Tag Archives: unceasing prayer

From the Border…

It was only 335 miles – piece of cake – from the Arizona/New Mexico border to Tucumcari, our stop for the night. Driving it would be fun – something I could do in my sleep. Only I learned a valuable lesson – never, ever use the words I could do it in my sleep in the same sentence as driving.

20160728_182724_resizedIt was late afternoon when I took over the wheel from my husband. Both of us were exhausted from difficult days prior to this trip. I thought I could easily take the strain of this leg away from my husband. After the sun dipped low in the sky and eventually disappeared, I was beyond my comfort zone.

That’s when the name calling started…

Not from my husband, but from that well deep inside of me where my cruel self-talk resides. Idiot! What makes you think you are a good enough driver to drive all this way in the dark? You are so stupid!

Anytime I make mistakes or bad decisions, these thoughts spring forth. Part of it is impatience with myself; part of it is the knowledge I should have known better. No matter what, though, this name calling hurts! Instead of thinking positive and encouraging thoughts, I find the ugly part of me that has wiggled so deep inside it now feels part of me. I wound myself all over again.

That night, when I pulled into our motel’s parking lot, I momentarily placed my head on the steering wheel and lifted up a prayer to God. Thank You for getting us through. Thank You for keeping us safe. Thank You for keeping me on the road!

Even a strong prayer of Thanksgiving doesn’t negate all that brutal self-talk. Does it come as naturally to you as it does to me? We punish ourselves with contempt if we think we haven’t accomplished what we should, didn’t show kindness to others, or my favorite: couldn’t keep up with the dust, disorder and dirt in the house.

How we talk to ourselves matters.

When I approach God, this crouching attitude of derision often follows me. I am constantly apologizing for my stupidity, my pride, my laziness, my mistakes. I get so bogged down in these words of shame and disrespect sometimes I think God believes them, also.

With my head on the steering wheel, He whispered to me, “You are called my delight.” The warmth enveloping me as I slipped out of the car to register was palpable. His delight! No way! The next day, I looked up delight on Biblegateway. What He said in the 8th century BC is still as pertinent today. “No longer will you be called deserted. (or reckless or stupid or dumb) Instead, you will be called My delight is in her.” (Isaiah 62:4)

Before I fell asleep, those same negative thoughts invaded my sleep. It is so easy to punish ourselves when we are disappointed in our own behavior. It becomes so natural, we forget to stop it. Sadly, we begin to think we deserve it.

If God calls us His Delight, what business do we have of correcting him with our negative self-talk? We are loved by a God who called us Delight and never Disappointment. As a child of God, it is my birthright to call myself His Delight.

I slept soundly despite the difficult, tiring day. God brought me from the border of disappointment in myself to delighting in Him. No matter what I say about myself, He has the final word. And his ultimate, everlasting word is: My delight is in her.

A Christmas Day Change

From the time we were married 25 years ago, Richard and I have enjoyed celebrating Christmas with his family. On Christmas Day, we’d load up the car with gifts, food and treats and head over to his sister’s house.  With no children of our own, it was exhilarating to see the holiday through the eyes of our young nephews and niece. It was magical, delightful and filled with gleeful anticipation. As they grew older, the season still held beautiful festivities, but instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in wee little heads, we created new memories. More mature, maybe more solemn, but moments in time still etched into the deepest corners of our hearts.

Change is like that. Sometimes it is welcome, expected, natural. You wouldn’t want the same presents under the tree you asked for at five when you were twenty-five, would you? But then change can also be harder, a bit pushier and very unnatural, like a diet or trying to quit smoking. And what if the change isn’t your idea, like a layoff at work or a bad medical report? Hardly anyone is interested in that!

This Christmas ushers in a huge personal change. For the first time since I married Richard, we won’t be going to his sister’s cozy house in Illinois to enjoy time with family and friends. Instead we’ll be celebrating our first California Christmas as a couple. As excited as I am to be together in our new home state, there is also a touch of fear. Will our holiday be as rich on our own? Will this allow us to create some meaningful new traditions? Or will we miss the loud boisterous unwrapping of the presents and the constant stream of conversation around the dinner table?

Nativity 12225115But then I remember words written in the book of Matthew that literally changed the world. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us. Matthew 1:22-23

For the first time ever, God would dwell on earth, coming to be with His people. What a drastic change! For over six hundred of years, God had been silent. The earth yearned for His arrival. And then during those early morning hours on the day Jesus was born, everything about the world was transformed.  God would be with us like He had never been before.

Which turns my anxiousness about a new way of celebrating Christmas into a question: Does God allow change in our lives so we experience His presence in a new way? More than anything else, I want God beside me. And it seems one of times when I feel God the closest is when changed is forced on me.

Emotions always run high around this holiday. Maybe this is the first time you can’t be with the person you love on Christmas. Or maybe you’ve set your holiday expectations so high, the reality of Christmas morning will pale by comparison. Maybe the change is blissful – you are rejoicing in news you never expected to hear. Whether good or bad news, this new, uncomfortable territory will always hold the promise of God’s all-caring presence.

With His birth, Jesus changed the world from hopeless to hope-filled. With His presence, He moves our heartaches towards His grace. We may long for something we honestly think is the very best outcome for us. However if we willingly wait for His resolution, we find Him giving us gifts that bless the ever-changing landscape of our lives. Christmas says we all need change and God is willing to carry every single one of us back to heaven.

If you fear an uncomfortable change right now, take heart in knowing His glory in the highest runs down to meet us who are at our lowest. And if the change is new, exciting and welcome, thank Him for creating that transformation. Christmas is, at its heart, God remaking us.

On the first Christmas night, God overcame the world’s suffering by laying aside His power and becoming a helpless baby. Throughout His life, He demonstrated how to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, seek peace and grant forgiveness. He quietly laid Himself down so that there might be the best change ever in this world – peace on earth and good will towards men!

Merry Christmas!

Giving Thanks

Can I admit something to you on this dreary Black Friday? Oh it isn’t that I am a secret shopaholic or that I got up at 4AM to stand in line to purchase a television. This is something that I am really not proud of. And it certainly isn’t a part of my life I want to highlight.

But I want to share it with you, just in case in might help you.

I realized last night while praying before my Thanksgiving meal I don’t thank God often enough.

thank_you_by_loish-d8boqn5Oh, I manage every once in a while to thank Him for the big things. My husband, my dog, the house I live in, the fact I get to live in my favorite state. But when it comes down to where the rubber hits the road, I skid away from thankfulness.

This morning, I grabbed my journal because it seemed like a great way to start the day. Normally, I journal at night, but today I wanted to begin with it – to ask God to bless my day in advance instead of reviewing my day with Him at night. And in the middle of asking Him to use me today, it struck me how often I ask Him for things instead of thanking Him.

I rush through my day so intensely, I rarely take time to thank Him for some of the blessings He gives me. Like the delightful taste of my morning cup of tea. Or the comforting warmth of my slippers keeping my feet balmy on the cold wooden floors. The soft whoosh of my dog’s tail on the cabinets as I prepare her meals. The things that make our lives rich and beautiful, but that we often don’t notice or appreciate.

Instead my prayers seem to be “Help me, Lord. Give me, Lord. Please, Lord, provide this thing for me.” I tell myself to send up short prayers in the middle of my day to thank God, but I rarely do this. I even journal about the deep desire in my heart to develop this habit. My faulty attempts fall short.

I wish I could say I was learning how to do this much better than I currently am. It’s as if all roads lead back to me and not to God’s glory.

I have done things I never dreamed I could accomplish. Like marrying the man of my dreams when I thought love would never bloom, traveling to Hong Kong, moving to California, writing a book. I remember moments that were so uplifting I couldn’t hold my joy inside. But rarely in that moment of exquisite delight did I take time to thank God, even though I knew as the Creator of joy, the blessings came from Him. Somehow I miss the power of the short prayer in 2 Corinthians 9:15: Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

This year, I am bound and determined to thank God as often as I can. Because during those times when I wonder where He’s gone, why He’s not more present to me, I realize it is mostly because all I’ve been doing is praying about what I want and not thanking Him for what He’s given me.

As the season of gift-giving starts, I’m preparing my heart so God gives me the eyes to see the gifts that gather in the small, mundane, everyday places of my life where I can easily say, “Thank you, Lord.” Won’t you join me?