Tag Archives: prayer

Nevertheless…

2 Aug

For the past week or so, I’ve been encouraged to pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: honest, vulnerable, submissive.

Jesus asked his Father, “If you are willing, let this cup pass from me.” Even in making this raw, human request borne of fear and pain, Jesus did not sin.

Because he immediately followed it with, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

It’s in that ‘Nevertheless’ that the Lord has been calling me to live lately. He’s shown me that being submissive to His will doesn’t mean not having desires and plans of my own. It means submitting to His will over mine. He’s also shown me that often, I don’t want to have desires and plans of my own because I wonder, “What if they don’t happen? I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

Praying like Jesus means letting my desires, passions, dreams, and longings burn without being stifled. Living raw and vulnerable, knowing that I could get hurt and things could turn out differently than I request. Asking anyway. Trusting that no matter what happens, God always brings good out of bad, nothing can quench His love for me and He is more than sufficient for every need.

It’s actually a good thing that God doesn’t always grant us our requests. If He had granted Jesus his request, we would not have a Savior. It’s a comforting thought that even if I pray these prayers of desire and surrender and am left with God’s will instead of my own, even if His will looks horrible and hurtful and filled with pain, He has a purpose. God bends all of this world’s fallenness and all of Satan’s moves into His own purposes. He wins.

“My God in his steadfast love will meet me. He will let look in triumph upon my enemies.”

“This God, his way is perfect – the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.”

Just a thought…

13 May

Inspired by my friend B’s short inspirational posts, I thought I would post this quotation from C. S. Lewis that I read in my morning devotional:

 “Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it;

confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary,

the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine.”

 

I printed this out and am going to hang it up at work to remind myself to pray and enjoy God. However you remind yourself, take time today to connect with God!

Food is not a solution.

5 Mar

You would think that after a year of being at home everyday, I would have it figured out how to handle having the kitchen constantly ten steps away from me. Not so much.

Yesterday, Travis had to work and then he had a conference in downtown Denver. Since the company pays for the hotel rooms, he will just stay down there until the conference is over tonight. So after hanging out with a friend from church in the morning, it was just me and Katy for the rest of the day.

As I was watching TV, I found myself fantasizing about what I was going to eat for dinner. Should I go get curly fries from Arby’s? Maybe a blizzard from Dairy Queen? Or maybe I should make waffles and cover them in buttery, syrupy goodness… Whenever I am home alone for an entire day, these are the thoughts going through my head. Sad, isn’t it?

I took Katy on a walk and was pondering the state of my food-craving soul when I realized: the reason why I wanted fatty comfort food was because I was lonely and bored. That’s how it always is when I’m alone at night. I get lonely and bored. Besides showing me how much I love having my husband around, this also explains why there’s always a subtle feeling of disappointment left lurking underneath my full stomach. Food is not the solution. It’s not even a solution.

So what is the solution? Ultimately, it’s God. Only God can truly comfort my loneliness and entertain my boredom, because only He understands what I really, in my heart of hearts, want. (But He has also given me a wonderful husband and friends to help out as well.)

Nevertheless, a solution is nothing if not employed practically. So the way the solution of God works itself out with this struggle is through prayer, discernment, and flesh-control.

Flesh-control: The thing about using food as a solution is that it always make you feel worse afterward. Not only are you still left with your original feelings, you’re also stuffed and feel like a Goodyear blimp. My sinful nature cannot be bothered to reckon with these implications in the moment of a craving, however. That’s where the flesh-control comes in. Some people say self-control. But as I understand it, my true self desires God alone. My flesh desires food. So I have to control my flesh and let my self win. Flesh-control.

Discernment: My food battles are born out of legitimate, God-given desires. It’s not wrong to desire comfort and excitement – what’s wrong is turning to things other than God to fulfill those desires. I deceive myself by thinking that food is the solution, when it really isn’t (as we’ve already established). So discernment, enabled by the Spirit, is what helps me see the desire that I’m expected food to remedy. Last night, it was loneliness and boredom. Sometimes it’s a desire for comfort and warmth. Ultimately, it’s a desire for more of God.

Prayer: After I discern what my true desires are, I take them to God. Instead of denying those desires, I find the fulfillment of them in Him. I also go to the word and remind myself of God’s promises. Yesterday, I was reminded of what Jesus said in the desert when tempted by Satan to eat: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This verse not only shows me that food is not ultimate (fear of God is), food is also not the only way to get nourishment. Physical nourishment is meant to come through food, but spiritual nourishment is through “every word that comes from the mouth of God” – the Bible. My spiritual desires can only be remedied with a spiritual solution. That is why God is the answer.

So what did I end up eating for dinner last night? A multi-grain tortilla with eggs, taco meat, salsa, cheese and spinach. Then for dessert, a banana dipped in chocolate. When I’m not grasping after food to fulfill spiritual urges, I actually do enjoy eating healthy food. Instead of feeling deprived, I feel good about myself. God truly knows what is best for us – if only we’ll believe Him.

Praying boldly, in community

24 Feb

Since I had the realization that the Christian life is all about walking with God, I have been thinking about prayer. Prayer is one of the ways that we connect with God the deepest. And I believe that it is through seeking God in prayer that we gain wisdom and direction for our lives.

Just this past Tuesday, I was challenged by two verses. One was Psalm 21:2-3 – “You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.” The other was Matthew 21:22 – “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

This is bold prayer.

I don’t often pray like that. I usually add “But not my will, but yours” to end of my prayers, just to avoid being presumptuous about God answering my requests. But then I realized that the very addition of that saying (for me) was presuming that God wasn’t going to fulfill my request – for me, that phrase was synonymous with “But I don’t really expect you to do what I’m asking.”

When thinking through my future with writing, and my desire to be a published author, I have shied away from asking boldly that God would make me a published author because it seemed like a long shot. It seemed like I was asking a lot of God. But that’s exactly the point. At least twice in the gospels, Jesus says that we can literally move mountains with our faith in prayer. Is not being published easier than that?

My problem is that I diminish God’s goodness. Surely, God can’t be that good. I believe that He can do it; I just don’t believe that He will. Yeah, He’s given me this talent, desire, and opportunity to write but that doesn’t mean anything, I think. But when I was praying through the two verses above, and my doubt in God’s goodness, I realized that God doesn’t give us talents and desires only to say “Oh but sorry, you’re never going to do anything with that.” He gives us desires to call us to fulfill them! It will be in His timing and His way, but He still calls us to use our talents.

So often I view God’s will and goodness as only perfect and good in His eyes – I just have to trust that it’s perfect and good, though I can’t see that it is. Sometimes He does call us to trust His goodness without necessarily seeing it. But other times, He blatantly displays His goodness in ways we can’t describe as anything but good! I trust that I will see God’s goodness to me during this season of life.

Another thought I had about prayer is that if I truly believe it is the way we connect with God, and that it’s of utmost importance, I should desire to pray in community (with other people). So this morning, when I had coffee with my friend Cathy, I asked her if she wanted to start praying together. She loves corporate prayer so she immediately said yes. We prayed and it was a great experience. I felt like God met us there.

There is a prayer meeting on Sunday mornings before church. When I first heard about it, there was no way I wanted to go to something like that. “All you do is pray?” But now, I’m intrigued and excited by the possibilities of prayer. You never know how God is going to move!

Fighting against self-righteousness

16 Aug

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted'” (Luke 18:9-14).

One of my co-workers is a Christian and while she goes to church on a regular basis, she doesn’t read the Bible much, doesn’t know much about what the Bible says on specific things, and doesn’t seem to care about changing that. She also has a perpetually bad attitude, complains a lot, and has a tendency to focus on the worst in people.

I have found myself passing judgment on her, thinking that at least I try to have a godly attitude, I make Christian fellowship a priority, and I know more about the Bible and theology because I read the Bible and was very involved in a college ministry.

I know this tendency of mine is a sin. Who am I to think that I am better than anyone else? And even if I am “better,” it is solely by the grace of God. Before I was a Christian, I had no morals, no ethics, and no standards. I did whatever I wanted, regardless of the consequences to others, as long as I came out pretty well off. Any action I do now that takes others into consideration is evidence of the Spirit working in me.

But this struggle reveals something about my condition. It is the same reason why it’s so tempting to tell non-Christians stories about what a rebel I was before I became a Christian. The reason why I want to be skinnier and prettier than other women. The reason why I need to be successful in my job. 

I want to prove my worth.

I want to show others that I have something to offer, that I matter, that I am to be envied. My flesh does not think it is not enough to be loved by God, to be saved by Christ, to be validated by the One who sets the ultimate standards. I want my worth to be about me.

But I’m glad that it’s not about me, no matter how misled and lost I am about what is really important. If it were about me, I could never be sure of my real worth because everything would be relative. Who can define beauty? Who can define success? Who can define truly living? Humans try but without an objective truth, everything becomes subjective and nothing is for sure. Only God can define those things.

And only God can judge other people. My co-worker’s relationship with God is just that – her relationship with God. It’s between her and God. I cannot hold her up to a standard that I cannot attain myself. Without the Holy Spirit, neither of us are anything. But with God, all things are possible.

So instead of judging her and setting myself on a pedestal because “at least I’m seeking to know God,” I should pray for her. I should ask God to make Himself ever more real and lovely in her life, so that she desires to know Him more. I should ask Him to change her attitude, to give her the grace to give thanks always, to soften her heart in repentance, to help her focus on what really matters.

And while I’m at it, I should pray those things for myself as well.

Thinking about prayer

27 Feb

I’m sitting here in a coffee shop called Raw Bean in Salt Lake City, looking at the snow-covered mountains surrounding the city. It’s really beautiful. Whereas in Denver, the mountains are off in the distance, in this city they are right there.

Our little getaway has been really enjoyable so far – I’ll give the details in a future post, when we get back home. But I felt the need to blog this morning because it helps me think through what I’m learning about God. For some reason, on vacation when I have more time to spend with God than in my daily life, I end up spending less time with Him, thinking, praying, and reading. Part of it is my lack of resolution to do so – I either give in to my laziness or allow myself to go along with what other people are doing, to the detriment of my God-time.

Case in point: yesterday, Travis and I got up around 8:30 to go eat breakfast at our hotel. Then we came back to our room and while Travis did homework, I could have gotten in the Word – but instead I watched TV and attempted a crossword puzzle. While relaxation is good and I do think I need it spiritually and physically, I feel closer to God, more joyful and more relaxed when I spend time with Him. So this morning, I suggested to Travis that we spend time at a coffee shop, reading the Bible. I’m glad we’re here.

But it’s weird… God has given me the desire to pray so much lately that right now, I feel like my quiet time is incomplete because I haven’t prayed (I have a hard time praying in my head – I usually have to pray out loud for it to be coherent). Prayer really makes me feel close to God – something I have come to crave, need, depend on. Other the past several weeks, I have gone to God with a lot of things – far more than I ever used to go to Him for. So while I am still struggling with finding time for the Lord on vacation, I am excited to see how much He has grown my prayer life – almost in spite of myself. It’s awesome to see how God can take a tiny flickering flame – one that would go out if someone just walked past it – and fan it into a steady flame. He took my indifference and turned it into passion.

Now I just need to keep that passion while on vacation. 🙂

A choice

16 Feb

I just found out tonight that the job with the triathlon company I had wanted (and thought I had) back in January (that I didn’t get) might be back on the table. They are potentially getting 2 new contracts, which would bring in enough money (and enough work) for them to hire another person full-time. They were going to hire a guy with 5 years race director experience but when they called to offer him the job, he turned it down, saying he didn’t want to travel so much.

The contracts are still legally pending – meaning the race people have given their word but not faxed a signed contract. So this job is still not a for sure in itself, let alone for me.

The owner of this nonprofit also wants to meet me. So I’m going up there on Monday morning.

But here’s the thing…

I’m not entirely sure I want the job. I mean, I do.

But I don’t.

Why the ambivalence? This isn’t your typical job. It’s with a triathlon company…

Pros:

Work from home

Get lots of vacation during the off-season

Flexible-ish hours during the on-season

Get paid more

Work outside

A new, exciting experience in a fun environment

Lots of travel

More interaction with people

More authority and control over my workload (I would be in charge of timing events)

Work with non-Christians, have chances to share the gospel

Chance to broaden my marketing and design skills

Get involved with a start-up company

Cons:

Long hours during the on-season

Lots of travel

I’d be away from Travis a lot

Summer weekends would be tied up working instead of hiking and camping

I’d miss church a lot

Time off during the week, when Travis is working

Possibly not able to participate in any races during on-season

Besides D, it’s all guys who work there (and they sound like they’re frustrating at times)

Sometimes I like working in an office

I wouldn’t have a reason to dress up anymore (sweats and tees would be my “uniform”)

There are things I think I could do to minimize the damage… I could find a church that has Wednesday night services or recreate my own church services at home on my days off. I could bring Travis with me to some races. I don’t think every weekend will be tied up so we’ll have to be intentional about planning things like hiking and camping for those times. The other things are petty (like, liking to dress up… I think I can get over that).

This door isn’t for sure open yet, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But if the door does open, I could start as early as March 1st so I do want to consider it enough to know what my answer would/will be if/when they offer me the job.

After reviewing the list above, I feel like the Pros outweigh the Cons. It’s a little scary… leaving the known for the unknown. But just the other day, I was thinking about Crystal Renn, the plus-size model who wrote Hungry. When she had been discovered by the modeling scout and had finally lost enough weight to start modeling, she moved from rural Mississippi to New York. Her grandma (who was really like her mom growing up) moved with her, giving up her own house to go live in a tiny flat with a bunch of models. Crystal wrote that she still can’t fathom the sacrifice her “mom” made for her. But it is because her mom was willing to sacrifice for Crystal that she is changing the face of modeling today.

The Winter Olympics brought this thought up as well, as I watched a 16-year-old figure skater from the U.S. compete last night. That girl is forgoing a typical high schooler’s life, time with her friends and family, time with boys, time being a teenage girl, to achieve something great. She is following her dream. She is stepping out on the ledge and going for it.

There have been a few things in my life that I’ve had to make choices about. In the past, I’ve decided against them when they would cause me to give up something important to me. I decided to not take ballet lessons because they were on Wednesday nights, during our care group time. Travis and I decided to not lead a care group at church because we were just getting to be good friends in the group we were attending and didn’t want to leave those behind.

But maybe this is a decision that I have to be bold about. Maybe I have to sacrifice some things to achieve something great. Maybe God is calling me to take a risk, to take a chance on Him.

I don’t feel like I’ve ever really taken a risk on anything. Probably the biggest one was moving out to Colorado without jobs but that decision, we felt, was clearly God’s will.

So I want that kind of certainty with this decision. I’m leaning toward yes (if the job is offered, but that’s a big IF) but I don’t want that to be an automatic yes. I want it to actually be a decision, weighing the reality of the situation. Back in January, I wanted out of my current job so badly that I couldn’t see straight. But now, God has brought me to a point of rationality. I do like my job and I would be happy to stay there for the foreseeable future, until God moved me elsewhere. Maybe God is moving me now though?

God seems to have a way of bringing me to a point of contentment with a situation and then giving me what I’ve wanted all along. When I was finally content without a boyfriend after becoming a Christian, God brought Travis into my life. When I had finally made peace about the uncertainty of whether Travis and I would get married (and I say finally because it took me over a year!), Travis proposed. So maybe now that I am finally at peace with what happens with my job, God will give me the triathlon job. I don’t presume to know, though. He is full of surprises – all full of grace and blessing, might I add.

I really want this decision to be bathed in prayer, as they say, so I am going to try to pray a lot over the next several days about this. My life is in God’s hands and I am at peace when I rest completely in His love for me. So I am going to fight to rest, as John Piper would say.

Stay tuned for more…

Jesus Recycles

4 Jun

That was the title of Greg Stier’s podcast today on prayer. His main point was “Jesus recycles our hearts in the same way his heart was recycled…through prayer!” A very convicting podcast—as they usually are. But this one was especially so for me because I struggle so much with prayer. I go through seasons when I pray a lot, but most of the time I pray only a couple times a week, if that.

Back when Travis and I were still dating and I was really struggling with trusting God’s goodness and timing, I prayed a lot. I sought His face and reassurances daily, even hourly. But without that kind of deep struggle, my prayer life has wilted.

On the chapel notes, Greg wrote “Jesus wants to use your current personal and emotional struggles to get you in the prayer closet with him. There he will recycle your heart once again and prepare you for what lies ahead.” My current personal and emotional struggles. No matter how trivial or insignificant they may seem, Jesus wants to use them to get me to pray.

 

I know that a huge tendency in my walk with the Lord is do things on my own strength. That’s my personality—I do it with lots of other stuff and get frustrated when other people “baby” me or try to help me do something that I’m “fully capable of.” Leaning on others—including God—is not intuitive or natural to me.

 

So when I have a struggle, or am anxious, or feel depressed or weary, I don’t run to God in prayer. I do remind myself of truth—truths that God revealed to me—but I’m not going through life on His strength directly. I’m going through life on strength that I garnered from my knowledge about Him and my “hold tight, it’s gonna get better” attitude.

 

But I want to run to God in prayer. I want to bring Him all the little anxieties that are chipping away at my self-sufficiency and contentment:

·         feeling like we don’t have enough money to even make nice dinners during the week;

·         being nervous about finding a house and closing on it within the span of 2 months;

·         vacillating between wanting to be thinner and wanting to be free from the desire to be thin;

·         wishing I was doing something else with my life, like writing my memoir and mentoring teenage and 20something girls about God, relationships and sex;

·         dreaming about being a missionary but wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to go;

·         wanting new clothes, new CDs, new books, new furniture and gadgets but feeling like my desires extend beyond my means;

·         missing Minnesota and all my friends and family but also being excited about our adventures in Colorado and our friends out here;

·         loving married life but having it be so hard and hurtful sometimes that I’d rather feel physical than the emotional pain;

·         learning to be my husband’s helper and partner, not his competitor or foe

·         having good intentions and shotgun motivation about my spiritual disciplines, eating habits, exercise schedule, morning routine, spending habits, work ethic, and appearance, but having it fade and dissolve over time, only to wish I could be more disciplined in x and y

 

The list goes on and on. I have tried to keep a prayer journal so that when I sit down, I know what to pray for (another one of my many good intentions!). I also know that quieting my heart before the Lord would bring these things to mind but I never give myself enough time to do that. What I am going to do, though, is print this and put it in my journal. A couple weeks ago, I made a goal for that week of praying every day. And I did it too, even if it was silently while lying in bed with the lights off.

 

I need to pray for God to help me be diligent in prayer. Ironic, huh? But here’s how awesome our God is: even if I don’t pray for diligence in prayer, even if I continue to go on in my own strength (though I hope I don’t!), God still blesses me and works in me—with no thanks to myself. Praise Yahweh!

 

Chocolate, finally!

24 Mar

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, which meant the end of Lent, which meant the end of my chocolate famine. For breakfast at home, I had a Reese’s peanut butter egg. (Yum!) We were supposed to have the new members class at church but they didn’t have it because of Easter (except we didn’t know that) so after we showed up at the church awaiting a bagel and coffee but rather finding empty countertops and an empty classroom, we went to Einstein Bros where I had a chocolate chip bagel with plain lite cream cheese. I didn’t have any chocolate for lunch because we ate with some friends from church but when we got home, Travis gave me my Easter present: an adorably sweet card and a little bar of Toblerone. So I had 3 chunks of that as well. Then I had a Dove milk chocolate with caramel. Travis and I went on a walk after I had attempted to teach English (I drove all the way over there and Alma wasn’t home). Then I read the Bible, took a little nap while Travis went on a little run, and then we had chocolate chip pancakes (which I had been planning for all week). Instead of putting butter and syrup on them, we topped them with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and some frozen cool whip. They were very chocolatey and very delicious. I am almost chocolated out but not quite. 🙂

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So, you may ask, was giving up chocolate worth it? Did I achieve my desired result with it? Yes and no, respectively. It was worth it because I consumed so many fewer calories over the past month and a half (even though the scale denies that). I felt better not eating so many sweets (because cutting out chocolate cuts out a lot of sweets). And I am still going to limit my chocolate intake only to Sundays (except for today, which is an exception). Why Sundays? Why not Sundays? 

As for achieving my desired result, I look back on the past month and a half and see that instead of running to God amidst my almost uncontrollable cravings for chocolate, I ran to Starbuck’s. Those skinny caramel frappucinos man…they are almost as good as chocolate. I have discovered over the past month of stress at work, stress leads to my overeating. I find comfort in food when I’m stressed because it is a little bit of comfort and goodness in the midst of “ness,” as my boss says. I mean, you can’t really sit in a quiet, dark room doing yoga meditation or take a bubble bath at work. Because unfortunately, you still have to work. 

I gave up chocolate with the hope of increasing my prayer life. But while I didn’t eat chocolate, I didn’t pray either. I don’t know why I am so bad at praying–probably because I live in a small apartment so Travis is always there–but I don’t pray on a regular basis. I get convicted of my lack of prayer often but that conviction usually only translates into one prayer that same day. After that, I fizzle out until my next prayer conviction. Up and down, up and down, my prayer life is on a rollercoaster.

But I realize that I don’t need to give up chocolate during Lent to increase my prayer efforts. Like every other holiday, Easter is just a special one day occasion that has year-round implications. We should always be celebrating and rejoicing over Jesus’ resurrection. And I should always be talking to my heavenly Father through prayer, because Jesus LIVES to intercede to the Father on my behalf. Hallelujah!

Humility and prayer

16 Feb

Yesterday I had a meeting with the “big wigs” (so to speak) at my company and a marketing consultant. We were discussing our branding/marketing strategy. My boss seemed a little anxious about the meeting–she just really wanted it to go well.

So I was a little anxious too. I read branding terminology as I ran on the treadmill. We went to the meeting a little early to discuss branding and marketing before the consultant showed up. And the meeting went really well. The consultant was very easygoing and since there were 6 of us there, there wasn’t really a spotlight at all. It was the longest meeting I’ve ever been in–it went from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm. I liked it because it made the day go by really fast.

But the thing that quieted my heart the most was knowing that it wasn’t my preparation or knowledge–or my boss’–that would make the meeting go well. It was God’s sovereignty. I knew I could trust Him with it all. When I was tempted to continue reading my branding glossary at breakfast instead of the Bible, I reminded myself of that truth and got in the Word instead of relying on myself and my own efforts.

As I sat there not knowing what to read and feeling anxious against my will about the meeting ahead of me (as well as the other work I had on my plate), a verse popped into my head about anxiety. 1 Peter 5:6-7– “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

As I read that, I realized that my anxiety over the coming day was a form of pride. I was assuming that I knew how the day should go and that my worrying and thinking about it would aid in it going that way. This verse shows the correlation between humility and prayer. So often, I don’t bring my anxieties before the Lord. I do remind myself of truth but because I don’t cast my anxieties on the Lord, I still retain control over the situation. I don’t have to acknowledge my dependence on Him. I don’t have to humble myself before the Lord.

But I see in 1 Peter 5 that one of the ways I humble myself before God is bringing my cares and anxieties before Him, committing them into His hand, entrusting the outcomes to His gracious and sovereign will. And not just in theory or in thought but in action and in words. Prayer comes out of a humble heart. And a humble heart naturally moves to prayer. Because when we are willing to recognize and acknowledge our own insufficiencies and weaknesses next to God’s sufficiencies and strengths, we are not only humbled, we are also moved to prayer.