Tag Archives: Prayer

Looks can deceive

Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

A former neighbor had an absolutely stunning garden.  From my upstairs deck I often enjoyed the variety of foliage, colors and wildlife. She worked non-stop — planting, pruning, weeding, and watering.

"Iris" (c) Duwe 2010All rights Reserved

“Iris” (c) Duwe 2010
All rights Reserved

A few years later, she moved, and we enjoyed the friendship of new neighbors.  I was stunned, however when they told me about the condition of the inside of the home when they moved in.

What I’d observed outside did not extend indoors. 

As a mother, I’m concerned with the external appearance of my children. From personal experience, I know appearances make an important first impression on others. But while milk mustaches, ripped jeans, and jelly stained shirts are important to address, it would be a great disservice to my children if I spent all my efforts training my boys on external appearance, but not on their heart.

In 1 Samuel 16: 7,  the Lord tells Samuel:

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The heart is critically important.  But what exactly, is God looking for?

The Bible says we are to:

Look for the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 4:29).

Serve the Lord with all your heart (1 Samuel 12:24).

Love the Lord with all your heart (Matthew 22:37).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).

Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Return to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12).

Work with all your heart as though unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

Rejoice with all your heart (Zephaniah 3:14).

Know with all your heart that God’s promises do not fail (Joshua 23:14).

Walk in all his ways, obey His Commands, serve Him, and hold fast to the Lord with all your heart (Joshua 22:5).

Obey the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 30:2).

It’s serious business to train our own heart – let alone the heart of a child!

We are told that Eli, a priest in the Lord’s tabernacle, had two sons who were “wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12).  Eli’s apparent lack of involvement to properly train his boys’ hearts leveled great consequences, according to 1 Samuel 3:13.  The Lord said:

For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible and he failed to restrain them.  I Samuel 3:13

Eli’s line was forever cursed because he did not correct his children who did evil in the sight of the Lord.  While God may or may not choose to similarly curse a family line today, one thing is certain: our sinful choices today impact untold generations. We only have the power to stop the chain reaction when we ask for God’s help through prayer.  Only God can give us the strength to first correct our own hearts – and then train our children.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord, I know you expect us to take care of ourselves on the outside because this is an act of stewardship. However, how much more you expect us to tend what is on the inside!  Show me the areas in my own heart that need attention today, and help me train my children in a way that honors you.  May our hearts turn toward you in all facets of our lives. Amen

Ironing it Out:

It’s the last day of 2012.  Perhaps you have written or mentally made note of things you’d like to change, adjust or improve about yourself this year.  Will you consider adding this one?  “Heart Work.”   

When we work on our own hearts and tuning them with God, our families will notice.  The list above is a lot to bite off in one year,  so pick just one or two to focus on and go after it — with all your heart: 

  • Begin your own bible study journey to seek and understand what it means to… return…rejoice…serve…work…etc. Using great (free!) resources like Blue Letter Bible, do a word study, search for it in different versions and read commentaries. 
  • Tell a friend (or your spouse) about your personal area of conviction and ask her/him to hold you accountable. 
  • Talk to your children about it, teach them what you are learning and correct them you see behavior contrary to what you know the Lord expects. 

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Filed under Heart, parenting, Personal Reflection, Seeking God, Surrender, Transformation

extraORDINARY Wedding Plans

It was an exciting time in life for Joseph.  He was busy preparing a home for his bride-to-be who would return from a long visit with her cousin Elizabeth any day.

Mary!   She was such a sweet, kind, faithful, and compassionate girl.  Everybody knew it was a match made in heaven!  Joseph dreamed of their future:  the meals they would share, the children they would raise, the family trips to Jerusalem for Passover…   The days without her in Nazareth were long.

When Mary finally returned, Joseph’s joy quickly turned to anguish when he saw her.  Imagine the shock when he realized she was…pregnant! Dreams shattered before his eyes as he tried to make sense of the situation.

Joseph knew this was not his child.  He could not fathom that Mary would be unfaithful, and indeed she claimed just the opposite!  What happened?  None of it made sense.

Joseph struggled with his options.  Friends likely counseled him to save his name.  “Divorce her!”  “She deserves to be stoned,” some likely advised. But one problem existed.  He still loved her. So he decided to divorce her – quietly. 

But God had other plans and sent the angel Gabriel to visit Joseph in a dream:

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

The Gospel account tells us Joseph responded without hesitation.

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Matthew 1:24)

The Wedding of Mary and Joseph by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1303-1305

The Wedding of Mary and Joseph
by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1303-1305

Can you imagine Joseph’s friends surprise when he boldly approached Mary’s home that morning?

There were no wedding bells.  No parties. No big community celebrations or parades.  Without any pomp and circumstance, Mary went home with Joseph.  Husband and wife. And God breathed life back into a seemingly dead relationship.

It was not the typical Jewish wedding celebration Joseph or Mary had planned.  No, this was extraordinary. The pair had become living sacrifices for God’s greatest purpose in them, and his miraculous plan of redemption in his son, Jesus Christ.  

Let’s Pray:

Lord Jesus, in this era of entitlement, it might be crushing to think about all the fun Joseph and Mary “missed” on their wedding day.  It was not a day of celebration in the village.  The circumstances surrounding your birth did not exude worldly joy, but rather, sorrow.  Thank you that you turn our sorrow into joy, and our mourning into dancing. You redeem what we perceive as lost and make all things new. Help us to trust you today  when our plans go awry, and believe that you have an extraORDINARY future for us!  Amen.

Ironing it Out:

What is the first thing you do when faced with a life-changing crisis?  Do you talk to friends?  Call a parent or other trusted advisor? At what point do you seek God’s advice?  When God points you in another direction – even after making your decision – are you willing to believe as Joseph did, and adjust course?    

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Filed under advent, Believer, Christmas, Faithfulness, God is loving AND just, Seeking God, Sovereignty of God, Surrender

Thank God for … ME!

Suggested Reading: Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-16

I’ve shared before that I love evening prayers with my children.  Their prayers always surprise me, but what always make me smile is when my youngest son says “And, God, thank you for me…”

This small prayer of thankfulness is so innocent and pure out of the mouth of a child. The same words, however, placed on the lips of an adult may sound…well…arrogant.

Before we get too politically correct, let me share why I will never discourage my kids from such a prayer…and why I’m learning to pray more like them.

In the car the other day, my 5-year-old said, “Mom, God made me because he wanted to.

His statement was so “matter of fact,” that it was almost too easy to dismiss the complexity of the thought. God didn’t have to make you…no, he wanted to make you! Let those words linger for a moment.

He made you…because he wanted to!

To say “Thank you for making me, God,” is a true expression of humility before our mighty creator God.  Humble as they may be, these words carry great power.  When you pray this prayer of thanksgiving, not only are you thanking him for the privilege of life, you are checking your insecurity at the door.  The world does its best to beat you down and tell you who you are, but this dangerous prayer will open your mind to see for yourself who God created you to be — his precious child and a person of purpose!

It feels funny to think about life in that “George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of way, but it’s important to follow the thought every now and again.  Not only will it encourage you, but it will show you just how much you have to be thankful for because of God’s simple choice…to make you.

Let’s Pray:

Dear God, Thank you for making me because you wanted to.  Thank you for your purposeful, deliberate decision and for choosing me to be your child! Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being your vessel to encourage others.  Thank you for the lives of my children and the impact they have on others. Help me today, to glimpse the valuable treasure that you created me to be.  Thank you…for me.  Amen. 

Taking it Deeper:

We often thank God for others…but have you ever sat down and thanked God for making you?  

In a world where self-deprecating humor rules at the water cooler, this prayer can certainly feel a little funny.  But it is important!  

Pray it today and release your insecurities to God.  When you do, you will begin to see yourself as the person he created you to be – not who the world says you are.

I’ve linked this blog with Spiritual Sundays and What Joy is Mine.

10 Comments

Filed under Gratitude, Personal Reflection, Thankfulness

When You’re on a “Need-to-Know” Basis

“Blue Sky”
(Image courtesy of http://www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Why is the sky blue?

Why do you blink?

Why does ice melt?

Why is that man so big?

Why is the ocean salty?

If you spend much time around a preschooler, you’re bound to get many similar questions!  But how do you answer them? How much information is too much?

When my youngest son asked me why the sky is blue, I could have answered “The sky is blue because although there are lots of colors in sunlight, blue travels the shortest distance so it bounces around the atmosphere which is why our view of the sky is blue.”  In which case, I would have received a blank stare and this response: “But Mom, WHY is the sky blue?”

My chosen response on that particular day: “God made the sky blue because it’s pretty to look at.” End of story.

It was a simple response to a complicated question, but one that made sense to my little one.  Someday, he will learn the scientific reason behind why the sky is blue – but not until his brain is ready to comprehend it!

In the book of Job, we learn about a wealthy farmer whose trust in God was steadfast even though he lost his family, his wealth and became physically ill,  covered with painful sores.  His friends insisted he must have done something wicked and hypocritical to receive such a horrible punishment.

Job knew that wasn’t the case but wanted to understand WHY God would allow such great suffering in his life.  He asks some pretty profound questions, throughout the book, but in chapter three, his question is one that has been repeated millions of times by broken and hurting people around the globe since the beginning of time.

“Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” Job 3:11 (NIV)

In other words, “This is no way to live, why was I even born?”

While God alone knows the answers to such questions, sometimes it’s in our best interest that we don’t have all the answers.

In Job’s case, knowing the “why” would have defeated the purpose of his suffering.

In the absence of an answer, Job recounted every truth he knew about God and His character.  Job did not allow his circumstances, pain or feelings to dictate what he thought about God or reframe the truth. In the end, although God does not tell Job WHY He allowed such suffering, He confirms and reveals more about His character, strength and power than Job could have ever hoped to know, this side of heaven.

In exchange for suffering, Job developed a deeply personal relationship with God that he could have achieved only by WHAT he went through.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5

Job initially wanted answers, but God knew best. He knows what I need to know – when I need to know it.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, You know best.  Sometimes, like my little one asking me why the sky is blue, you know that I am simply not ready to understand.  Sometimes, in your great wisdom you know I can’t handle it – and maybe, never will be able to.  Or, like Job, the purpose behind the situation is so profound that only your silence can bring about the desired result.  In all circumstances, however, you call me to be obedient to you. You call me to remember who you are, your character, your truth, and your promises.  Whatever the purpose, thank you for keeping me on a need-to-know basis. Amen

Taking it Deeper:

Can you relate?  Have you ever asked God “WHY!?!?” until you were blue in the face, only to receive…”silence?”  What happened?  Did you later understand the purpose? How did you work through it?

Maybe you are in the midst of a “WHY” season. Don’t allow the circumstances or your pain to dictate how you respond.  Instead, like Job, fight back and remind yourself of everything you know to be true about God. 

What truth about God, or promise from the Bible, has helped you through a challenging time?

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Filed under Growth, Prayer, Surrender, Transformation

When it’s OK to “Nag”

Shopping with children is always an adventure, but you can always count on one thing: they will want something!  The question is what will that something be?  Sometimes it’s an impulsive “gotta have it,” and other times, it’s an unfulfilled longing that has grown over time.


As a child, I remember, nagging my parents for the same thing over and over. My nagging had one very specific purpose: to
ensure they knew how much I really wanted that bike, toy horse, “boom box,” etc. I knew if I kept at it, the prospect of a favorable response was high.  Sometimes, however, my desire was not granted – despite my persistence.
That Pac-Man video gaming console (a mere $49.99, plus tax) that I saw and circled in the weekly newspaper ads, for example, never found its way into my toy collection.  It seems that particular item didn’t align with my parents’ “will” for my life (crazy parents…they preferred imagination and outdoor play over brain-melting video games…Oh, I love those two!).
Believe it or not, nagging has a place in prayer!  While some (myself, included) find “nagging” unattractive, persistent prayer is very biblical. We find the principle in Luke 18, in the parable of the persistent widow.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.  “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.  A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’  The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people,  but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”  (New Living Translation)

The Greek word translated here as “wearing me out” is hypōpiazō.

Hypōpiazō: to beat black and blue, to smite so as to cause bruises and livid spots – like a boxer one buffets his body

The unjust judge essentially compared her to a brawler!  He had finally met his match!

That’s more than a little persistence, if you ask me. The passage continues:

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge.  Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Luke 18:1-8 (New Living Translation)

Unlike the unjust judge, God doesn’t answer us reluctantly. He loves to hear our prayers and provide an answer.   But we too often interpret “unanswered prayers” as disregarded prayers.  Or, that somehow God is not willing, or capable, of helping us.  In truth, God is listening, more than capable, and working through the situation to bring a solution that is perfect, in his perfect time.  That doesn’t me we should stop praying, however. And it doesn’t mean we should allow our words to be hollow offerings devoid of belief in His promises or ability.  Persistent prayer refines us, transforms us and brings us closer to the heart of Christ.

Just as I know the difference between an impulsive and heart-felt request from my child, the unjust judge knew the widow’s request was genuine and unwavering.  But God takes this human insight one step further — he knows the heart motivation out of which all our prayers are born.

When we pray out of a heart that believes, trusts, and aligns itself with the will of God, how much more will the Lord seek to bless us when we ask…with persistence?

Let’s pray:

Father in Heaven, I’m thankful that you don’t hold my persistence against me…but rather that you welcome it.  On top of that, unlike the judge in the parable, I have constant access to your throne through Christ Jesus.  You are a judge who loves to care for me, who knows me, will advocate for me and is gracious to me.  Your answer is perfect – as is your timing. Help me to pray with a heart that desires only your will for my life – no matter how long it may take.  Help me to claim the promises I believe you’ve given me, and to trust that you are more than capable of delivering! Amen.

Taking it deeper:

When it comes to prayer, are you a nag?  Could you nag more?  When you ask God for something, to you pray with an expectant heart?

Is there a promise God has offered that you need to claim? If so, will you commit to praying for it from your heart with consistency, conviction and persistence?

I’ve linked this entry with Spiritual Sundays and What Joy is Mine.  

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Filed under Uncategorized

The Gift of Generosity

Suggested Reading:  John 6:1-14, Luke 21:1-4

I recently asked my boys to choose five stuffed animals out of their boundless collections to give away. Five. That’s it.

One of my boys quickly chose seven, and the other struggled to find just one.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a lesson on generosity.  Of course, this is best taught through example. But leading a life of generosity in today’s economy when budgets are tighter than ever can be tough.

 “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13

God doesn’t call us to be generous when our pockets are flush with cash.  He simply asks us to give.  Regardless.

It was that kind of generosity from a small boy with five barley loves and two small fish that fueled Jesus’ miraculous feeding of more than 5,000 people one afternoon. I have to wonder – certainly, out of all those people, he wasn’t the only one with food, was he?  What was he thinking that made him come forward and give everything he had?

What would you do in that situation? Hide your food from others, secretly stealing a bite here and there, just thankful you had the foresight to bring some food along? Or, like the boy, would you give it all away?

On a much smaller scale, I had an experience like that recently. I share it here only with the hope it will encourage someone else.

A friend’s daughter was ill and they suspected she was having an allergic reaction to wheat.  Since one of my children is on a gluten-free diet, I frequently bake bread for him. After talking with my friend on the phone, I thought, “I should just make her a loaf of bread.” For a brief second I thought about the expensive flour, but quickly followed that thought with “I have plenty to get me through the next few weeks, what am I fussing about!”

I baked the bread and took it over without another thought.  Later that day, another friend whose husband works for a major food supplier called to offer me some samples of a new gluten-free nut bar.

When I arrived at her house, not only did she hand me a bag of bars, but also a huge box over-flowing with other product samples – including two boxes of gluten-free bread mix.

I was overwhelmed by God’s generosity.  It was such a small thing, but it showed me the truth of this verse:

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

When I consider the boy who gave his lunch without another thought, the blessing principle described in Luke leaps off the page. After everyone had eaten, John tells us the disciples gathered up the leftovers, and there was enough to fill twelve baskets.

Can you imagine how the boy must have felt? But it gets better. His outrageous generosity was recorded not once, but three times in the Bible (in Mark, Luke and John)!

He’d given what little he had, and it made all the difference. How I desire for my children to experience such merciful, unselfish giving and the blessing that follows.  As their mother, I pray I can be a worthy model of such generosity for them.

The next time I call for donations, I won’t hold my breath that my boys will offer up their entire stuffed animal collections, but I do know they will be blessed for whatever they give with cheerful and unselfish hearts.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Father, I’m not perfectly generous – but I’m learning.  Give me eyes to see the needs around me, a heart to give out of what I have, and the ability to see past my own self-imposed limitations and selfishness. I pray that my children will quietly observe and imitate such actions that demonstrate your love.  Amen.

Taking it deeper:

Put yourself in the middle of that crowd on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. You have a sandwich or an apple tucked in your bag.  What would you do? Do you see the impossibilities? Or the possibilities of a Savior who is not bound by our laws of math?  Do you keep your food? And if you do, will it satisfy you?

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Filed under Generosity, Gifts, Trust

The True Beauty of Ugly

Photo Credit: Debbie Courson, "Boise Daily Photo"

Growing up in Boise, Idaho, the foothills were a familiar fixture of my every day life.  In the same way you wake up in the morning and stare at the wall, they were just “there.”  I appreciated them during winter for ski season.  I liked knowing the “real mountains” were just beyond them. But that was all.

Photo taken from Bogus Basin Ski Resort, just north of Boise. (c) Duwe 2011

Every Spring, the foothills turn green for about one month. The arrival of June signals it’s time for the arid high-desert climate to take over and dry it all out again. As a child I’m not sure I ever paid attention long enough to notice. My mind holds only memories of…brown.

Green foothills. Photo taken just outside Boise. (c) Duwe 2011

Brown.

I remember thinking the hills weren’t just brown…but rather ugly. During family outings to the mountains, on more than one occasion, my Mother asked me to “please stop talking and just enjoy ‘the scenery’ out the window.”

What scenery?

All I saw were rocks, dirt, and sagebrush or pine trees!

Years later, I happily moved to the Midwest and, later, to the Southeastern corner of the country.  I say “happily” because of the lush green – it was like a rich lotion on the cracked dry skin of my soul.  Something about the year-round green of the Southeast, especially, made me feel  “clothed.”   It wasn’t until I traveled back to Boise with my husband  for the first time I realized just how comfortable I’d become living in color.

Photo Credit: Debbie Courson, "Boise Daily Photo."

As we flew into Boise for this December visit, the airplane circled the city on its approach.  Of course I’d talked up the city and all its wonderful attributes, but as I looked out the window I’d never felt so exposed!  Minus a little snow on the mountains, everything was brown and barren. I wanted to hide under my seat and go back to Georgia!  This was certainly no way to introduce a new-comer to my hometown!

*****

In an odd twist of God’s perfect provision in our life, today you’ll find us living squarely in the middle of those “ugly hills” from whence I once wanted to run.   Only today, I see them through a much different lens.

When did all the birds arrive?  There are so many different species I never saw when I lived out in the middle of the Boise valley.

Oh, and the cougars, bears, deer, badgers, whistle pigs, turkey vulchers, coyotes, jack rabbits, and foxes?  Where did they come from?  Certainly they couldn’t have been here before…could they?

But there’s more! Streams hidden in lush green shrubbery, wetlands that change in color almost daily, and more wildflowers than I could ever gather for my kitchen table are all tucked away in these ugly brown hills.

(c) Duwe 2011

Like the foothills, God is sometimes so much a part of the daily fabric of my life that He blends into the landscape a little too much. Like the foothills, it’s nice to know He’s there when it’s convenient or I need Him.

When I slow down, I certainly can appreciate “moments.” But we aren’t called to live in mere moments with our Creator on our terms – He wants us to seek him constantly.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.   Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.” 1 Chronicles 16:10-13

A distant perspective yields a view that should draw us in to learn more.  When I’m up close and personal, I am able to see with clarity His beauty, His majesty, His power, His love, and His plan for my life.

Sometimes all it takes is a little change in perspective to see the true beauty of ugly.

Let’s pray:

Father, who am I? I don’t want to live in the moments, visiting you when it is convenient like some ski trip.  I want to seek your face and see the beauty of every moment you have gifted to me.  Help me to make seeking you a conscious decision of each day.  I want to know you.  I want to seek your face. Please don’t let me be distracted today. Amen.

Taking it deeper:

What is your perspective of God today?  Is he in the background, bringing color to the walls?  Or is he coloring your life? What changes can you make to live in color?

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Filed under Contentedness, Personal Reflection, Seeking God

Distracted, Distant and Disoriented

Suggested Reading: Genesis 39:1-13, Jeremiah 29:13-14

The cuddly plush animals called out to me with their “buy me” expressions. I lingered a little too long and my distraction came at a price. Crouched down in the middle of the toy aisle at the Buttrey Food and Drug store, I was completely unaware when my Dad walked out of my sight. Panicked, I raced to the end of the aisle. He wasn’t there. I ran to the front of the store. He wasn’t there either.

“Daddy?!” I yelled.

No answer.

“Richard?!” I hollered, figuring my Dad might not be the only dad in the store.

Again, no answer.

Tears began welling up in my eyes as my heart pounded out of my chest. Panic set in. I found my way to the customer service counter and remember explaining that I wasn’t sure, but I thought my dad had left me. The kind attendant attempted to reassure me that he couldn’t be too far, and asked me for my Father’s name.

“Richard,” I replied.

Then, over the loud-speaker: “Would Richard please come to the customer service counter? Your daughter is looking for you.”

It didn’t take long before my Daddy was there with welcoming arms. He hadn’t left me. I just didn’t stick with him!

Fast-forward some 30 years later, and I’ve been on the other end of a similar scenario with my own children. In the middle of the store, I’m on a mission, but there are a million things to distract my kids from staying close. Sometimes, I’ll turn the corner knowing full well they missed the cue. I keep a close eye and wait patiently to see how long it takes for them to come seeking after me.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…

Jeremiah 29:13-14b

Sooner or later, they get that sudden look of panic, yell “Mom!” and come running down the aisle to find me.

“Eye candy” gets us in trouble every time. We lose focus and take our eye off our father.

It’s easy to do, isn’t it? When we shift focus to personal wants and desires instead of the Lord, how quickly we become lost.

But God tells us we will find him when we seek him with all our heart! Whether we just cry out his name, run around the corner or find the customer service booth and have him paged (we’re talkin’ serious intercessory prayer!) because we are so utterly lost we don’t know where to start in the midst of our panic…we will find him!

There’s one more wonderful parallel I see at play in this, however. When I “lost” my Dad, and my boys “lose” me at the store, we did two things before we could be found. We left what had distracted us and RAN!

Photo Credit: "Young Boy Running" by chrisroll

We ran with one goal – FIND DAD/MOM!

When I realized I was no longer in the presence of my Father, that stuffed animal was history. Suddenly, it paled in comparison to being in his loving and secure arms.

As I ponder what it means to seek the Lord with all my heart, I realize two things must happen:

1) I have to flee temptation/distraction/selfish desires, and

2) Run!

I know I will find him. He promises that.

Let’s Pray:

Abba Father, I can see now that seeking you with all my heart takes a lot of work! Yet, you promise that when we pray, you will listen. When we seek you, we will find you. Thank you! Please forgive me for the times I am distracted by the shiny, seductive things of this world. They pale in comparison to you. Help me to have a singular focus on you and what matters most to you. Amen.

Taking it deeper:

What distraction is causing separation between you and God today?

4 Comments

Filed under Fear, Seeking God, Sin

Say “Baaaaa”

A priest blesses the sheep. "Running of the sheep" - Ketchum, Idaho

My son recently taught me a valuable lesson about my identity.  He had refused to do his Bible memory verse because the passage likened us to sheep!

“Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

Psalm 100:3

 Having always liked the image of a cuddly little lamb in the Shepherd’s arms, I was puzzled.

“Why don’t you like that comparison, son?” I asked.

“Because sheep are stinky and smelly and dumb!  I don’t like being called a sheep!”

Impressed by his response, I moved on and tried to help him understand the parallels, assuring him we were not called sheep because of our hygiene.  I explained how sheep need a shepherd to keep them safe – just like we do.  Eventually, the passage was memorized with the caveat he didn’t have to like the picture.

But the definition of sheep painted by my son stuck with me and I began thinking about what it really means to be called “His sheep.”

Sheep are, by their very nature, not very smart and tend to be slow learners.  They are stubborn and not easily moved, yet quick to panic and flee. Interestingly, sheep have incredible peripheral vision – and the ability to see behind them without turning their head.  Their depth perception, however, is very poor and as a result they prefer well-lit places and stay away from shadows.

Sheep have a strong follow-lead mentality and do what the others are doing – if one starts to run, they all run.  Though they stay together in a flock, sheep are very vulnerable to predators and have no ability to defend themselves – no  claws, sharp teeth or dangerous horns.  Predators always target the youngest, most indefensible.

Very food-oriented animals, sheep are dependent on others to care for their needs and require constant supervision.

Yes, sheep are dirty and smelly.  And though I might beg to differ, many people consider the animal downright ugly!

See a little of our culture in any of that? Reading down this list of characteristics, it’s really no wonder that God draws the comparison between us, and sheep.

One amazing quality of sheep, however, is their ability to recognize individual faces and remember them for years.

The priest follows the sheep at "Running of the sheep" - Ketchum, Idaho

When we know our shepherd, we recognize him as the one who protects, rescues, feeds, shears and cleans us.  But more than our needs, He cares for us.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

Called by him, led by him, cared for by him, fed by him.

By choice, we are his people…the sheep of his pasture.

Let’s Pray:
You, Lord Jesus, are the Good Shepherd! How comforting it is to be in your arms, held close to your heart. When we wander, you look for us and watch over us until – in the exhaustion of our self-will – we are ready to return. Thank you for loving us – even while we are still dirty with sin – and allowing that filthy stench to transfer to you when you hold us tight in your loving embrace.  Help me today to follow only you. Amen.

Taking it deeper:

In what new ways do you identify with sheep?

Read more: Psalm 23John 10 :1-18

 

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Filed under Personal Reflection, Protection, sheep, Sin

Five…Again

James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

I Kings 3:11, 12  And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 

Suggested reading: I Kings 3: 5-12

It had been a challenging day of constant questioning by my five-year-old. No answer I could give was the “right answer” to his many and varied questions.  Just when I thought we’d gotten beyond it, he decided to challenge me one last time as I tucked him into bed.

Exasperated, I asked “Sweetie, do you really think you know better than me?”

The answer shot back like a cannon ball with a sure trajectory – “Yes!”

The defiance caught me off guard, but I found myself even more amazed by his brazen honesty.

“How can that be?” I asked. “You’ve only been alive for 5 years, and I’ve been alive for more than 30.  Why do you think you know better than me?”

“Because I like to,” he answered as he sheepishly pulled the covers up past his nose.  I could sense he was beginning to see the error in his judgement.

Our discussion continued until he finally admitted what we both new to be true.  I knew more.

“Sweetheart,” I said, kissing his smooth little forehead.  “When you think you know better, do you know what you’re really saying to Daddy and me?  You’re saying you don’t believe us or trust us.  Do you think you can trust us?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, then trust me.  Listen to me.  Obey me.”

As those words fell from my lips they pierced my own consciousness like tiny little arrows.  This was a message I, too, needed to hear.

Too often, I act like I’m five. Not trusting.  Not listening.  Hearing God’s direction, but defiantly disregarding it or arguing with Him about why His way is wrong, or why I should do something else altogether!

Looking at that picture makes me sick to my stomach and want to shrink back under the covers like my son.

Why do I think I know better?  Because I like to think I do. It’s a truthful answer based on fiction – not fact.

At 20 years old, Solomon understood wisdom would be critical to his success as king.  And though he didn’t consider himself wise at the time, he showed great judgement when he asked God for wisdom and discernment.

As much as I’d like to think I’ve advanced a little beyond the immaturity of youth, moments such as these remind me how much I haven’t. Like Solomon, if we want to be wise, we must seek the author of wisdom and trust His response.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, often I come to you for help or advice about something and then treat your answer as if I can take it or leave it.  Your wisdom is more valuable than rubies and gold. When I toss your instruction aside, I know it must deeply offend you – just as I’m offended by my children. Please forgive me and help me correct these wrong attitudes when they appear.  I want to make right decisions based on your wisdom – not on my own faulty understanding.  Amen.

Taking it deeper:

This story was written about my oldest son, but my youngest is now about the same age and I seem to be reliving it all over again!  What is it about being five that gives us such bravado? Have you ever asked for – and then ignored – God’s wisdom?  If so, be encouraged – you are not alone! 

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Filed under Immaturity, Trust, Wisdom