ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.26.2015

Friday Prayer for Help and Healing

Psalm 121-1-2Seems like almost everyone I know needs help right about now.  I know I do – a combo of sickness and a too-busy schedule have knocked me down (and, for those who pay attention to these things, left me blog-less this week).

I don’t know what your need is – comfort, strength, a job, wisdom, healing – but I know God is the source.  Let’s borrow a prayer from Psalm 121 this week and trust him to provide:

Heavenly Father,

I am ______ (sick, confused, weak, discouraged, hurt, tired).

Lift my eyes to the mountains of your strength.  Help me, Lord, according to your promise, for you are the Maker of heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.19.2015

Friday Prayer for Making Plans

Psalm 138-8We all make plans.  Business plans, weekend plans, wedding plans – the calendar is full and, if you’re like me, the to-do list starts afresh each new day.

God’s a planner, too.  But unlike us (well, me anyway), his plans are always good, and he never fails to finish what he starts.

If you need a fresh awareness of God’s good purposes today – or simply a reminder that you can rest secure in the knowledge that He is on the job, no matter how upside down things may look right now – consider the promise in Psalm 138:8.  As the NIV puts it, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”

Here’s how this verse appears in the New Living Translation.  Pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:

Work out your plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.  Don’t abandon me, for you made me.  (Psalm 138:8, NLT)

Amen.

 


ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.17.2015

Throw off what hinders

FullSizeRenderNot long ago, Robbie took me along on a business trip to a seaside resort. Knowing that he’d be in meetings all morning, I decided to go for a run on the beach.

I couldn’t.

I mean, like, literally I couldn’t. There was too much seaweed.

At first, I didn’t think it would bother me. Sure, I was a little squeamish about stepping on it, but there was nowhere else to plant your feet, so I had to. But each incoming wave brought a fresh batch of the stuff, and so firmly did the greenish-brown yuck wrap itself around my ankles that, if I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that it was after me – and that it was maybe even carnivorous.

I slowed to a walk, yanking my feet free with each step. As I did so, the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Hebrews 12 flashed through my mind:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

“Everything that hinders.” That category undoubtedly includes some good things that, when allowed to flourish like a crop of seaweed, can slow our progress toward God’s real purposes for our lives. Volunteer commitments, hobbies, relationships, and even some ministry opportunities might be pulling at our ankles, making us less able to pursue the work to which we are truly called.

“The sin that so easily entangles.” Ouch. I guess some sins are fairly easy to avoid (murder comes to mind, although even there I am at least partly guilty, since there are definitely some folks that I’ve wished would just “go away”), but others can kind of sneak up you – things like pride or self-absorption or discontentment – and once they finish spinning their web, you feel trapped. Several of these little nasties came to mind as I worked to extricate myself from the slime, and I found myself wondering if Paul had ever tried to run in seaweed.

Lest you think I am exaggerating (a habit that can be, I admit, a “hindrance” in my life), allow me to share one more pic:

 

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These guys were out there every morning, faithfully shoveling great wads of the stuff off the beach and burying it in the sand. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for them (the way that one might pity Sisyphus, on the umpteenth roll of his boulder) or admire their diligence. Either way, they enhanced my understanding of Hebrews 12 in at least two ways:

First, throwing off life’s hindrances and entanglements is a daily job. We can’t get our priorities in order once and then figure they’ll stay that way. They tend to wiggle.

And second, if we’re having trouble getting rid of the seaweed (or even identifying where we’ve gotten tangled), it’s good to have a friend who will tell us the truth.

Particularly someone who’s willing to pick up a shovel and help.


ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.12.2015

Friday Prayer for the Brokenhearted

Psalm 34-18A dear friend and her family are hurting today, grieving the impending loss of a loved one.  I’ve been praying Psalm 34:18 for them; maybe you know someone who could use this verse as a prayer today:

Heavenly Father,

You are close to the brokenhearted and promise to save those who are crushed in spirit.

Be close to _____ today; let her sense the comfort of your nearness.  Wrap your saving arms around _____ to heal and protect her spirit.  (Psalm 34:18)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.11.2015

Wedding Joy

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“What’s the worst that could happen?”

In the days leading up to Annesley’s wedding (and I promise, this will be the last wedding post – at least until September, when Robbie will again fight back the tears as he walks Hillary up the aisle), the “worst case” scenarios were practically all I heard:  A wedding dress destroyed by a red wine-sloshing guest. A caterer who left the dinner plates outside in a snowstorm. Chinese lion dancers run amok, towering over the bride and groom in a loud and somewhat sensual frenzy. (They’d been hired as a “fun surprise” by the MOB, since the newlyweds were Beijing-bound.  Surprise!)

None of these stories really worried me. I mean, short of being left at the altar, most wedding whoopsies are not really  that bad.

Yeah, well. About that.

Okay, yes:  Annesley and Geoff were, technically, left at the altar. But let’s look on the bright side. They were not alone. They had each other. And their four siblings.

I’ll spare you the details (partly because I’m not really sure what all went down, but mostly because I am currently incubating in a sort of post-traumatic numbness that God must reserve for MOBs who live through these things), but somewhere amid the post-ceremony photo flurry, everyone left. The locals left in their cars. The out-of-towners left on the shuttle busses. The wedding party got on their bus, found the champagne cooler, and figured, “Mission accomplished!”

Even Robbie and I left, scampering to our car so as to beat the happy couple to the reception.

Imagine our surprise, a few minutes later, when the cell phone rang and it was Virginia:  “The wedding shuttle isn’t where you said it would be. I think they left us. We are all alone. And Geoff just told Annesley to get back in the church because no bride should be standing out in the middle of Atlantic Avenue in a giant white dress, looking for a ride.”

(He had a point.)

Thank goodness for my mom and John, who’d hung back to spy on the proceedings and were just getting into their car when they picked up the distress signal. Grabbing his iPhone, John began filming, even as he tried to shoehorn all six kids into his back seat. Robbie and I showed up in time to extract the bride and groom, but the siblings had already piled in. John peeled out of the parking lot, taking selfies the whole way (“Smile kids! When are you gonna have a story like this again?”), while Hillary urged him to “Just drive!” and Geoff’s brother Matt sat there wondering what he had done to deserve our family and feeling certain that it didn’t really matter because, as he told me later, “I was pretty sure we were all gonna die.”

And all of that was before the reception.

But hey, I’m sure nobody noticed the torn wedding dress (we “fixed” it with about 18 staples and a couple of huge binder clips), the girl-fight over the bouquet (those photos are gonna be priceless), or the fact that the band didn’t come back to the stage for the second set (I found ’em watching the NBA Playoffs on the bar TV).

The list goes on. And you know what? It was GREAT.

And you know what else? God knew it would be. He knows what it’s like to throw a wedding – and to have things go awry.

Think about it.  He says that the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding where the invited guests don’t come, where they have to fill the banquet hall with street people, and where an ill-clad guest has to be ejected (Matthew 22). He knows all about receptions where they run out of wine (John 2), or fuel for the lanterns (Matthew 25). And what about the truly worst-case scenario, back in Genesis 29, when the groom wakes up the morning after and realizes he’s married the wrong gal?  Now there’s a wedding surprise.

Maybe it’s the old misery-and-company thing, but I started reading up on all of these Bible weddings and, truth be told, the only wedding where everything goes right is Christ’s. We can read the press coverage in Revelation 19:  The onlookers are pumped (their hallelujahs sound like thunder), the bride is ready (she’s dressed in fine linen), and the whole thing just smacks of utter, limitless joy.

And the best part about this wedding?  The bride is us! 

It’s true. When we fall in love with Jesus, he gets rid of our ragged clothes. He dresses us in beautiful robes of righteousness. And he changes our name from “Deserted” and “Desolate” to one that means “My Delight” (Isaiah 62). Weddings just don’t get any better than that.

Sure, Annesley’s big day wasn’t perfect, but I’ll tell you this:  It gave me a whole new appreciation for the way God feels about us. I read Isaiah 62:5 this week and, after seeing Geoff’s face when he spotted his gal coming up the aisle, the words fairly jumped off the page. I hope you’ll read them with me today and know that, all whoopsies aside, you are utterly, incredibly loved:

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.


ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.05.2015

Friday Prayer for Love, Joy and Good Friends

Proverbs 27-17

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about friendship. Scripture has plenty to say on the subject, and when it comes to a life marked by friendship, love, and joy, it doesn’t get any better than John 15:9-17.  Today’s prayer is a paraphrase from the New Living Translation of this passage; consider praying it for yourself, your children, or anyone who is on your heart:

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving _____.  Let her obey you, remaining in your love so that she may be filled with joy.  Yes, let ____ have joy that overflows!

Surround _____ with good friends, and teach him to love them in the same selfless way that you love us.  Equip him with a willingness to lay down his life – his needs, desires, and priorities – in order love his friends well.

Let us live and love in a way that produces lasting fruit. Thank you for calling us friends, and for showing us how to love one another.

Amen.

 


ARCHIVES: June 2015


06.03.2015

In Praise of Friends

The best thing about Annesley’s wedding? Everything.

Oh, plenty of things went wrong (some funny, some less-so, depending I guess on your point of view), and I’m sure I’ll be writing about one or two of those memory-makers soon. For now, though, I just have to give a shout out to the bridesmaids and the house party gals who, through the sheer gift of their friendship, made the entire weekend sparkle.

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In an age where relationships are often measured in “likes,” it can be tough to know what true friendship is. These girls, though, are the real deal.

From Julia, the “Bond Girl” who has known Annesley since forever…

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To Kate, the stranger-turned-soulmate in the blink of an eye…

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To Virginia and Hillary, the sisters who spent the better part of a year perfecting the “Maid of Honor” role…

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…every one of Annesley’s ‘maids is a living picture of John 15:12.  That’s where Jesus talks about how he is our friend, and he gives us an example to follow:  “Love each other,” he says, “as I have loved you.”

These girls have done exactly that. They have been loyal, selfless, transparent, resourceful, and fun. Watching them interact over the wedding weekend, I was reminded of how C.S. Lewis likened friendship to “unnecessary” things like philosophy and art. He said that friendship has “no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

I adore Lewis, but modern science might beg to differ with his wisdom – at least insofar as survival is concerned. Psychologist Matthew Lieberman has done all sorts of research on the human brain, and in his book, Social, he maintains that we need a sense of connection even more than we need food and shelter. “Love and belonging might seem like a convenience we can live without,” he says, “but our biology is built to thirst for connection because it is linked to our most basic survival needs.”

Our biology is built to thirst for connection. I am certain that Lieberman is right on this one – if for no other reason than that friendship is at the heart of who God is.

Friendship has existed since before time began, in the Trinity. Friendship was our first-ever felt need, and God knew it:  “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). And the lack of friendship – otherwise known as loneliness – is the one problem we will ever have simply because we are made in the image of God. We long for connection because he does.

That last point – that our loneliness or our longing for connection can be traced directly to our Creator – is one that I wish I wish I had made up, but I can’t take credit. It’s a rip off from a sermon our minister, Andy Buchanan, gave a month or so ago. If you find yourself longing for friends, or wondering how to mend a broken relationship, or even just trying to figure out what real friendship is supposed to look like (and I promise you, it’s not the website I found where, for $200, you can buy yourself 1,000 friends – real people – who will “follow” you and post comments on your social media sites), click here to listen to Andy’s message. (You’ll have to scroll down to the teaching from 5/10/15; look for the title “Friendship.”)

“Love each other.”

Can there be a more wonderful biblical charge? Thank you, wedding girlfriends, for doing your job so well.

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