Monday, January 25, 2016

What Pastor Saeed's Release Taught Me About Prayer & Interview Link



Hi friends,

Today's blog post will be a little different from my usual weekly installment.  I guess you could say this is a special "Tuesday Thoughts" edition on a Monday where I will be sharing a lesson learned and a very special link.

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In a recent blog post, I shared about prayer renewal in my own life born out of the recognition that I was not fully living for Christ in this most important spiritual discipline.  I was allowing activities of my day to take precedent over prayer, even those for the Kingdom, yet missing out on the power that fuels Kingdom work.

The Lord prompted me to focus on the word "PRAY" for 2016.  So on January 1, 2016, I set out to make prayer a priority.  And not just for the sake of praying, but intentional, unrushed, sincere prayers to my God and Father.  Prayers for my spiritual walk, my family, our nation, and most especially prayers for those people and situations outside of my immediate circles.

And then the answers started coming...  Prayers that were answered with such specificity.  I felt like Sarah, laughing out loud, as I watched God rewarding my obedience.  After having come out of a dry season of prayer, the Lord was spurring my faith on through these great and wonderful answers to prayer.

As I shared before, I was not very consistent about praying for situations or people outside of my sphere of family and friends.  So many times, I would see on my Facebook newsfeed calls to pray for Pastor Saeed, who had been imprisoned for his Christian faith since 2012; many times enduring harsh conditions, his health suffering terribly.  I would scroll by quickly, thinking how terrible his story was, but I confess and am ashamed to admit, I don't think I ever once stopped to pray for him...

In recent months, I personally hadn't heard or read anything about Pastor Saeed.  Yet, while reading in Exodus about the harsh treatment of the Israelites during their enslavement by Pharaoh, I was prompted to pray earnestly for Pastor Saeed's freedom.   This being the first time I had ever prayed for him...

You can imagine my amazement, when just a few days after praying for Pastor Saeed and his freedom, I heard the news that he had been released and was coming home!

But my feelings about this answered prayer were conflicted...

Of course, I was overjoyed for Pastor Saeed and his family; the nightmare of the past three years finally over.  The Lord showed me His power in prayer, even for someone in such dire, seemingly hopeless circumstances, clear across the world,  now set free!

Yet I was also overcome with deep conviction...  All those lost opportunities that I scrolled past to pray for him, but never did...  What if I had been obedient, and prayed right then and there upon seeing the story many months ago?  What if I had consistently lifted he and his family up to the Lord when I would see updates about him?  Would those prayers have changed the course of his freedom sooner than later?...

I don't mean to imply that because I prayed two weeks ago that I was responsible for Pastor Saeed's release from imprisonment.   I know faithful prayer warriors have been pleading for years before the Throne of Grace for Pastor Saeed's freedom, and at the Heavenly Father's appointed time, he was freed for God's Great Glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.

O, there is great "power in the name of Jesus to break every chain".

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened.
Acts 16:25-26

Pastor Saeed's freedom has taught me not to scroll past opportunities to pray, but to pray right in the moment; to pray for the lost with urgency; to pray for the oppressed with compassion; to pray for the sick or lonely with tenderness, to pray for the needs of others with the love of Christ, and most especially to pray without ceasing.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, 
and thanksgivings be made for all people
1 Timothy 2:1

But what Pastor Saeed's release most especially taught me is that EVERY person's prayers are integral to God's big picture.

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

You never know, God may be waiting for YOUR prayer to usher in His power to do great and mighty things!

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:31


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One of the biggest blessings I have received in this past year of blogging was meeting Cheryl Smith from Homespun Devotions.  She is one of the sweetest, kindest Christ-followers I know.  Her love for the Lord Jesus and passion for His people exude from every word that she writes.  Her blog posts are incredibly edifying and encouraging.  You will be abundantly blessed by every post that she writes.

Recently, she began a blog series called Inner Views where she shares about the lives of believers in Christ - believers she has met along the way. Cheryl's thoughtfully chosen questions have Jesus at their center, whose purpose is to bring Glory to God.

I was incredibly humbled and honored when Cheryl asked to do an interview of me.  As I began answering her questions, I was actually learning new things about myself and God's work in my life, then I had ever realized before.

I am so grateful to Cheryl for the blessing of participating in her "Inner View" series.   If you would like to read more about how God has worked in my life from childhood to the present, you can read Cheryl's interview here.  

All Glory and Honor to my Lord and Savior.



You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eInspire Me Monday Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryFaith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on Wednesday,Dance with Jesus, Reflect His Love and Glory  Words of Comfort Link-upWholehearted WednesdaysTell it to Me TuesdayFaithful at Home Fridays, Faith 'N FriendsTGI SaturdaysSitting Among Friends Encourage Me Monday Words with Winter Essential FridaysSo Much at Home Family, Friendship & Faith

Monday, January 18, 2016

Do you long to have a gentle spirit?



I've always admired people who are gentle in their speech, manner and actions.  Sweet, soft voices that seem to woo hearers into a peaceful state...  Attitudes which see good in every person and situation... Calmness when circumstances warrant otherwise...

I've been blessed with two people like that in my life - my grandma and a dear sister-in-Christ, Raquel.

My grandmother left such a beautiful legacy.  I never once heard her saying anything bad about anyone.  She never complained.  In fact, when you asked her how she was doing, she would always say, "Oh, I can't complain."  Grandma was always happy.  I can still hear her sweet voice in my "minds-ear" saying, "Hi Dear" as I walked in the door...  A sweet, gentle spirit...

My friend Raquel taught me much about being a gentle parent.  Her children were already well-behaved, but if a situation arose where she needed to intervene, Raquel never raised her sweet sounding voice, but would stay calm as she spoke; her gentleness diffusing the situation, bringing calmness to her children.

I wish I could say both of these gentle spirits shaped me into a gentle phenom, but sadly this is not the case.   I don't have a sweet, gentle voice.  In fact, it seems physically impossible for me to lower my voice to a whisper.  lol.  I can be assertive in certain situations, and I tend to complain and be critical.  Nothing gentle about any of these things...


Today, I share about the fruit of the Spirit, gentleness, how Jesus is our perfect example for leading a gentle life, and ways that we can practically emulate the gentleness of Jesus.

If your fruit basket is low on gentleness, and you long to have a gentle spirit, I encourage you to hop on over to Sweet For Your Soul where I am a guest today.

I look forward to seeing you over there.  :-)



You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eInspire Me Monday Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryFaith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on Wednesday,Dance with Jesus, Reflect His Love and Glory  Words of Comfort Link-upWholehearted WednesdaysTell it to Me TuesdayFaithful at Home Fridays, Faith 'N FriendsTGI SaturdaysSitting Among Friends Encourage Me Monday Words with Winter Essential FridaysSo Much at Home

Monday, January 11, 2016

PRAY



I'll be honest, I was never one for setting New Year's Resolutions.  I might have made an attempt when I was younger, but would usually fail within the first week or two...  I'm sure there are many who successfully set reasonable, achievable goals at the beginning of the new year, keeping them throughout the year, growing as individuals.  I admire that kind of focus and determination.

I believe those who are successful at achieving their goals have a true passion for what they are seeking to accomplish; something they truly want deep down to their core...


As Believers, we have Spirit-given, God-glorifying goals written on our hearts; goals that were prepared in advance for us to accomplish...

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
 goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
Galations 5:22-23

This side of Heaven, we will continually battle sin, temptation and SELF, which certainly can make it hard to walk in obedience.  Our fruit basket falling short...

Those God-given goals are surely the desire of our hearts to live out, yet we can miss the mark almost on a daily basis, as we succumb to SELF.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what
 I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 
Romans 7:14-15

As I ponder these things, I think of the many blog posts I have read where fellow bloggers have chosen their "word for the year".  I had never heard of this before until I began blogging.  

I find this approach appealing as it seeks the Holy Spirit for this very word to focus on throughout the year; a word that ultimately cultivates an area of our spiritual walk; bringing into daily practice one, a few or even all of those God-glorifying goals written on our hearts.

So I set out to pray, asking the Lord what word I should focus on this year.  (In the back of my mind, before I even prayed about it, I was thinking the word was going to be "obey".)  But I still wanted to pray about it to be sure...

The next morning I received an email from a dear sister-in-the-Lord which contained a devotional about prayer.  Later that day, my Iphone alerted me that Beth Moore was on Periscope.  I was so excited to watch Beth Moore on Periscope, live and in the moment! Beth's subject for that session - prayer.

It was then that I knew that between my sweet friend's email to me earlier in the day and Beth Moore's Periscope session, that the Lord had answered my prayer and provided my word for 2016 - PRAY.

"Prayer is the exercise of drawing on the grace of God."

- Oswald Chambers

The action of prayer fills us with the grace of God which moves in us to accomplish the goals He has already written on our hearts...

My prayer life had been sorely lacking in the last year or so... resulting in a spiritual life that was not fully operating through the grace of God, but was sputtering...

I was faithfully in the Word and would indeed pray for guidance and insight as I composed my blog posts, but that is where my prayer life ended.  Yes, I would grab moments here and there to pray, but they were rushed and I confess, not as heart-felt as they should have been...  I was not dedicating time for prayer; only Bible reading...

The thing is, we can spend time in the Word, but without prayer, it's like having a car without any gas in the tank.  Without gas in the tank, the car sputters and then dies; it can't be driven.  Without prayer to fill us with the grace of God, we can't move forward in the knowledge we have gained through His Word to walk in obedience; our spiritual lives become stagnant.



During my Christian life, I have indeed had rich seasons of prayer.  One of my first approaches was to have a topic of prayer for each day of the week, ie. Monday - family, Tuesday - Missions, Wednesday - Church, etc., etc.  In another season of prayer, I created Scripture prayers for my family members and myself.  This was a wonderful season, life having slowed down considerably, hours devoted to prayer.

And then there were seasons when dedicated, consistent prayer were virtually non-existent...

Having recently come out of such a season, the Lord has shown me great mercy,  not only did He answer my prayer for a word for 2016, He used Beth Moore's Periscope session to provide valuable tools to revive my prayer life.

I was certainly weak in the discipline of prayer,  and when I did pray, I rarely prayed for my own spiritual walk, for help to obey, nor did I consistently pray for needs that fell outside of my own family...  My prayer life needed a serious overhaul.  The wisdom of Beth Moore  just so happened to address all of these areas.

God is so good!  He knows exactly what we need to accomplish all that He calls us to do!

So, starting on January 1st, I began to make prayer a priority, once again.

Rather than go through step by step what Beth Moore shared, I will tell you about how it looks in my life and the benefits I am already reaping, in the hopes that it might help any of you who are struggling to make time for prayer or to even pray.

I have tried all different times of prayer, morning, afternoon, before bed; all of them worked for that season, but I have found, now that I have returned to morning prayer, that when I pray and do Bible time before I get out of bed in the morning, that is the absolute best time for me,  setting my day off filled with God's grace through prayer and His Word moving me to walk in obedience throughout the day.

So, every morning I begin with confession and move on to thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.

I then set out to read through a chapter of the Bible, in the sequence I am currently reading in, first asking the Holy Spirit to help me pray through the chapter.  I begin to read the verses, and as the Holy Spirit leads, I write out in a prayer journal prayers prompted by God's Word.  The amazing thing is I have found that those prompted prayers, have led me to pray for my own spiritual walk, and not only the needs of my family, but I am finding myself praying for issues outside of my own personal sphere, for those suffering with addiction, abuse, to world issues, missions, the church, the spread of the Gospel, etc., etc.!  The two areas of prayer I was the most weak in, I am now finding so much to pray about in tandem with reading God's Word!

I want to stop here to speak a bit more about prayer journaling.

I have tried to journal my prayers in the past, but it never lasted more than a week.  Added to my lack of dedication, I was concerned about having very personal prayer requests written down for confidentiality reasons of those who I was praying for and even for my own privacy.  But when Beth shared about how she journaled her prayers prompted by Bible reading, I LOVED that idea!  And it has already proven to be so edifying and helpful!  I have actually stopped using a devotional to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me personally through chapter and verse.  That is not to say I will never use a devotional again or that there is anything wrong with using devotionals.  Other writers insights to chapters of the Bible are incredibly edifying and helpful to spiritual development.  This is more to allow myself to hear from God as I start out praying through chapters of the Bible.

I also want to stop and speak about how this approach has changed how I assimilate knowledge from the Bible.

Journaling prayers prompted by chapter and verse has enriched my Bible reading time incredibly!  I am gaining so much more insight into what I have read than I feel I ever did before! As I go about my day, these insights directly help me in areas of obedience that I need to work on.  I am more intentional about serving God rather than self .

After writing prayers in my prayer journal, I lift up those requests that are very personal to me.   I will walk around the house and stop at different rooms to pray specific requests for the ones who reside in those rooms.   For those prayers that I am most passionate about, my walking pace seems to increase, showing the fervency of the prayer.  These approaches have really helped me to focus.

I can't even express adequately how much my prayer life and spiritual walk have changed for the better in just the ten days I have been practicing this manner of praying.   I find myself looking forward, with anticipation, to my time in prayer with the Lord every morning!  The Lord is blessing me with grace upon grace through prayer.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may 
receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and 
unsearchable things you do not know.’
Jeremiah 33:3


I am so thankful that my first year of choosing a word happened to be PRAY.  (But as you all have now seen, for me it was a most necessary word at this point in time.)  For from prayer, the fruits of the spirit grow, obedience flourishes, and God is glorified.

I am hopeful that 2016's word will create a lifelong habit of focused, consistent prayer.

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You might be wondering how long it takes for me to pray using the approach I described.  It seems to consistently be a half hour.  But that half hour is full of quality, focused prayer.  (In the past, I would set out to pray, but then have an "ooo shiny" moment and get easily distracted so that my prayers ended up being a lot of words, taking a lot of time, but lacking sincerity.)  

I know that many of you are in a season where it is hard to find even a half hour to pray, but be encouraged that any prayer, that is lifted up in all earnestness, no matter how little time it takes, is received as a sweet smelling aroma to our God.

The Lord meets us where we are at
"You may pray for an hour and still not pray.
You may meet God for a moment and then
be in touch with Him all day."

- Fredrik Wisloff

May we all devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2 

I'd love to hear what type of prayer approach works for you!


You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eInspire Me Monday Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryFaith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on Wednesday,Dance with Jesus, Reflect His Love and Glory  Words of Comfort Link-upWholehearted WednesdaysTell it to Me TuesdayFaithful at Home Fridays, Faith 'N FriendsTGI SaturdaysSitting Among Friends Encourage Me Monday Words with Winter Essential Fridays

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Year - A Renewed Walk with the Lord


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I hope you all had a very blessed and meaningful Advent and that your Christmas was filled with His presence.

I so enjoyed my respite from blogging during the last few weeks of Advent.  Did I just say that?? 

I confess, as the year was drawing to a close, I was beginning to feel the weight of blogging.  The tasks related to it were overtaking my time with family as I tried to keep up with the pace I had set...  Worst still, my blogging schedule, along with all my other responsibilities related to home and a part-time job, were keeping me from the most important aspect of my spiritual walk - PRAYER.

Those three weeks refreshed my spirit, calling me to be still in the presence of the Lord - allowing me to hear Him speaking with more clarity.   Oh what enjoyment I found!

It seemed in the few weeks I was not blogging, the Lord provided me with many topics to blog about in the coming new year!  All inspired by John Piper's Advent Devotional, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, and the First 5 App devotional which is currently going through the book of Matthew.   

Last year, which was my first year of blogging, was a different story as I literally went week to week depending on the Lord for a topic to blog about - many times at the 11th hour!

I believe the Lord veiled His blog topics from me until the last minute so that I would solely depend on Him and Him alone for the words I would write from week to week.  I must say, it strengthened my Faith incredibly to see how a blog post would suddenly come about, knowing that the Lord was providing the topic and helping me to write the words - keeping me humble through the process...

And now, here I am, about to celebrate my very first blogging anniversary, yet having found incredible blessing in my time away from blogging these last few weeks, leaving me all the more refreshed, enriched and prepared for the coming year to write for His glory.

I am very excited to share with you in the weeks and months ahead all that the Lord has shown me in these last few weeks.

I am also excited to share with you two opportunities that were presented to me which will be posted soon.

I was humbled by the request of a dear sister blogger to write a guest blog post on one of the fruits of the spirit, gentleness.  In the months leading up to the writing of that post, the Lord has been so faithful to show me so much about gentleness which I can't wait to share!  I will be sure to let you know when the guest post goes live.  :-)

Additionally, I was humbled by the request of another dear sister blogger to participate in an interview series she is currently doing on her blog.   The interview questions were incredibly God-centered - intended to bring Him all the Glory.   As I answered the questions, I was reminded of all that the Lord has done and is doing in my life.   It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this sweet sister's interview series.  I will be sure to share links when the interview is published.  :-)


My time away from blogging has also caused me to reassess myself, my spiritual walk and my blog...  
It became evident that changes needed to be made on all counts...

In future blog posts, I will be sharing what the Lord has taught me recently about myself and my spiritual walk that I hope will be an encouragement and blessing to you as well.

But for now, I wanted to tell you about changes I will be making to the blog.

First of all, I want to thank you all for the warm and gracious welcome you gave me to the blogging community.  Your encouragement and words of affirmation over this last year have blessed me more than you know.  They have caused me to want to be accountable to you and give 110% in every blog post I write.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works...
Hebrews 10:24

Late this summer, I began a weekly, daily features series that you all encouraged me in so much, and for which I am so grateful.  However, I feel it is time to return to the original format of the blog by providing once a week content which I hope will continue to help us all grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

I certainly enjoyed journaling my thoughts and blessings.  They drew me so much closer to the evidences of God working in  my life.  And I found the stories behind the hymns so interesting and an encouragement to my own walk of faith.  Delving into specific Scripture verses was also very edifying.  

All of it good, but...   

It began to consume more of my time where I was spending less time in the ministry of my home and personally in prayer, and too much time on the blog.  It became very evident that I needed to cut back.

For my own personal circumstances, I think I like the idea of my blog being more of a living blog whose content is not constrained by set, scheduled features.  I know there are bloggers that do a specific, scheduled feature approach wonderfully, and I look forward to reading and enjoy them very much. But for me, and my quirky personality trait of becoming hyperfocused in my own writing of weekly, daily features, it became more forced and less authentic.

Having said all of this, that is not to say that in the future I won't publish a random additional "blessings post" or "thoughts post" or write about a hymn that touched me in a special way.  It is just that these posts will come as the Lord leads, not on a set schedule.

I hope it doesn't sound like I've been rambling here.  I consider you all my friends and wanted to let you in on how the Lord has been working on me during these last few weeks.  I consider it a high calling to blog for the purpose of sharing His Word, and want to ensure that I am representing my Lord and Savior in a manner that brings Him all the Glory and Honor which requires that my life outside of blogging is preserved for Him first.

I praise and thank God for all that I have learned in this last year through blogging, the friendships I have been blessed with and the faith that was strengthened in my utter dependence on Him through writing.

I look forward to a brand new year and all the promise it holds in Him!


You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me Monday Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryFaith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on Wednesday,Dance with Jesus, Reflect His Love and Glory Friend Sharpens Friend Link-UpWords of Comfort Link-upWholehearted WednesdaysTell it to Me TuesdayFaithful at Home Fridays, Faith 'N FriendsTGI SaturdaysSitting Among Friends