A new way to pray for my family

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The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want……..  Psalm 23 ESV

This morning I journaled my version of Psalm 23, personalizing it into a prayer of thanksgiving and affirmation of my trust in God. Here’s what I jotted down.

“With you, God, I will never lack what I need such as rest, or refreshment. I can count on you to restore my soul to its original condition. Each day the world, my sin and Satan’s dirty tricks batter it.

You know how I’m counting on your promised wisdom and guidance this day, for I have no idea what I will encounter. But you do, since you have already scripted it out!

When you, Righteous and Holy God, purposefully lead me into places that feel unfamiliar and sometimes scary, I’ve learned to count on your invisible but real presence. I’ve experienced your protection and deliverances many times before.  I don’t have to see your rod and your staff to trust you.

Who can deny that this fallen world is broken and evil exists? Suffering no longer surprises me. For you have taught me through your word that,

…. our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Over and over again, I have experienced how you publicly affirm my place in your Kingdom Family. Bad things never can threaten my secure place in your Home. Daily anointed, I am invited to enjoy uninterrupted Kingdom food and fellowship with you.

And if that weren’t enough, I know full well that I will never lack your goodness toward me, nor stop receiving your covenantal family love.

Thank you, Father!

Closing my Bible, I moved into a time of prayer for my family.  Usually, I pray for each person individually, according to what I know their specific needs are. I’m personally and permanently connected with 15 different family members. These include Mike, my beloved husband, 2 sons, 6 grandkids, 2 daughters-in-law, my mother-in-law, one brother-in-law and his wife (my sister-in-law) and my favorite cousin. How I pray for them varies, but this morning, after such a reassuring and meditative time with God, lingering in David’s psalm, I chose to pray globally for my family as a whole.

It went something like this:

Father, you have placed me in the lives of these fifteen precious people.  Open their eyes this day and cause them to know that walking with you, they will lack nothing they need.

May they relax into your promised all-encompassing care. This includes, rest, refreshment, restoration, provision, protection, wisdom, guidance.

I don’t know what trials and suffering they will encounter.  But may they count on your promised presence, even in the most frightening events, conversations, or news they receive.

May their afflictions this day not rock their assurance of their forever place in your Kingdom family. Deafen their ears to our culture’s message proclaiming that you don’t exist or don’t care.  Protect them from unwitting and discouraging comments of ‘helpful’ Christians. And block their ears to Satan’s whispered lies which masquerade as their own thoughts.

Strengthen their union with you, Jesus, so they enjoy uninterrupted table fellowship with you.

Finally, shift their eyes upward and give them an expectant hope TODAY of your creative, but sure ways to shower them with your goodness and steadfast covenant love.

And tonight, as they lay their heads down to rest, may they fall asleep mulling over their guaranteed future with you, knowing that the best is yet to come. Amen

I enjoyed praying like this, using one of the morning’s scripture readings. I’m eager to try this again. What helped, though, was first to digest God’s word myself.  Only then could I see how to speak God’s word out loud as an intercessory prayer. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for this fresh way of praying!

Curtain Call

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“All the world’s a stage.”

 William Shakespeare in As You Like It

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

My friend Deb works as a dedicated teacher’s aide to a little autistic girl in a K-4 class. Serving this child is her sole assignment. She guides her in paying attention to the classroom teacher in order to catch all the instructions and follow the articulated sequential steps for each learning assignment. Deb knows just what her charge needs having spent every school day morning with her over the past 5 months.

Similarly, our Friend, God’s Holy Spirit, knows us intimately, having lived IN us since we were transferred into the Kingdom of Jesus to live forever with the Triune God. In this realm, we have been assigned to a new life-giving theater or stage. No longer are we held captive by the evil scriptwriter, director and prison guard.

Recently, this metaphor of our Kingdom lives being played out daily on God’s stage has captivated my imagination. As I imagine the Kingdom of God as a theater, I picture myself showing up for another day’s drama.  The point at which I lay my head on my pillow is the close of that day’s drama. Slowly I am realizing that how today’s business ended is not at all an accurate basis for predicting tomorrow’s scenes.  If I try to forecast what will be expected of me and prep for it, I only rob myself of the restorative rest and energy I’ll need for tomorrows’ drama.

But, in God’s theater where I now live, I sometimes forget my new home, where I live. I can quickly fall into old habits of worry and anxiety. These are nothing but long-practiced reactions that created a groove in my brain. I spend little energy in being sucked back into these routines. I knew my lines well for nothing new ever happened in my former prescribed role as a pawn in Satan’s drama.

But each day in God’s drama, new, fresh and creative describe the dimensions in which I live and work. As Jamie Winship, my favorite author from last year, has written, our minds only deal in what has worked up to now. The mind has no fresh, new ideas. It only knows the past.

But here’s the good news about our infinite God who is always doing something new. He is the Creator and it is his nature to generate the novel, imaginative, and freshly beautiful. Stunning us brings him joy.  Sure, our daily scripts include the hard and painful, but we trust him, for he is good, wise, holy, righteous and wise. And he has eternal kingdom goals in mind

This kind of thinking is transforming me. I picture God the Father as the Holy Screenwriter.  Jesus is his Director, to whom each of us as Jesus’ student report morning by morning. Reassuringly, his Divine Spirit, aka our Acting Coach is ever present. 

The Spirit greets us with eager anticipation as soon as we awake, just as my friend Deb welcomes her small student with a smile.

Jesus hands us no script.  He and the Spirit alone have the Father’s playbook. But no worries, all has been prepped and planned. Our Coach supplies what we need at the right Kairos moment.

To me, it feels like I’m an improv actor, since I don’t know the day’s plans. This metaphor keeps me concentrating on the present moment.  I watch Jesus for cues.  I pay close attention to what my brother and sister actors are doing around me. I have my ear tuned and open to the Spirit, with whom I engage in ongoing dialogue.

I’m learning not to even think (or predict) what I will need for the day. How could I possibly imagine the day’s events, my interactions with people who cross my path, since I’m not privy to future plans.  My responsibility is to rely on Jesus and his Spirit.  My Coach is prepped.  He has at the ready all props and and costume changes I’ll require for the day.

Since there is no need to be anxious, I can relax and look forward to all that is new, beautiful and challenging the Father has in store.

So far, this seems to be a far less stressful to approach each day.  And I am growing quicker at catching myself ‘planning and worrying’ in the middle of the night. I remind myself of the futility and waste of God-ordained restorative time for one of his beloved family cast members.

Do you ever show up in the wrong theater, using the wrong script?

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And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 ESV……for I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

The fear started a few days ago.

After receiving a confrontative response to some back-and-forth communication I had initiated, I knew I had to seek peace with someone in my life.  Listening again to my initial audio message, I saw how I had led off in a rambling indirect way that this person had found very off-putting.  I’m learning that she is very direct.  In contrast, my approach had followed a stream-of-conscious, “I’m thinking of doing such-and-such and wanted to run it by you.” She misheard my rambling words and took them in a way I had not intended. Her swift aggressive response stunned me.

I called her several times before we connected and did my best to mend the rift, apologizing for my way and my words.  I think we’re back to a kind of equilibrium. But the exchange, very uncomfortable for me, left me sobered, chagrined and battling fear.

Early the next morning, I laid out before the Lord all that had happened and asked him to settle me and bring me peace.  What was I afraid of? I told Jesus, „I don’t trust myself to think next time before I speak.  I am afraid that I will NOT be able to communicate with clear and precise language.  I’ve been known to say LOTS of things I later regret.  I’m not good at pausing to choose my words well.”

The Lord tackled the very existence of my fear.  First, he reminded me that I don’t belong to the Kingdom of Fear anymore. As Paul writes, For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, Colossians 1:13 NASB

What does darkness represent? Fear and uncertainty!  The dark hides scary and dangerous situations.  Satan loves to suggest and then stoke tiny fear thoughts within us until they dominate our minds. But if we remember that now as ‘new creations’ who ‘live and move and have our being’ in Jesus’ Kingdom, then we can relax knowing that the air we breathe contains not one fear-molecule.

As I journaled, I saw how I’m going to need to practice noticing each time a fear pops into my mind. Since that morning I’ve been asking myself, “Maria, is that a fear thought about something happening today?”

If the answer is ‘yes’, then that’s my cue to confess it and turn back to the One I am called to trust that day.

If it’s just a hypothetical future scenario that scares me, then I’m predicting what tomorrow’s God-directed script will be. And I have NO perspective from which to see the entire cast and what has occurred up to now. I’m just living in my skin.

Each morning, we meet the Lord in prayer and receive our assignment for the day.  Yes, there is a daily plan in Jesus’ Kingdom theater.  We are to look to our Director for his cues and play whole-heartedly the role He has assigned to us.

Frankly, most of the time my day feels like I’m just ‘improving’.  I don’t know what comes next. But trusting in my Holy Spirit coach, I proceed as best as I can. There’s no need to worry, because all of us in the Son’s cast can be assured that in the end all will work out according to the Lord’s good plan. 

So, why are we plagued by reoccurring fears?  I think that this practice is but a holdover from one of the old scripts we used to follow when we played bit actors in Satan’s show.

But that was before our rescue and transfer into the new Kingdom. We are indeed new creations with roles to play/live out.

As I lay down to sleep each night, I’m trying to remind myself that tomorrow’s scenario is nothing I can predict. God is so creative and is using all that happens today as part of tomorrow’s plan.  My perspective as one of numerous ‘beloved bit players’ is so limited that to worry tonight about what might occur tomorrow is stupid and a waste of time.

My assignment is to rest and trust the One who gives his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2)

What does it mean when I’m bored?

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But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? Luke 10:29 Berean Standard Bible

I confess! I felt bored during church this past Sunday.  Really? Sunday, the first day of a brand-new year? Isn’t that when most people feel the most energized by the hope of new possibilities, potential growth, plans and changes for the good?

I did confess multiple times during the service this sin of a cold heart, “Father, I’m ashamed of feeling this way. I don’t understand my ennui, this impatience with the service.  I’m definitely not worshipping. Forgive me!  Joyce often tells me how much she looks forward to and longs to be fed at church, how those hours with others in worship and in fellowshipping fill her with joy and energy. What’s wrong with me?”

Then two days later, boredom during my Spanish conversation hour shocked me. “What is going on?  Am I just bored with my life?”

Thankfully, God spoke to me through one of Graham’s podcasts.  Although his message centered on business advice, I immediately saw an application to my life. He spoke about how humility in one’s business is the key (and often the missing ingredient) to success.  Explaining that being humble is not thinking poorly of oneself but rather thinking less often about oneself, he counseled business owners to begin with considering how best to serve their customers.

Most entrepreneurs and companies produce products or offer services that support their personal or organizational goals. That isn’t ‘bad’ but Graham suggested first focusing on and analyzing the most pressing needs of clients. He seeks a way to serve his clients, providing what they lack.

I asked myself, “Is this what I’ve been missing in my weekly activities? Maybe entering each morning set on serving others would transform my day. Dallas Willard describes this intention as a ‘to-whom-will-I-be-a-neighbor’ kind of posture. I bet THAT would turn the ordinary into an adventure, since the Lord is in charge of bring ‘neighbors’ across my path!” 

In my day-to-day life a lot of what I do is serve people, since I am retired. I volunteer in various places and in different ways. But maybe, by being more intentional in how I approach the day or the occasion and by studying how best to serve the person in front of me, I will feel more energized and expectant.

A doable practice to implement, I realize, will be how Jamie Winship interacts with the people he encounters each day.  With each contact, he bypasses the formulaic, ‘How’s it going?’ and instead uses a generative (i.e., unique) question, tailored to the individual.  Just how does he personalize his words? He describes leading with a question based on an observation about the person. Maybe the name tag of the grocery store check-out gal provides a clue. Or perhaps the Uber driver’s tattoo could provide an entry point.

In other words, as a first step, I’m to really look at the person in front of me, ‘study them’ so to speak, to learn if there’s a way to serve or help them.

Returning to my experience at church last Sunday, I hope to bring a different heart into worship.  I plan on asking Jesus to help me enter into the community with an attitude that seeks to connect with my brothers and sisters.  Who among them needs some comfort, some encouragement or just a hug? Most importantly, may I worship the Lord, serving him with a glad, thankful AND whole heart.

Why do I keep expecting people to act a certain way?

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You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, …. Isaiah 58:9 NASB

Christmas Eve and we were returning home from having shared a lovely Louisiana gumbo supper with some friends after the service.  In our warm and cozy truck, I mentioned to Mike that the previous night our bedroom has been too hot to sleep well. I suggested, “How about we just turn off the heat in the house, so the bedroom will be nice and cold?”  He nixed that idea, countering with, “just open the window a crack.” Annoyed because I didn’t think that alone would be enough to cool down the room, I said to myself, “He ‘should’ know how important sleep is to me!”

There it was, an expectation that I had projected on Mike. Only, I didn’t realize that was what I had done.  But God’s perceptive eye didn’t miss it.

As the Holy Spirit would have it, our readings for Christmas Day included Isaiah 58 about the kind of fast the Lord wants his children to celebrate.  The prophet puts it bluntly: we should not fast religiously or selfishly, simply to check it off our list, but enter into a fast with a heart set on worshipping our creator, sustainer and holy God.

As I worked through the first part of verse 9, I felt comforted by God’s promise to respond promptly to my cries for help with a “I’m here!”.

But then my eyes moved on to that ‘yoke business’ mentioned toward the end of that same verse.  I wrote in my journal, “Father, have I placed a yoke on anyone?  Am I expecting others to act a certain way?”

Last night’s conversation quickly came to mind. I DO have and I HAVE formulated expectations of Mike and other family members, and friends, as well. Do these precious people FEEL my dissatisfaction when they don’t ‘meet my standards’?

Yikes! That unarticulated but very real pressure must feel burdensome, especially on those who live with me, like Mike.  Others might feel the sting of my occasional disappointment, but Mike surely notices the ‘yoke of expectation’ that I hang on him.

We fragile human beings can never satisfy the impossibly high criteria OTHERS use to evaluate us.  I should know NOT to engage in that practice, since I have suffered the pain (and shame) of family members’, friends’ and bosses’ pointed dissatisfaction with me.

What is the solution?

Well, I can’t control what others think of me, but God has given me Holy Spirit power to change my thinking.  He commands Christians to renovate their minds, their way of thinking and concluding through a a changing heart, one saturated by his word. And what Jesus commands, he makes possible.

Since Christmas Day, I keep reading scripture that reenforces this message. We are to hope in God, not people. ‘Hope’ can be translated in both Hebrew and Greek as ‘to expect or wait for someone to act’.

Psalm 118:8 NKJV says: It is better to trust in the LORD, than to put confidence in man.

Even Jesus didn’t trust people, because he knew them: But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, because He knew all peopleJohn 2:24 NASB

John Piper, in a recent devotional reflected on 1 John 3:23: This is His commandment, that we believe [with personal faith and confident trust] in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and [that we unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, just as He commanded us. NASB

He distilled John’s teaching to something I am meditating on throughout the day:  Trust Jesus, Love people.

God is the only person in the universe who deserves our trust and won’t disappoint me.  Shouldn’t that fact free us up to release our unfair and unverbalized expectations of people that we hold in our hearts?

What is the Kingdom worth to you?

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The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it! Matthew 13:44-46 NLT

Did you watch any of the final games of this year’s World Cup in Qatar?

I didn’t. But we started googling the outcome of each day’s matches during dinner prep. I’d say, “Mike, what happened in World Cup today?” 

This world-captivating sports spectacle would have passed me by, were it not for my friend Roberto from Argentina. He and I connect several times a week as he practices his English, and I my Spanish.  It’s through Roberto that I have learned all that I now know about soccer.  My world has expanded!

Normally, I would have rooted for France in last week’s final, because I have loved France and the French language ever since I was 14 years old.  But, with a closer personal connection to Argentina, I turned my back on France (à tous mes amis français, je m’excuse!) and supported Argentinia.

Mike and I arrived at church on Sunday just as the competing champions jumped into this last battle for the FIFA  2022 World Cup trophy. I didn’t pray for Argentina to win.  But I did hope that this country so needing some good news would pull it off with Messi’s prowess.

Thank you, Jesus, that Argentina did have a good day and the entire country has been celebrating, temporarily distracted from their government’s devastating financial policies.

Yet, more than the victory, what has stunned me is learning just how life-enhancing many Argentinians deemed their presence IN Qatar would be.  According to a European day-after analysis of the game, I heard that a lot of these South American soccer fans had sold homes, or postponed buying a car just to buy an airplane ticket to the Middle East to cheer on their team.

Not sure that this was true, I searched on line and found the following report:

Argentinians who forewent buying a car or a house and took all their money.

After confirming this over-the-top passion for their country’s national team, the Holy Spirit caused me to see our innate driving human passion and desire for the sublime.  If some fans would sell all they owned for an experience as fleeting as World Cup soccer, then I have to ask myself, “Maria, just how excited ARE you that you actually have received, free of cost, such a great salvation and place in God’s forever Kingdom, namely the one ruled by King Jesus?”

May my joy over this gift from God at least come up to the ‘it’s-worth-all-I-have’ level of some of Argentina’s fans for their boys.

A ‘dangerous’ prayer?

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Do you mean what you actually pray for?

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 NLT

Before we took the Bible seriously, we would pray the Lord’s Prayer with our little sons out loud at bedtime after reading them stories.  I’m not sure why. Maybe we meant to communicate that now it was time to go to sleep!  I imagine we used this ritual as a way to feel good about ourselves as Christian parents.

Eventually, as we grew in faith, we left formulaic prayers aside and the four of us just talked to Jesus, thanking him and asking him for what we needed.

Over the years reciting a set prayer or creed in congregational settings has changed how I understand God’s priorities. I think most Christians would agree that Jesus is teaching us (as he did his disciples who asked him how they should pray) to make the Father’s priorities our first petitions.

Therefore, in the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God’s reputation be honored foremost in the universe. Next come both a petition for Kingdom expansion and a plea for God’ agenda to be accomplished in all realms.

What follow are requests for ourselves and a closing that affirms God’s power and rightful ownership of this holy, supernatural, and only important Kingdom in the universe.

A week ago on Friday, the Spirit seemed to be checking my heart’s understanding and sincerity in asking the Father to make sure that his will be done.

That morning I thought through the implications of boldly praying, ‘thy kingdom come!’.  I asked myself, “Maria,….

  • …what if God’s will is not your will, your idea of what ‘good’ is?
  • …are you really choosing not only ask for but to yield to the Father’s plan for this day over your own schedule?
  • ….are you able to take your desires and offer them up to be ruled, measured, evaluated and answered in God’s way and based on his God’s agenda?
  • ….do you REALLY know what you are praying for?”

I didn’t have to wait long to know the answer. So, I affirmed in my journal, “Yes, I mean what I said.  And I’m not worried.  I know for a fact that God is good and wise and that most of all, he loves me.  Besides, this is how Jesus taught us to pray.  He, the Spirit and the Father are one God. Yes, I DO trust the Almighty!”

So, how did I apply the fruit of my inner dialogue?  As I dressed to head off to substitute teach, laptop in hand, I told Jesus that I would not try to get some personal work done while monitoring the students’ progress with the assignments left by their teacher.  Instead, I would engage more and see if I could help some.

And I did just that. I made myself available to others by not placing my day’s purposes above God’s. And I did get a few tasks accomplished during the teacher’s planning period.

I still think that this part of the Lord’s prayer contains a ‘dangerous’ petition, one that God WILL answer, for sure.  We just better know what we’re asking, when we recite, ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

Have you ever experienced God’s supernatural peace?

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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

The other night, as I settled into bed, I prayed for supernatural help NOT to think about two problems that had surfaced during the day. I didn’t want to lay awake running through what ‘I should do’ about these two situations.

One of these issues involved money, a topic which triggers me.  That is, if I have wasted money or if a bill requires dealing with a call center to resolve, I can stew and suffer unnecessary anxiety. 

As soon as I begged the Lord, “Please help me not to lie awake thinking.  I want to sleep soundly! But I know I need your supernatural help, Jesus,” a thought just ‘popped’ into my mind.

The Bible teaches that God sovereignly controls all things in the universe. Therefore, these two problems are from his hand.  He appointed them.  He sent them to me as good things, for God IS good. And if that is true, then they are his to fix, not mine.

I prayed, “Father, you appointed these, I believe you will fix them.  So, here they are. They are yours.”

And with that, I fell asleep. I awoke the next morning with a sense of peace and thanked the Father for a good night sleep.  Going about my day, a growing awe over this supernatural calmness took hold of me.

I don’t know about you, but up until now I’ve never experienced the peace that Paul promises is ours if we hand over our worries with thanksgiving to Jesus.

It’s been almost a week and I continue to trust God and not fret. Nothing is resolved, yet. But I await his timing.  Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is working overtime to build a case for the true blessing that comes when we release something to God because we take him at his word.

I am seeing supporting scripture every day. For example, one of our readings this week was Psalm 123.  Straight out of the gate, I stopped on the first verse,

To you I lift my eyes…. Psalm 123:1

Not to these problems, do I look.  No!  I lift my eyes off Maria and look to God.

I’m growing convinced that what we look at shapes and colors our attitude, our responses to people and events as well as our feelings.

Taking time to think slowly about all verse 1 implies allowed me to remember that I’m not going to find a solution to any problem by dwelling on it.  The One who created me, the universe and all of reality, both visible and invisible, has the answers I need.  And He promises to give us this wisdom, if we ask.

How is that for a case in favor of looking away from the current trial to the One who sent it and the One who promises to handle it!

Does your mouth ever get you in trouble?

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I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. Psalm 119: 15. NKJV

I don’t know if this is a gal-thing or a flaw in both genders.  But I can’t keep from saying things that hurt, bad-mouth, presume, annoy people or even sometimes betray confidences.

This is not a new observation.  I’ve known about my faulty mouth for years.  But not until some months ago, have I mounted an intentional campaign to cure my mouth.  Disappointingly, no matter how sincere my intentions are in the early morning when I’m immersed in God’s word, I can’t remember to call on Jesus ‘to put a guard over my mouth’ (Psalm 141:3, NIV).

I blurt out things I instantly or later regret.  My friend Joyce suffers from this disease as well.  So, we pray for each other.

Yesterday morning I spent some time in Psalm 119, lingering where a verse would call out to me to dig deep.  Verse 15 was one of those where I focused specifically on the word ‘meditate’. Blue Letter Bible app offered an amplified description of ‘siah’, including to:

  • converse with oneself, as in chatter out loud
  • ponder
  • talk about (or sing about)

Immediately I saw the application.  If I am chattering God’s words in a soft voice, maybe what comes OUT of my mouth might actually be God-glorifying, helpful to others, necessary and timely.

Then last night, I read about Charles Hodge’s practice as a boy.  Taking God at his word, he kept up a running monologue to his heavenly Dad, thanking him for every good thing and telling him what he wanted. 

Isn’t this the kind of confident, child-like prayer our Lord desires?  Hodge’s practice makes me think of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 where Paul urges us to:

keep on rejoicing (in hope, in Christ, in our salvation, in our heavenly provision, in our peace, in our future……)

keep on asking God for what we want

keep on thanking God (for all his good gifts)

I know that I can’t conform myself to Christ by myself.  I need God’s supernatural power. That’s why I ask him regularly to put a guard over my mouth.

But I DO want to keep up a running chatter with the triune God.  That will at least help me stay focused on Him.

Adding to my spiritual toolkit

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Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will_______…… Habakkuk 3:17,18 ESV

Anne and I have been talking about one’s particular, received identity that Jesus gives if we ask him.  If we listen to Jesus, open to what he communicates over time, he will guide us to know that specific distinctiveness we bring to every part of our lives.  As in: ‘Maria, child of God by grace, called to BE a _____.’

Out of that identity, flows purpose.  Since God intentionally created each one of us as one-of-a-kind family members and gave us life in a specific time and place, it is not unreasonable that he calls us to BE a certain person. Jamie Winship and others teach Christians how to hear and receive one’s particular identity and calling.

Something Anne wrote in a text this week has gotten me thinking.  Not looking forward to traveling during Thanksgiving week with a baby and 3 children, she found a way to deal with her anxiety. 

What works for her is to describe the scenario that has her anxious. Then, as she looks that square in the face, she reminds herself that her identity as ‘nurturer’ is something she can continue to ‘work’, no matter what.

That is not to say that she nurtures out of her own strength and wisdom.  She depends on the Lord for his supernatural, ongoing presence to be with her as she brings life to whomever she is with. Whether in the ‘best of times’ or the ‘worst of times’.

I like this approach.  It provides space to be real with God and then to acknowledge that our ‘work’ does not change, no matter the circumstances.  Anne can always nurture someone, even when she herself is undergoing trials.

Ever since I read the Winship book and listened to his trainings, I have been thinking and praying through what I believe is my Jesus-given identity.  Tentatively, I believe I am ‘gently provoking beacon’.

I’ve been a ‘provocatrice’ since my teen years.  Pop used to say, “Maria, you’ve got to stop pulling wings off of flies!’  He meant that I needlessly (and with a mean spirit) stirred the pot, saying things to people to provoke a reaction.

That’s the destructive side of this identity.  But over many years, Jesus has slowly gentled me.  Provoking someone to make them squirm is far different than using a question to stimulate an interest in God.

When I researched the etymology of ‘to provoke’, I found that the Latin root means ‘to call forth or stimulate the appetite for….’

That is something I DO practice. A lot. But gently, and often with a thought-provoking question. My desire is always to shed light on some aspect of God, that might be new to the person.

What encourages me is that the actions that follow from my identity are not constrained by circumstances.

At first, I wasn’t sure if ‘worst-case-futurizing’ might be healthy, but now I see the wisdom in Anne’s approach. She doesn’t dwell on that picture. She simply faces it, I think, and concludes, ‘Well, if that’s the worst, I can still be who God has called me to be.’

Applying this approach personally, I foresee that identity-prompting actions will also shift my attention away from possible circumstances and back to the present and to the person in front of or next to me.

Father, fortify me with your grace to do as Anne, recalling that mindful of my identity, who I am and what you call me to do are gifts.

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