We trust the God we know.

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One way we get to know God is through his word. His word is alive and active. And the more we know him the more we love and trust him.

Today’s Attribute and focus is God is our Shield.

Remember today that no matter what you face you have a God you can take refuge in. He is safe. He is strong. He can protect you. Run to him. Praise him for being your shield. Find comfort in knowing he is your shield.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 115:9 O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

Lord, today we praise you for being our shield as your word tells us you are. We believe you are our shield and we are asking you as our shield to protect us from what you know we need to be protected from. Sometimes we don’t even know what you shield us from. Thank you for those times, Father.

Umbrella Prayers

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For something to sink into my brain I have to visualize it in pretty simplistic terms. Just how I roll. So when I am talking about Umbrella Prayers I have this visual in my head of holding up an umbrella. The umbrella represents God and who he is. An attribute of God.

I focus my thoughts and praise on God and who He is. Our God is vast according to scripture. There are so many facets to him and we can’t even comprehend it all but he does give us many references to who he is in the Bible. Knowing who God is and recounting who he is will make a difference in our lives.

After praising God for who he is and meditating on God himself I will then move into a time of confession. Asking God to reveal and show me hidden and blatant sin in my life. Sometimes I write and sometimes I don’t care to put pen to paper about these grievances. Either way – there is sweet relief in the immediate forgiveness of our God.

My next step falling under Praise and Confession is a time of Thanksgiving. It’s pretty self explanatory. Thanking God for answered prayer, for unanswered prayer, for surprised blessings and every day beauties that come from his hand.

Finally, I get to the part I long to start with if the truth be known. My requests. Petitions. Intercession. However you want to put it. It’s simply where we ask God for help. For intervention. Here’s the thing with the order of these prayers….when I start with who God is it reveals who I am in light of Him and the confession comes quite naturally. Which then leads to an overflow of thanksgiving. And then when I finally get to the asking part it feels different in a way. The circumstances are the same, yes. But my perspective has changed some. I’m now viewing this request as under the protection and covering of my amazing God who is capable of all things. Who loves me faithfully. Who extends mercy. Who is a shield and refuge. This is who I choose to align my very real life troubles under.

So friends, whether it’s a torrential downpour or crystal clear sunshine in your world today, pick up your umbrella and imagine putting yourself under the covering of an amazing God who is full of grace and mercy and so much more.

 

 

3 ways to overcome a fear of praying out loud

Okay let’s get super real here and confess that sometimes praying out loud can be intimidating even if you’ve been attending church forever. It doesn’t have to be but we start overthinking the process of talking to God in front of others and fear we can mess it up. We fear what we say might not be the right thing or good enough. Or maybe we think we don’t have a place in audible prayer among our churches or communities. “That’s for the pastors and men of the church.” All these are misconceptions that satan loves to throw our way in hopes that we’ll remain silent even though there’s a strong prayer in our hearts.

I don’t want to dismiss silent prayer. Or praying in agreement with the other person who is praying aloud. This is just as important and powerful in our times of prayer with other people. I don’t care if you come to a prayer meeting every single time and never utter a word but you are praying in your heart with those around you. This is prayer too.

So why write this post then?

Because I talk to so many women who have a real fear of praying aloud. They want to but are scared to. They won’t come to certain church functions because they’re afraid of being called on to pray. If this is you just know you’re not the only one and I am hoping you will give consideration to learning how to pray out loud. Because I believe praying aloud with a community of believers binds us together and deepens our faith. If you are grappling with your fear of praying aloud may I tell you that you are growing in your faith.  Don’t interpret the wrestle with praying aloud as a bad thing – this is a wonderful thing! Embrace it and ask God to help you with it.

If you’re wanting to pray out loud but are afraid consider these three things to help. 

1.) Say aloud the prayers in your head. When you’re driving and you’re thinking in your heart and asking God to help, heal, intervene, etc…..say it out loud instead. Pray aloud when you’re by yourself and begin to form a habit of praying aloud by yourself.

2.) Pray Scripture. Did you know that when we pray scripture we are praying the perfect will of God? It’s HIS words. And praying them back to Him is powerful. An example would be Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” You can pray that verse aloud and that is your simple audible prayer. You could even read it out of your Bible if you can’t remember it. Maybe you want to add the context of what you’re praying about afterwards. Thank you that your words says, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Would you please help so and so as they start their new job to remember this Truth. That you will give them the strength they need. Amen.”

3.) Picture God as you talk to him. Prayer is talking to God and listening to God. If you can say it you can pray it. It’s a conversation. And even though our conversation is with a Holy and powerful unseen God it is also with the One who died for us and who longs to be in relationship with us. Instead of picturing yourself praying to the “Powerful Grand Oz” and being fearful picture going to the person who loved you enough to put his life up for yours. Your Abba Father. Arms open wide and full of love and grace. This is who you’re talking to.

 

 

4 things to the Woman still waiting to be a Mom:

To the desiring woman still waiting to be Mom,

It’s hard, isn’t it? Still waiting. Hoping that this would be the Mother’s Day you celebrate as a Mother with a child in her arms. While you’re still hanging on to hope and know God has a plan there’s still a deep ache inside your heart. And you wonder if you can make it to Sunday morning service where all the Mother’s are recognized. The oldest, the youngest – if it’s like our church there will even be some sassy and fun categories that you can’t help but laugh at. The prizes of course are fun to win and you’re happy for your friends. But you still wish it could be you this year.

I have some words for you based on real life personal experience.

God has not forgotten you. He is working out a plan for you that is far better than you can possibly know. It doesn’t feel like it but it’s true. One day you’ll be encouraging others with the same words as you look back and see all that God was doing while you were waiting.

A few things to consider during your wait:

It’s okay if you cry. I didn’t do this well. I hid my tears many times and felt like if I cried that I was in essence saying God wasn’t enough for me. And that is so far from the truth. One year on Mother’s Day – soon after a failed IVF cycle –  we celebrated Mother’s Day at my Mom and Dad’s house with all our family. As soon as we got to their subdivision the tears starting welling up. I held them in all morning at church. But as soon as we pulled in they gushed. I asked Randy to back out of the driveway and do circles until I could pull myself together. And of course the guys don’t know what to do with us when we cry and it’s just all around awkward. But looking back I wish I had been more willing to cry openly.

 Don’t beat yourself up if you simply can’t make it to church on Mother’s Day. I know this goes against the grain of so many in my former circles of friends. You just don’t miss church – like ever. I never missed a Mother’s Day due to these reasons (probably more out of pride than anything) but going back I’d give myself more grace. One young woman struggling with infertility called me up one year and explained her struggle and how she didn’t think she could sit through a service that coming Mother’s Day Sunday but she was feeling very guilty about it. I told her to stay home and don’t feel bad. You’re not a wimp if you need to sit Mother’s Day Sunday out because the pain is so great. Not everyone needs to do this but if you do – don’t feel bad!

 Keep a journal. If you’re waiting on a baby through pregnancy or adoption start your journal right now. Include specific prayers and ask God to show you Bible verses for your child. Record these things because when you look back a few years down the road you will be amazed at all the things God was doing behind the scenes – on the Mother’s Day when you sat holding back the tears; on the days you looked at yet another negative pregnancy test. God was working through all of that to accomplish something greater. You may not see all of it but you I promise that you will clearly see traces of it if you start recording and then look back.

Don’t totally roll your eyes when someone says, “But you can still be a Spiritual Mother.” (Spiritual Mothering could be defined as bringing one under your arm through discipleship.) A little eye roll, yes. Because I get it – and you get it – Spiritual Mothering is great and all that but you still really want to be a physical Mother with baby hanging on hipster hip. But don’t let this baby wait distract you from why you’re here on this earth. It’s to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. So keep praying and asking for God to work his way in what Motherhood looks like for you but don’t dismiss Spiritual Mothering – bringing others under your arm of discipleship – it’s not second class Mothering.

Lord, for my friends still waiting – let them know you aren’t waiting. You are actually working a plan you have for them. Help them to trust you in this process. To cry when they need to cry. To cling to scripture and record their heart’s cry so they can one day look back. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

When children pray

This week our church had Missions Conference and as a part of it our missionaries went into the classes at the Christian School associated with our church talking about their ministries. My in-laws are pastors to missionaries and they travel the world encouraging missionaries. But this week as they went to classes they wanted to send the message to kids that they could be missionaries right where they are. They asked Sophie and Jace (two 3rd students at our Christian school) to come with them and share with each class about a new friend named Emma who has Cystic Fibrosis. Sophie and Jace haven’t met her but have seen pictures and have enlisted a lot of people to pray for her.

So Jace and Sophie went to about 8 classes asking students to pray for Emma. And the timing couldn’t be better as she was having surgery that day.

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It thrilled my soul to see these young kids praying for someone they didn’t know but knew God would hear them.

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And boy did He hear them!

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Tuesday and Wednesday these kids prayed for Emma and then Wednesday night Emma’s Mom gave this update below which sent us all into a major praise induced coma!

**Update on Emma: Please read!!**

“For this Child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made him.” 1 Samuel 1:27

So many of you have committed to pray for my sweet Emma and her battle with Cystic Fibrosis… You have called upon the Lord on her behalf… You have pounded on the doors of Heaven for her healing!!

Less than two months ago, our world was turned upside down when we were told Emma had an extremely difficult to treat bacteria in her lungs. This bacteria is known to cause lung decline, long term IV drug therapy, and could potential remove her chance for a lung transplant in the future.

We began treatment on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day). Three weeks to the day we had to stop treatment due to a horrible reaction to one of the drugs. Things were feeling pretty dim as her team attempted to find a new drug treatment plan.

Yesterday, Emma had her lungs scoped and had samples taken to see if we have made any positive steps forward in treating her Mycobacterium Abscessus before we restart IV meds.

Today, one of her doctors came to talk to me and started with “I don’t know how to tell you this…” My heart sank…she continued to say “her smear came back and it is NEGATIVE for Mycobacterium Abscessus. I can’t explain it, especially since she only had 3 weeks of treatment. Her numbers were very high, now there’s nothing!!”

After overcoming my lack of ability to speak, we discussed the future treatment plan that is now less than half as long as we expect just this morning!!

God is in control of all situations, He is still in the miracle business and today he reminded of that!!!! God is beyond faithful…He has heard our prayers and answered!!! Emma is free from this horrible bacteria for the moment. It can still return, but we will just take it one day at a time, and trust the Lord no matter what comes our way!!!

Our God is amazing! So incredibly amazing. I know he heard the voices and hearts of these students praying on behalf of a fellow friend. And this is a part of missions – praying and sharing the love of Jesus.

Our first pastoral retreat

We’ve never been on a Pastoral retreat weekend before and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was really a neat time of praying, planning, vision casting, laughing and sharing with the church pastoral staff and a couple training in ministry.

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A family in our church opened up their lake home for us to stay for the weekend with our families. The men went up early on Friday and the wives and kids came up Friday night and we stayed through Sunday afternoon.

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The kids had a blast on Saturday afternoon because it warmed up enough for them to play outside. A huge help was having a young married couple in our church watch the kids while we had our sessions on Saturday. There were six kids in all ranging from ages 2 – 14 so it was loud at times but it worked and we wanted the families to be together.

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At meal breaks we all pitched in and grabbed our food. I have to brag on my man because he did the food planning and buying for this retreat. And he did so good. Good with the amount of food, choices, etc.

We are blessed to be among a pastoral staff who genuinely love God with all their hearts. They love their families and they love the work of the church and what God has called them to.

Ministry is a heavy weight. It’s heavy because you are loving and leading people through incredibly joyous times and also through incredibly painful times. It’s heavy because there are huge decisions to be made that can shape and direct the course of the church. Much prayer and seeking God goes into it and honestly that can be quite draining at times. There are unique burdens and responsibilites that come with it but there are amazingly rich joys and rewards. It is an honor and gift to be called into ministry. We don’t take it lightly. This weekend we were able to seek God on matters, talk with each other and pray together about the things we love most.  And we wait in expectation to see what all God has in store for our church community the next 12-18 months. We even planned out 10 years loosely knowing God has the complete right and control to trump every single thing on the “planned agenda”. It is his work not ours.

Friends, please pray for your pastor’s and their families. I can’t tell you how much it thrills my heart when someone comes up to me and tells me, “I am praying for your family. I know marriage is hard and I’m praying for your marriage and your family.” Ladies, don’t ever take it offensively when someone says they’re praying for your marriage or think in your head, “OMGosh why does she think my marriage is in need of prayer?!! I need to give off a better impression of a stronger marriage.”  No, not at all. The truth is we all stand in desperate need of prayer for our marriages, in our parenting, in our family needs. And your pastor’s home is no different. Cover them in prayer as you cover your own family in prayer.

 

 

 

 

31 Days: Day 19 – A Community Prayer Project

Our church has been in a season of prayer for our community and I can’t help but want to share in this space what God is doing.

It started with a vision for a prayer series Randy had for our church. He had this in his heart for months before starting it in August. What was awesome is that the movie “War Room” came out just as Randy began the series on prayer. Our church went as a group to see it on opening night and what a powerful message that movie is!

Part of Randy’s vision for our church was to be praying for the needs of our community. But in order to do so we needed to know what the needs were. So as a church family we identified leaders and organizations in our community that we could speak with in one-on-one ten minute interviews. The last three weeks we have been meeting with organizations like Family and Children Services, Domestic Violence Shelter Directors, Principals, City officials, etc. We call ahead and ask for a short appointment. During the appointment we ask four identifying questions and take brief notes. If the time permits and the Holy Spirit leads us in such a way we pray at the end of our time but not in every case. We  assure the person we will be praying for their organization specifically and in the ways they’ve communicated to us.

As a church we’re still in this prayer process but so far we’re learning a lot about our community and prayer. In both of my community interviews mental health issues were a part of the specific prayer need. I’m anxious to hear how the rest of our community interviews will be shaping our prayers as a church.

Randy asked us this question Sunday morning as a church. “If all your prayers were answered for the last 3 months who or what would be impacted?” Would just ourselves and families be impacted? Not that praying for ourselves and our families is a bad thing. Of course not. But who and what else are we praying for?

Praying for our communities is important. It’s the foundation of impacting our community.

So even if you don’t have time to host interviews in your community you can still pray for your community. You know some of the needs already. Your prayers matter. They make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all prayed for our communities every day.

The winner of Come to my Table by Sue Donaldson is Kristin Hill Taylor and the winner of How to love your Neighbor without being weird by Amy Lively is Kelly Chripczuk.

Kristin and Kelly I’ll be in contact for a mailing address today via email. Look for a copy of your book in the mail soon! Thank you to Sue Donaldson and Amy Lively for donating a copy of your book – either to read & review or to giveaway. I appreciate your heart for others and want a tiny bit of it for myself!

 

 

She asked: is it wrong to lie about your faith when faced with death?

You’ve probably heard the horrific news of yet another school shooting – this time on a Community College campus in Oregon. Our kids saw the news and of course this brought up questions. From news reports I’ve read, the gunman asked people if they were a Christian and if they said yes he shot them in the head. If they said they weren’t a Christian he shot them in the leg or somewhere else allowing them to live.

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We prayed for these victims’ families and asked God to pour out his peace and comfort over them.

Then Sophie asked the question we’ve all wondered at one time or another, “Mom, would it be a sin to lie in a situation like that? To know in your heart you really are a Christian but to just say you’re not so that you can live?”

If you scroll through Facebook you’ll see people amen-ing the people who stood up and said they were a Christian and how they would do the same thing. The confidence and certainty is really quite intriguing to me. Sort of reminds me of Peter in his utter confidence that he would never deny Jesus – let alone three times. And that’s without a gun to his head. And one of the times was a little girl asking him if he knew Jesus.

What would I do in a situation like that? I can’t answer that. Nobody can answer that. I pray that my faith in God would not waiver but I honestly can’t say for certain it wouldn’t. My heart desire is to proclaim my love for Jesus and my commitment to Him wherever I am – even facing death square in the eyes. And if I did do that it would only be because of the strength of Jesus Christ.

So what’s the answer to Sophie’s question?

We started by looking at Matthew 10:32-33

32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

“It is a dangerous thing for any to deny and disown Christ before men; for they who so do will be disowned by him in the great day, when they have most need of him: he will not own them for his servants who would not own him for their master: I tell you, I know you not, Matt. 7:23. In the first ages of Christianity, when for a man to confess Christ was to venture all that was dear to him in this world, it was more a trial of sincerity, than it was afterwards, when it had secular advantages attending it.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary

“Note, It is very encouraging to think, that whatever we leave, or lose, or suffer for Christ, we do not make a hard bargain for ourselves. Whatever we part with for this pearl of price, we may comfort ourselves with this persuasion, that it is well worth what we give for it. The terms are, that we must prefer Christ.” Matthew Henry

I read these verses and MH’s commentary and told the kids they needed to think about these things. Pray and ask God to show them His thoughts on this question. They should also talk to the godly leaders God has put in their lives in addition to me and Randy –  but the bottom line is what God’s Word says about this subject. That is our guide.

I don’t want to scare my kids by any means but I believe that their kids (if not they themselves) could face potential persecution in ways we never have. We need to be talking about these things. In addition to drills and conversations of the practical – like hide under your teacher’s desk, get out of sight, don’t panic or scream, etc. we need to address the spiritual and difficult issues at hand.

So yeah, it’s a heavy conversation but I believe it’s worth it. It makes one think of their own faith and true identity in Christ. I pray with all my heart I would stand up for Christ and say aloud in the face of death, “Yes, I know Him and He is worth dying for.” because it’s what I truly believe in my heart.

Let’s be praying for the victim’s families in Oregon and the victims that are recovering. They need to feel the love of Jesus. And what’s beautiful to me? Is that Jesus appeared to Peter first after he rose from the dead. Yes, Peter the disciple he loved so very much even after denying Jesus three times. That’s who he went to first. Grace and mercy when we least deserve it. Oh I love him.

 

When prayer makes us feel “needy”

Our church is learning about prayer. Like God really wants to teach us about this because he lined up so many different platforms for us to soak up what he has on this topic through things like: The War Room Movie, An event on prayer for our women, A sermon series on prayer, etc. All these things had been planned long ago but all fell at the same time. So cool.

Part of our learning about prayer has led our church to a prayer project. We (all attenders interested) are talking to leaders in our community and asking four questions:

  1. From your perspective of service, what are the greatest needs or challenges facing our community?
  2. What major project or obstacle will you be dealing with this quarter
  3. What dream do you have for our city that seems so large or hard that only an act of God would change it?
  4. How can we specifically pray for you as you serve our community?

We are meeting with city officials, principals, Social Services, Emergency Personnel, Domestic Violence Leaders and so much more.

Why are we asking these questions of these community leaders?

Because they see things we can’t possibly see and understand. And because we believe prayer changes things. No matter how great we’re doing as a people and a community we will always stand in need of prayer.

So if you’re local and you see these signs around town in yards…..

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Know it’s a positive thing. We love our city and we believe God works through prayer. We are committing to finding out how we can pray specifically and we’re trusting God to work. We don’t think we’re better than anyone else. We don’t think our city is going to hell in a hand basket. We just know our own need for prayer and we know our God is faithful to help us. So who are we to withhold that kind of goodness from others. May He bless our little town that we are growing to love more and more.

Father, you know what our city needs more than we do. Would you open our eyes to know how to pray, how to love and how to serve our city. Be the God of our city. Let us be your hands and feet. Let us serve you well and love others the way you do. We all stand in great need of you and you are exactly what we need. In your name, Amen.

 

She made her own War Room

When you’re a pastor’s family your kids get dragged  come along to places they might not normally go otherwise. PK’s get a bad rap for always getting in trouble and sometimes it might have to do with the fact that they’re having to sit for hours on end making the need to roll under every last pew a reality. Building a hymnal tower makes the time go by fast for a four year old during women’s ministry meetings. You have to get creative people – don’t judge.

So when our church took a group down to see the movie “War Room” on opening night I wasn’t sure our 8 year old would be hip on it let alone our 14 year old son. But nonetheless we were dragging bringing them along. We got to the theatre and bought a HUGE bucket of popcorn and a coke – a peace offering perhaps?

The movie theatre was packed. It was SO awesome to see so many other believers attending this movie together. And the movie……oh my word ya’ll….the movie was so awesome. It had the perfect blend of funny, serious, down to earth, profound conversations and the characters were great. Sometimes Christian movies can be filled with the cheese factor. Nope, not this one. Not at all. Excellent acting throughout the entire movie and such a powerful message. It’s a must see movie for every human on this earth.

And our kids LOVED the movie. Mitchell came home quoting the old lady and still imitates her. We all loved her so much as I know you will to when you see it. Sophie liked it a lot too but I didn’t realize how much this movie impacted her until I saw this:

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In the movie “War Room” the lady had a closet in her house that was her “prayer closet”  or as she called it her “war room” where she posted prayers and scripture. It’s where she did battle through prayer.

Sophie asked if she could clear her closet and make one. I dragged my feet initially thinking it would be a passing phase. But a few days later she asked again. So we cleared her closet and put everything in another closet. Passing phase or not I decided it was worth it even if it lasts only  a week or two although I’m secretly praying she keeps it longer than that.

I know a lot of people are going to see War Room this weekend and I cannot wait for you to see it! It really is powerful.

Linking with KellyLaura, Jen and Mom2Mom