Category Archives: Prayer

Moments of Joy

“Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.” – Psalm 21:6

 

I used to go for short walks every morning and evening. My dog demanded it. (Nature calls, you know.)

But those daily walks stopped abruptly when my walking buddy died this summer. I took one last slow walk that morning after—leash and collar in hand—just to say goodbye. And crossing over that well-worn path we took each day, I remembered our times together—thanking God for bringing him into our family.

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A Reminder of Precious Times

Recently I came across a note I wrote after one of those morning jaunts around our neighborhood. It said…

“I’m amazed at how God always speaks to me when I’m walking the dog. Dog walkingGod talking.”

As I read that note from months before, I realized how much I miss those times. I miss my sweet canine friend. Twelve long years of walking together has left a hole in his absence—one that hasn’t filled in yet.

But this note reminded me of something else. Those walks held more than just companionship with my pet. They were also quiet moments with the Lord, for God was walking with us. As we followed our usual trail, I would pray…and God would always respond. His Spirit would speak to my heart—often His voice so clear I couldn’t wait to get inside to write down what He said.

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Needing to Walk

I miss those precious times. My four-legged buddy is no longer here. I have no responsibility to take him out anymore. No need to go out the door and down the path.

But my Lord is still here. The path is still here. And so are mornings and evenings.

And that note has stirred in my heart a longing to recapture those quiet strolls among the trees talking with my God and hearing Him reply.

Maybe I do need to go out the door and down the path each day again after all. This time, though, for me and for my Lord. Not nature calling…but God calling.

Sharing Joy

The words to my grandmother’s favorite hymn are rolling in my mind…

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Joy. Yes, that’s it. Pure joy.

God's sweet presence
Only God can fill the holes in our hearts with joy.

We need Him desperately, don’t we?

Let’s take time today to walk with our Lord and listen as He whispers what we need to hear. And let us also speak to His heart words of love and adoration as we share that sweet time together.

Precious joy.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go for a walk…

Have a wonderful day!
Sabra

 

O Lord, thank You for walking with us each day and speaking to our hearts. May we be faithful to take the time to stay right beside You, to tell You how much we love You, and to listen to Your sweet voice. Thank You for the precious joy that comes from being in Your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Question:
Where is your special place with the Lord? We’d love to know. Please share with us by leaving a comment.

 

Linking up with my friends today on these wonderful blogs…
www.MeredithBernard.com – {Woman2Woman}
www.JenniferDukesLee.com – #TellHisStory
www.HolleyGerth.com – Coffee for Your Heart
 
Scripture from the Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984.
Hymn quoted is “In the Garden” by Charles A. Miles, 1913.
Images by Sabra Penley

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Filed under God's Presence, Joy, Prayer, Thankfulness

Five Minute Friday – {fill}

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” – Psalm 81:10

 

I need you, Lord. Show me my wayward self.

O God, fill my heart…

…with Your love

…with Your truth

…with Your peace

…with Your direction

…with Your amazing grace

…with humility

…with obedience

…with hope.

Lord, You are speaking. Fill my ears to hear Your voice.

Lord, You are here. Fill my eyes with Your perspective.

Lord, fill me with You and empty me of me.

All for Your glory.

In the holy name of Jesus, Amen.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” — Psalm 139:23-24

 

Praying the Lord will speak to Your heart today and fill you with all His goodness.

Blessings,
Sabra
 
Joining Five Minute Friday today with Kate Motaung and friends at
the link below. We write for five minutes--raw and real--no 
editing. The word for this week: fill.

 

All Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984.

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Filed under Five Minute Friday, God's Presence, Grace, Healing, Humility, Love, Prayer, Self

How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” – John 7:37-38

Do you feel drained, like your energy and strength has evaporated, and you wonder how you’ll get through the challenges of the day? Maybe you’re going through a difficult period in your life, and it’s taking more out of you than you ever dreamed. Would you like to know how to have renewed strength and not just survive, but thrive?

Drink water.

That’s right. We all need it—a lot of it.

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Without water our bodies can’t function. We slow down. It becomes hard to think straight. We get weak and our emotions get the best of us.

Oh yes, we need water.

Recently my daughter and her friend—both beautiful twenty-somethings—were singing the praises of drinking three liters of water a day and the smoothing effect it had on their skin. Feeling like a dried prune next to them, I thought, “I really need to drink more water.

Water. Oh, no! Suddenly I remembered I had forgotten to water the plants on the patio that morning. Not good. We’re in melting season here with afternoon temps close to 100. I was afraid when I got home my plumbago would be well-wilted. If I don’t water it every morning, the heat of the day causes it to wither and those beautiful blue blooms close up and fall to the ground.

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Sounds a lot like me some days–when life weighs heavy and I start to wither. I feel drained of energy, lifeless. I close up and whatever was beautiful in me falls off. It’s in those moments I realize I need more water…the Living Water. I need Jesus.

Oh, how we need Him—a lot of Him–throughout the day.

While plants can usually make it okay with a morning watering, we need more. Our bodies must be replenished with water all through the day to function properly and flourish. And in the same way, our spirits need to drink in the Living Water throughout the day to not just survive, but thrive.

John7.37.38

We know our daily quiet time with the Lord is vital to our spiritual health. But to stay vibrant and able to withstand the pressures of the day for God’s glory, we need a constant refilling of His life-giving water.

Here are some ways to drink in more of Him throughout the day:

  • Stop and pray.
  • Read, listen to, or quote Scripture.
  • Write down thoughts of what God is teaching you.
  • Be still and take time to enjoy His presence.
  • When He reveals something you need to do, do it.
  • Pray constantly—through all your activities.

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty for God. Drink Him in throughout the day.

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So how about it? Will you join me in a new commitment to drink more water, both for our bodies and our spirits?

Precious Lord, some days are just difficult. So often we press through trying to make it on our own and we end up drained, with nothing left to give. These are times You remind us how much we need You—the Living Water. Fill us, Jesus. Help us be faithful to drink in more of You and stay strong and vibrant…all to Your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessings to you,
Sabra
Scripture from Holman Christian Standard Bible.
Images by Sabra Penley.

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Filed under God's Presence, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Overwhelmed, Prayer, Strength, Transforming

When You Want to Give Up

Hey, friend.

Do you ever feel like giving up? Like you have given it all you’ve got and you just can’t go on?

I was there Tuesday morning. Stepping onto the elliptical machine, I had finally decided to take control of my body’s inflating fat cells and lack of energy. I was pumped…ready to go. But the dim light over the machine kept my aging eyes from seeing the control panel well. I could just make out INTERVAL. So I punched that button and took whatever workout was previously programmed. (Hey, I figured I could handle it.)

Elliptical

I was going great that first minute. Then…whoa. Suddenly it was like trying to trudge through a pool of mud. I had entered the work interval. And to my utter dismay, I saw it was going to last seven minutes. Seven minutes!

C’mon, Sabra. You can do it. I did my best to cheer myself on. But each and every step was growing more difficult and my muscles started screaming. Watching that timer only made me more aware of my weakness. Just two more minutes…keep going. I put more effort into my arms to ease the pain in my legs. And just when I thought they’d give out, the blessed rest interval rescued me. But it didn’t feel like much of a rest. Just slightly less work. And when the next work interval reared its ugly head a mere two minutes later, the thought of having to endure it again was overwhelming. I just wanted to give up.

No way, Sabra. It took you too long to finally get on this machine. You can’t stop now.

So I kept going and tried to focus on why I was there—to make my body healthy and fit. Knowing I had to keep moving in order to reach my goal and realizing I wouldn’t make it without help, I started praying. I needed more than my strength to keep me going. I needed God’s.

Philippians 4:13 popped into my head: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

And I prayed more. Lord, help me keep going. Give me strength for each step. Get me through this. I’m so weak. I need You.

Does this struggle sound familiar? How often does the same scenario take place in your life?  Trouble comes and you go on for a while okay. But then the difficulty kicks up a notch or two or a hundred, and you become overwhelmed. You feel you can’t go on, and you want to give up.

When you want to give up, give it to God.

Isaiah40.31

God promises to supply you with strength to keep going, one step at a time. And those steps, one by one, will get you where you need to go.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:29-31

God takes our efforts, no matter how weak, and adds His strength to bring about His purposes. By trusting in the Lord to supply all our needs, we grow stronger in our relationship with Him and in faith to depend on Him the next time troubles trample us.

Hopefully with each struggle we face, we will more readily go to God, seek His wisdom, and rely on His strength to attack the problem head-on. The quicker we do this, the greater the possibility we won’t cave under pressure.

The Lord will help us not give in, not lose hope, not give up. He will keep us from crumbling when the pressure gets too great and seems it will never end.

Giving it up to God—letting go of trying to do it all on our own—allows God to do what He does best. He works by His strength, through our weakness, and lets His glory shine.

God kept me going on that elliptical machine. After twenty-five minutes, my wobbly legs stepped off…victoriously. They were worn out, but my soul was doing a victory dance! God supplied the strength I needed to go each step of the way. And I know tomorrow when I start all over again, He’ll be there. I just need to remember that!

Heavenly Father, thank You that we don’t have to face struggles on our own. Help us to turn to You for strength to overcome every difficulty. Keep us from giving up. Help us to persevere and trust in Your provision for all we need to be victorious. May Your glory shine through Your work in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May you be strong through His strength today!

Blessings,
Sabra
 
 

Other Scripture on God’s Strength and Provision:

Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Habakkuk 3:19 – The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. 

2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.
Images by Sabra Penley.

 

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Filed under God's Works, Hope, Overwhelmed, Prayer, Strength, Success

Smiling Through the Tears

Such a beautiful day–full of sunshine. Why, then, does it seem so cloudy?

A pleasant walk with my sweetheart. A nice rest by the waterfall. A soft breeze. Any other day, I would file it under “perfect.”

But not today. Something is amiss.

The stinging in my eyes won’t stop. And I realize that the slightest thing might just send a flood of tears pouring out.

I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to give in to this lack of peace…this unrest in my soul.

I want to live rejoicing in the Lord and giving thanks for all His wonderful blessings in my life. But somehow today I feel frozen. Like the world is swirling around me and I am so dizzy I can’t see straight.

Have you ever had one of those days? They can take us by surprise.

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I suppose it started yesterday, visiting our sweet friends at the hospital. The hospital. Once again. On Easter Sunday.

Meeting her in that empty cafeteria only accentuated the emptiness I knew she must be feeling. This past year’s barrage of cancer treatments has taken its toll on her husband’s body. And now things don’t look good. So much is uncertain…about what is causing his condition, about his life, about their future. Listening as she shared her broken heart, waves of sadness washed over me, remembering what it feels like to be sitting by the bed of the man you love watching him suffer and not knowing…anything. All I could do was listen and hug her and pray that God would bring a miracle.

Then this morning, when my husband got up, he seemed more quiet than normal. It was as if a cloud had settled in over us. I can usually hold it together when he is strong, but when he gets down? I start to crumble.

We went for our walk. And it was lovely. But quiet. Somber.

It is obvious to me now. Thinking about our friends and their struggle led us to focus on our own struggle of what the future holds. Our thoughts settled on what used to be and what won’t be again. But these thoughts are not where they need to be.

We need to keep our eyes on the One who is leading us forward–the Lord Jesus, to put our hope in Him and give Him praise. We must be still and simply rest in God’s loving arms…one. more. time….and never give in to worry or sadness. For God is always with us. He promises to never leave us. He will take care of us. He keeps His promises.

Psalm 56:3 reminds me to trust Him: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” For the Lord God is faithful and my life is in His hands.

My mind flows to the psalmist’s comforting words in Psalm 23:“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Psalm 23.2-3

I need to lie down in those green pastures and allow the Lord my God, my Shepherd, to lead me beside still waters. Only He can restore my soul with His wonderful peace and joy. And make my heart smile.

Our feelings are very real. They come and go with the violent twists and turns and ups and downs of a rollercoaster. Jesus also had very real feelings…of sadness, of grief, of fear. These feelings are not sinful in and of themselves. But like Jesus, we must not let them master us or dictate our actions. What is important is to take those feelings that threaten to bring us down and lay them before the Lord. He will fill our hearts with His truth and remind us of His love and goodness and faithfulness. He will keep the smile in our hearts with the knowledge of who He is and that He is in control.

So on those days when the clouds roll in and tears begin to form, turn your focus to the Lord and lay it all before Him. Remember that He is in control. He loves you. And your heart will smile in the midst of your tears.

Help my soul rest in Your green pastures, Father. Restore my soul with Your quiet waters. Help me simply be still and know that You are God. In this is my peace. Help me to keep my eyes on You, the Great Shepherd. For in You is my soul’s rest.
 
The tears may yet flow. But I will smile through the tears, for I know You hold my heart in Your mighty hand. And You are here! O thank You, precious Lord!
 
 
This post has been added to the #inspireandgrow link-up at
www.echoesofmyheart.com. To read posts by other bloggers, just
click on the link above.
All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.
"Sheep, Field, Clouds" by Ingrid Taylar via flickr (license: CC BY 2.0)
"Sunlight on Water" by John Shortland via flickr (license: CC BY 2.0),
cropped, text added.

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Filed under #inspireandgrow, Comfort, Faith, Love, Peace, Prayer, Trust, Worry

When God Says “No”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What do you do when God says “no”?

What do you do when those prayers you’ve been lifting up finally receive an answer, and it isn’t what you had hoped? When the “no” comes at the end of heart-felt prayer about the very thing that makes your heart sing? Your work? Your health? Your relationships? Your passion? Your dream? What do you do when you hear “no”?

 

Three days ago, we received a “no” from God. In that moment, a prayer that has been ongoing for fourteen months came to an end. And I can’t help feeling a dream has died.

You see, my husband is a minister. For ten years he served as a pastor and has been a seminary professor for the last sixteen. Last year, a severe illness left him with a disability of several things needed for this calling. We long ago realized preaching was probably not going to be in David’s future. But the dream of teaching once again in a seminary classroom stayed strong in our hearts. We thought, “Just maybe….” While we knew it was possible that might never happen, we held out hope and lifted up prayers.

Receiving this sad news has, for a moment, taken the wind out of our sails. But just for a moment. For in the quiet stillness of a life slowed, we cry out to God all the more. Through our tears…through our fears.

What does a preacher/professor do with impaired speech, troublesome motor skills, and weakened memory? We don’t know. But of one thing we are sure–God knows. He knows it all. And as the quote above from Jeremiah 29:11 states, this is all a part of His plan. He isn’t surprised by any of it. And it is all in His control. What great peace this knowledge brings!

no wind, no sails

 

My husband’s new weaknesses have halted this part of our journey–that of actively teaching at the seminary, but these same weaknesses are preparing him for another part–one not yet known to us. God is transforming my husband–indeed, both of us–for our next assignment. And in His time, God will breathe new wind into our sails to move us in a new direction. He will place in our hearts a new dream. The dream that is necessary to compel us onward toward God’s new work…a work in keeping with this season in our life.

We may seem to be drifting at this point, but we are in fact still serving, still moving forward with God’s ultimate purpose–for us to bring Him glory in all we do.

sailing forth

 

Our inability to see where this is leading is okay, because God is always with us as our constant companion and guide. As long as we keep our focus on Him and follow where He leads us each day, we will be moving in the right direction.

And one morning, when the time Is right, God will open our eyes to see where He is leading us. We’ll see a new dream on the horizon.

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For now, our mission is the same as that of every believer–to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds…and to love our neighbors with the love the Lord has shown to us. That is true no matter the calling, no matter the gifting, no matter the location or health or life situation. This is the Lord’s will for us–to bring Him glory in everything.

So when God says “no” in answer to a specific prayer request, I will give Him praise. For He has heard my prayer and answered. And He is leading us on to something else–another part of this great adventure.

When God says “no,” it can feel like the death of a dream. But in reality, it is simply the birth of something new.

I love these words from Isaiah 43:18-19: 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

And so we work in the waiting. Waiting in expectation for this something new.

Trusting God…rejoicing always…praying continually…and being ever thankful.

For when God says “no,” He isn’t leaving you without. He is simply saying “I’ve got something else for you.”

In Christ’s love,
Sabra
 
 
All Scripture from NI84.

Images:
"Ships that pass by..." by Gopal Vijayaraghavan via flickr (CC BY 2.0)
"Tucker Thompson sailing ship" by Jakob Steinschaden via flickr
     (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
"View from the bowsprit" by savagecat via flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Morning Horizon by Sabra Penley

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Filed under Change, Expectation, Faith, God's Purpose, God's Timing, God's Works, Hope, Joy, New Beginning, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Transforming, Trust, Waiting

Waiting in Expectation

 

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” – Psalm 5:3

Our life is a journey filled with expectations.

Expectations of where we’re headed…what’s around the corner…how God will provide along the way.

While we can’t know exactly what lies ahead, the very act of moving forward compels us to wonder what we will face.

Each day, we have our schedules and make our plans. Woven into those plans are expectations for the outcome. We run ideas through our minds of how things will go, hoping for the best.

But what happens when those things don’t turn out according to our plan?

One such time happened last year. After my husband awoke from a coma, the muscles in his throat were too weak to swallow. The only way he could get food was through a tube in his nose. Following a week of therapy, he was to have another test. Oh, how I had been praying that God would give him the ability to swallow again! The Lord had blessed him over and over, and I expected this time to be no different. I was so confident that God’s glory would be seen in David’s ability to swallow and eat again that very day.

But instead, David had failed the test. No food, no water, no ice chips for at least another four to six weeks! It was a hard blow, as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I was devastated. And my spirit was crushed.

I was so sure. What happened? Why did it turn out this way? Where did I go wrong in my thinking?

Bottom line? My expectations were misguided. My focus was on my desired outcome, my timing, and my wisdom. Instead, my focus should have been on the Lord’s sovereign will, His perfect timing, and His infinite wisdom. I should have trusted in His love and grace and His promise to work out everything for our good and for His glory. I should not have determined in my mind what the outcome was to be.

Psalm 5:3 says we are to lay our requests before the Lord and “wait in expectation.” But how and what we expect makes all the difference.

Psalm 5.3

If we follow our own expectation, the result will be discouragement, fear, grumbling, and questioning God.

If we follow biblical expectation, the result will be peace, security, thankfulness, and honoring God.

Biblical expectation is birthed in prayerIt begins as we lay our requests before the Lord, asking for His help and provision.

       Expectation is a product of prayer.

Biblical expectation grows from a heart that seeks to know GOD. It comes from remembering that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are so much greater than ours. God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20-21). God is sovereign, and there are facets and unknowns that our minds cannot comprehend.

       A heart that seeks God is an expectant heart.

Biblical expectation embraces waiting. God is working in our times of waiting. We may not see what He is doing, but He is working behind-the-scenes to bring about His plan and will. We must trust in His perfect timing and embrace the waiting.

       Waiting in expectation is easier when we expect the waiting.

Biblical expectation requires trusting in God. We must trust His unfailing love and mercy. We must trust His power and desire to work everything out for our good and for His glory.

       We rest in God when we trust in God.

Biblical expectation leaves the outcome up to the Lord. Our expectation should not include determining in our minds what the outcome will be. That is for God alone to know.

       God answers His way…in His will…in His time…for His glory.

Four weeks following that swallow test, my husband was back for another one. This time, however, my heart was focused on God’s will and His purposes. While I once again prayed that David would pass the test and be able to eat normally, I didn’t have any preconceived outcome in mind this time. I simply went with hope in my heart and trust in the Lord. I was full of peace, knowing that whatever the test would show, God was at work and His glory would be seen. (By God’s sweet grace, David passed this test and began eating again.)

Dearest Father, when we are faced with challenges and difficulties on this road of life, help us to remember to seek You with all our hearts. And as we lay our requests before You, may we trust You and wait in biblical expectation for Your answer, Your guidance, and Your deliverance…for Your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.
Photo by Sabra Penley.

 

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Filed under Attitude, Expectation, God's Purpose, God's Timing, God's Works, Hope, Peace, Prayer, Thankfulness, Waiting