Archive | June 2016

What God Did As I Stood Still

Today’s post is written by Terry Gassett, a new friend of mine. In her true story, she shares a difficult prayer-struggle she had with God, the amazing gift she received by respecting his denial of her request, and the lessons she learned. I invite you to read her story; I believe you will gain a fresh appreciation for how God rewards those who struggle in prayer. To learn more about Terry, follow this link to her website.  http://www.heretotherelifecoaching.com/

 


What God Did As I Stood Still

Each morning I am given a gift—an invitation to spend time in intimate fellowship with OUR Father through the Word and Prayer. I am invited to share my heart with Him and listen as He shares His.

Over the years, I have poured out my heart to God in prayer.  I have prayed long prayers, short prayers, passionate prayers, bold prayers, and even at times fearful prayers. I have also prayed desperately, begging God for things I wanted and that He chose not to give me, but instead receiving from his hand better things that I had not even known to ask for.

Many years ago, my husband was serving as full-time pastor at a small church in Natchez, MS.   He received a call to come and serve a congregation in Chalmette, Louisiana (a suburb of New Orleans) where I had grown up. Although we had moved away from New Orleans shortly after we were married – I had spent almost every waking moment praying to The Lord to move us back! I had never lost my love for the city or for its people, many of whom were like family. I was elated at the news of the call and thought that The Lord was finally answering my many “begging” prayers to move back home.

We went down to New Orleans as a family, met, talked and prayed with the congregation for God’s guidance.  To my dismay, my husband announced to me, shortly after the prayer time, that he had heard an almost audible NO in answer to our prayer for guidance.  I didn’t want to admit it at the time, but I too felt like God was saying NO.

Both of us wanted to be sure of God’s answer, so we went home and prayed some more.  I prayed fervently, wanting so desperately to hear a resounding “YES.” I wanted to go back home. BUT, it still seemed to both of us that God was saying NO. This was terribly confusing, as the timing and circumstances seemed right, and on top of that, God had opened a door hadn’t He?

I asked God to speak to my both my husband and I in a clear way, with a clear answer, in a way that we each could understand, and had this recurring dream:

Night after night, I saw the city of New Orleans flooded and in ruins, with thousands of people stranded. I saw our own family, walking in knee deep, muddy waters, unable to get to safety. Though I did not understand what these dreams meant, I did know that through them The Lord was warning us not to go. These dreams coupled with the almost audible NO my husband had heard, led us to turn down the call.

For a year, I grieved what might have been.  I was angry at God for opening a door only to close it. I didn’t understand what his purpose(s) could possibly be for doing this.

As I brought my WHY questions before the Lord, he remained silent for that year; then,  in his timing He spoke to me through the scripture which reads “Stand Still and See the Salvation of The Lord.” Exodus 14:13.

It wasn’t until three years later that hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In the aftermath of the storm, the levees broke and the city was flooded. My friends all lost their homes, some even lost their lives.

Chalmette, which had never before flooded, was flooded as well.  Had we gone, we too, would have lost our home, our church, and possibly even our lives.

Words cannot express the mixed emotions I felt at the time; grief over the disaster that had fallen on my beloved City, overwhelming heartbreak for those who were suffering greatly, survivor’s guilt, and gratitude.  Gratitude to MY FATHER who remained faithful to answer my prayer, not in the way I envisioned, but in a way that was in accordance with His will and was for my good!

I think it was then, that I learned some lessons in prayer that will stick with me for life.

  • I learned that prayer flows out of our relationship with Our Loving Father, who desires and delights in giving us good gifts.
  • I learned that prayer is a two-way conversation, not a one way wish list.
  • I learned that I must listen, as much, if not more, than I talk.
  • I learned that if I stand still and let God be God, He will show me His salvation each and every time.

 

 

A Type of Prayer That We Need to Often Practice

After listening to all the distressing news reports from Orlando—the mass shooting, the murder of a Christian musician, and the drowning of a child at Disney World, I went to bed feeling deeply grieved.  I also felt frustrated about my own unfinished tasks and disappointed that I had not accomplished my goals.  In the middle of the night, I woke up with a flare up of chronic pain.

I thought about going to Facebook and sending out an S.O.S. plea to my friends, asking them for prayer support. I wondered how many of them would be checking Facebook at 3: 45 A. M.? Maybe a few, but I decided against that action. I could easily get involved in so many conversations that I would not get back to sleep. I thought about waking up my husband. Did I really want to wake him on Father’s Day morning with a desperate “I need help; comfort me” demand? Not really!

I could have poured out my heart in distress to the Lord. But, I did not even do that. I kept silent. I listened. Through Scriptures he brought to my mind, the Holy Spirit brought peace to my heart.


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Had circumstances changed? Not at all; yet, in a prayer of silence, I had received God’s gift of peace. The prayer of silence is like the beauty of the quietness just before sunrise. It’s the calm anticipation and confidence that the sun will appear.

It’s okay to cry out to God when we’re distressed, to tell him how we feel; it can be emotionally healthy to do so. Many times, people in the Bible cried out to God, and he patiently listened to them. Yet, sometimes, talking too much can leave us emotionally drained. Like David, we need to learn how to stop crying. He describes what this means with this beautiful word picture:

“Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (Psalm 132:2 NASB)

Children resting in their mothers arms are not disturbed and worried about what’s happening around them. They are confident that “Mother” (or maybe it’s “Father”) will protect them and meet all of their needs.

We need to remind ourselves, as David did, that when “The foundations of law and order have collapsed . . . the Lord still rules from heaven.” (Psalm 11:3-4 NLT) Sometimes, silence rather than intercession is the most appropriate prayer. This was the instruction that an Old Testament prophet gave to people experiencing great distress. “Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling.” (Zechariah 2:13 NLT)

Something to try this week:

Bring one of your distressing situations to God; instead of telling him how desperate you are, picture yourself resting in his loving arms; then, tell him that you love him, ask him what he would like to say to you, and quietly listen.

This entry was posted on June 24, 2016. 8 Comments

A “Goodbye” Poem to My Father

IMG_0001 (3)Twenty-one years ago, my father left this earth and entered his heavenly home. On this Father’s Day Sunday, and in the days leading up to it, I’ve been missing him almost as much as I did on the first night that he was gone. Mom is now, there, too.

Through re-reading a poem that I wrote twenty-one years ago, I’ve been able to release some tears that remained in my heart. I can’t explain why that helped  me, but I feel comforted.

In honor of my father, and in hope that it will bring comfort to others whose fathers have passed, I ‘m sharing my poem.

Goodbye Daddy

I am getting older; the day will soon arrive
When I will be with Jesus—on the other side:
The other side of suffering, the other side of pain,
The other side of sorrow, sickness, fear, and shame.

Daddy, you are closer; you are tired, I can see.
Each day is such a struggle; I want you to be free.
I know that you are ready; your passage has been paid.
I heard you thank the Lord one day, with confidence you prayed.

I would like to sit beside you just to hold your hand
And look into your clear blue eyes–with love that understands.
I would like to make this journey easier for you.
But part of me would like to beg, “Daddy, take me too!”

Part of me feels angry; part of me feels scared.
And part of me just wants to cry, “Daddy, stay right here!”
I want to hear more stories, play another game,
Walk backward into childhood and share with you my dreams.

You worked so hard to give me things you did not have.
You said to me, “It’s nothing; I want you to be glad.
“I want you to be happy; I want you to have fun.
“It’s because I love you that these things for you I’ve done.”

Best of all, you taught me the way of faith to walk.
I learned by your example; you did not vainly talk.
Through many rugged valleys with Jesus you have passed.
I know he will be with you in this—the very last.

I see the shadow falling on this earthly shore.
I release you, Daddy, to go where life is more.
As the valley deepens, here upon this side,
I pray you will go quickly and in peace abide.

Goodbye dearest Daddy; goodbye, just for a while.
I’m glad your struggle’s over; through teardrops, I can smile.
For you, there’s no more suffering; for you, there’s no more pain.
For you, there’s no more sorrow—only joy will remain.

Jane Ault

1995

 

 

This entry was posted on June 19, 2016. 2 Comments

What Kind of a Father is God?


Included in the worship service at my church, last Sunday was an interpretive dance of the Lord’s Prayer or as it is also called–the “Our Father” prayer. It was so beautifully done! Tears flowed down my face as I watched the dancer and listened to the music and lyrics. In my memory, I was a child again, sitting in a tiny country church with my parents and grandparents. Yet, there was a difference between the feeling that I had back then and the feeling that I had last Sunday.

Back then, I did not realize the depth of love that my Father-God had for me. Back then, I did not pray with the confident expectation that I talked about in last week’s blog post. Back then, I did not feel very much connected to him. Sadly, my heart contained more fear than love–more  distrust than faith.


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On my morning walk along the lakeshore one day this week, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by very loud peeping; Looking up, I saw a young osprey peering over the edge of its nest, which was located on top of a high telephone pole. As I continued to watch, its parent flew close to the nest. I thought this bird was going to enter the nest; instead, it flew over the nest. The young bird flapped its large wings but did not move out of the nest. This happened several times. To me it was a beautiful illustration of God’s fatherly patience.

 


By sending Jesus, he demonstrated to us what it looks like to fly; now, by sending the Holy Spirit, he gives us the power to fly. Yet, he does not kick us out of our nest. With patience, he watches the attempts we make to flap our wings, and with kindness he encourages us to persevere.

As you pray this week, I invite you to meditate on the following Psalm and to ask the Holy Spirit to  give you a deeper and personal understanding of Our Father’s love.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
    as though we had never been here.
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever
    with those who fear him. 

Psalm 103: 8-17 NLT

This entry was posted on June 17, 2016. 8 Comments

Moving from Urgent Prayers into Expectant Ones

In last week’s blog, I talked about fervency—praying with passion. Today, I’m talking about praying with urgency and arriving at confident expectancy. Fervency might look like urgency, yet they’re not the same. Fervency means we understand the importance of something, while urgency means we recognize (or assume) the necessity of immediate action. The following story, borrowed from a sermon given by one of the pastors in my church, illustrates urgency.

A little boy was struggling with how to dress himself. While pulling his sweater over his head, he got stuck in it. He couldn’t get his head through the hole, and he yelled, “Help, get me out of here! I can’t breathe! I’m dying!” Of course, that child was not dying; he panicked and imagined that he was. He thought that his situation was urgent—much more urgent than it actually was.

An excellent example of both urgency and fervency in prayer is that of a faith-filled preacher who continued to plead to God for the life of Don Piper long after medical experts had pronounced him dead. “90 Minutes in Heaven” (by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey) tells the rest of this amazing story of answered prayer. It also illustrates how God’s purposes and answers to prayer– though always for our ultimate good–are not always fulfilled in the way or in the time that we expect or desire them to be.

Like little children, we imagine our situation urgent when it is not. If we do not receive our self-designed instant miracle, we might pout or question God’s goodness; even then, God is “compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 103:8 NLT).

A few months ago, I found out that a dear friend had cancer; his situation called for passion and urgency, and I poured out my heart on his behalf. After awhile, as I wept and interceded for him, I sensed that God was going to heal him; I then, felt great peace. I continued to pray for him but no longer with a sense of urgency; instead, with the confident expectation of a positive outcome. God gave me words of Scriptures that confirmed and strengthened my faith—and my friend’s faith. On the day he was scheduled to have surgery, I felt confident that God would bring him successfully through it.

On that day, I still prayed, but I did not feel like a panicked child, afraid that God could not see or did not care about what was going on. I did not wonder about the outcome. When my husband shared the report of a successful surgery, I said, “I’m happy but not surprised.” That statement might sound arrogant, but I’m not sharing it to brag about my great faith. It’s taken a long time for me to arrive at the place of confidence that I, today, have in God’s ability and desire to answer my prayers. It feels refreshing to be able to relax and watch God do what he said he would do.

How has this expectant confidence that God will answer my prayers developed? I’m not totally sure. Primarily, I think it’s just a gift of his grace. I believe that becoming familiar with how he works, through my study of Scripture and practice of prayer, has been important factor.

To explain it more simply: It’s kind of like living in a close relationship with someone who loves you, for a long time.  Forty-nine years ago, my husband said that he loved me. Then, I believed it in my head; now, I believe it in my heart. Based on a lifetime of experiences, I have a confident expectation that John will listen to my concerns and desires and do all he can to meet my requests in a way that will bring me happiness. Based on an even longer lifetime of living with Jesus, I have the same confident expectation. I know that he desires my best; therefore,  he will answer my prayers in the way and time that will bring me the most ultimate and lasting joy.

Questions and thoughts to consider:

  • What is your prayer journey like?
  • Have you started one? It’s never too late to begin.
  • Here’s an invitation: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4 NLT)
  • Words of Jesus: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14 ESV)

If you want to, please share an experience of answered prayer or  make a comment or ask a question.

 

 

This entry was posted on June 9, 2016. 4 Comments

How War Room Inspired Me to Pray

My husband and I recently watched the movie, War Room; it dramatically demonstrates this truth—“the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16 NLT). Or, as it reads in NKJV version, “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

As I watched the film, I felt awed by the way God answered the prayers of prayer warrior, Miss Clara (played by Karen Abercrombie) and her mentee—Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla Shirer).  He stirred up in my heart a renewed commitment to pray. I want my prayers to become more effective; I want to see significant—not piddling—results, and I want to stir up in your hearts—my blog readers—a similar commitment. I believe that God will answer our prayers in powerful and new ways, giving us joy and bringing him honor.

Consequently, the topic of my blog posts—starting today and continuing for the next six weeks— will be prayer.

Through viewing War Room and studying the Scripture in James, I got a vision of what truly effective prayer looked like and realized at least one thing that my prayers have been lacking. As I mediated on the Scripture, these three words stood out to me: earnest, effective, and fervent.

Dictionary definitions of the word earnest include the following:

  • Serious in intention, purpose, or effort: sincerely zealous: an earnest worker
  • Showing depth and sincerity of feeling: earnest words.
  • Seriously important: demanding or receiving serious attention.

These are dictionary definitions of fervent:

  • to have great warmth or intensity of spirit, feeling, enthusiasm,
  • hot; burning, glowing.

Thinking about these definitions, and reflecting on the prayers of Miss Clara and Elizabeth Jordan, I saw what fervency (great intensity of feeling) and earnestness (intentionality, effort, and clearly focused purpose) look like in prayer. These women demanded and received God’s serious attention. They were boiling mad about destruction and evil, and with God’s authority, they powerfully resisted Satan—the Evil One.

As I think about how my prayers can become more earnest and fervent, these are the questions I am asking myself:

  • What injustices, injuries, or destructive situation(s) am I boiling angry about?
  • What is God’s perspective (some Scripture) regarding these situations?
  • How can I direct my anger into effective, focused, and intentional prayer—not railing against God and complaining to him but in confident trust presenting my concern to him?
  • Where, this week, will I make time to pray with fervency for God to intervene in behalf of the people in these situations?

I hope that you will consider asking yourself the same questions and that you will continue reading my upcoming blogs on the topic of prayer. Together, I believe that we can exert a powerful influence for good in the world where we live.

An Additional Reference: Prayer is Invading the Impossible by Jack Hayford