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Culture's Chaos vs. Mother's Day

By Chris Baxter

How ironic that our country is in the midst of (another) whirlwind of chaos, this time about aborting Life, and Mother's Day is around the corner.

As I read the raging headlines, I'm also currently in my own quiet space, praying for 3 different women who are longing to be a mother. They are asking for the sweet gift of a heart to beat inside of them. Again, what a contrast to the world that is shouting the opposite.

Another interestingly-timed-project on my editing radar right now is my daughter's work of 36 prayers written for her baby in utero. Maggie has beautifully crafted one prayer for each week of pregnancy. The content speaks about the baby's physical development as well as his or her future well-being. They are share-worthy, so please pray that I can get these out there to those who want them week to week. (Maggie now has three precious ones, so these prayers have been lifted up again and again and again!)

Her prayer on week 6 reminded me once again of God's divine orchestration of an appointed life, the value of a heart beat, the hope of a future. Forgive us Lord when we play god, destroying what you have already called into being.

Here is my daughter's prayer:

 Dear Jesus,

Thank you for the miracle of life that is now making his or her presence known in my body. As I begin to experience more of the (unpleasant)symptoms of pregnancy, I have been struck by the fact that I am giving myself up/suffering for the life of another. This is just a small picture of what You did for me on the cross, and it fills me with awe of your love and sacrifice.

 The other fact that fills me with awe is that our baby's heart is beating 110 beats per minute! This is such a testament to your sovereignty and creativity - that a heart that is not my own is beating inside my womb under no conscious power or direction from me. I know that even though I can't feel or hear these precious heartbeats, You can. This gives me such comfort as I continue walking forward in this new, exciting, and sometimes scary season. I pray, spiritually, that you create a heart that beats for you in our child. I also pray, physically, for a healthy and strong liver, kidneys and lungs.

 I love knowing that his or her face is starting to form. Small dots on the tiny head will soon form the ears, eyes and nose. I can't help but think of the miracles that You performed during Your time on earth when you made the blind see and the deaf hear. You are working another miracle in my womb right now. May they open their eyes and unclog their ears to see and hear Your loving presence in their life.

 I praise You with great joy (and a little nausea)!

Amen

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dis the "Dis"

By Chris Baxter

I wish this was not true about me, but I tend to wrestle with discouragement. I make a plan in my head and think about it coming to fruition with hopeful expectation, and when it doesn't happen, ugh, I'm like a pouty two year old all over again.

THANKFULLY, I know this not-so-pretty-truth about myself so my pity parties are not as long as they used to be. God is growing me up.

Lately, I've decided to "dis" each "dis" that encroaches my thoughts. Words like "discouragement", "disappointed", and "dissatisfied" need to be disarmed, and the quicker I do this word-slicing, the better.

I decided to look up the prefix "dis" just to get a better idea of its meaning. Here it is:

"dis"

1. expressing negation

2.denoting reversal or absence of an action or state

One of my goals in life (on a daily basis) is to NOT be a negative person! Just call me "No-Dis-Chris"!

So I must fight the negativity that creeps in every day! With God's help, I can change my mindset.

For example, for you and for me, let's look at these words I mentioned above:

Disappointed. Take out the "dis" and the word becomes "appointed." Have you ever gotten passed over for a job that you really thought was supposed to be yours? Can you believe that God, in his full-knowledge, has something else in mind and that you are the one he has appointed to do it?

Discouraged. Take out the "dis" in this word, and we see the root word "courage." Have you been knocked off your feet due to things not going your way, in your job, with your health, in a relationship, or with a personal heart's desire? Are you weary of the struggle? I get it. I encourage you to get back up and know God IS at work in a way you can't quite yet see. Let him fill you with renewed courage to keep walking by faith.

Dissatisfied. Take out the "dis" and the word becomes "satisfied." This is a hard question: can you be satisfied with the plans God has for you more so than the plans you have for you? The truth of the matter is that sometimes my plans are just that, MY plans. When I let go of my narrow-minded expectations and allow the Lord to broaden my thinking into what he has in store, I'm not only satisfied, I'm excitedly content. And being excitedly content in the Lord is a beautiful way to live...MUCH better than living like a pouty two year old!

Practice dis-ing the dis today: be appointed, full of courage, and satisfied with HIM. Change disoriented to "oriented--in Him". Change disapproved to "approved--by Him." Change disadvantage to "advantage--because of Him." On and on.

Take out the dis and replace it with HIM.

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Saturday, April 9, 2022

A Specific Prayer for a Broader Purpose

By Chris Baxter

A very long time ago...about three and a half decades to be exact, I was a competitive swimmer for the University of Texas. Even though I had disappointments scattered throughout my career while there, I can also say that being part of three national championship teams was a privilege that I'll always cherish.

Back then, the rules were clear. The playing field was even.

However, not so today.

The women's NCAA swimming competition is currently being held in Atlanta Georgia. The pool is 25 yards for everyone, the starting blocks are all the same size, and the lane ropes are all equidistant from each other. Every swimmer there has trained more hours than anyone would want to count. All competitors have set both personal and team goals. It is an honor to be present on the pool deck.

There is one difference that has changed everything, however, and it is this: transgender swimmers will be diving into the water, racing next to women. I'm thankful for the people who are making a stand on this topic, using their immense knowledge and unique platforms to implore fairness in women's swimming, as well as in all of women's sports.

My skill set concerning this current agenda is prayer. (After all, I learned to pray as a swimmer. There's nothing quite like swimming back and forth, back and forth, moving with the rhythm of the water, pouring one's heart out to the One who listens...and cares...and answers.)

So, as these highly trained athletes are competing in Atlanta, I'm here in my den in Nashville, sitting quietly, tapping on my key board, lifting these swimmers up to the Lord.

Read this prayer, and if you believe it, pray it with me. You may not have any interest in swimming, but I would ask you to use this specific prayer for a broader purpose. It's about each one of us: God's desire is for our hearts to change, to follow him fully, and to be blessed in his truth.

Dear Lord,

You are Maker of heaven and earth.

You give life and breath. Our hearts beat and our minds think because of your permissive love. Thank you.

You don’t force us to follow you, rather you invite us to. Forgive us when we refuse.

We are living in a time that calls “wrong right” and “right wrong.”

You ask us to live by your wisdom because you know it is best for us, individually and collectively. The wisdom of the world only brings disorder and confusion, again, individually and then collectively.

Help us to realize that you alone are the soul answer to what we really desire; nothing else will suffice. Forgive us for seeking outer measures to gain inner peace.

You ask us to pray about everything and also to be fervent and specific when we talk to you. Thank you that you are not a God who is far away; rather, you are as near to us as our breath. You care deeply about our circumstances, individually and collectively. You want to work in ways that only you can so that people are drawn to you.

So today, we lift up every swimmer, coach, and official at the women’s NCAAs in Atlanta GA. You are there too. You know each individual by name, and there is not one person on the pool deck that you don’t love. Understanding your personal love draws our hearts to want your protective ways. You know how to make this situation right. We ask for your good and right way to prevail. Pour your divine peace into this human confusion. Use this swimming meet to launch what is right and just for all, specifically women's athletics. Make people courageous to fully follow your paths and speak about it. Bless those who are committed to you.

Your way is pure, not skewed.

Your truth is freeing, not binding.

You desire heart change for all of us.

Turn us back to you.

We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

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Friday, March 18, 2022

Not Deciding, Is Deciding

By Chris Baxter

For several days in a row, as I have driven back and forth on one particular road, an indecisive squirrel has been standing like a statue while facing my fast approaching vehicle. My comment to this little bushy-tailed creature has been the same on each occasion, "You better move it, Mr. Squirrel! Make a decision or it will be made for you." (I really am nicer than this statement sounds, I promise!) It's just that this squirrel needs to make a decision and act on it!

As I thought about this living scenario, I couldn't help but also coorelate it with the way I make decisions, big and small. I hate to admit it, but I have some squirrel-ish-like tendencies at my core. When I know the right thing to do, why do I waver like my furry friend? What I'm beginning to understand about this "middle-the-road-picture" is that not deciding, really is deciding. The result of my back-and-forth mentality is that I either miss out on an opportunity altogether or I make an unnecessary mess of things.

God loves to give wisdom, but He also expects us to act on it. Hear His word on this:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect to receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

God's word speaks. If we have been given wisdom from the Lord either from His word, or from a sermon, or from godly counsel, and we are not following through with it because of fear or doubt, then guess what? We are not obeying him. And because of disobedience, natural consequences will follow.

When we hear from the Lord, let's trust Him wholeheartedly in what He is telling us to do. Then, let's not waste time by getting stuck in a self-induced wavering mode. Overthinking is under-trusting. If He has spoken, then obey Him. Let's MOVE out of the middle of the road and then scurry along in faithful obedience to God's next kingdom adventure.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Psalm 32:8

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Monday, February 28, 2022

Treasure in the Sand

By Chris Baxter

As some of you know, I frequent Panama City Beach with my husband Mac as he does orthopedic ER work at a hospital in the city. Poor me, right? While he fixes ankles, hips, and knees, I get to sit and look at the beach (from my condo; no thanks for the sand), and write things like... this post.

I also take beach walks to clear my head, and then to fill it up again with the next "wise thought" so I can impart it to whomever chooses to listen.*

And then, sometimes on these walks, I stop and talk to other beach sitters or walkers. Being an introvert, this will always be a harder thing for me than pushing my pen across a page, or clicking keys on the computer. I really do like people. Actually, I love people! Especially one at a time.

Yesterday I was walking and thinking, and thinking and walking, and I was very content with just me, myself, and I... then God entered in. I recognized the feeling; today was a day to share ...Him...with someone.

"Oh boy! With who?," I nervously asked God. I wasn't sure what lucky man or woman was going to get to hear me say a "Word" but somehow, whenever the Lord nudges me to speak up, he then faithfully directs my steps to the right person.

So, I started walking and praying, and praying and walking...

Not too long after that, I saw a man with one of those treasure-hunter-contraptions; he was waving it back and forth across the white sand.

"Is this the one, God?"

"Yes, go."

So I leisurely strolled up to this older fellow. He was wearing a thick sweatshirt, worn out jeans, and baseball cap as it was a Florida-type-of-cold-day. The treasure-hunting-device was beeping decisively. I said, "Find something?"

"Yep, it's in here somewhere," he said. After about 30 seconds of shuffling the sand, a rusty old bottle cap was uncovered. He put it in his pocket explaining to me that even things like this, considering their age, might be worth something.

"Oh really, how interesting to know," I replied.

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"Michigan," he responded. (He looked like he was from Michigan. Not sure what Michigan-people really look like, but if I had to guess, it would be like the weathered snowbird who was standing in front of me.)


"Ah, here for warmth! I get it! Nothing like sunshine in the midst of winter!" I said. Then I asked, "Do you do this much?," sincerely wanting to know more about his treasure hunts.

"Yep," he said, "This is my third day here, and I've already found 37 cents, 2 rings, and a cross."

"Oh wow!" I said. "That's awesome. A cross! I love that." I then said to myself, "OK, a cross...he found a cross...there's your segue."

So, I took a breath, said a prayer, and asked, "Do you know what the cross means?"

A little bewildered at the question, because, as you know, that's not an everyday "how's the weather type question," he quizzically said, "No, tell me."

And for the next minute, we had a conversation. I can't recall exactly all I said, but it was from the heart. I know I told him that God loved him, and I also know that the age-old-timeless-Truth found in John 3:16 was spoken: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

He said, "Yes, I believe that! I am a Christian. I am a Catholic Christian."

I smiled and simply said, "Yay! That's great to know!" We spoke for a moment longer, and nodded at each other with a quiet agreement and a good-bye. As I walked away, with hopeful confidence that he knew Jesus as his Savior, I said, "God's Spirit lives in you." And that was that.

I kept walking on, and praying much, asking the Lord to use my meager jumbled words to do his mighty life-giving work. I prayed that when this friendly older Michigan man got back to his sunny beachside condo, he would relook at the rusty bottle cap, the 37cents, the 2 rings, but most of all the cross--and then take hold of the age-old timeless Truth of this treasure that he uncovered in the sand.

*Check out other beachside writing, and subscribe to the Daily Prayers on www.RespitefortheWeary.com

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Monday, February 7, 2022

What is Faith?

By Chris Baxter

I chose a word for 2022...better yet, a word actually chose me. After seeing it, hearing it, and randomly thinking on it at different times prior to the New Year, "faith" was no doubt the word for me.

Hmmm....my first thought was, "Well, now that's a big, broad word to grasp?"

And then these questions:

"What does God want me to learn about faith?"

"How does one really 'walk by faith, not by sight' (2 Corinthians 5:7)."

With listening to the bible chronologically so far this year, and then combining it with my word for 2022, I've discovered some things about faith from the biblical characters I've encountered thus far:

Faith is...knowing that you are created and that you have a purpose on this earth (Adam and Eve).

Faith is...offering a gift to God with reverence (Abel) rather than with "rote-ness" (Cain).

Faith is...walking with God, day in, day out (Enoch).

Faith is...obeying God even when it seems crazy (Noah).

Faith is...believing God even in the depths of despair (Job).

Oh wow, I'm only 2 weeks into listening to the bible, and I've been given so much to think about already! What are the next 351 days going to bring?

What is faith?

Faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen. For by it the people of old gained approval. Hebrews 11:1-2

I believe God was personally and powerfully present in the lives of these "people of old."  I believe he molded Adam and Eve, he smiled on Abel, he disciplined Cain, he walked with Enoch, he directed Noah, and he had compassion on Job. Likewise, he is present in my faith-walk and yours.

I want to mimic all the faith-qualities of these biblical heroes. With God's spirit in me, grooming me and growing me, I can.

Let's choose to walk with God this year. We may not be able to see him, but through the pages of his living book, we can certainly know him.

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Daily Prayer

Trying times

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him (Stephen). But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.  Acts 8:2-3

Dear Lord,

We lift to you the people in this world who are being fiercely persecuted for their faith. Surround them as a shield; protect them from evil. Give them peace in the midst of uncertainties and assurance of your presence. Strengthen their faith in these trying times. Amen.