Friday, June 24, 2011

We Nearly Missed It All

Michael and I began our 25th year of marriage this week.  We have shared nearly every joy and trial together since we became 4-H club friends in 1981.  He is my confidant, my best friend, and the love of my life. 

Someone complimented us on our “rock solid” marriage and I thought through our journey together.  There was a time when we barely liked each other.  He drove me completely nuts with the things he found funny, the way he chewed his food, absolutely everything.  I shudder to consider how he thought of me during that time and how I affected him with the disasterous things I was doing.  Our marriage was far from rock solid, it was on the edge of a cliff, about to fall into the abyss.

We were on the verge of divorce and I can think of only a handful of people who knew we were having trouble.  None of them was prone to pray.  If we were prayed for at all during that time, it was by the Spirit.  Romans 8:26 says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning to deep for words.”  (NASB)

By the grace of God alone, I recognized a willingness to fight for our relationship.  For reasons I cannot explain, I began to find some good in my husband and over time, we re-established the friendship we once shared.  The walls I had erected were coming down, one brick at a time.

As the Lord called us both back to Himself, I fell on my knees.  I started to pray specifically for our marriage and we began to stand on the foundation of Christ.  I prayed these specific verses, among many others:

·         That God would knit our hearts together in love (Colossians 2:2)

·         That we would find the good in one another (Philippians 4:8)

·         That Mike would be the head of our home as Christ is head of the church (Eph 5:23)

·         That I would submit to my husband as is fitting in the Lord (Colossians 3:18)

·         That God would restore the years that the locust had eaten (Joel 2:25)

Over the next 3 years, our relationship was slowly and deeply restored by the grace of God and for His glory alone.  We have become “rock solid” indeed, not by our own efforts but because we now stand on Jesus, the rock and our firm foundation. 

After we had been out of the fire for some time, I came across a verse in Romans that summarized our journey in two sentences:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (NIV).

We are evidence of God’s transforming work through the renewal of our minds.  Once I could not imagine spending another minute with my husband and now I cannot imagine a single moment of my life without him.  I eagerly await the number of years that the Lord allows us to share together.  I thank Him for giving us a willingness to grow, humility to lean on His strength, and the gift of bountiful blessings that our marriage brings.  Just think.  We nearly missed it all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Practical Prayer Helps

Today’s post is part of a devotion that I presented at our church’s Mother-Daughter Tea on Saturday. 

Who is praying for your children?  Instead of owning this responsibility yourself, many rely on others, like a Sunday school teacher, Children’s Minister, or perhaps Great Grandma who has prayed for every family member by name since 1942.  Whether kids are small or grown, we moms have the responsibility and the honor of praying for them.  This is true even if for those who have never prayed for their children before.  

Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing.  This sounds very overwhelming, but if you pray a little more today than you did yesterday, you are on the right track. 

If you are just developing your prayer life, you may start by identifying a point of worry and asking the Lord to carry the burden for you.  For example:  “Father, in the name of Jesus, please protect Taylor as she drives today.”  Instead of worrying, I offered a simple prayer and laid my concern at His feet.

When we look at the examples of prayer in the Bible, they are hard hitting, specific, and most often, short.  We do not need to fill hours of time with flowery words to the Lord.  Simply speak from your heart – that is all He desires.  He not only knows our hearts, but He knows our needs before we ask.  Asking for exactly what we desire gives us the honor of watching to see how the Lord answers.  It is amazing to see His answers, but we have to pay attention!

When we pray His Word back to Him, we know that we are asking things that are His will.  This sounds tricky, but it is actually easier than thinking of what to say on our own.  It’s like a spiritual, permissible cheat sheet.  Simply insert the name of someone that you love right into a scripture passage.  For example, Psalm 85:7 says:  “Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. (NASB)” Turning that into a prayer looks like this:   “Lord, I ask that you would show Joan your unfailing love, and grant Joan your salvation.”   

I just prayed for my Mom’s salvation without having to struggle with words.  I used God’s Words and prayed them right back to Him.

One last example, and this time I will pray generationally using what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment.  From Matthew 22: “Lord, I pray today that Chris and Taylor would love the Lord their God with all of their heart, mind, and soul and that they would love their neighbors as themselves.  I also ask this upon their future spouses, and upon their future children and grandchildren.  May each person who joins our family love you fully and glorify you by loving their neighbors as themselves.”

It is never too early to pray for the future family of our children.  Psalm 78:6 speaks of influencing future generations, even the children yet to be born.  I encourage you to begin today and watch how the Lord will touch your kids through your efforts.   

Monday, June 6, 2011

You're Never Fully Dressed Without...

Do I have any sisters out there who also love the story of Little Orphan Annie? When Taylor was small, we spent hours enjoying the 1982 movie version with Carol Burnett. The story featured a musical radio commercial and the orphaned girls sang its jingle together, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

This jingle popped into my head the other day when I saw a friend at church. I hadn’t seen her for a week or two and she looked amazing. She was all but glowing – there was something different and very lovely about her that I couldn’t put my finger on. Her countenance was confident and almost radiant, and the smile she wore was larger than normal. Her eyes sparkled and her peace was evident. I hugged her tightly and told her what I saw in her that morning. She just smiled some more, thanked me, and moved on through our hallways.

Later that morning, I sat in the same Sunday school classroom as this friend. During discussion, she mentioned that she had meaningful quiet time with the Lord nearly every day that week. I knew in an instant what was making her so radiant – the joy that comes from being in the Lord’s presence!

Nothing in her life had changed. Her circumstances were essentially the same as they had been for weeks, and yet, she was displaying joy in abundance. She shared the effect that reading His Word and focused prayer time had, and listed benefits such as restful sleep, a peaceful attitude and calmer relationships in her life (among other benefits). I wondered why, when we get busy, our time with God is the first thing pushed aside.

Do we realize that our time with the Lord can become our most beautiful fashion accessory? I know that I don’t often think of it that way, but the song from a fictitious radio commercial came into my head and I recognized that we are never fully dressed without first enjoying our quiet time with the Lord. True, inner joy has its foundation in spending time in God’s presence. Such joy is expressed in mighty ways, without saying a single word. My friend was the perfect example.

I offer the following challenge: As you fix your hair, perfectly apply your eye makeup and add color to your lips, remember that our most beautiful accessory is the radiant joy that manifests itself after enjoying deep communion with our Lord and Savior. Try it on for size and see what transpires!

You will make known to me the path of life;
In your presence is fullness of joy;
In your right hand there are pleasures forever.
(Psalm 16:11 NASB)