Category Archives: God’s voice

the most potent, practical prayer for our children

God’s Word instructs us to pray about everything. With prayer and thanksgiving we are to present our requests to God; accordingly, his promise to us in return is his peace—a measure of settled, heavenly comfort moving in to replace (or at least temporarily cover over) the disruptions of our hearts (see Phil. 4:6-7).

My heart’s been disrupted lately. How about you? Anything weighing you down and pulling you to your knees in search of answers?

My prayers seem to run in cycles. Whatever is most pressing (finances, church life, vocational strains, marriage, children, etc.) usually takes front and center when I entreat the Father with my thoughts. I wish I could say that I have this prayer thing figured out. I don’t. I wish my prayer life was more consistent. It isn’t. I wish I heard God’s voice more fully in my moments of concentrated conversation. I don’t. Instead, my prayer life is a strange mixture of half-hearted discipline, charged emotion, good intentions, and words that, more often than not, fill up a space rather than release the power of the Almighty.

Still and yet, I pray. Partly because of a long obedience to the practice, but mostly because there have been many times when my seemingly feeble attempts at communicating with God have yielded powerful, peace-filled results. Prayer works. All I have to do is to look back at the forty-seven plus years of my life to realize that where I am today … who I am today is the sum-total result of God’s willingness to move on my behalf because of the prayers of the saints.

Not that God couldn’t have brought me to this point of being the woman I am all on his own. God IS and does shape his children according to his great purposes. But I do believe he gives us a voice, his heavenly consideration when we bring our heartfelt petitions before his throne. Prayer is how we exercise our free will alongside God’s will. I don’t understand it all; I don’t need to. I simply believe in this joint, holy cooperation between the Father and his children to accomplish his great purposes upon this earth. Which leads me (and I realize it’s taken me a while to get here) to today’s rumination—the most pressing, on the front-edge-of-my-heart prayer.

What is the most potent, practical petition I can offer to God on behalf of my eldest sons?

There’s something they need today, something more from God that I’ve yet to see unfold. Accordingly, what could I ask of the Father that might hasten the process along? After all, isn’t that what we’re doing with most of our prayers, asking God to move on behalf of our requests?

Prayers for God to love them? No. He’s already loved them to death – literally. Nothing I can say can change the measure of God’s love for my sons. After all, they were his children before they were mine. God sets the standard for perfect parenting, perfect loving. Asking him to love them more is, well, a bit redundant. So I move on from there.

Other practical prayers. Prayers for good health? Good mates? Good jobs? Good friends? Good decisions? A good day? Well, certainly I run through these on a regular basis, some of them receiving more attention, more words as it pertains to the most pressing need of their daily existence. But really, these fall short for me; these feel more empty than full, like I’ve missed the mark somehow in my parental prayers.

And so I pray about it, a long while this morning and the better part of last night’s slumbering. God, what is the most potent, practical petition I can offer to you this morning on behalf of my eldest sons?

God speaks to me through his Word.

This is how to pray, Elaine; this is what you must ask for them: That my will be done in their lives on this earth as it is done in heaven (see Matt. 6:9-13).

He wouldn’t tell us to pray along these lines unless there was a need to pray along these lines. Somewhere between heavenly perfection and earthly attempts at the same, there is a line that separates the two. What is perfectly lived beyond us is not always perfectly lived within us. But I believe there’s a measure of it made available to us – our God’s perfect will unfolding before us even now, even as we live in this sin-sick, sin-saturated fallen world. A strong measure of how-it-is-done in heaven even as it is imperfectly done on this earth.

And this, friends, is the most potent, practical, and, yes, perfect petition we can offer to the Father on behalf of one another, eldest sons included. That God’s will might be made manifest in the lives of those we love; that he might orchestrate, push, prompt, and put in the paths of our children those people, situations, and even stumbling blocks that will bring them in perfect proximity with the perfect plan of heaven. All those other prayers we pray for them? For health, mates, jobs, friends, good decisions, and good days? Well, I’ll never tell you not to pray them. I would, however, tell you that all the temporal gains on this earth matter little if they don’t match up with the eternal gain of forever.

When God’s heaven cracks open just enough so that a little bit of it falls upon earth in radiant manifestation and speechless splendor, then we know that our prayers have moved the heart of God. That’s what I want – radiant, God-ordained heavenly movement in the lives of my eldest sons. The rest of it—their health, mates, jobs, friends, good days? Well, I don’t imagine they’ll get through this life without some heartache as it pertains to all of the “rest of it.” But this I do imagine . . .

When heaven drops down into their hearts, all of the “rest of it” can be lived in perfect peace and with abundant hope.

This is my mother’s prayer. The most potent, practical, petition I will offer on behalf of my eldest sons today.

Father, thy will be done in their lives, on this earth, even as it is done in heaven. Amen.

As always, friends . . . 

Peace for the journey,

 

Do you want to get well?

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” –John 5:6

Do you want to get well, Elaine? So whispered the Holy Spirit to my heart this past week.

Of course, Lord, I want to be well. I am well . . . right? Even before I uttered my response, I knew the answer. Otherwise God wouldn’t have asked the question. God doesn’t waste words with his children. God speaks them as they are needed.

Being “well.” What does that look like for you? Feel like? Live like? The culture we live in dictates a wide variety of responses to this question. Soundness of mind, financial security, health of body, a stable family, and a charitable life, are just a few of the barometers used by society to measure personal wellness. But what do you use? How do you know if you are well?

I’m asking myself the same question, and I’m doing so in the context of Christ’s sacred conversation with the invalid at the pool of Bethesda some 2000 years ago (see John 5:1-15). I’m backing into story and into an understanding of wellness by examining its contrast—what wellness isn’t.

Wellness isn’t:

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

Yes, you read that correctly; three times over. I tried to come up with more bullet points to further define the contrast. Given more time and more deliberation, I’m sure I could come up with a fuller definition, at least as it pertains to understanding what wellness is not. But I have an inclination that there is one or two or ten of you out there, like me, that could hear these words and have them be enough to shake you up, wake you up, and grow you up. There is nothing about lying on a mat for thirty-eight years that is going to bring you and me any closer to gaining the healing we long for, the restoration and wholeness our Father longs to bring to us.

What loves us closer to wellness is our willingness to stop making excuses and to start walking with Jesus. Just start walking with Jesus. Healing and wholeness take time. I am not devaluing or disrespecting the timetable attached to the process of getting well. I’m forty-six, and I still have work to do. But unlike the invalid of Jesus’ day, I know who Jesus is, what Jesus can do, and how I can be well. I don’t have the benefit of ignorance to coddle my excuses. I have truth on my side—an entire Bible’s worth of hope at my fingertips, holy words from the holy God that can be wholly trusted with the wellness road.

Do you want to get well? Have your “thirty-eight years” been too many years? Today is the right day to begin your healing walk with Jesus. Roll up your excuses, pick up your mat, and pick up the Word.

The waters have been stirred. There is no time to waste. Movement wins. With Jesus, movement always wins.

Peace for the journey,

Do you want to be well? What is one tangible way you can move forward with your wellness today?

On Nagging God…

“At that time I pleaded with the Lord: ‘O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.’ But because of you [referring to the Israelites] the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me.
 
‘That is enough,’ the LORD said. ‘Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.’” (Deut. 3:23-26)

 

My son has perfected his nagging. How do I know this? Because, more often than not, I’m officially nagged. Weary worn from his tactics of repeated negotiations and hugely bothered by the fact that he doesn’t know when to quit… when my “no” is a “no” and why it isn’t wise to cross over that line. For the record, I’m not much of a “no” momma, so when a “no” rolls off my tongue, I think, perhaps, it confuses my son and fuels his will for the debate.

Just a little more persistence, just a little more obnoxious determination, and I’ll wear her down.

Sometimes it works, especially when he was younger. But now that he’s approaching puberty (and I’m approaching forty-six), he’s got less wiggle room for negotiation tactics, and I have less patience for entreating them. Things might be easier now if I’d have said more “no’s” to the dinosaurs at the Dollar Tree when he was three years old, but there’s a huge divide between dinosaurs that cost a dollar and purchases that exceed that amount by fifty times. Fifty dollar purchases must be weighed carefully in any household, and for a boy who’s prone to whims over reason, even more so.

Nagging notions + wasteful spending = selfish, temporary pleasure.

I know. I’m not so unlike my son, especially when it comes to nagging God about something rather than letting his “no” come home to roost in my heart as acceptance. Fortunately, I have a bit of age and life experience that allow me to sometimes see past temporal gain. I know something of nagging and wasteful spending and winding up with far less than what I’d hoped for. Accordingly, when I now receive a “no” from God, I’m more willing to accept it without need for further explanation. God sees better than me, and his forecast for my future is more expansive and far lovelier than what currently can be seen from my dining room window.

Moses was a nagger, not so unlike my son and me. He, too, wanted something he couldn’t have—immediate access to the Promised Land. Unlike me, he had open access to a conversational God and didn’t have to wonder about God’s response to his desire.

“That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

God shut Moses down, because God saw better than Moses—a future more expansive and far lovelier than the current reality claiming Moses’ feet. God saw past the earthly Promised Land. God saw the Promised Land of eternal consequence. God saw heaven. God saw home. And God knew that saying “no” to Moses’ nagging was a gain for everyone in the end. Moses would no longer have to deal with an obstinate people; instead, Moses could go directly through the gates of forever and live in peace with his God, his Friend.

Nagging notions + God’s understanding = limitless, eternal pleasure.

Sometimes, we just have to wait for it, friends.

How much energy are you wastefully spending in nagging negotiations with God today? When have you heard his “no” only to be confronted by your willful “yes”? If, by all accounts, you’ve been given a “no” by God, then will you trust that it is for your good and for your gain?

Today, as I’m sitting at my dining room window and contemplating all things Jesus, I am tenderly and willingly confronted by God’s rebuke to Moses. I receive it as my own and fall to my knees in conviction for the nagging agitation that I’ve contributed to his ruminations in recent days.

That is enough, Elaine. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.

God sees better than me, and his forecast for my future is more expansive and far lovelier than what currently can be seen from my window.

Nagging notions + God’s understanding = limitless, eternal pleasure.

Knowing this… I know enough. Canaan is the eternal “yes” that allows me to see beyond God’s “no.” Today, I rest there while living here, and all is well with my soul.

Blessed, sweet peace for the journey.

PS: From a random drawing, the winner of Lisa’s book and a set of Cindy’s cards is Denise! In addition, I chose Leah to also receive a set of cards from Cindy. Ladies, please check out Cindy’s etsy shop and let me know which design you’d like. Once I receive them from Cindy, I’ll send them to you.

the quiet pause of Christmas…

My voice has been silenced in the last twenty-four hours. Literally. Sickness has claimed my vocal cords. This has never happened to me before, not completely in the way it has happened for me this time around.

My whispered shouts for the attention of others are met only by their silence. Not because they don’t care about me, but rather because they can’t hear me. Their listening isn’t prone to my whispering, so mostly… I’m ignored. Probably a relief to most of those in my household, but to a woman who’s used to being heard… a great frustration indeed.

And I’m thinking…

About my voice. About my words. About needing to be heard. About what I will say when I am, again, able to say.

And I’m thinking…

About quietness. About the value of forced silence. About going inward with my thoughts instead of outwardly displaying every single one of them.

And I’m thinking…

About God. About his voice. About his needing to be heard. About his willingness to keep company with silence… with his thoughts, instead of outwardly displaying every single one of them.

And I’m thinking…

About how very connected I feel to Him in all of this. About how my inability to speak amplifies the volume of God’s witness.

How many times has the Father whispered my name in the midst of my chaos, only to be ignored because of the noise surrounding my life? My hearing isn’t prone to his whispering. But in silence—in this period of fewer, personal words—I more clearly hear the phrases from heaven.

Beautiful, peace-filled, stilled expressions of understanding from God’s heart.

My ninth grade English teacher once wrote in my yearbook, “Elaine, if silence is golden you can forget it.” Apparently, I was destined for poverty. Thirty years ago, I hadn’t a clue what she’d meant, and I couldn’t have cared less.

Today, I have a clue. Today I care more, exceedingly more. Today, silence really is golden, because silence has given me access to the whispers of home. And whenever that happens, friends, I’m the richest person alive.

I’m so glad I know Jesus. I’m so glad he knows me. And I’m exceedingly glad for those moments when I am able to clearly hear his voice. What tender grace is mine as a daughter of the King! I pray that you know him, hear him, worship and celebrate him in the quiet, closing moments of 2011. I believe that God has something vital and important to whisper to each one of us. I’ll be anxious to hear from you in coming days. As always…

Peace for the journey,

movement wins…

Movement wins.

So whispered the Holy Spirit to my heart while I was out walking a couple of days ago. His strong encouragement came to me as I struggled to complete my customary three miles of moderate walking. In the last nine months, I suppose I’ve logged in nearly 700 miles. For the record, I’ve felt every one of them. There’s been some damage to my nerve endings as a result of the chemotherapy. In addition, my current medication, Arimidex, brings with it the side effect of joint pain … especially in the legs.

And so, there is this great contradiction that exists within my flesh—an inconsistency between what is reasonable and what is risky. Reasonable because, with a choice to forego exercise, I have a better chance of keeping personal pain at a minimum. Risky because, with a choice to work through the pain, it’s likely that I’ll “pay for it” the rest of the night—Epsom salts, hot baths, muscle cramps, and pain meds serving to salve my achiness. Thus, this discrepancy between reasonable and risky. Thus, two words from the Father in the midst of my deliberations.

Movement wins. Despite the pain involved, movement wins.

Movement moves me forward from where I was previously. Movement represents progression. Movement advances me beyond current stagnation and launches me down the path of heart-health. I know this to be true as I’ve witnessed my physical strengthening over these past months. Still and yet, what is true isn’t always an easy decision, especially when the decision is a guaranteed choice for additional pain. One really has to want to stay healthy when choosing risky over reasonable. Choosing the risky route can be a costly decision, but in the end, movement wins. So says God.

Could it be the same for our spiritual condition even as it is for our physical one? Is movement the key to securing the kingdom? Is risky over reasonable the only reasonable choice for our Jesus-hearts? Is a choice for more pain, more struggle, and more contradiction the way through to a break-through? To freedom?

Perhaps.

From the very beginning, we’ve been a people of movement. First from God’s Garden. Every step since those initial ones, mostly ones taken in anticipation of finding our way back there. Without our forward progression, we stay put … stay anchored to known realities, unwilling to venture beyond safe borders, fixed parameters, and reasonable guidelines. Those who choose to linger there are often those who get left behind, remaining as is. Unchanged. Unmoved. Underdone according to God’s plan for victory. Instead of allowing their struggles to refine them—shape them and move them—they allow their stagnation to define them—keep them and limit them. When that happens, their hearts aren’t winning. Their hearts are subsisting.

I suppose it’s a good enough existence to live with … die with … move on home to Jesus with, but these days I’m not much concerned about good enough. Subsistence living has lost its flavor. I want to give my heart a good work-out, to push it to beyond its current limits, even though there is certain pain attached to those limitations. I want to walk another 700 miles with my heart exposed to the outdoor elements so that it can be moved and manipulated, stretched and strengthened by Jesus for his kingdom purposes.

Is this a reasonable choice? Not really. When has God ever placed reasonable demands at the feet of his children? Moving ahead with Jesus will be, perhaps, the most unreasonable movement of our lives.

Is it a risky choice? Most definitely. Not because God is not definite, but rather because the world says he is definitely not. And who of us isn’t easily shaped by the world? When we allow the world to dictate our choices, we forfeit movement. We risk stagnation. We live as lesser people.

Movement wins, friends. One step from where you are today—whether one inch outside of the box of your security or one foot beyond the perimeter of the garden you’re so carefully guarding—any small step of faith will be enough to move you forward. Reasonable? No. Risky? Yes. Painful? Probably. But in the end, a guaranteed win with the Father.

I need to move today. Maybe you do as well. Something tells me that the risk will be worth the reward. Someone reminds me as well.

Movement wins.

May God grant you and sustain you with his Peace for the journey as you move forward in his direction.
~elaine

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