.

So I must rest.

In fact, I think that is one of the primary reasons God allowed me to have RA—just so I would slow down every once in a while!

But there are so many wonderful things that God teaches me and develops in me when I rest—things that I would miss if I were still going a hundred miles an hour! Of course, I get frustrated whenever it flares, but maybe I need to think of it as a blessing in disguise. Maybe God is gently nudging me to slow down, sit beside Him in green pastures and rest. After all, that is where He is able to restore my soul.

Is there something in your life that God is using to get you to slow down?

Are you resisting it or resting in it?

Take a moment to meditate on this familiar passage. Imagine yourself resting with your Savior as you sit beside a babbling brook. Ask Him to restore your soul today.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23 (NIV)

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My Frustrated Prayer

A few days ago I was rushing to get some time in with God. I have a lot of reasons excuses for that important time not happening.

As some of you may know, I type my prayers. So I have this indelible reminder—for good or for ill—of what I’m saying to God.

When I prayed the other day, my words seemed to leap off the page and hit me between the eyes. Maybe they will hit you in the same way—moving both of us to become fully devoted to Christ!

My Prayer:

Here I am rushing to get in some time with you. Maybe I can spend a bit more time with you later, after I finish another appointment on my “to-do” list. I’m sorry that I put you so low on my priority list. Why do I keep on doing that? What would it take to get me to fully focus on you? Being at the brink of death and life? I pray that is not what it takes to make me fully devoted to you.

Help me to remember that you died for me—an excruciating death, a death that you didn’t have to give. Why do I forget that? If I had gone through that, I would want whoever I died for to honor and remember me! I would be angry with whoever would put me behind all their list of “to-do’s.”

If I died tonight, how ashamed I would be. But I don’t want shame to motivate me to do what is right, what is best. I want to want you. But I know that I don’t want you enough or I would break down whatever barrier gets in my way. So I’m probably lying when I say that.

Help this wretch, Lord. Help me to see you for who you are.

I want you to be so much a part of me that you change me and people actually notice.

So far, that ain’t happenin’.

Where is God in Your Problem?

Do you ever feel like God isn’t responding to your prayers? Maybe you’ve prayed for months, even years about a matter, and you feel like God hasn’t answered or given you the answer you want.

It’s hard to trust God in those times. I know, because I’ve had many of those times in my life. In fact, I’m dealing with God’s silence in one area of my life even today. And I’ve learned that when I focus on the silence, I grow frustrated and impatient. But when I focus on the times God has broken through with an answer, then I become patient and encouraged as I wait. So here’s what I do:

I take a “G.P.S” (God’s Perfect Surprise) reading of my past.

  • I remember back to when I asked God to resolve a conflict I had with someone over where our recovery group would meet. So I committed to pray for 30 days on the matter and “G.P.S” was right on time—bringing a new location that wasn’t even known about when the conflict arose.
  • I remember back to when I prayed for God to send a prayer and accountability partner into my life and “G.P.S” arrived months later with just the right person who eventually turned into one of my best friends!
  • I remember back to when my husband was out of a job and our money was running out in two more days. That’s when “G.P.S” kicked in and we received an unexpected check in the mail the very next day.  (This kind of thing happened a lot during those dry times!)

I’m not saying that God will answer your prayer in the way you want or expect—hence, the “surprise.” In fact in my life, most of God’s answers have come in small, incremental responses over a period of weeks, months, and sometimes even years that eventually lead to what I recognized as a full-blown answer to my prayer.

I’m also not saying that he will answer in the time frame that you feel is necessary—but I am saying God is never late. In my life, he has always provided and always answered. And he’s usually answered in a way that I never saw coming.  Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that he’s working the same surprising way in your life, as well!

So the next time you feel like you haven’t heard from God or don’t know where he is – Begin to track “G.P.S” from your past and you’ll be reminded and encouraged that God is faithful and always on-time!

“The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalms 34:17-18 (NLT)

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalms 40:1-2 (NLT)

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When God Doesn’t Seem to See Your Pain

Recently I pulled out some old journals that I kept religiously from about 1995 to 2000. I was amazed at some of the stories I recounted in the little book of my everyday life. But there was one story that really stood out—that seemed to tell more than just a story of my life, but of God’s faithfulness.

My husband and I were going through a painful trial in a church where we had been serving, and I had found great comfort in my “closet” of all things! I would go there and pray when one of my sons, who was only about two at the time, would take a nap. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about that experience:

“I was praying in my closet today. I had the door cracked just a little so I could see out, but I had the closet light off so no one could see in. I began to pray and pour out my heart, as well as tears, before the Lord. My questions to Him were, ‘Where are you, Lord? Are you working? Am I all alone in this? Will you deliver us?’

Just as I was in the middle of that excruciating time, I heard [my son] come into my room. He had just awakened from his nap and was carrying two big books under his arm. When he came into the bedroom and saw that I wasn’t there, he dropped his books and began to cry in despair. Then he ran from the room, frantically looking for me. He felt abandoned and alone.

That seemed to clearly picture how I felt with God. And yet there I sat watching the entire scene and [my son] didn’t know I was just inches away. I prayed that God would show Himself to me and Gary [my husband] just as I would show myself to [my son] and ease his loneliness and fears.

What a beautiful reminder God has given me. He is only in the shadows too! I hope I never forget.”

Are you wondering if God is aware of your pain?

Do you feel like He isn’t helping you, isn’t near you, won’t come through for you?

Just remember that even though you may not see Him, He is there and He cares.

I know, because He’s proven His faithfulness to me time after time after time. (And yes, as my now teenage sons often remind me, that means I’m getting old!)

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:15, 17-18 (NIV)

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