06.09.2017

The Window of God’s Purpose

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

That’s not in the Bible; it’s from Robbie’s all-time favorite movie, The Sound of Music. But it’s a good line, particularly when you consider that God’s windows are not consolation prizes. They are never his “Plan B” for when you don’t get to walk through the door (to the house, the job, the relationship, the whatever) you want. Instead, when God shuts a door and leads us out through a window, it’s because he has a much better destination in mind.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” You might be struggling with disappointment or sense of defeat today, but know this: Whatever it is that has happened (or hasn’t happened) has not taken God by surprise. He is in control and he loves you. The door might be shut (and you might not yet see any window), but God’s purposes will be accomplished.

Heavenly Father,

When things don’t turn out like I thought that they would, or when I face the disappointment of a closed door or the death of a dream, remind me of this truth: I may have many plans, but your purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)

Amen

 


06.07.2017

“Shocking” New Findings on Friendship

News Flash:  Friendship is good for you.

Researchers at U.Va. recently revealed evidence that backs up the idea that the stronger your relationships are, the better your health will be. I won’t go into all the details (they use words like “hypothalamus” and “epinephrine”), but the gist of the report is that if you are under “the threat of electrical shock,” your brain will be a whole lot happier if “a trusted loved one” is near.

And, if you are holding that person’s hand, all the better.

“Having that hand to hold,” notes the lead scientist, “signals that you have resources – you have safety – so any particular stressor is just not as stressful as it might have been.”

But – and this is my favorite line in the whole article – “Nothing similar was found during stranger handholding.”

(How awesome is it that they actually studied that? I mean, if you took my husband and put him outside in a thunderstorm and asked him to hold hands with a stranger, the threat of electrical shock would NOT be his foremost concern.)

Anyhow…

I love it when science catches up with what Christians have known all along: We are created for connection. We thrive in community. When Jesus told us to “Love one another,” he obviously knew that we’d need an uninhibited hypothalamus in order to effectively respond to stress and other unfortunate circumstances.

In celebration of U.Va.’s findings, I’ve pulled together nine of my favorite “friendship” prayers and created a free printable for you:

To download these prayer cards as a letter-sized PDF (you’ll have to cut them up by yourself), click here. Pray the verses for yourself, for your kids, or for anyone who might feel a little James Taylor coming on (like maybe they are down and troubled, or they need a helping hand).

And remember, next time you get caught in a lightning storm (or if you find yourself in one of U.Va.’s brain imaging scanners while a red indicator “X” hints that you are about to be shocked), God has you.

He is with you, wherever you go.

And, as the psalmist says, he is always holding your hand:

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:9-10)


06.02.2017

No Glory Stealing

One of my favorite things about writing books is getting to interview people.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children comes out later this year (I’ll keep you posted!), and as I was working on a chapter about the different ways our kids come to faith, I talked to one mom who is convinced that God sometimes takes them down paths we would not have chosen to keep us from patting ourselves on the back.

“We cannot glory-steal from God,” this gal said. “When our kids come to Christ in a way that only he could have arranged because it looks nothing like we would have hoped for or envisioned, we are much more inclined to give him the credit.”

What a wise mama! And I couldn’t help but think about her counsel when I read Psalm 115:1 this week:  Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but I like it when people appreciate or admire something I’ve done. I like getting credit. And while there’s nothing wrong with accepting a sincere compliment (or giving one!), I know I need to post a guard against glory-stealing. When something good comes my way, or when I find myself in a position to do something noble or noteworthy, I want to have the same attitude that King David had, when he looked at the mountain of silver and gold and precious stones he and his people had donated for building the temple. “Who am I,” David prayed, “and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

Everything comes from you, Lord.

If you want that to be your first response when good things happen – if you want to shine the spotlight on God’s faithfulness and guard your heart against glory-stealing – then why not tuck Psalm 115:1 into your Friday Prayer? Here’s what I’m praying today:

Heavenly Father,

When I am tempted to be a glory-stealer or take credit for something you’ve provided or done, help me remember that EVERYTHING comes from you. Bring your truth to my mind so that I will gratefully join my voice with the psalmist’s and say: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1)

Amen.

 


05.31.2017

The Answer for Life’s Scary Stuff

Our dog Max (you know him as the rock eater) is an anxious dog. There are a lot of things that scare him. Sudden movements. The bathroom floor. His food bowl.

And, perhaps most of all, other dogs.

We went on a walk the other day and came upon a big black lab. As if his size and color were not threatening enough, this guy was sporting a pirate scarf where his collar should have been. Max stopped in his tracks.

I tried coaxing and commanding, tempting and tugging, but Max wasn’t having it. He did not want to pass that dog. Given the whole pirate vibe, I might have understood his trepidation…except for one thing.

The dog was fake.

Not, like, taxidermy fake. This one was, like, fake fake. It couldn’t bite or growl, and it certainly didn’t smell. It just sat there, day after day, fake-guarding the “Outer Barks” shop in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

I had to laugh. I tried to see things from Max’s viewpoint, but I just couldn’t. The whole thing was ridiculous – and his neurosis was hurting our progress.

And then I stopped.

Because as I stood there (smiling at other pedestrians and trying to look like maybe Max and I were just sort of “resting”), I realized that I do the same thing. I start out like Enoch (he’s a Bible guy who “walked faithfully with God” for 300 years), but then I look down the road and see something – a real something or a fake something – that could be a problem, and I balk.

Which is not God’s idea of how things are supposed to play out.

Here’s the thing. God knew we’d come up against some scary stuff. Real scary stuff (like cancer), and fake scary stuff (like what people will think or even say when they see you dance, which – trust me – is not something that should keep you off the floor when the band starts to play Livin’ on a Prayer).

God knew we’d face threats, and that fear would be a problem. And so he gave us the answer. He gave us the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Put another way, God gave us a Spirit who can make us bold in the face of uncertainty, loving when it might be easier to just turn away, and self-controlled and steady when life feels anything but calm. He gave us a Spirit who can equip us to do the good things that he has prepared. He gave us a Spirit who can strengthen us to walk faithfully with him on life’s longest journeys (no matter what sort of pirate-dog stands in our way).

God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us the Holy Spirit. So let’s stop with the balking already.

Let’s move.


05.26.2017

Memorial Day: Refuge and Remembrance

Every year when Memorial Day rolls around, I find myself drawn to Psalm 91. With military imagery (things like shields and ramparts, arrows and tents) and promises of angelic protection, this psalm has often been called “The Soldiers’ Psalm.” It’s a great one to pray for our service men and women; to read the full psalm and discover some of the promises you can claim, click here.

This week, though, the psalm took on fresh meaning after a dear friend’s mother went to be with the Lord. She was a gal who simply radiated joy – whether she was hosting a dinner party or fighting a prayer battle on behalf of her loved ones – and her daily presence will be missed. And as I have prayed for my friend’s family, the words of Psalm 91:4 keep coming to mind:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Maybe you’re grieving a loss today. Maybe you are one of our nation’s beloved Gold Star families, and you know the pain of a loved one’s sacrifice. Or maybe you find yourself mourning a friend or a family member who “fought the good fight” on the battlefield of life, someone who – like my friend’s mom – stood in the gap on your behalf with prayer, wisdom, and love.

If that’s where you are (or if you know someone else who could use the covering, the refuge, or the shield of God’s comforting presence), join me in making this your Memorial Day prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Cover _____ with your feathers. May _____ find refuge under your wings and be shielded and strengthened by your faithfulness. (Psalm 91:4)

Amen

Ω

(And thank you, Susan Harrison, for sharing your beautiful pic for this post. You are the best ornithological photographer I know!)

 


05.19.2017

Answer Me When I Call

When Captain Robbie pulled up to this dock for re-fueling during our January vacay, I scampered (okay, sort of fell) off the boat. I couldn’t wait to open the door to the old phone booth and see what was inside!

Nothing.

It was just an empty shell, attractive but useless. No lines, no connection, no power.

Aren’t we so glad it’s not like that with God? When we call, he promises to answer! And no topic is too big (or too small) to discuss.

Whatever is on your heart today, take it to him. Let’s start by joining our voices with David’s, and make this request our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 17:6)

Amen

 


05.16.2017

…and Underneath are the Everlasting Arms

We made camp on the beach on Mother’s Day, surrounded by an assortment of family members and friends. When I turned around and saw my brother, David, tossing his youngest into the air (and caught the uncertain-yet-delighted expression on Julia’s face), I had just one thought:

Lord, I want to be like that.

When the future feels uncertain, when I find myself sort of suspended (or even on the way down, after one of life’s highs), I want my outlook to be one of delight. When I can’t feel the ground beneath my feet, I want to behold the face of my Father and trust in the strength of his arms. I want to choose joy…even if doing so takes more faith than I think that I have.

Which is, I think, a good thing. Over and over again in the Bible (like, literally, more than 150 times), we are exhorted to rejoice. I don’t know why God thinks that’s such a big deal, but looking at David’s face in this pic, I have an idea. I think God takes delight in us. And when he sees us rejoicing – trusting him in life’s trickiest moments – he cannot contain his own joy.

I’d wrap up this post with one of the joy verses (something like Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always”), except that, if you’re like me, you might want something more. You might want to rejoice, but maybe you need a little help getting there. And so, with the image of a father and his child fresh in my mind, I am gonna scroll all the way back to Deuteronomy, where Moses blesses the sons of Israel, and offer you this:

There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help… The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:26-27, ESV)

Underneath are the everlasting arms.

Rejoice in the Lord today, Beloved, knowing that you are safe in his arms…and that as God looks into your face, he is smiling.

 


05.12.2017

Friday Prayer for Imperfect Moms

There is no perfect family. And there is no perfect mom.

We know this, of course. But it can be easy to forget, particularly in an age of professionally produced Christmas cards and Instagram posts that showcase trophies, vacations, and siblings who appear to genuinely like each other.

And it can be easy to feel like you are the only one who is seriously blowing it. Like when you go to the parent-teacher conference and she asks you, in the nicest possible way, if your son is going to get “any pants” for Christmas.

(As if you are the only fourth-grade parent who doesn’t think wearing shorts in 37-degree weather is that bad.)

Lately, I’ve been reviewing some of my parenting failures. (Which, given the fact that Mother’s Day is on Sunday, seems only natural.) And so it was with no small amount of gratitude that I heard my good friend, Susan Yates, say the following:

Your ability to ruin your child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him.

Isn’t that awesome? (You can stop reading right there, if you want, and go have yourself a Happy Mother’s Day.)

Susan was in Virginia Beach this week to talk about her new book, Risky Faith, as well as her One Word Cards. She wasn’t here to talk about parenting. But as she cataloged God’s attributes (including his love for us, and his power to provide for our needs and cover our mistakes), I found myself thanking God (not for the first time) for putting this wise woman in my life.

And, listening to Susan speak, I found myself thankful for another wise mentor. My mother. Here she is, on the far left (with Susan and my daughters, Hillary and Annesley, between us):

I’m thankful for my mom for a variety of reasons. Partly for the sappy ones, the sentiments that show up on Mother’s Day cards (You are an amazing mom…I’m so proud to be your child…Thanks for hanging in there with me), but even more for the less-sappy/more-real reasons that don’t. Like the fact that my mom made about a zillion parenting mistakes.

Seriously. My mom consistently modeled imperfect parenting. She was great at that. And now that I am making the exact same mistakes with my kids, I could not be more grateful.

I am grateful to a mother who taught me that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

That it is God’s job (not mine) to work in my kids’ lives so that they will think and behave in ways that line up with his plans. (Philippians 2:13)

And that I really can rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), even when my kids choose to wear shorts in the snow or make other, more impressive, mistakes of their own. God is, as Susan Yates said, all about redeeming that stuff.

So thank you, Mom. Maybe you aren’t exactly the Proverbs 31 woman, but you’re mighty close. Especially when you get to the second part of verse 25, which you pretty much nail every day: You can laugh at the days to come. You do that well.

And if you’re not my mom – if you’re more uptight like me, and your heart gets in knots over all the things that you didn’t do right, or the things that you could have done better – can I just offer this Mother’s Day prayer? Most of my Friday Prayers can be prayed for your loved ones, but maybe keep this one just for yourself:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that your grace is all that I need. Help me remember that your power works best in weakness. Let me be glad about my own weaknesses, because that’s what unleashes your strength and releases the power of Christ to work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Thank you that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing – NOTHING – can separate me from your love. (Romans 8:1 & 39)

Amen.

 


05.05.2017

Friday Prayer to Pay It Forward

What a treat it was to come home from a weekend away and find this on my doorstep:

Who left this lovely bouquet? I have no idea. But the flowers came with a tag: Hope this blesses you & that you pay it forward!

Reading that little note, I was reminded of the power that all of us have to make a difference. To share God’s love. To brighten someone’s day.

Maybe that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words in a letter to some people he loved:  So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

Isn’t that a great prayer? Let’s borrow it today. Let’s ask God to make us fit for whatever he has called us to do, to infuse our good ideas with his power, and to help us “pay it forward” in the lives of the people we love:

Heavenly Father,

Enable _____ to live a life worthy of your call. Give _____ the power to accomplish all the good things that faith inspires. (2 Thessalonians 1:11, NLT)

Amen.

(And if you’re the secret friend who delivered this sweet blessing…thank you. I can’t wait to get out in the garden, refresh the bouquet, and pass it on!)

 


04.28.2017

The Display of His Splendor

I need a 12-step plan.

For my addiction.

To gardening.

It’s not something that plagues me all year long, but right now, in the springtime, I cannot pass a nursery or a garden center without stopping. There might be a plant that I missed! A climbing vine I’ve not tried! And I don’t care if it is raining and 57 degrees outside; I can’t wait to start digging! The garden newbies may be small and unremarkable right now, but just wait. In a few weeks, they’ll be spectacular.

I can’t help but think that’s how God looks at us. We’re all works in progress, but he has a vision. He knows what we’ll look like, in time. We may appear small or weak or even broken right now, but in his capable hands all that will change. We’ll become “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

So let’s make that our Friday prayer, trusting the Master Gardener to come in and shape something beautiful in our life, or in the life of someone we love:

Heavenly Father,

Work in _____’s life. May _____ become like a mighty oak, a planting for the display of your splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

Amen.