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 delight sin the sweet fragrance of our uplifted prayers.
Thanksgiving week is just around the corner. It's time to gather together!
As we start our holiday lists that can get rather long and stress-filled, let's remember that fellowship is our main focus. The people in our homes are more important than the four walls of our homes. The decorative table is the mere backdrop to the conversation around it. We want the food to taste delicious, but we want the laughter and love to be just as rich! It's embedded in us to desire unity in our family, but how do we gain this gift? I want to suggest a key ingredient is prayer. The Lord reminds me often that prayer is the "secret sauce" to any gathering.
So, as we start our lists this week, as we go to the grocery store, as we lay out our meal plans and clean our bedrooms, etc, let's decide to use this time in quiet prayer, thanking God for each individual that will enter our homes during the holiday season. Name them out loud as you lift them to the Lord.
Thank God for the opportunity to gather!
Ask Him to be present in every conversation and every interaction.
Ask Him to be the strongest voice and the greatest love and the sweetest blessing in the midst of your family.
Ask Him to bless your home with both his presence and his peace.
Our homes are our a gift from the Lord. I've never been without one, and I would imagine, the majority of you have been blessed in this way as well. Our hospitality is our gift back to God. He delights to see us gather together!
"How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity." Psalm 133:1
So let's trim down our to-do lists and beef up our prayer lists. In doing so, we will be more eager to open up our doors with warm and thankful hearts.
Thank you for the gift of our homes. We take for granted the pleasures of kitchens and bathrooms, comfortable beds and cozy dens. Again, we praise you for your tangible goodness to us! As a gift back to you, help us to prepare our hearts for this upcoming holiday. As you know, where people gather, so do potential problems. Relationships are hard to navigate at times! We ask for your mercy and your grace even now. Please Lord, bless us richly with your unifying love. Amen.
Not too long ago in my morning quiet time, I came across a prayer written by Richard Foster, entitled "A Prayer of Relinquishment".
I wrote it down in my journal because, for me, it's a "keeper." The content of the prayer is simple yet profound, and can be prayed daily with new meaning behind each phrase.
Here is the prayer:
Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.
May your will be my delight today.
May your way have perfect sway in me.
May your love be the pattern of my living.
I surrender to you my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions. Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.
I place into your loving care my family, my friends, my future. Care for them with a care that I can never give.
I release into your hands
my need to control,
my craving for status,
my fear of obscurity.
Eradicate the evil, pacify the good, and establish your kingdom on earth.
For Jesus' sake. Amen.
Which line grabbed your attention?
When I first read it, I identified with these words, "I release into your hands...my fear of obscurity." Today, as I am typing, this particular line strikes a chord in my heart, "I place into your loving care my family, my friends, my future." Next time I pray this prayer, God will most likely highlight something else that needs tending to in my life. He's always working in me, pulling things to the surface so that I can bring my "stuff" (my worries, fears, doubts, wayward thoughts and actions, etc) to him. And how gracious and patient God is to help me open my hands back up, releasing it all, in full trust once again.
I encourage you to spend some time with the Lord today. Make a date and choose a quiet place to have a Heart-to-heart with him. Personalize this prayer. He will be delighted to listen to you, and as equally delighted to respond.
Unclinch your fists and relinquish whatever you're holding into the hands of your all knowing, all loving, almighty God.
Over the past 18 months, I've become a grandmother to two adorable little angels. With each of their very first breaths, I entered and re-entered into the "grandparent-craze-club". I totally get it now, and I will try really hard to spare you of my several hundred pictures at this moment.
As I became Mimi, my oldest daughter became Mommy. Can I tell you how exhausted I am by watching her manage these two sometimes-human-angels? Did I really do ALL of that oh so long ago?
In reflection of my mothering years, here is a look at each stage from the rearview mirror:
Newborn-Toddler: Nurturing, (and praying). Primary questions come to mind, "Are they present and accounted for?" "Did they get fed?" "Are they somewhat clean?"
Elementary years: Teaching, (and praying). Teaching how to brush their teeth, how to read and write, and how to get along with their siblings are just a few things that caused grey hairs to sprout all over my head.
Pre Teen-Teen: Training, (and praying). Oh my, these years. Talk about grey hairs, now add wrinkles around the eyes and several more forehead creases! When I ponder too long on four different teenagers learning how to drive, I have a come-apart all over again. And then there's teaching how to manage blooming emotions and teaching how to respect authority... so much, so much.
Young Adult: Listening, (and praying). As each one of my kids took flight, phone calls were filled with lots of highs and lows. I listened carefully; I also learned to read between the lines. They felt far away for the first time, but somehow, (I believe it was through my prayers for them), they were even closer in my heart.
Adult Children: Watching, (and praying). What a paradox, adult children. They're fully grown, yet they're still growing. I'm in this stage now, and I am more of an observer; like watching my daughter become a mommy. I'm also watching each of my kids grow up as they deal with their real life "stuff." Career paths, relationships, faith. Sometimes it's so awesome, and sometimes it's just not. When they were toddlers at my feet, I could pick them up and just hold them when it hurt. Now, the BEST thing (and sometimes the only thing) I can give them is prayer.
No matter where you are in your parenting, prayer is the lifeline, for you and for your kids. Remember, you are talking to the One who knows your child better than you do--in each and every stage! Believe this crazy truth: God can out-love even a mother's full on loving heart! So talk to Him.
This reminds me of a motto that the Lord whispered to me way back in those 24/7 toddler years. It's this:
"Talk a whole lot to God about your kids, and talk a whole lot to your kids about God."
So parent, choose to nurture, teach, train, listen, watch, and pray.
I'm slowly unpacking my thoughts from the Colorado trip I went on with my husband Mac about two months ago for our 31st anniversary. We splurged for a few nights in mid-April and went to the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. Wow, it was f...a...n...c...y, way more than we knew!
While there, a wonderful thing happened while I was out on a long walk taking in the rugged beauty of the Colorado mountains. Mac had a fishing adventure, and it was way too cold for this southern girl to go alongside, so I stuck around the hotel grounds for the morning hours.
Speaking of cold, after biking some and walking some more, I was more than ready to go inside. The hotel offered one fireplace-lounge after another on several floors, and I already saw myself curled up with a book in one of these inviting spots. As I walked along briskly, I told myself, "Just get there, inside, warmth, ahhh." Meanwhile, someone's voice gently interrupted my bee-line mentality. A middle-aged woman who was touring the historic hotel and grounds asked me from a distance, "Excuse me, do you mind taking my picture?" With the large pond, the old hotel, and rugged mountains in the background, it was definitely a great picture spot, so I responded with a "Sure!" (If she had known of my picture taking inability, she would have waited for the next passer-by.)
I walked toward her; I was cordial, but I was also quick. Bottom line, I was cold. I took her picture, and I took it again and again, to cover my bases.
Then I left her alone.
As I walked away from her and toward the nearing warmth, I couldn't ignore the nudge in my spirit. Hmmm, was I supposed to say something more to this lady? Unable to shake this thought, I confessed and prayed, "Lord, if you had something more in mind, please bring her back around."
Fast forward a couple of hours. After a hot shower (and praying a few more times the above prayer), I then meandered my way to a random fireplace lounge. Sitting there by myself, I texted a picture of the cozy scene before me and sent it to my adult kids, letting them know that I was doing quite fine at the moment.
After turning the pages of my book for a bit, I looked up to simply stare at the crackling fire and get lost in it.
But that's not what I saw.
Wow! What do you know? It was the lady...who was by the pond...now, sitting right in front of me.
Does God hear my prayers? Yes, oh yes, he does. Obviously it was his will to answer my prayer with, "Ok, you asked, so I'm bringing this woman back around to you."
To let you know, when I saw her sitting there, I was taken off guard and got really nervous! I'm an introvert. Talking to strangers is not my thing! But, the deeper "thing" is that I knew God brought this woman to me again, and so I needed to follow through. By faith, I moved to the chair beside her and started with, "Hi".
And I smiled...warmly this time.
We engaged in small talk, introducing each other. I fumbled with my words somewhat, but pressed on. I ended up telling her about what just transpired (taking her picture, regretting not being more friendly, my prayer, and now the two of us sitting in this "random" place). I also boldly/fearfully told her I was a Christian writer, and gave her my card (that I had by faith put in my pocket just in case God answered my prayer). I told her about my website and the online ministry called Soul Sisters, both designed to encourage women in God's word. She received my card and my kindness with a hint of curiosity and...that was that.
The amazing thing is, the next day, Mac and I went about 20 minutes away to tour the Garden of the Gods, a vast array of red rocks that one can wander through for miles. As we were coming out of the visitor center, guess who caught my eye? The lady by the pond, by the fireplace, was now by the garden about to walk some trails.
I yelled her name as if she were my childhood friend! Ha, I think i might have scared her a bit, but we both laughed at yet another chance meeting. We chatted again, and I merely stated, "Wow, this is more than a coincidence."
God heard me, and he answered me, not once, but twice.
And I'm still praying for this lady...now, by name.
I'm a visual learner therefore I journal most everything that I want to know and remember. One of the consistent little pictures that I draw every morning beside the current date on my journal page is a quick sketch of two hearts side by side, slightly overlapping, with a cross going straight through the middle of the hearts. The hearts are meant to represent Mac and me, and the cross, of course, represents Jesus. When I draw this simple picture, I pray something like this over our relationship:
Lord, may your strong love pull us together.
May your love fill us and flow through us towards one another.
Bind us together and make us move towards other people.
Use us, O Lord, however you want, and where ever we go. Amen.
Well, not too long ago, Mac and I went to Spearfish, South Dakota. We stayed at the Secret Garden, a lovely Bed and Breakfast near the bubbling Spearfish Creek. In this small historic town, our hope was to visit some young friends of ours, John Michael and Erica Elder. Mac got to fish with John Michael, and I enjoyed coffee with Erica. We saw their new home, met their adorable little a six month old JJ, and had dinner with Erica's parents. What a great weekend of new sights and new relationships!
To top it off (no put intended here), John Micael took us on an uphill hike on his in-law's property. It was quite vigorous, OR I'm quite out of shape! However, when we reached the pinnacle it was well worth every upward step. From this vantage point, the view of Spearfish was spectacular: the Black Hills were in the distance, the green valleys lay beneath us, while blue skies and cotton clouds completed the work of art.
But what caught my immediate attention were the three dark wooden crosses that stood prominently at the crest of the hill. I loved to see them there, making a strong statement without words. I asked John Michael to take a picture of Mac and me in front of it, simply because it was something I wanted to remember from our trip out west.
It wasn't until the next morning in my quiet time, when I was sketching the hearts-and-the-cross-picture that I realized that my "journal art" had become reality. God is so sweet like that. I never want to miss his intentional intimate gifts he designs just for me! (He does this for ALL his children! We just have to open our eyes.)
After making this journal/reality connection, I went one step further, which is the TRUE reason God allowed me to live out my paper-sketch:
I believe with all my heart, that God will answer the prayers that I lift up for our marriage as I draw the simple picture.
I'm mainly posting this "evidence of God at work" to encourage you, wives, to pray for your husbands, and to love them with the unshakeable love of Christ. It's vital to him, to you, and to your marriage, no matter if you're six months in or 31 years like Mac and me.
Today, Mac and I are in a new place, literally. He's had a job transition, coming out of 27 years of doing the same thing at the same office. My prayers for him and my love towards him are a key factor in this faith-filled change. I have recently added to my prayers for us: Lord, show us where to live, give, work, and play.
Remember being a wife is a divine gift. Culture may shout to you that it's not; that it's a burden even, and a second rate role. But think about it, what a powerful privilege to be someone's "wind beneath their wings". Embrace your call and pray your man into the Lord's heights, which is way higher and far greater than any position this fleeting world can give.
You may not need to draw a journal picture right now, but maybe take a minute to pray the prayer above for your marriage. And in time, with a surrendered heart, watch your prayers become reality.
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25
Please come; touch us with your reviving love. Remind us of your truths so we can be strengthened once again. As we open your word, pour into us just what we need for the moment. Refresh us in your Spirit. Amen.