What is Prayer?

Prayer is hard to define. It's certainly mysterious. I don't know that I will ever fully understand it; however, what I do know is this, I am commanded to do it.

To simply explain prayer to myself and others, I say that it is a pouring out of our hearts to the Lord.

First of all, let's not forget that God poured out first in order that this line of communication is even possible. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, his Spirit now abides in all those who believe in him; so when we pray, we don't have to shout to the heavens to be heard. Rather, he's closer than the air we breath.

So with this in mind, let's start pouring!

We can use the acronym POUR to help us in our communication:

P--Praise

I remember asking God a long time ago, "God, why do I need to praise you? You KNOW who you are." And then I heard a gentle whisper back to my heart, "Yes, I do know, but you don't." Ahh, he was right.

When we acknowledge who God is in our hearts and minds, our faith revives. We humans tend to forget that God is Able and Almighty, Merciful and Compassionate, Holy and True, Intentional and Pursuing. We praise him because he is worthy of it. And we praise him so that we remember that he is Greater than any of our daily issues.

O--Offer thanks

How quickly I can get on the complain-train. Why do I go negative in my thoughts? To remedy this muddled mentality, I must switch tracks. Thankfulness is a choice that I have to make.

What are you thankful for, small and big? Make a mental list, or better yet write it down so you can see God's goodness. If you are reading this post, thank him for your eyes that see the page and your mind that comprehends the words. He IS good. A grateful heart is an uplifted heart. Each word of thanks is like the turning of the wheels on a powerful locomotive moving in the right direction.

U--Unload the "ugly"

Let's face it, we all have "ugly" stuff within us. I know my stuff stinks! I need to pour it out to the only One who can truly clean me up: Jesus. And he is always faithful and just to do it! (1 John 1:9). Let's learn from the physical body that God gave us. Just as he designed us to alleviate waste from our bodies, for our good, he also intends us to confess our sins to him, also for our good. It's not about shame. It's about forgiveness. He can handle the stink. Pour it all out and receive his cleansing with humbled gratitude.

R--Requests

Requests seem to come the easiest for us humans, right? I know I can barge into God's throne of grace and start pleading, "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!" And with it, I throw in an impatient, "Now!"

It is true that God wants to hear our every request and that he asks us to be specific. Therefore, I will be persistent with my pleas. But, it is as equally true that he wants to hear our praising voices, our thankful voices, and our repentant voices. These different expressions, including our requests, are the making of a melodious symphony in God's ears.

Rejoice, God has poured out his love into us through Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:5)

Now, let's pour out our prayers to him.

In doing so, we will have the privilege of experiencing a personal and loving relationship with our majestic and mysterious God.

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Saturday, March 2, 2024
By Chris Baxter

A Double Debacle

Debacle: a sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco

Double: times 2

On December 23rd, I decided to do something very spontaneous. Fast thinking and fast action are not my norm, but it was 2 days before Christmas, and I was feeling festive. I was with my new daughter-in-law Acacia for the afternoon because our men were out duck hunting.

It was currently 2:15pm, and we were already traveling toward Nashville from a family visit in Clarksville. My heart rate increased slightly when I cautiously asked,  "Feel like going to the Amy Grant/Vince Gill Christmas concert at the Ryman?"

Conveniently, the concert started at 3pm. Perfect timing!

Acacia, who lives life in the fun lane, said, "Sure! I'm definitely down for that! I love Amy Grant, but I'm not sure who Vince Giller is." I smiled. (Sorry Vince Giller; I'll introduce your legendary voice to her soon enough.)

It was decided; we were in! While Acacia drove down the interstate, I booked our tickets on-line, quickly put in my credit card information, looked it over, and then hit "purchase"--$135 cha-ching, $135 cha-ching. Whew, spontaneity can be costly! Meanwhile, I waited for the confirmation email that provided the two tickets.

Debacle #1: I waited and waited for the tickets to be sent to me, but they never came. After a little research into my on-line order, I realized that I mistyped my own email when booking the concert. NOOOO!!! This meant that our combined $270 tickets were floating around somewhere in cyberspace.

Not to be defeated, we decided to park and get in line for the concert anyway. After all, I could show them my proof of purchase in spite of not having the tickets, right?

Debacle #2: It turns out the tickets I purchased on-line were from a 3rd party that the Ryman was not accepting for this particular concert. NOOOO double way!! Yes, the concert was a no-go.

My heart rate was now near flat.

Of course it was drizzling outside, so we went back to our $50 parking spot, and sat together in the car to discuss what we should do about this "sudden and ignominious failure; this fiasco." We made a phone call or two to cancel the tickets, but to no avail. But because we were in downtown Nashville, and because we had this gold-lined-parking spot for several hours, and because it was the most wonderful time of the year, we decided that the show must go on in some way.

That's how we ended up at the Frist Art Museum. A little down and a little dazed, we walked around and observed the art, we appreciated the art, and then we ourselves did some hand's on art. Now I'm not an artist like my daughter-in-law, but I am a fighter, and I was absolutely going to have a jolly good time, sitting there, sketching the life size mannequin soldier that stood before me, all the while resisting the thought of Amy Grant and Vince Giller singing "Winter Wonderland" in perfect harmony down the street.

Lost in my black and white sketch marks, the clock struck 5pm. The Frist was closing. It was time to put our pencils down and exit.

 

As Acacia and I walked out of the art museum and onto the downtown lit-up city streets of Nashville, we chuckled about the unexpected unfolding of our afternoon: the paid-for concert that almost happened; the memory-in-the-making that did.

Then, right there on the street corner, spontaneity hit... I took my soldier sketch that I was holding in my hand and waved it eagerly above me, saying,

"Anybody want to buy some art for $270?"

----------------

PS To finish this story on a positive note, my husband Mac, who has become quite used to my debacle-lifestyle, was extremely gracious to me when Acacia and I came in the door that night, asking how the concert went. Bless him (again). And not only that, later in the week, he was able to dispute the charge and cancel the credit card transaction altogether. So he saved the day! Maybe I should thank him by taking him to a concert at the Ryman! What do you think?

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Wednesday, January 10, 2024
By Chris Baxter

My Son, "Dream On"

I'm not a "glitter girl," but I was wearing a gown that shimmered.

I'm not a "look at me" personality, but it was my turn to be center-stage.

I'm not a "dancing queen," but my number was called.

The mother-son dance was here. My daughter Maggie whispered in my ear just before the dance,

"Mom, you can do this."

Then, Davis walked over, took my hand and led me to the spacious dance floor. With Ben Rector's lyrics in the background, the lights twinkling overhead, and the gentle breeze blowing around us, I looked up into my 6' 2" son's eyes, and savored my "little boy."

For 3 more minutes, he was all mine. I remembered my friend telling me earlier to pretend no one was watching, so at that moment, just he and I existed.

We slowly swayed to the lyrics:

"...Dream on,

Dream on,

Even when you're afraid all your dreams may be gone,

Just dream on,

Dream on..."

I took a moment to affirm Davis. I told him how he was like his daddy: tall, dark, handsome, a leader, and a "fisher of men."

I then told him how he was like me: a deep well, desiring others to go deep with him, kindhearted, and gospel driven.

The song kept playing; we kept swaying.

Words from the past: "Dream on."

Words for the future: "Dream on."

I told him I was so proud of him and that I loved him,

And, and...

Then--my cue; the song was nearing its end. The words came so quickly--

"Dream on,

Dream on,

To infinity and far beyond;

Maybe they'll take you fabulous places,

Maybe you'll wake up right where you belong."

With these words, I had one last twirl before I handed him over to Acacia his bride.

I wanted the last stanza of the song to be theirs.  

I stepped back to the edge of the dance floor, now empty-handed, but heart full of certainty.

He was right where he belonged.

She is now his number one.

Can a heart rejoice and weep at the same time?

My dress sparkled, my eyes glistened, and my hands folded in a prayer.

I watched the newlyweds gracefully move together, swaying to the first stanza of their life:

"Dream on,

Dream on,

When the world says you're crazy just tell them they're wrong;

When the wold says you're crazy just tell them they're wrong,

and dream on."

Yes, my son, with your beautiful bride in your arms...dream on.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023
By Chris Baxter

My Full-Circle God

After almost three years of waiting, wondering if I would be able to have more children, my son Davis was born. The experience of having two miscarriages had actually birthed within me a more grateful heart. God's goodness showed up as I held this tangible bundle of love. In fact, my "lullaby song" to him as an infant and toddler became "God is so Good." Each nap time and also when I put him down at night, I would hold Davis in my arms, and sing softly in his ear:

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He's so good to me.

Whenever I hear this song now, I can't help but think of God's faithfulness through this trial and the sweetness of his gift, in his choice time.

...Fast forward almost 28 years. Davis is "all grown up" now. Joys and trials are all mixed in his life journey, and of course, as his momma, I have experienced the emotion of it all. His story continues, as it does in each of our lives.

I'm thrilled to say he has found himself a Jesus-lovin' woman whom he will marry next month! Do you know how many years I've prayed for Acacia, not knowing her name?

Only a couple of weeks ago, I went to a bridal shower for her in Orlando, Florida. The weekend was jammed packed full of wedding planning, meeting her friends, seeing the venue, talking through the ceremony, and more! On Sunday morning of this fast-paced weekend, we paused for a bit and went to the church where she and Davis met.

There, after God's word was taught, it was time to worship. And as I stood by my future-daughter-in-law, with the music playing, her heart and hands in lifted high to our faithful God, a song began to play, none other than:

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He's so good to me.

Right there in the church row, I had a personal moment with my full-circle God. He took me back and he brought me forward. 28 years in one stanza.

God loves to do that, you know--to bring us back to a place of remembrance so that we can worship him in the present all the more.

This happens all through Scripture. We see it with Moses. The very mountain that he saw the burning bush is the very place where he brought the Israelites to worship after they crossed the Red Sea. Full Circle God.

And of course, we see it with Jesus. He left his rightful throne; he came to earth; he fulfilled his purpose; he gave us his Spirit; and he went back to his throne in heaven. Full Circle God.

So as I stood there by Acacia, I worshiped in the moment, while also seeing the little baby I once held, thanking the Lord for the small gift that grew, and then, my lullaby whisper became a shout of praise:

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He's so good to me.

I love my Full Circle God.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023
By Chris Baxter

Back When I said "Yes" to my Man

It's been 34 years since I said "yes" to my man.

He had just pulled an all-nighter as a medical resident in a Memphis hospital. I had driven from Jackson, MS to visit him for the weekend in his home town, Hernando, where he was temporarily staying at his parents.

We were sitting on his grandmother's porch swing next door...

A small country town,

a white farm house,

a definite southern charm.

We were swinging slow; I was hoping much.

There were no hidden photographers, no cell phones in our hands, no thought of recording the event,

just him... and me...and a ring in his pocket.

After some small talk about nothing and then large talk about big things, he then quoted Proverbs 18:22: He who finds a wife finds a good thing...

Then, he got on one knee and told me something--I don't remember what it was, but it was sweet.

The next question was only 4 words, but at the same time, it was life-altering. After only 3 months of dating him, Mac asked, "Will you marry me?"

Wow, I had waited for this;

I had dreamt about this,

and here I was, living this!

Of course I said "yes," not in the least bit knowing what that meant other than a ring on my finger and an "I do" at the altar.

My dreams hadn't gone past my wedding day.

We got up from the porch swing and knocked on his Mimi's screen door. She was the first one to see the ring; the first to hug us; the first to congratulate us. It was a memorable celebration of three.

Shortly afterwards, I was met with an embrace from Mac's mama who was waiting at their house. I remember her saying, with her thick southern accent and deep rooted faith, that she had been praying for me, Mac's future wife, for years, and she was so thankful that God answered her prayer through me.

Those life-giving words filled my cup, and they didn't cost a dime.

The good news spread...by the house telephone that was attached to a wall. Excitement was in the air rather than on a feed.

Wedding plans were made, mostly by my task-oriented mama, some specifics by my dreamy self. Next came showers and gifts, southern style. (Anybody need a sliver tray, silver tea set, silver place settings?)

And so, just like that, we were married in my growin'-up-church in Jackson, MS, six months later to the day.

Mac and I have come a long way together these 34 years.

Lots of life. Lots of growth. Lots of change.

It's a different world than way back when I said "yes" to my man.

But if he were to ask me to marry him again now, I would hope he would do it the exact same way.

Just him...and me, and a ring in his pocket.

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Saturday, October 14, 2023
By Chris Baxter

What Do I Do When my Attitude Stinks?

Yesterday morning,I went on a brisk walk. I needed a slight attitude adjustment and I thought some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise would help me out. Interestingly, but not conveniently, while I was in my forward progression down the street, so was a neighborhood garbage truck. It was rather uncanny; my pace and the truck’s duties seemed to line up perfectly. The large truck would stop to collect garbage while I moved ahead; but then, it would invariably catch up with me, and we’d be side by side again. This systematic timing went on and on. I turned right, and to my disgruntlement, so did the garbage truck. I couldn’t seem to escape its route or the awful smell that went along with it.

 

While breathing in the not-so-fresh-air, my mind made a connection: What if our thoughts and emotions had smells attached to them? What if the age-old phrase, your attitude stinks, were actually true in the heavenly realm? What odor would worry put off? Or bitterness? Or unforgiveness? 2 Timothy 2:16-17 refers to empty chatter spreading like gangrene—now that’s stinky for sure!

 

How do we rid ourselves of the “stink?” Soon after my walk, the Lord directed me to these verses: O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! May my prayer be counted as incense before you; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering (Psalm 141:1-2). Can it be that our prayers “smell good” to God?

 

I looked further into “incense offerings” and found Exodus 30:7-8: And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on (the altar). Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. My bible’s commentary explained that the incense represented the prayers and praises of God’s people. Also, the incense helped extinguish the smell of the dead animals that had just been sacrificed. With the explanation of this ancient practice, here is my present-day thought: maybe when we lay down our worry, pride, bitterness, or you-name-it-stinky-sin, and change them into prayers instead, then these new words become the fragrance that rises to heaven.

 

Today, let’s rid ourselves of the garbage-truck-odors, and then replace them with a lovely aroma of prayer instead. For me:

I will lay down worrying about my children, and instead, pray for each one of them by name.

I will lay down resentment towards my coworker, and instead, ask God to bless him.

I will lay down negativity, and instead, lift up praises to the One who gives me breath.

 

It’s humbling to think that our words can be counted as incense before the Lord. Let’s trust that he not only enjoys the sound of our voices, but that he also delights in the sweet fragrance of our uplifted prayers.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023
By Chris Baxter

Daily Prayer

Filled up to be Poured out

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  Acts 2:2-4

Dear Lord,

Your Spirit among believers is powerful and invasive! Use us to speak your name to those who do not know you. Thank you for your filling; may we now be poured out. Amen.