Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Day in the Life of a New Prayer Warrior, Week 5

This week marks 42 days of consistent prayer.  The prayer was a blessing, as usual.  But, my goodness it was a hard week otherwise!

I failed again at staying on top of library due dates.  Taking back a truckload of books and some movies, I was unaware that the movies were late at fifty cents per day per item.  A surprise awaited me.

After picking many new items, we made our way to the counter.

"You have a fine of $17.50, and when it's more than $10.00, you can't check anything out.  Would you like to pay today?"

Gulp.  Hadn't I just renewed those a few days ago?  Or was that the other district's library system I got into?  

Husband, who wants the library to be free, will come unglued.  We must drive a little further, I tell myself, to a library with Curious George DVD's, that only charges ten cents a day per item. A library in the same district as our other main choice, so I'm only receiving one set of reminder e-mails.

We drive to this further library, and we're delighted to find small pet animals in cages, as well as a beautiful children's section, complete with both Barney and Curious George DVD selections, as well as a ton of Magic Tree House books, and Boxcar Children books.

The library fees weren't the only waste of money this week.

I bought $13.00 worth of 7% ground turkey from Walmart on Monday.  On Tuesday I discovered that the first package was spoiled, despite the July 2 sell-by date.  I threw it out and made french toast that night.

On Wednesday I took a package out of the freezer, partially thawed it, only to smell that it, too, was bad. Adding up the money I lost, I decided to save the second package and return it the next day, even though I didn't have a receipt.  I thawed turkey sausage instead, and we had pasta for the second time in three days.

Turns out, you do need a receipt to return any food, but the customer service lady recognized me as a regular customer, and recognized the meat package, so she gave me a refund (store gift card) for just the one package, since I had thrown out the other.  

I learned to save every grocery receipt.....especially in summer when you can't be sure how safely meat has been handled by truck drivers and meat personnel.

In the midst of these frustrations, bank keys got lost.  A. big. problem.

Next was the frustration of trying to restore order to my disheveled house (from thorough searching for keys), when on a daily basis it's all I can do to get dishes and laundry done. 

But the prayer went on.  And the Spirit spoke.  And I listened.

And he said:

So much of our mental energies are focused on success, or the lack thereof.  We are tossed in the winds of life, reeling and reacting to perceived storms.  Lost keys and thrown away money and the sinking feeling that we're never moving forward.  That never-moving-forward feeling confounds us.  We want success with every fiber of our being. Our sense of wellness seems to depend on it. 

But what does God want?  At the end of the day, what makes Him happy?

He cares about two things only.  And success is not one of them.  

You've been underemployed for two years?  Is it getting embarrassing when people ask questions?  Your career success doesn't matter to God.    

Can't seem to keep the mud off your porch, or the finger smears off your glass door?  Getting embarrassing when people come to the door?  Your housekeeping success doesn't matter to God.

Can't seem to keep the living room free of unfolded laundry...or the kitchen counter free of paperwork? Does it seem like you'll never have a company-ready house? Your organizational skills don't matter to God.

Can't seem to keep the four-year-old from whining at the grocery store? Feel frustrated?  Your success at raising robotically good children doesn't matter to God.

Can't seem to keep the nine-year-old OCD child from clinging to you at the store, looking petrified?  Getting tired of the stares?  Having perfectly balanced children doesn't matter to God.

The Bible tells us, and we all know, what really matters to God.  

Matthew 22:35-37
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

Mark 12:31
The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

My monumentally important lesson this week?  Stop focusing on how things are going--whether good or bad.  God doesn't care if we failed on a dozen levels this week.  His question is.....did we love Him, did we put Him first by spending time with Him?  That's the only success that matters to Him.

When we pray we get the Holy Spirit, who then helps us love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds.  We can't obey the first commandment without the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit's power is tapped......yes, that's right......through prayer!  We need to pray to be filled.  We need to pray so we can obey.  And it isn't a chore.  It feels wonderful to love God through prayer, especially once it becomes a habit.  Get through that first difficult part of defeating Satan--who continually convinces you that you're too busy to pray--and wait for all the good stuff.

Loving God through intentional prayer fellowship, followed by a Spirit filling, makes us capable of the second commandment.....loving your neighbor as yourself.  

Everything that happens mustn't be summed up as success or failure. That's a worldly perspective.  Every happening is an opportunity to love God and our neighbor. Every single one..

Have to go in for some chemotherapy?  Praise God and love on the medical staff that waits on you

Owe the rather snobby library lady some money?  Praise God and love on her while you cheerfully pay up.

Lose money on meat?  Take the exchange transaction as an opportunity to praise God and love on the lady behind the counter.

Did husband lose some keys and make your life a little miserable?  Praise God and love your husband, showing him infinite grace, while you look for keys and straighten the house. (My husband extends a saintly amount of grace toward me.  I am forever in grace debt to him.)

Is your special-needs son a handful in the store?  Don't mind the stares, just praise God for disabilities, and love your son unconditionally, strengthening him by being the merciful face of Jesus.

It took a comically difficult week, and 42 days of prayer, to teach me how simple life really is.  God and love.

Don't react to life's ups and downs.  Don't get up in the morning with expectations...or with dread.  Be a rock that is not swayed.   

And remember, to pray is to love God with your whole self.

Don't have half an hour every day?  No problem.  If you can't sit down to pray, do adoration and confession while you make breakfast for your baby and toddler.  

Then, when you rock the baby for morning nap, do thanksgiving and two supplications. 

When you shuffle laundry, do two more supplications.  

While clearing lunch away, do two more supplications.  

Any time you ride in the car, do two supplications.  

While you stand at the stove that night, do two more supplications.  

While washing hair in the bath, do two more supplications.

The point is, by the time you fall asleep that night, you will have fulfilled the first commandment.  It doesn't have to look neat and tidy.  Start it in the morning, finish it by bedtime.  God is honored.

Remember, once you've done the prayer, your part is pretty much done. The Holy Spirit will fill you, and enable you to love God and your neighbor. He will actually put love into you and make you act accordingly. Just do the prayer!

Previous posts in this Day in the Life of a New Prayer Warrior series are here: part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5, part 6.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

God's sense of humor

The past few days have been incredibly stressful here.  My husband lost some important work keys (common ADHD trait).  We have looked for three days, tearing each room apart, making a horrible mess in the process.  For the first twenty-four hours, we feared he would be fired.  Many prayers were uttered.  So far, mercy has prevailed.

Did you know God has a sense of humor?

This morning, on a whim, I asked Mary to look inside the attached plastic purse that came with her bike.  I thought perhaps, if they were dropped in our driveway, maybe Beth found them and put them in the bike purse.

No such luck.

But, Mary came running into the house, full of glee.

"I didn't find the keys in my purse, but I did find a frog!"

God doesn't always say yes to our prayers.............but boy, he sure makes the nos easier to handle.  He loves to simply say, "Nothing is the end of world, when I'm on your side.  Lighten up."

More than one person here is ecstatic about this common gray tree frog, which we plan to keep as a pet for a week.

Please pray that we find the keys, and that the kids keep themselves amused while I attempt to restore order here? Thank you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

park day gratitude

Psalm 100:4-5
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

 My Gratitude List

- deer in cornfields
- June park days
- Miss Beth delighting in her strength

- Miss Beth showing off for Momma
- first blue sky in days
- slide giggles

- God's color schemes
- the wonders of nature making every park day a new experience
- being their Momma

- these two and their mutual love for nature
- Peter's heart
- Mary's exuberance

- Mary insisting that Beth is still a baby
- Miss Beth not minding that one bit 
- That two-year-olds still love to nurse

- natural sisterly love
- swing-time giggles
- perfect trees

- flowers picked for Momma
- simple beauty of a daisy
- carefree childhood days

- my heart brimming over while they play
- praying for their futures 
- her smile

- never tiring of green
- watching them run
- jumping up and down and celebrating with them 

- cool breezes 
- sibling negotiations
- family love 

- reflections of Him
- kids not complaining of a hot van
- learning a trick to turn the van key 

- Beth asking to nurse over skinned knees
- The way she loves a challenge
- being there for her

- a present from God
- Peter knowing more about amphibians than I do
- field guides

 - living around farms
- cornfields
- 18 minutes of country drive to and from the park

- never tiring of horses and cows
- I can't focus, don't know any tricks, but at least I own a camera
- tractors delighting them

- straight rows
- white farm fences

- God counteracting hardship with beauty
- nature making me love Him more and more
- kids giving credit to Him

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  Psalm 19:1-4

Monday, June 27, 2011

Counter-Cultural Parenting

It happened at a graduation party.  Two boys, 9 and 11, giggled as they convinced their 2-year-old sister to say, "I'm se*y." The 2-year-old, glad to be the center of attention, was happy to oblige.

When we moved here six years ago, these were nice boys. Now, the word corrupted comes to mind.  It was so disheartening to watch, after not seeing them for two years.

All I could think was........Lord, thank youThank you for isolating my boys, through homeschooling and through poverty.  Thank you that we have no money for camps, for sports, for anything with fees.

My four kids have each other.  They are blessed.

But do they feel blessed, you might ask.  Usually, yes.  But they do cry sometimes about not having money for activities. At the first tears, we felt horrible.  Not put our kids in soccer two to three times a week?  Or T-ball, basketball, or karate? How un-American.

But gradually, as we've observed corrupted innocence in other children, I've realized that kids don't know what they need.  They only know what they want.  And indulging wants quickly becomes an epidemic, eroding good stewardship. (Not to mention, in the case of extracurricular activities, stealing family time and homemade meals.)

Should we be about indulging our wants, when much of the world can't manage their needs?  I don't think so.  The more I study the Word on this subject, the more I think we're called to fill our lives with Him, instead of our wants.  Because really, what do the wants do to us?

They distract us from our relationship with Him.   We're so busy having fun with our wants, or taking care of our wants, or carving time for our wants, that we push Him out. We fall asleep reading our Bibles, or we don't read them at all.  And prayer is one to three times a week, or when something is very wrong.

So I conclude, isolation is not a curse, but a blessing. (I certainly don't expect anyone to agree.  Just my own conclusions here, based on conditions that were forced on me.)

I read the other day that only 9% of evangelicals have a Christian worldview.  Something is wrong in America.

We're a distracted people.

82% of Christian public-schooled students leave the faith after high school.  And it's no wonder.  Not only are they away from home during the best hours, but they're involved in extra activities that also put them outside their parents' sphere of influence.  When kids are away from home six to seven hours a day, don't their at-home, parent-influenced hours need to be sacred?

Who is getting discipled in America?  Not the kids.  They're too busy.

Due to isolation, my boys don't know a single word that could corrupt their sisters.  And if they did, they would never ask their sisters to repeat it, because they have no negative peer pressure sources in their lives.  Our homeschooling events include other similarly-sheltered children.

Yes, I hear you.  They do need to get out in the world, but not before they're deeply in love with their Savior.

So in love, that no one could convince them to do something immoral, just to fit in.

Fitting in with God is enough.  Having rich family relationships is enough.  Or, in the case of only children, perhaps including neighborhood kids or cousins regularly is enough.

What is the best way to learn social skills?

Read and discuss the Bible.....and practice the precepts on your own family, uniquely chosen to sharpen you.

How did Jesus disciple others?  By spending all his time with them.

But society says, successful kids do lots of extracurricular things. What parent doesn't rattle off a list of all the things their children do?  It's not that they're bragging--it's just part of the culture.  And certainly there's nothing wrong with it in moderation.  But soccer coaches of America seem to think kids need soccer three times a week and always on Saturdays.  It's often the event organizers that forget about moderation, leaving the parents little choice but to comply.

Be brave.  Be counter-cultural.  Instead of giving your kids too much to do, don't give them enough to do.  And watch them create their own pastimes.....even physically active ones.

Say goodbye to meltdowns....theirs and yours. When you're running kids around, can you keep up at home?

Most importantly, when you're behind, is discipling your kids even on your radar?

Deuteronomy 11:19
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Psalm 78:4
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.

Deuteronomy 4:9
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Isaiah 38:19
The living, the living--they praise you, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness.

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

Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Matthew Henry's Consice Commentary

11:18-25 Let all be directed by the three rules here given. 1. Let our hearts be filled with the word of God. There will not be good practices in the life, unless there be good thoughts, good affections, and good principles in the heart. 2. Let our eyes be fixed upon the word of God, having constant regard to it as the guide of our way, as the rule of our work, Ps 119:30. 3. Let our tongues be employed about the word of God. Nor will any thing do more to cause prosperity, and keeping up religion in a nation, than the good education of children.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Praying For Our Daughters

- May my daughters know you intimately, Father.  May you gift them with saving faith.

- If it be your will, may they be fertile, experiencing all the joys of motherhood.

- May they both marry strong Christian men, born into strong Christian families, who will remain faithful, leading in love. 

- May they cherish their children, giving thanks for them daily, loving them well.

- May they respect and honor their husbands, extending grace and mercy daily.

- May they make you their first love, find joy in prayer with your Spirit, making it a life-long habit, blessing the Body of Christ through intercession.

- May they put others above themselves, find purpose in serving, in obedience to you.

- May they remain sexually pure in obedience to you, in defiance of culture. (95% of Americans engage in pre-marital sex.  Start praying now!).  May their marriage beds be kept pure.  May only godly media be brought into their lives.

- May they find joy in your simple gifts, not be given to materialism--good stewards of all you give, generous in heart.

- May they enjoy life-long friendships with their siblings, providing and receiving unconditional love, grace, guidance.

- May they open their homes freely, be hospitable, keep perfectionism in check, seek your glory and not their own.

- May they have compassionate hearts, come alongside the hurting with a hug, a kind word, and faithful prayers.

My poor dear still has awful allergy shiners--today especially.  Worst allergy season in ten years, her doctor tells me.

-If it be your will, Father, may they never lose a child, and may all their children come to faith young.

- May they be loyal friends, not given to gossip, building up the Body in love.

- May they choose friendships with godly wisdom, guarding their own hearts from corruption.

- May they mother with grace and purpose, in your strength and not their own, carefully guarding their children's hearts, raising them to live for you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Into a Life of Prayer; A Journey, Part 5

This week we'll take a short break from our analysis of the Lord's Prayer and cover: 

Unanswered Prayer & Intercessory Prayer

Thirty-five days into a consistent prayer habit, a sobering fact rings true in my life.  Prayer doesn't necessarily change painful circumstances.  We can pray faithfully for something for a long time, but God's answer may not change. We may still get a disappointing no. 

Unanswered prayer is hard, but we must always submit our hearts to God's will as we pray--whether His will matches our desires or not. The journey itself, though painful, may be the point.  It may bring the greatest good for us and for His Kingdom.  

For a long time I've prayed for peace in our home.  As regular readers already know, both my son and my husband suffer from ADHD, with my son having a few other letters as well. Having one in a home with a neurological disorder is hard enough......but two?  It's downright un-peaceful, especially when the two of them clash.  They don't have, and may never have (even if medicated), the same level of self-control most people manage.  Not ever approaching normalcy--and the success that brings--can be terribly frustrating.

Consistent prayer hasn't changed anything associated with ADHD.  It is still an ugly and cruel disorder.  My husband and son are still frustrated and angry 50% - 70% of the time. Regular failures--sometimes only perceived--still gnaw away at their self-esteem.  

And the rest of us still wish they could hold it together.

In my heart, I know it's all about the journey our family is on; I'm not angry or resentful about unanswered prayer.

What Prayer Does Do

Unanswered prayer notwithstanding, something significant and lovely does come through a prayer habit.  Something more valuable than the removal of hardship. Guaranteed, every time.  Through intercessory prayer, to be exact. 

Intercessory prayer is (quote found here) "praying with the real hope and real intent that God would step in and act for the positive advancement of some specific other person(s) or other entity."

Another definition, found here:  "Intercessions are coming to God with boldness and speaking with him about others. The heart of the biblical meaning of the word intercession is boldness. Don't forget that God is asking us to come to him with boldness! We can have the assurance that if he asks us to come boldly, he desires to answer our prayers."

Consider Charles Spurgeon's words, regarding the blessing of intercessory prayer:

"I commend intercessory prayer, because it opens man's soul, gives a healthy play to his sympathies, constrains him to feel that he is not everybody, and that this wide world and this great universe were not after all made that he might be its petty lord, that everything might bend to his will, and all creatures crouch at his feet."

When we pray for others consistently, we get over ourselves.  Our spirits rise above our circumstances.  Life can still be hard, but we're given the gift of peace......peace that comes from a heavenly perspective.

More on intercessory prayer found here and excerpted below:

It is best to always be aware that you never really pray alone. For when the honest love in you for other people causes you to ask God to strengthen, heal, defend, change, or bless them, there is someone else praying with you : the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is leading you to pray. When your love is not whole or your mind is not clear, the Spirit steps in for you, to express the intercession and draw you into it. (emphasis mine) Christian intercessors over the past two millenia have prayed their intercessions in a 'Trinitarian' manner : to the Father, through the Son, and in and with the Holy Spirit. God isn't fussy about the pattern, but it helps us to see some part of how God works in prayer.
I've found that no matter how tired I am, no matter how much I'd like a drink or a snack, or to switch the laundry, it doesn't matter.  I am drawn into the intercession, and it is never a chore, no matter the hands on the clock.  I am blessed by it. Downright energized, in fact.

Another perk I've noticed?  My love for those I'm praying for increases, through no act of my will!  I don't set out to love the Body of Christ more--it simply happens.  It's another gift from the Holy Spirit.

How Do We Start?

Intercessions should cover current difficulties, of course, but we also think in broader terms.  What does the Bible say about their role in life?  Are they single?  Married?  A parent? A child?  A widow or widower?  What does Scripture require of them?

We pray...

...according to Scripture.

...according to God's will.

...that their Christian walk would be strengthened.

...that they would avoid temptation.

...and finally, we incorporate their own requests.

So my friend, now that you know......when will you start reaping and spreading the blessings?

Links for earlier posts in this prayer series are here:   Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guest Post: Amy's Prayer Warrior Journey, Vol. 3

Here are links for Vol. 1, and Vol. 2.

Staying Focused
I have noticed that since praying consistently, I don't get as sidetracked as I used to.  

Talking With the Father Brings Peace 
Some nights there are certain things on my heart that I really need to bring before the Lord and "talk" with Him about.  Before beginning consistent prayer, I would sometimes not pray very much about things that were on my heart or bothering me.  Now, I know I have a designated time and I can just be still before the Lord.  I have more peace.

The Spirit Teaches, Humbles
This week the Spirit revealed to me, on more than one occasion, my critical spirit.  I believe that because I am spending more time with the Lord, I am hearing his voice more often, whether from reading the Bible, talking with my husband, or reading Christian blogs.  The Lord has revealed to me that I should not judge people (family, friends, or strangers) for their actions or decisions, but show grace and forgiveness as He does to me.  Because I was seeing this in myself, I was confessing, repenting, and noticing a change in my thoughts and feelings concerning others.  This has been something the Lord has shown me over many years, but this past week, I noticed that I was judging other Christians for being judgmental and critical.  I was angry that Christians would act like that.  The Lord called me to confess, provide grace to my sisters in Christ, and realize that they are God's "work in progress" just like I am.  Once again, my judgemental attitude had crept in. 

Ever Thankful for Him
I am so thankful for Jesus'  guidance and forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

pick-your-own farms

I included this as a post script on my strawberry farm post, but for feed reader people, I am including it here again.  To find a U-pick farm near you, check this website.

strawberry farm

I dressed my clan in red.

And took them to.....

a lovely strawberry farm for berry picking!  

 My friend "Sally", with whom I taught first grade in California, was visiting Ohio for a cousins' reunion (we see her once a year, because she has family near us).  We were blessed to have her meet us at the farm with her sister and brother-in-law.  She now lives in Washington state and travels to Africa for short-term mission trips to orphanages, where she teaches reading.  She is in the States until August.  Regular readers might remember that she brought me to the Lord fourteen years ago--answering all my questions and leading me into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  She continued to answer my questions and study the Bible with me, and mentor me, for two years.

She has had many hardships in her life, including infertility (she adopted two newborns), the suicide death of her husband, the death of her first grandchild from meningitis, wayward children, ovarian cancer, and widowhood for going on twenty-something years.  And yet, she has the joy of the Lord!  An incredibly inspiring person.  I asked her spiritual questions because I saw in her something I wanted......peace, joy, contentment.  Praise the Lord for people like my friend!

My only wish is that I had a prayer warrior in my midst, holding me accountable all these years. How the Body of Christ needs that!  If we could pair everyone in the Church with an accountability partner, how fast we could defeat Satan!  Most of the time, I really think he wins, sadly.  If someone would simply be bold enough to say, "How is the study and prayer going?" we would all work harder to have a good answer, the next time they ask (which would hopefully be often).  The Christian walk goes nowhere without a life-long study and prayer that doesn't have fits and starts, but is truly consistent.

We saw many Amish farms, Amish buggies, Amish clothing hanging on clotheslines.  This strawberry farm is not owned by the Amish, but it does partner with them, selling their vegetables in their farmer's market, and employing many young Amish people.

As I drove through the area, contemplating the simplicity with which the Amish live, I wanted to be Amish.  But that feeling died fast when I saw many Amish girls in the fields, picking strawberries in the humidity with their polyester dresses and thick stalkings on.  Oh, my!  I wilt fast in heat, which commonly happens to those of us with fairer skin.  We need more water, more shade, and can feel sick quickly when temps climb.  God protects our skin by having us react more strongly to the sun, IMHO. ( It's not that we're wimps!)

There was a petting barn at the farm also.

My little ones were troopers, picking lots of strawberries, and enjoying the whole experience.

I wish I could say we came home with seventeen dollars worth of delicious berries.  But,  Most are quite sour.  :(      We'll have to mix them with sugar, I'm afraid.  But the experience, the fellowship...all that was wonderful!

For a U-pick farm near you, check this website: