Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Different Kind Of Conversation

I just read a book that has grabbed my attention, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. The book has me thinking about prayer in many new ways.

The author suggests that we become bold in praying for God’s promises, that we pray for our biggest dreams with boldness and confidence. We should pray long and hard and with persistence.

A little over a year ago, I decided I needed to spruce up my prayer life. I started writing down a prayer list of names, adding to it frequently. That list has grown pages long, and, trying to be obedient to God, I have read through this list in prayer every day. Unfortunately that prayer time has become just listing off those names, asking God to meet their needs and draw them closer to him. Amen.

I’m realizing that all my prayers have become that boring. Rote. Repeating tired words, sluggish words and phrases such as “become right with you,” “as you think best,” “if it’s your will,” and “be with them.” I can say these things when my mind is ten thousand miles away and when I’m more than half asleep.

Now of course, it’s the right thing to want our prayers to be according to God’s will.

James 4:15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

However, it’s lazy if I let that be the end of my prayer.

The idea of praying boldly, with confidence—this is hard for me to swallow. How can I be sure that what I’m asking for is God’s will? Who am I to be bold to God?

Mark 10: 51: “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

People in the crowd tried to make the man be quiet, but Jesus gave him permission to ask for what he wanted. Why shouldn’t I believe that Jesus gives me that permission too?

Psalm 37:4: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

I’ve always taken that to mean that if we focus our hearts on God, he will put in them desires that are the right kind. I think there’s truth in that, but I wonder if maybe I’m not short-changing myself on what God promises.

Certainly God does not give us things that are bad for us or others. James 4:2-3. How can we know if what we desire is his will? I have no new easy answers for that. We still need to read God’s word and study it to learn better what is his will. I need to grow in my faith and belief that he will give good things to me, and it’s okay for me to ask him to help me with that too.

Mark 9:24: Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Moses was known to be meek. But when God was so angry with the people of Israel he wanted to destroy them all, Moses begged God to fulfil his promises. Numbers 14:17-19. No, I do not mean that the consequences of our sin go away. But David was certainly bold, even though he knew and admitted his sin.

Psalm 6: 1-2: Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

Can I really be confident that God will answer my prayers?

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I’m certainly not righteous.

Philippians 3: 9: “And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

My arguments keep running into dead ends.

Luke 18:1: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

The parable of the persistent widow. An unjust judge finally gave the widow what she wanted, because she kept coming to him and asking. Jesus asked the people if that judge finally helped the woman, wouldn’t God take care of those who come to him?

Luke 18:8: I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I need to be careful not to limit what God can do. My heart and mind may be small, but God’s power is so amazing.

Another thought I got from THE CIRCLE MAKER is that we can change history with our prayers. If by my prayers, I allow God to change my heart, this allows God to do things through my life that he could not have done if I hadn’t allowed him to. This is still an area where I need much growth, in faith and understanding and practice. But I am excited to learn what God will do.

Psalm 19:14: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A New Beginning

I am almost fifty-five years old, and I believe God has given me a new beginning.

Three years ago, an accident left me with a brain injury. I had to quit work, and since then I’ve often felt unneeded. Always a busy person, I suddenly did not know what I could do of any use to anyone else.

For the last month or more, I have a new spring in my step.

I have been blind my entire life. I never considered myself special, but I believed I lived an energetic, independent, constructive life. After my accident, I suddenly had more disabilities to deal with. I became angry and hurt, and believed other people saw me as disabled far more than when I was “only visually impaired.”

I’ve discovered who dropped this heavy weight of “disability” around me.

It was me.

I decided to give in to all the multiple disabilities. Even as I struggled to find new ways to use my life, I kept reminding myself to allow for what I couldn’t do anymore.

I have much less energy, and I have difficulty with balance. So I let my family do many things for me which I could do myself. I didn’t pick up much work around the house. I worked on my writing and on my certification as a braille transcriber and proofreader, but I told myself it was okay if I didn’t feel like doing much of those things with any strong or regular effort.

I have hearing loss, trouble with memory, and difficulty completing sentences and finding the right word. So I allowed myself not to be n many groups outside the home, not to try to carry on conversations.

All of these difficulties are true, but I decided I could use them to settle back and not be much of a participant in life. I was basically a sit in my easy chair kind of retired lady.

What changed a month or so ago? We bought a dishwasher, and I decided to start doing the laundry again. Seriously. I know it’s more than that, but it’s amazed me how doing these household chores has made me feel useful again.

And my writing.

When I was a teenager, my dream was to be a writer. I sold a few short stories and poems to magazines. I was an author.

Then for more than thirty years, I allowed school, raising a family, and work to convince me I didn’t have much time for writing. I told myself that I’d take it up again when I retired.

I’ve always heard that God may not answer our prayers as soon as we want, and maybe not in the way we think he should, but he will answer them. I don’t remember if I prayed much about writing when I was a teenager, but God has certainly made my dream come true much later and in a much different way than I imagined.

When I couldn’t go back to work, I realized that now is my time to write.

For the last three years, I’ve worked on short stories, articles, and started a couple books. I’ve joined a critique group, and I take classes online and read books about writing. Over the past year, I’ve had three articles accepted by a magazine. Again, being disabled, I figured this was good enough. I didn’t need to put any more effort into it than I felt like. Relax and take it slow.

A couple months ago, a publisher asked to see a children’s book I sent them a query for.

This sparked some motivation in me to work more seriously and diligently as a writer. Stretch my limits, work more hours, take some risks, boldly ask God to bless my writing career.

I may never publish a book. My writing may be only for me, my family and friends, and my critique partners. But I’m going to put a new effort into it. It’s going to be a job that I put energy, time, and effort into.

At some points of the day, my mind races—with things I have to do around the house, writing projects I want to work on, research I need to do, critiques I need to finish for others. I’m not retired anymore.

Another result of my accident. Because of nerve damage, one eye needed to be sewed almost entirely closed, and one side of my mouth doesn’t lift. Vainly, I’ve worried that my face doesn’t look very appealing. But today, I was able to laugh about it with my husband Murray. “A wink and a crooked smile. Most people have to work at that, but I can do it without even trying.”

I know I’ll probably still have times when I’m discouraged and don’t feel useful. But one thing I know for sure, and thank God for. I can still be productive, happy, and I don’t plan to retire for a long time.

James 1:16-17:  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Psalms 73:26: My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What God Has Promised

Not too long ago, I was listening to my thoughts. All I heard was someone who was self-absorbed, complaining, critical. I thought, “This doesn’t sound like a person I would like very much.”

I prayed that God would help me to have a more caring heart, that I would be softer toward others and have more concern for people other than myself.

As soon as I said the prayer, I thought, “What did I just do?”

I’ve always heard it said, “Be careful about praying for patience, or God will give you something you have to be patient about.”

I wondered what I might have just set myself up for. Fortunately, I didn’t tell God I changed my mind.

I don’t know that I can claim to have a sweeter heart yet, but I am reminded often to keep praying for a kinder and more caring self to those around me. It will be interesting to see if other people notice a difference in me in the coming days and weeks. And at risk of being self-absorbed, I wonder what surprises God has in store for me.

1 Peter 3:  8Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Corinthians 2:9: But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’.