Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cancer! A Prayer.

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies” – Psalm 18:1-3

O Lord God,

My heart is so heavy right now with many reports of friends facing such dire situations.

Cancer.

Oh, that enemy cancer!

How I hate it! The devastating effects of this disease are immeasurable. I’ve never gone through it. I’ve only seen its effects on those it tries to devour–watching as people we know and love are filled with suffering and pain and sorrow.

They are beaten down by this evil adversary, which is usually joined by the forces of fear and discouragement, pain and hopelessness, agony and waiting…lots of waiting.

Your very Word, dear Father, tells us how to pray in times such as these–when everything seems desperate and there is nothing else we can do but lift up our cries to You. For in You, there is hope! So, Lord, according to Your Word…

Break down the walls of despair, O Lord!

Build a fortress of protection in which to hide from this evil enemy that lives inside. That enemy that penetrates from within and sucks the life out of the one it inhabits. The enemy that hides silently for so long and then rears its ugly head to bring on incredible agony to all touched by its malignant tentacles. This enemy that takes up residence in homes and turns everything upside down.

And Satan stands by and celebrates.

Let the evil one and his minions not have the final say, O Lord! Fight for us, Father! You’re the only One strong enough to beat this evil monster!

4172014067_5d735f2521_z

Hear our cries, O Lord! Be angry! Part the heavens and come down with hailstones and bolts of lightning. Shoot Your arrows and scatter the enemy—lay bare its foundations at Your rebuke.  Make the adversary turn its back in flight and destroy it.

Reach down from on high, Father, and take hold of all these who are weighing on my heart. Draw them out of the deep waters. Rescue them from cancer and its effects…from this disease that is too strong for them. But NEVER too strong for YOU!

Be their support. Bring them out into a spacious place. Rescue them because You delight in them. Keep their lamps burning, O God; turn their darkness into light.

By Your help, give them strength to fight and overcome every obstacle. Be their shield as they take refuge in You.  Make their feet like the feet of a deer; able to stand on the heights and not falter. Train their hands for battle, Lord. Provide them with Your shield of victory. Sustain them with Your right hand. Stoop down to make them great. Broaden the path beneath their feet, so they may walk without stumbling.  Go with them and give them victory as they pursue and overtake the enemy.

Your way, O God, is perfect; Your Word is flawless. How they need Your Word, O Lord.

You are faithful and trustworthy. You alone are God; You are the Rock.

The LORD lives!

Praise be to God my Rock!

Exalted be God my Savior!

Hebrews15.13

Show Your people Your unfailing love, O LORD! Answer them in their distress. Send them help from Your sanctuary. Give them the desires of their hearts and make all their plans succeed. May You, O LORD, grant all their requests. Answer them from Your holy heaven with the saving power of Your right hand.

In the midst of their sorrow, strengthen them according to Your Word.

Fill them with joy and peace—that peace that passes all understanding—as they trust in You, so they may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are the Lord Almighty! You are able. You are faithful. You are GOD!

In You we place our trust!

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(From Psalms 18, 20; Romans 15:13; Psalm 119:28)

Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984

Praying hands photo by Irina Patrascu (licensed by CC-BY-2.0)

Isaiah 26:3 photo by Sabra Penley

8 Comments

Filed under Healing, Hope, Prayer

Hope in the Hurting

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy…they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. – Isaiah 35:1-2

Every day it seems my heart is heavier by the news of another friend or family member who is going through difficult times. Some have lost loved ones. Some are reeling from the devastating effects of cancer or struggling with some other health crisis. Some are facing financial setbacks and job losses. Some are aching from broken or strained relationships. Some are striving to hang on during a dry period of waiting for an answer to prayer. And all are hurting.

Hurting is everywhere around us–the result of living in a fallen world. No one can escape the effects of sin. We will all go through our share of struggles. And when we are in the midst of those troubling times, life can seem so very dark and barren. Hope can begin to fade, and we wonder if beauty and laughter will ever return.

But, oh, there is hope. There is always hope.

Because hope isn’t in something…it’s in Someone.

We can read about His hope in Isaiah 35…a beautiful chapter about what God is doing in the midst of our wilderness.

Isaiah 35:1-2 says, The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.… They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.”

Colchicum_autumnale_001

It is interesting, the crocus mentioned here—specifically, the meadow saffron. This particular flower is one that blooms in autumn–an unusual time, for most crocus bloom earlier in the year. It appears unexpectedly with a brilliant show of color in an otherwise monochromatic landscape. Indeed, it might seem to “burst into bloom” as it quickly appears.

Before this unfolding occurs, below the surface of the wilderness floor, lies the very root of that flower. No one even knows it is there. It can’t be seen. But it is there. And it is preparing the flower for its grand entrance—the blossoming of something beautiful and new.

In the same way, just below the surface of our circumstances, God is working. There is a purpose for this painful trial, and He is indeed at work. Even though we may not see what He is doing, He is working–in our situation and in our hearts–to bring forth something beautiful and new.

God works first on the root…then He brings forth the fruit!

Oh, how we need to see the beauty of God’s unsearchable work—to see the glory and splendor of our God!

I, too, have experienced the crippling fear of the unknown, the stifling journey into What-If-Land, and the discouraging statistics that say there is little hope.

This is where I found myself one year ago. My husband was the picture of health one day and the next he was lying in an ICU bed, unconscious, barely alive, and not expected to live. It was easy to fall into a dark pit of the unknown. I longed to see anything that would give me hope.

One day turned into two…two turned into three…and so on. I lived for every tiny victory…the minutest sign of progress…tests results that were a bit better than the day before…vitals inching ever closer to normal. These helped me hang on when I felt the weight of it all closing in on me. Each one was evidence of God’s healing hand at work. Each one its own beautiful little crocus bursting into bloom.

But even more than those physical evidences of divine work, was the evidence of change in my own heart. An unexpected bursting bloom, for sure! I saw the Lord from a new perspective. There was a longing in my heart for His Word and precious intimacy in prayer that I had not before experienced. I learned what it meant to live in His strength and trust in His sovereignty. These brought that hope I so needed and joy I never dreamed possible in light of the circumstances.

Now, one year later, my sweet husband is healthy again. Yet, there are still lasting effects from the illness that most likely are here to stay—effects that keep him from being able to go back to work like before. While our life has changed in a number of ways, we rejoice in what the Lord has done. We are closer to Him and closer to each other. We have a new perspective—one more focused on God’s purposes and on loving Him and loving others.

God met us in the wilderness and that wilderness blossomed!

When you are faced with a wilderness situation of your own, how do you find hope and joy in the midst of it? How can you see the invisible work of God? What can you do to join with God in working on the root so He can bring on the fruit?

Here are a few suggestions that helped me on my journey:

  • Focus on the Lord, not on the circumstances.

Remember that your Sovereign Lord has it all under His control. He knows all about it and has a plan and a purpose. Focus on His love and faithfulness and His promise to always be with you (Hebrews 12:2-3; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 50:9).

  • Stay on your knees—PRAY without ceasing.

Cry out to Him. Lift up your heart to Him and seek His face. Lay your requests before Him and wait in expectation (Psalm 5:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Philippians 4:6-7).

  • Stay in the Word.

Keep your Bible close at hand. Read it often. Search the Scriptures for God’s promises, for His hope, and His direction (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119).

  • Keep on the full armor of God and watch out for the enemy.

This wilderness is a battlefield against your soul. Be strong in the Lord’s power and be ready to stand firm against the devil’s schemes. Be alert and watch out for those flaming arrows that aim to bring you down (Ephesians 6:10-18).

  • Rejoice in God’s blessings and be grateful.

They are all around you—look and see. Ask God to open your eyes to the treasures in the trial. Give thanks for all those who are supporting you, praying for you, and caring for you (Philippians 4:4; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18).

  • Share with others in need.

As you are able, help those around you. It keeps you from becoming inwardly-focused and lifts your spirit as you partner with God to bless someone else (Galatians 6:2).

I pray that the Lord will bless you as you face each difficult situation in this life and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).

Indeed, in the midst of the wilderness–the barrenness–the darkness, God will meet you there, and He will provide.

In the midst…not just after…

In the midst of the wilderness.

The crocus will bloom.

 

Scripture references from the New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Crocus Photo by H. Zell (Own Work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

8 Comments

Filed under God's Works, Hope

Love or Nothing?

“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 12:31b; 13:1-3).

Worship was just minutes from starting. We were late leaving Sunday School because I was trying to fit in something that should have been done afterward–filling out a form that needed to be turned in to the office. But the office was already locked. (Worship time, you know.) So resigned to do that later, we dashed for the sanctuary, hoping to get in before the doors closed.

Turning the corner, I saw her familiar face coming toward us. She was headed away from the worship center, in the direction of the office. (Ooh! Perfect opportunity, I thought.)

“Hi, guys. How are you doing?”  Her greeting barely registered in my hurried mind.

My words were quick: “Hey, are you going to the office? Would you mind taking this form for me?”

She graciously agreed and accepted the paper from my extended hand with the promise to place it in the appropriate box.

And we rushed on, going our separate ways.

My husband and I quickly made our way to our seats just as the service was beginning. And, oh, the worship was glorious! I raised my voice in praise to my precious Lord and bowed my head in prayer. I silently followed along in my Bible as the pastor read the focal passage…the one about LOVE.

I was excited! Love is one of the focus themes God has me pursuing this year. I’ve been noticing it everywhere. And here I found it before me again. Expecting encouragement from the Lord and insight into His Word, I was ready to hear something new and wonderful.

But then, at some point following the reading of the Scripture passage, while listening to the pastor’s words, my toes started feeling a little uncomfortable. He was teaching how everything must be done in love. He spoke of being careful in how we treat one another. That no matter what we do, if it isn’t done out of love, it is useless and even harmful.

That uncomfortable pinched feeling in my toes quickly spread into a sick ache in the pit of my stomach. For even though the pastor was continuing to speak, I couldn’t hear his words. All I could hear was the Holy Spirit within me, telling me to think about her…and how I did not show her love.

With slow realization, my mind’s eye replayed the earlier scene.

I had seen her; that much was obvious. But I didn’t see HER. I didn’t see my friend, worthy of a warm hello and a hug. My friend, who is precious to me and deserving of kindness and appreciation.

No. I saw her as an opportunity to knock something off my to-do list and move on with my day.

Bottom line…I used her.

My friend.

I didn’t love her… I used her.

In my rush to get to worship, I completely lost my way. For the only way to worship is through love.

True worship can never take place without love.

In my heart I had come face-to-face with the God of love…and I was found guilty— guilty of not loving.

The Scripture above says “If I have not love…I am nothing.” Nothing. I am nothing!

What was it God revealed to me just last week? Selfless? How could I have forgotten so soon? How can I be so blind to my indulgence to self? HOW?!

How could I have been so cold and unfeeling?! So absent of love?

Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to its neighbor.” But I did her harm…I did not love her.

Silently, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I asked the Lord to forgive me. (One. More. Time.)

My heart was breaking for how I had treated my sweet friend. It was everything I could do to wait until the end of the service to see if I could find her…to do what I should have done the first time—give her a hug and show her love. But after the service she was not there. It wasn’t until that evening that I was finally able to confess my callous soul to her and beg her forgiveness (unfortunately, it was over the phone and not in person).  She was so gracious and exemplified to me the very love that my selfish heart lacked earlier that day.

3135861486_fa580f512b_z

(I still owe her that hug.)

Love. That which is patient and kind and not rude or self-serving. Selfless love.

LOVE.

I have so much to learn, Lord. Oh, how I need Your help!

————————————————————————————————

All verses from the New International Verson of the Bible, 1984.

Photo by John Mayer, licensed under CC BY 2.0/cropped from original

6 Comments

Filed under Love, Self, Worship

Selfless

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.                                                      — Luke 9:23

Everywhere in the blogosphere I turn this week I’ve read about finding my one word for 2014. It’s been the topic of many a post that’s made its way to my inbox. One even had a link to the One Word movement’s website (who knew?).

I recognize that I’m not the most up-to-date gal out there, but I had no idea this was such a big thing. I’ve often heard people speak about having a focus Bible verse for the year or a particular area to work on. But labeling a year with one word is new to me.

So, I began to look over last year and see if I could determine what one word would sufficiently fit 2013. When I started the year, I probably would have said “focus.” And much of what I learned over the next twelve months did direct me to keep my focus on the Lord and not circumstances.

Looking back now, though, the one word I believe best describes 2013 would be GRACE. My, how we were blessed with God’s magnificent grace! The year was filled with miracles, loving support, unexpected provision, amazing peace and joy, and a whole host of other blessings brought about by the sweet love of God. He taught me to trust in His grace as the all-sufficient conduit for our every need.

Of course, 2013 is behind us, and we are indeed grateful for all those blessings. Now it is time to look ahead to 2014.

I suppose I could have picked anything to focus on this year. But I wanted it to be God’s choice. (He knows me best!) Through prayer, it became pretty clear what I needed to work on: denying self, sacrifice, humility, and love. Four separate things, and yet, they are interrelated.

Denying self is a form of sacrifice, and doing it for the sake of the Lord and others is a form of love and humility.

The Lord keeps impressing on my mind Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Deny Self

I’ll admit it…I don’t like to deny myself. In a former post I shared about my tendency to be self-centered and give in to the things I desire. I like living in my comfort zone. God knows me so well! But a self-centered life is not a Christ-centered life. And I need to learn some lessons.

Compelled to find just one word based on those four things, I believe I have discovered a word that just might fit: SELFLESS. It might not mean those four things to anyone else, but it is a way for me to remember in one tight little word what I should strive for each day of this year.

SELFLESS…to deny my wants over the needs and wants of others

SELFLESS…to sacrifice whenever God places opportunities of ministry before me

SELFLESS…to humbly submit to my Lord in every way

SELFLESS…to not think of myself more highly than I ought

SELFLESS…to go out of my way to show love to others

SELFLESS…to obey God and trust my life to His control

SELFLESS…to love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength

SELFLESS.

You know what? I completely forgot about it on New Year’s Day. I did! I was completely engrossed in having a quiet holiday and doing whatever I wanted to do. Oops. (Forgive me, Lord.)

I’m afraid that’s often how it is with me. I pray and strive to see what God wants me to do, and just as soon as I get my answer, I forget. I keep doing what I’ve always done.

But praise be to God! The Bible tells us His compassions are new every morning: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Lamentations 3.22-23

Therefore, today is a start-fresh day. And this is the day God has called me to.  I must focus on denying myself and loving others in humility each and every day. Otherwise, I will get sidetracked, and this time next year SELFLESS won’t describe my year at all.

So, that’s my one word for this year—SELFLESS.

What’s yours?

————————————————————————————————-

Post images by Sabra Penley

Scripture from the New International Version of the Bible, 1984

12 Comments

Filed under Humility, Lessons, Love, Sacrifice, Self