The “We”

Who is responsible for the condition our nation is in? The anger, vitriol, fear, and war-mongering ideas have now saturated every part of our nation’s fiber so that even our neighbors are looking over their shoulders to be sure they are not a target of the ideologies of their angry “friends”. I believe we have reached a tipping point.

Before you begin to tell me of the corrupt governments, greedy political parties, derelict leadership, and eroding values; before you offer as evidence the quotes, sound-bytes and public statements of candidates, agencies, and major corporations, would you do me a favor? Would you pause and consider these words from scripture?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (Emphasis mine)

Before you unfriend that person on Facebook who has opposite views from yours, and before you accuse others of not “being able to handle the truth”, Would you pause and pray this prayer with Daniel, and with me:

Daniel 9:1-19
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Emphasis mine)

Now together, the “we” of this nation, with the stones dropped from our hands, as Jesus writes in the sand of our generation, let’s join the “sinner” at the feet of Jesus. Let’s run to mercy.Three crosses

 

All scripture from the NIV version of the Bible

Azusa Now 2016

I don’t even know how to put it all in words.

The stimulus around me in the Los Angeles Memorial Colliseum with 60K+ people was almost too much to take in, but too glorious to miss!

It took about half an hour before I could get into the stadium at the beginning. The lines fanned out around the coliseum in all directions. I stood next to a man from Australia who came for this event. Behind me a large group of women were speaking Spanish.

When I finally entered the building and found my seat, the stage before me was filled with Koreans who were praying down heaven over America. That’s when my tears started, and there was no stopping them. I decided right then and there that if you have a prayer need, grab a Korean and ask them to pray. I think God Himself could almost be yanked out of heaven through the prayers of these passionate faithful men and women.  In both English and Korean, they prayed for America. Prayers for holiness, faith, hope and love in this land again. They prayed for unity, for forgiveness, and for the life of God to breathe in us again. They prayed for North Korea. They prayed that God would send more South Korean’s to North Korea with the gospel. They were so strong in prayer, and I wept at the blessing and heritage they were sharing with us in Los Angeles.

Prayers went up for the First Nations people of America. They prayed for the end of suicide and alcoholism, they prayed that they would awaken and take their place in the Spirit of God as sons and daughters of God with a purpose and a destiny. It was glorious, it was heart-rending, and it was powerful.

Prayer, worship, and declarations continued. There was the sound of tens of thousands of people lost in worship, singing with all of their hearts with the worship band on the stage who was cranking out music that went right to the very soul, and there was “open” area of the floor of the Coliseum where children, and adults were dancing, waving banners, and even turning cartwheels as they worshiped freely with all of their strength. This beautiful tumult was punctuated with the large group of people cheering and shouting as a man who had come to the event in a wheelchair, was now taking steps around the arena. He was swarmed by people raising iPhones above their heads in hopes of capturing this incredible miraculous moment.

Behind me six rows was a young man praying to be set free from drug addiction while his father wept over him. Students had gathered around this precious family and began to speak life and hope into them.

I couldn’t see it all. Brain cancer was being healed, deaf ears were being opened, six more people got up out of wheelchairs and began to walk, people were giving their lives to Jesus for the first time, and hundreds were coming back to Jesus who had walked away from Him. The miracles were happening all around the stadium, in the outer hallways, in the parking lots, and around the world as people tuned in to watch the event live.

I couldn’t keep from weeping. Hourly, moment by moment for the 15 hours.

The rain would begin to pour, and we in the audience would quickly don our rain coats, or ponchos, pull our hoods up over our heads and I would stand so that the water would run straight down me rather than pooling in my lap.

This was an historic event. One I had prayed to see since I was a teenager asking God to send a revival to our nation. To see on the stage a representative from so many ethnic groups and races represented in prayer, forgiveness, and reconcilliation, was a powerful sight.

 

Lou Engle encouraged all attendees to not interact as though we were there to see an event, but to respond as one Body as the leaders led us in prayer, worship, repentance, and honor. We stood together, we knelt together, we shouted, we prayed, we applauded. When there was a request for silence, the hum and buzz of 60k + people quieted as if a blanket rested on all of us. There were such holy moments.

I flew over 2000 miles to be there, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I’m quite sure there will be more to this event that I will process later, but I am so thrilled to have been a part of an event that will shape history. I agree with Lou Engle in this: “The answer to a divided nation is a united church.”

May we continue to forgive, reconcile, and stand with one another for the healing of our nation.

http://www.thecall.com/azusa

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You Need a Habit

photo-3I am reading about persecuted people around the world both past and present. Through tear-filled eyes, I am looking at the most anathema of tortures inflicted on the most vulnerable of people, and I can barely take it in.

I know that it has been said “What comes out of you in persecution is what you have put in over your lifetime.” Your resolve, and determination are factors in your survival, but they have to be buoyed by something that transcends yourself, and they are exercised in something called a habit.

I live in this post-modern society that looks at prayer, scripture memorization, fellowship with believers, and routine as something “overly religious” and unnecessary for life. In the name of Grace and freedom in Christ, many dismiss the ideas that create a rote way of living, and a discipline of godliness. “Hey, I’m not religious, I just love Jesus.” That is a great starting point for sure, and I would hope that all disciplines in life would flow from a love for God as we reciprocate His love for us. But what have you invested in your heart and spirit to carry you through persecution? What have you invested in your life to feed someone else with? What do you plan to pass on to the next generation who may have it harder than you?

These are questions I am asking myself as I read stories of persecution.

In each story of persecution and torture I am reading, the foremost discipline for the saint was prayer and worship. In whatever capacity they could sing, speak, lift their heads, or their hands, they would do it. Daily. Hourly. Every minute they were conscious. Expressing love and devotion to God, and calling on His strength to sustain them through the cruelest of suffering.

Second, what the person had memorized, sustained them. Coupled with that memorization was a habit, a discipline, a practice where that memorization worked its way into their daily life in prison, in isolation, and captivity. Scripture verses. Entire chapters of the Bible. Hymns. Songs. Poetry that lifted the spirit. They wrote the words on paper, inscribed them on cement blocks, sang them out loud, recited them in their minds, and prayed them. Daily. Hourly. Every minute they were conscious.

I’m looking at my children, and the generation they represent. I am looking at the gaping hole of disciplines and memorization of scripture. I am looking at the lack of “habit” that purposefully instills scripture, prayer, worship, and fellowship in their lives. So, I am looking at my responsibility.

I am looking at the wave of persecution headed our way. The kind of persecution that our brothers and sisters around the world have already suffered, and continue to suffer today. The kind of persecution we as Americans mistakenly think we will evade because we are just “too great a nation” to ever go through that kind of terror. And I am asking the questions of habit, discipline, memorization, prayer, fellowship, and encouragement.

I exhort you–to leap beyond blogs and Facebook. Attend church while you still can. Take your children to church. Memorize  and learn scripture while it is available to hold in your hand. Learn to pray and listen. Hearing God’s voice is the result of the discipline of prayer, and the desired outcome. Encourage one another while you still have opportunity to do so. Fill yourself to overflowing with God’s thoughts, and sing, sing sing. Pass this on to your children, and anyone God gives you an opportunity to speak to.

You need a habit. Start today.

1 Thessalonians 5 New International Version (NIV)

5 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Journey Home

We used to believe in You, God. We used to attend church and believe that how we lived our lives mattered to You and to our neighbor. We attended Sunday School, we sent our kids to Youth Groups, and we made our decisions with morality in mind. We prayed a lot. We committed much time to seeking You and lifting our friends and relatives to You in prayer.

Then we got tired.

I guess life got in the way. Big things were happening…divorce, debt, children trouble, disease, and all of them required more energy than we felt we had to give, so our prayers became one sentence toss-ups, or breaths of desperation. We didn’t seek until we found, or knock until the door was opened anymore.

Our prayers became more like thoughts for you to consider, since we no longer really believed you would answer all of our prayers…after all, you did ignore some big ones.

Our loved ones died of cancer, our bank accounts emptied, and we lost our jobs. Our children didn’t return our love, but instead became addicts and lost their minds in the process. These were the things we prayed would never happen, yet they did. You let us down.

We stopped valuing prayer and instead worked on living. Surviving became the new way to live.

We began to wonder if Darwin was right in his evaluation of life and what it consists of–survival. We looked to science to answer our questions about meaning and morality, and since there were none in science, we figured it was up to us to make up our own.

Thankfully we had a base knowledge of morality due to our religious influences, but since we could not fully embrace the idea of a God interested in our every day affairs, we were comfortable discarding a few moral ideals we used to cling to in order to make room for flexibility, change, reason, and evolution.

We didn’t forget your Name, we just began to use it as a curse word. We didn’t mean anything by it really, although we were nervous at first moving your Name to such common and derogatory verbiage. When lightning didn’t strike, however, we were pretty confident that we would be okay continuing since many of our new-found friends had been misusing your name for years and they were still thriving.

Our weariness didn’t go away. That gnawing that there has got to be more to life than what we are living continued. So we looked for ways to numb that feeling.

Our first numbing agent of choice was pleasure. We indulged ourselves in every imaginable way. After all, we deserved it. Our bank accounts couldn’t keep up with our spending. Our ventures into alcohol, sex, drugs, cutting, and food had landed us in some addictions that we couldn’t control. There was a sense that we were spiraling, but even that felt a little bit fun and dangerous, so we continued.

So why did we still feel a deep sense of shame and guilt?

When our children looked at us with empty, pain-filled eyes, we sensed that we were part of the reason they were hopeless. When we broke that 100th promise to the ones we loved, we secretly knew that we are not what we should be, nor what we used to be.

Part of the angst we felt lies in the fact that we know you are real. We have experienced You. We see You in everything created, and feel You in some of the most precious moments of life. We know You are there. We sense Your desire to break in on our lives if we would just let You back in.

We are afraid that maybe You can’t really care about us the way we need You too. We are afraid that our needs now are so great, and our heart so strayed that we won’t be able to find our way back to you. We feel beyond repair.

Things can never be like they were before.

But here again is our trouble, isn’t it? We are still making the rules, writing our own scripts, playing the lead role, and wearing ourselves out in the process.  What do you say about us?

What about our unanswered prayers? What about the times we felt like You left us out to dry? What do we do with our anger and disappointment in You?

We have to face You don’t we? We have to come full circle and finally be honest about ourselves. We don’t have the answers. We don’t have the antidotes. We are adrift at sea without power and without navigation.

How do we approach You, God? What will we say or do that would bring you back to us, and us back to You?

Your invitation hasn’t changed even though we have.

Isaiah 55:1-3 

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

Isaiah 1:18

18“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Psalm 103:8-12

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Like the Prodigal Son, we must come home. We must repent of our rebellion.

But what about Your sin against us God? You didn’t come when we called. You didn’t answer our prayers. You let us hurt, and lose, and struggle. Weren’t you supposed to stop all of that from happening to us? What if it happens again?

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Revelation 21:1-5

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Psalm 73:21-28

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

 

We need to repent… God forgive us.

2014-03-18 14.31.25

Why Pray?

In Christopher Hitchens’ book “Mortality”, Christopher devotes a great part of his second chapter to the subject of prayer and the futility of it. With the angst of one suffering from a disease that has no cure, that would eventually take his life, Christopher writes the chapters of this  book to process his life and those things that have bewildered him and those things that have made him certain. On the issue of prayer, Christopher decided:  “Those of us who don’t take part in it (prayer) will justify our abstention on the grounds that we do not need, or care, to undergo the futile process of continuous reinforcement.  Either our convictions are enough in themselves or they are not.”

From the “Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, Hitchens defines prayer:

“Prayer:  A petition that the laws of nature be suspended in favor of the petitioner; himself confessedly unworthy.”

What is missing in this definition are three very distinct issues that give coherence to the act of prayer itself.

1.  To whom is  the petition being given?

2.  How is the recipient of this petition defined?

3.  On what grounds does the petitioner pray?

What follows in Hitchens’ argument is a logical response to this definition of prayer devoid of a real definition.

I would like to propose another response to the definition of prayer with the three questions above answered through the Judeo-Christian worldview.

When one prays, who are they praying to?  I have often said that “prayer is only as powerful as the god it is directed to.” In a world with a pantheon of gods all with differing definitions, power, and accessibility, prayer can become a frustrating spiritual experience in that you have to choose the right god or right saint in order for your petition to be worthy of hearing let alone answering.  As stated, however, my response to fill in the answers to these questions will be framed within the context of the God defined by the Bible.  How is this God defined?

The God of the Bible has through scriptures revealed Himself to humanity with definitions of His character, His desires, His power, and His eternality.  God is eternal.  There never was a time He did not exist, nor will there ever be.  God is a Creator, and holds claim that all that has been made that we see, and even that which we cannot see, yet know exists, was made by Him. The Bible tells us that all that was created was for His pleasure.  It pleased Him to make it all.  In particular, the Bible tells us that when God made man, He formed him from the dust of the ground and breathed within man His own breath that brought him to life.  With man, God  had communion.  Conversation, time together, instruction, and help were all part of the relationship between the first man Adam and God, and was his intent from the beginning.

In Genesis we see this creative God “walking and talking” with Adam in the cool of the day.  We see Adam, a man fresh to the earth giving names to animals, tending a garden, and becoming a husband as God provides for him a wife.  We see God caring for the needs of Adam, and we see Adam flourishing in the communion with God.

When that communion is broken it is made evident by Adam’s hiding from God with his wife Eve.  We see God “looking” for Adam, and calling out to him.  Adam confesses to his sin, and acknowledges his nakedness to God.  God responds to Adam’s feelings of shame and makes clothes for he and his wife–at the expense of the life of an animal.

From this point on and throughout the whole of scripture we see God making himself known to mankind and offering grace, help, forgiveness and restoration to Himself.  Even in the Old Testament that is often criticized by on-lookers as a seemingly vindictive portion of the Bible, if you look closer, you find God giving evil nations time and opportunity to repent of their wickedness.  He never judges people that He did not before-hand offer grace to.  Jonah says it best in Jonah 4 as he is expressing his anger and frustration with God:

Jonah 4:2
New International Version (NIV)
2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Later in the New Testament we read in

2 Peter 3:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

This God loves those He has made and has spared no expense to restore the broken fellowship between man and God.  Not only that, this God listens.

Jeremiah 33:3
New International Version (NIV)
3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

And Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father in heaven…” showing us that God could be approaches as a child to a Father because that is How God related to us.

Matthew 7:7-8

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

1 John 5:14-15

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

But what about the condition of the petitioner?  If he/she is unworthy, does this change how God responds?

The truth is that all mankind is unworthy.  We continue with our free will to disobey God’s laws.  We continue to cheat our neighbor, lie about our behavior, covet other’s possessions, harbor anger in our hearts, and lust privately or publicly in our imaginations.  Yes, we all do.  The Bible says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  This includes the one typing this blog.  So how is it that we can even approach God and ask for help?

I don’t know.

It certainly isn’t anything within ourselves that makes us worthy to ask God for anything.  I’ve looked inside my heart and found only my chest.  I have considered my greatest ambitions and aspirations, and found selfish motives lurking in all of them.

So to answer the worthiness question, we fall back on the answers from questions one and two.  Our ability to approach God is entirely based on His character, and His desire for us.  He has asked us to come.  He has promised to answer.

A Biblical definition of prayer from: http://christiananswers.net/dictionary/prayer.html

“Prayer is conversation with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a “beseeching the Lord” (Ex. 32:11); “pouring out the soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15); “praying and crying to heaven” (2 Chr. 32:20); “seeking unto God and making supplication” (Job 8:5); “drawing near to God” (Ps. 73:28); “bowing the knees” (Eph. 3:14).

Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to communicate with us, his personal control of all things, and of all his creatures and all their actions.”

In this definition of prayer, it is seen that we are not just finite unworthy beings looking for a change in natural events, but we are beings created in God’s image who are engaging in conversation with a God who wants relationship with us. He loves us, He listens, and He answers.

In response to Hitchens’ thoughts on prayer, I would have to say, if I held his definitions to be the coherent example of what prayer is, I could follow his resulting argument, and forego the need to pray at all.  But because the definition is begging too many questions, I first must answer the questions, and there I find that the answers contain more than what was initially given.  That changes everything.

Some say “Prayer changes things.” To which I reply, “Only if your God is listening.”

I can confidently say that the God of the Bible is listening and He will not turn anyone away who calls out to Him for help.2013-07-26 14.57.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace in the Calm, Peace in the Storm

If you have ever experienced what I am writing about, perhaps you will add your comments to what I say.  The feeling that inside of you is a time bomb ticking away– waiting to detonate.  You feel desperate, and unable to handle what life has thrown at you.

Some may call it a burden, or a heaviness, but I call it a need for prayer.  Like the feeling when you have held your breath for as long as you feel able as you are rushing your body to the surface of the water for the gasp you so intently need–that frantic, desperate search for the oxygen you are in short supply of.  You have crossed the line of needing advice, needing to “talk it out”, or even needing some fresh air and exercise.  None of these things seem even remotely capable of handling the desperate need in your heart for relief, for hope, for comfort.

It was how I felt 8 years ago, when the mammogram showed an unusual growth in my breast, and the surgeon warned me fiercely about letting too much time pass when weighing my options of biopsy or removal because if it was cancer, at my age, it would be the most rapidly spreading variety.

I needed time to think.  I needed time to find the right solution.  My time was ticking.

My desperation for help made me feel like stopping total strangers on the sidewalk and asking them to pray for me.  Every person who told me to “have a good day” I wanted to say “I want to, but I am scared!”

There is so much to consider when so much is at stake.  It’s why I don’t believe that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Sometimes life is unbearable.

What do you do when everything inside of you is imploding, and your world as you know it is crumbling?  What do you do with the fear that grips you and tells you that your future is grim?  You pray.

I’ve heard religious gurus say “If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will not find it anywhere.” But I disagree.  Peace can never be found inside yourself unless the Prince of Peace is ruling there.  Calm, on the other hand, that can be produced.   Calm is when things are not in a haphazard state of being.  Calm is not showing nervousness or feeling nervousness, anger or strong emotions.   I know what calm is and I can find that within myself on good days, with chocolate, and sunshine.  But peace? No, that is something supernatural. Philippians 4:7 says it this way:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Peace is the removal of fear and it’s threats.  Supernatural peace feels like your soul which has been cold and distant, now drawn  closer to a warm sunshine, melted, and warmed back to life.  Peace doesn’t need a sunny day, coffee, chocolate fondue, or good circumstances.  Peace surpasses understanding and can find you in the middle of your calm, and in the middle of your storm.  Peace comes from God alone when we pray.

I’ve experienced this peace.  Two days before my lumpectomy, that peace rolled in as a result of people praying for me.  The kind of peace that said “whatever happens, I’ll be okay,”  and gave me the ability to sleep at night.  I couldn’t find that peace on my own. I couldn’t manufacture that even if I were calm.  No, that peace surpassed my understanding.

Several weeks later, my biopsy results came back clear of cancer.  While I am so thrilled that I did not have breast cancer, I have to confess, that the peace God gave me then would have carried me through the fight if the biopsy results were different.  And you can be sure, I would live out my days then as I do now–in prayer.

Are you struggling for breath?  Is your world crashing around you?  Pray.  And I don’t mean toss out good “energy” or chant words to the universe.  I mean talk to God.  Ask God to meet you right where you are and give you peace.  Call a friend or pastor who knows God and ask them to pray for you too.  Prayer is only as powerful as the God it is directed to, and there is only One with power to heal, save, deliver, calm, restore, and give peace.  He is always listening.

 

 

 

40 Downloads of my brain

On the eve of my 40th Birthday…mist and water

In no particular order, here are 40 thoughts that have sparked within me and inspired a teaching, a song, or a blog.

  1.  Prayer is only as powerful as the god it is directed to.
  2.  No one is allowed the privilege of disbelief only. You must have a counter-belief in its place.
  3.  The most beneficial pain you can add to your life is the pain of conviction and the pain of growth.
  4. Knowing who the author of a piece of art is determines its value, and reconnects the art with its source. Have you considered your Designer?
  5. Jesus didn’t say, “Neither do I condemn you. Return to what you were doing.” With compassion He said: “Go and sin no more.”
  6. Freedom in Christ is victory over sin, not victory over your conscience. Keep your conscience.
  7. Love and grace are held within the disciplines of faithfulness and endurance. Jesus discipled because He Himself was disciplined.
  8. You can love others deeply, serve honestly, and give without regrets while still holding to your convictions and your character. Jesus did.
  9. He didn’t die to give us a 2000 year old story. He died to bring us back to life.
  10. God’s wisdom for me will always have my neighbor in mind.
  11. Grief is the process of letting go while reaching for something steadfast. Even if you free-fall, God is certain and His grasp is constant.
  12. We grieve the loss of life because life is sacred. We mourn the loss of innocence because there is such a thing.
  13. Sometimes mornings are like the pull-start of a lawnmower.
  14. Let your art be the free-est expression of a soul securely anchored.
  15. A healthy fear of loftiness will keep you off of pedestals.
  16. Condemnation will always say you are hopeless. Conviction will always say the supply of your help and hope are limitless.
  17. When beauty connects to the soul it is never lost.
  18. Be someone’s umbrella today, and paint for them a brighter sky.
  19. If you have lost your sense of awe, you have quite likely closed your eyes.
  20. Unforgiveness is a debt. If your debtor cannot repay the invoice you carry, the enemy will try to persuade you to pay it off yourself in pleasures “you deserve”.
  21. What God asks us to do, instead, is turn the bill over to Him and allow Him to meet our needs.
  22. If you won’t do it, you won’t become it.
  23. Everyone needs a Joshua and Caleb in their life, otherwise you will spend your years looking at giants, and living small.
  24. Sometimes the weight you are carrying is not about you, but about those coming after you. You carry the hope and the struggle, so that they will enjoy the Promised Land
  25. Sometimes miracles are found in the forward steps. So pray, and walk.
  26. Don’t give up ground or drop your authority where God has given you responsibility. Instead, fully vest yourself into that arena, and in time, pass it on as a rich inheritance.
  27. Faith is the place holder for what you cannot presently see, but are certain will buoy you up.
  28. And if ministry was all about the Sunday morning experience, the New Testament would have been a short collection of essays.
  29. If you have a long range goal or extensive assignment, partner with optimists. You will only survive a short walk with a pessimist.
  30. I can spend my life chasing fire, or live my life as an altar where it burns.
  31. I’ll never see it multiply if I never let Jesus take it, break it, and bless it.
  32. The desire I have for all of my kids to be together with me can only be a reflection of God’s desire for us, His children, to be with Him.
  33. They say I don’t need a god to smile. Considering the neurology, pathology, and physiology of just facial nerves, I conclude that I do.
  34. There is a lot to be said for silence.
  35. If you can’t be the tidal wave, be the ground swell.
  36. Find your voice and use it both for the glory of God, and to speak up for those that cannot speak.
  37. Grace gives us a fresh page to write our lives on.
  38. History records who you are, not who you want to be.
  39. Life does not wait for your perfect plan, your pay raise, your successful diet, your New Year’s Resolution, or your cure.  Life ticks away as moments…little gifts wrapped in a million packages.
  40. Nothing is lost in God’s hands, and nothing is wasted in His plans.