Leveling the Playing Field

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Politics seems to pervade every segment of American life this election year. There are two very extreme philosophies coming from the two dominant political parties in America. The one party wants a government-mandated redistribution of wealth so that all live on the same playing field. The other party wants everyone to have a chance at doing the best they can for themselves so that the playing field is naturally leveled by their own efforts. Jesus would certainly agree with both parties that the poor need help. He was very clear about that. He cares deeply for the orphan, the widow, the misplaced and the oppressed. That is why He calls those of us who have more to take action and He modeled the action.

Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT) Though He was God, He did not think that equality with God was something to cling to. Instead He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

He came to earth in the womb of a vulnerable teenage girl who was suspected of betraying manger-crossher betrothed and was birthed in a stable because there were no rooms available for a human baby. It occurred to me that Jesus became poor to show us how to be poor. He showed us how much it may cost to accomplish His will on the earth. He experienced everything a poor person in society experiences and He did not let it stop Him. He did what God asked Him to do even when it became increasingly unpopular, even when it caused His death.

God’s word is clear that the way up is down, that we stand best when we are on our knees, that in humility we are a formidable presence. He modeled that. What does that mean for a Christian on the eve of a very serious presidential election? Seriously, let’s seek Him and do what He calls us to do.

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Dawn

 

 

 

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Prayer Magic?

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Magic, the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, is the first definition given by http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/magic. When prayers are said, are we not speaking to a supernatural [and mysterious] being and are we not, many times, asking Him to influence the course of events? Is prayer, therefore, like magic?

IMG_1686I attend a Christian weight loss group every Friday wherein we do a Bible Study, pray, memorize a verse of Scripture, exercise, learn to eat proper portions in a healthy manner, and encourage and weigh-in to be accountable to one another. This week for Bible Study we are focusing on prayer. Yesterday I was struck by a Scripture that I thought I knew well and that comes from my favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8:IMG_1682 (NIV) 26″…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Many come to our group for a certain reason.

“I will do the Bible Study if I have to, but what I really want is to lose weight.”

“I will come, but only because it’s a Bible Study. I’m not really interested in the health stuff.”

“I really need to get out of the house and breathe a little. This looks like a good group for fellowship.”

So, while some are praying for weight loss, some for Bible knowledge, and still others for friendship, all are praying that God will work His magic and they will get what they came for. Those verses from Romans should draw the believer up short. They say that we don’t know what we really need. The Holy Spirit does. “He searches our hearts.” He, also, knows the mind of God for us and it is He who takes our questionable prayers and motivations and intercedes for us “in accordance with the will of God.”

I wonder just what my prayers sound like when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me. Do the requests He takes to God on my behalf resemble anything I originally said? Author and Bible teacher Jennifer Kennedy Dean says, only if the pray-er prays in the will of God:

The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purpose of God. The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine, to reflect God’s mind, not change it….[Of course] changing my prayer focus from my own satisfaction and happiness to God’s glory and eternal purposes would take a brand new heart.*

I John 5:14,15 “and this is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (KJV) No, it’s not magic. Answered prayer is the result of the heart of the believer. “If the believer delights in the Lord, He will give her the desires of her heart. If she commits her way unto the Lord and trusts in Him, He will bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:4,5

Thanking Jesus for a brand new heart,

Dawn

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*Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Live a Praying Life: Open Your Life to God’s Power and Provision (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2011), p. 30.

Yellow Tuesday Forces Me to Faith It

Everywhere the world seems to be crumbling. The foundation of morality and just plain common sense has been lost somewhere. Rational folks don’t know where to begin to recoup what seems to have vanished. When did any people group get the idea that children can be beheaded, women raped, and people abandon their faith or die? Insanity reigns. I felt like Jamie Jones and it paralyzed me. Being so American, I thought I must be doing something to stop the madness, but since I could not think of what in the world to do, I did nothing. I thought prayer would be good, but it seemed so Pollyanna-ish.

Enter Rachel Swenson and her Facebook event Yellow Tuesday – Pray for the Middle East. Here was a place for those of us who wanted to pray, but wanted to pray BIG (with others, many others). Rachel also gave me the privilege of inviting my friends so we could communicate with one another throughout the day. Moreover, people began to share their personal insights and gave links to bloggers who shared their thoughts. Not only did my prayer group become bigger, but my prayer became bigger. I began praying for all the players in the Middle East not just the Christians. All of a sudden ISIS was on my prayer list and the election in Iraq and a Jewish man in Bulgaria offering refuge to those fleeing Iran, Iraq and Syria.

I began prayer with my husband at breakfast. We sat down to our usual fare and were reminded that Christians fleeing Iraq were stuck in the mountains of northern Iraq surrounded by ISIS soldiers. They had nothing to eat, indeed, have had nothing to eat or drink for days. Food and water was being dropped by US military planes and humanitarian agencies were in the area. We prayed the people were getting what was being dropped and that humanitarian aid could reach them.

I had on a yellow tee shirt to remind me to pray. As news came in, I prayed. A video clip by a member of the Iraqi IMG_1513Parliament pleading for her people, the Yazidi, fueled my passion in prayer. I went into my basement to iron my blouses. As I ironed and prayed, I was struck that the blouse I was ironing was yellow. That blessed me. God was listening (of course He was, but I am still such a child so He gives me signs).

Next, my husband alerted me to news that Yank Barry, who used to sing with the 60’s band the Kingsmen, was using his money and influence to fund a safe haven and chance at a new life for refugees fleeing Iran and now Iraq and Syria. The name of his organization is Global Village Champions. I needed such good news of someone doing something to balance the horrors coming from the mountains of northern Iraq.

It is pouring down rain here, but it let up for a minute so I went out to walk my dog. He was jumping and skipping along. I was praying in the Spirit. As I was praising for the refreshing physical rain, I prayed for water for the Iraqi Christians. I was praying for rain in the desert. I wondered why I would have rain when those who needed it so desperately did not…so many questions. Then, I saw this:  IMG_1514Frankly, I don’t think I ever saw a yellow bike before. Thank you, Jesus!

I took off for lunch about 11:30 am. When we got to our little salad bar restaurant my husband remarked. “Wow, they changed their placemats!” Really? My husband doesn’t usually notice such things. Then I looked at them. You’re right, they were yellow! We went to the salad bar to make a salad and there was no lettuce, no tomato, no spring greens, etc etc. I would normally have been complaining, but those yellow placemats reminded that there were people on a mountain without any food or water. My husband and I prayed for those without and thanked the Lord for teaching us. When we returned home, we saw this Kurdish rescue

Ann Voskamp said it aptly for me:

I’m only afraid because I’m comfortable. It’s too easy to let the stuff make you comfortable, to use stuff as a shield to protect you against the headlines.

What if we are all only afraid because we’ve settled for being comfortable? What if we are all only afraid when where we’ve settled is not where the Comforter is — because where the Comforter meets you is precisely when you are outside of your comfort zone?

More than being afraid of a dangerous world, maybe we should be much more afraid of comfort zones….

When you’re tired enough of listening to all the talking heads, you can listen to the One who speaks to your soul. The One Who calls you to freedom of the expanse outside of comfort zones, to give yourself away and not be afraid. Life is too short to miss out on the harvest opportunity for which God has specifically blessed you for in the first place.

Prayerfully, so as not miss my God-ordained harvest opportunity,


Dawn

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The road to Montana

White Pine Church at the summitThe Preacher and I drove into the church parking lot as usual. It was a crisp, windy country Sunday morning and the sun was shining brightly. The license plate on a pick-up truck parked near the entrance read Montana. We had a visitor! Our parishioners are all Pennsylvania farming folk so a Montana license plate sticks out even though his pick-up truck fit right in. Beau worshiped with us and took communion. During announcements, the Preacher announced that Beau needed money to get to Montana and an offering plate would be placed in the back of the church if anyone wanted to give. I sit in the front of the church and after worship was over I was talking to the pianist. When I turned around to gather my belongings to leave the church building, I beheld a marvelous sight. There were two circles of prayer happening. One around a young woman in the congregation facing grave medical issues and one around Beau. I wish I had a picture of it to post here, but I can assure you I have it in my mind!

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I was hushed by the Spirit’s movement through His people into the lives of these two people in need. As the prayer circles dissipated, the Preacher and I walked by the offering plate by the door. It was overflowing with $10’s and $20’s, the practical gifts of a praying people to a man in need so far from home.

Stepping in the light,

Dawn

 

 

Gingerbread Man Message

gingerbreadToday’s Bible study with my ladies was truly amazing. I don’t know how to do it justice in a blog, but I will share a small story from the time I spent there this morning to give you an idea of how it went. We are a praying group and we have been seeing mighty answers to our prayers–mostly the answers involve changing us, the pray-ers, but that is blog for another day. Today I would like to share an answer God brought to Barb. It was such a Barb way of answering that it made me smile–BIG!

Barb was sharing high tea with her daughter, Samantha, in another ladies group. The 4th course was a tray of desserts prepared for each woman. Amongst the cookies, brownies and small candies a gingerbread man was placed. When Barb got her tray, the gingerbread man had a broken left leg. Barb has been praying for her husband’s brother for weeks. He had his left leg amputated and was on dialysis. Barb was praying for healing even though he was not doing well at all. Because of the gingerbread man’s broken left leg, Barb thought about Gerald and she said a prayer for him right then and there. After the tea was over Barb received a call from Gerald’s wife.

Barb, Barb, you will never believe this! This morning the dialysis team told us that Gerald will no longer require dialysis. It seems that his kidney function is returning to normal. It is amazing.

Barb told her it was a miracle and that God had told her in the middle of her high tea that something had happened to Gerald. She thought it strange that the servers would serve her a broken cookie at such a prestigious event, but she knows that, with God, there are no accidents. The server delivered the cookie with the broken left leg to the right person at the right time. It was a message from God to Barb delivered to her in the midst of her busyness, but she “got the message,” slowed and became a part of the miracle.

And so, My Friends, be on the alert. He is moving. He is speaking.

He is with us,

Dawn

Psalm 37 people

HealthyHolidayLivingI  am journaling in a book entitled Healthy Holiday Living. Today the lesson was on trust and commitment. I remember my Dad being very adamant about my keeping my word to other people no matter what. I can vividly remember cancelling a play date with a friend because one of the popular kids asked me to do something with her at the same time. My Dad overheard me cancelling with my ever-faithful everyday friend. When he realized what I was doing, he told me to call Miss Popular back and tell her I had a previous commitment and to keep the first commitment I had made. Isn’t it amazing that I remember that small clip of my life out of the thousands of hours of my childhood?! Perhaps my earthly Dad’s emphasis on building trust through commitment is why this day’s devotional captivated me.

The author of this day’s devotion, P. J. Bahr, asked the question “What are you asking God for that He hasn’t answered yet? She followed the question with the statement “Stop focusing on what you want and start asking God for what He wants.” Then she said “Record the changes in your attitude and your request.” With that pattern for reflection, I found verses rushing into my mind about how to get my prayers answered and they all dealt with praying God’s will. If I prayed what He wants, I’d get it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5

Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4

If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:14

That lead me to ask myself the question, “What does God want?” I found the answer in Psalm 37, where David’s psalm lists the attributes of God people. They

do not to fret

trust Him

delight in Him

commit their way to Him

rest in Him

wait patiently for Him

cease from anger

forsake wrath

depart from evil

do good

keep His way

have the upright as examples

If we put our trust in the Lord, He will help,  deliver and save us. (v. 40) We will have peace. (v. 37).  P. J. writes,

When you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers, or isn’t showing you any signs at all that He is even hearing you, don’t be anxious, but continue persevering in prayer. He may be working behind the scenes to answer your prayer above and beyond all that you could ever ask or imagine.

The emphasis should be on desiring Him not desiring what He can do.

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He is with us,

Dawn

Thanksgiving as discipline

I read Abandoned for Life on a regular basis. Today she wrote about how she had almost given up counting things to be thankful for because the Mondays just flew by and she found she could not post her list. As a single mother of 3, with a home to care for, part-time work as a nurse and a worship leader in her church, she just simply couldn’t get to it. Ah, how well I know that feeling. She simply stated that the discipline of gratefulness was good for her and then she poured out her list into her blog. Wow!

At breakfast this morning I read a prayer that included a time of thanksgiving; it included a list of one man’s thanks for the temporal blessings in this world. He listed things that aided his comfort. It made me think how how expansive my list really could become because all of these are also ones I could easily make mine:

#1217 the refreshing air

#1218 the light of the sun

#1219 the food that renews strength

#1220 the raiment that clothes

#1221 the dwelling that shelters

#1222 the sleep that gives rest

#1223 the starry canopy of the night

#1224 the summer breeze

#1225 the flowers’ sweetness

#1226 the music of flowing streams

#1227 the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends

Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort.

My cup runs over.

Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies.

Thy hand bestows blessings, Thy power averts evil.

From The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, p. 121

It may seem that borrowing my thanksgivings from a prayer written in a book is a sluggard’s way of blogging, but let me assure you each of the pray-er’s items is most assuredly my own.   Thank you, Andrea, for spurring me on.

God is with us,

Dawn

“Help me” prayers don’t help

IMG_0249I have been steeped this week in a study on wisdom, understanding and attitude. As I am on day 3 of the study I was stuck by the fact that, “Our decisions shape our lives.” I thought about how many major life intersections I have had to navigate and how when one direction was taken, of necessity, the others were shut down. Every decision forged without input from God lead me away from understanding His ways. Yes, I learned even when wrong choices were made, but I missed walking with Him and experiencing what would have happened had I done it His way.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all who follow his precepts have good understanding. Psalm 111:10

Gaining Godly wisdom is experiential. You learn it by doing it. If you aren’t doing it, you aren’t learning. So many wasted years… Andrea Dawn says that “Every happening great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us . . . and the art of life is to get the message.” In today’s vernacular when we understand something we say, “I get it.” God wants us to “get it,” but we won’t unless we situate ourselves to hear Him and learn from Him. Having a heart that is poised toward God is how we situate ourselves to learn from Him.

One of the fastest ways to learn from Him is to decide to walk with Him minute by minute. When I was a much younger woman I was privileged to be a part of a woman’s group lead by Erma Maust. She was a dear woman of the Word and in a retreat setting she shared with us a prayer tip that has helped me ever since she shared it. She said that every time she saw the words “help me” in a prayer, she would substitute the words “I choose”.  The word substitution necessitated that she be proactive; she found she had to get her heart in order to choose aright. Choosing was an action she had to do rather than waiting on God to “do something” for her.

She said, “Many times God could not do anything because I was not situated so that He could.”

She taught me that God was a gentleman and would not force me to do what I did not want to do. He gave me a free will and He hasn’t changed His mind about that privilege. So, rather crossroads-in-the-forest-tn-20624than say, “Help me study harder or help me love more or help me always seek You before I make decisions”, Erma taught me to pray, “I choose to study harder or I choose to love more or I choose to seek You before I make decisions.” Wow, when I began to pray like that, I discovered that it surely changed the dynamic. I found myself being a lot more thoughtful about what I prayed. If I was telling God I was choosing to do something, that was a whole lot more binding than asking Him to do something for me. Prayer became a starter switch rather than a suggestion box. Using an artist analogy, if I prayed that I had decided to paint a picture, I would begin to think about how to paint it and what supplies I would need to gather to do it. Once I did that, God would bring colors to mind and, perhaps, being someone alongside to teach me the needed brushstrokes. So many times I knew exactly what God wanted me to do, but I didn’t do it because it was difficult. I actually wanted Him to do it so I said, “help me.”. When He didn’t help me it was because I wasn’t doing anything he could help me with. Choosing what I know He wants me to do, He empowers each baby step I make, but I must make the step first. That first step is choosing. This has been revelatory.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 (KJV)

He is with us,

Dawn

Does the Holy Spirit trouble you?

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An Indian Benediction

Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God the Father be with you;

and may the Holy Spirit come upon you

and disturb you and trouble you,

and set before you an impossible task

and dare you to do it;

until in your desperation

you fall on your knees
and remain there until he fills you
with his power

which alone will enable you to do it;

and then…but only then,

may the Lord grant you his peace.

Amen

Alan Vincent, former missionary to India and a great Biblical expositor, once preached a sermon that changed my perspective of the Holy Spirit. He said the Holy Spirit as a Comforter is like a farmer with a pitchfork or a soldier with a bayonet. He said that, “Yes, the Holy Spirit will bring peace, but only once the job is done.” The word “comfort” comes from “com” that means “with” and “forte” which means strength/power. The Holy Spirit comes “with power”. Remember the book of Acts?! Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit — for He would bring them power. Good advice, after all, they were being sent to change the world.

He is with us, in power,

Dawn

The first sin of the day

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O Lord of Grace,

I have been hasty and short in private prayer.

O quicken my conscience to feel this folly

to bewail this ingratitude;

My first sin of the day leads into others.

and it is just that Thou shouldst withdraw Thy presence

from one who waited carelessly on Thee.

Keep me at all times from robbing Thee,

and from depriving my soul of Thy due worship;

~ The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett, p. 90

A prayerless start of the day is sin. This insight cut through me like a knife.

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

This poignant revelation sent me reeling. My heart is not in a good place when it does not check in with the Father before making any movements in my day. I must say morning comes IMG_4908too early for this woman who works 3 pm – 11 pm and has a 45 minute commute that lengthens her work day to 9 1/2 hours. The puppy begs for his morning walk about 7:30 am and most times I’m just getting my eyes open as I put his harness on to go out the door. I don’t groom myself. I am still asleep as I dress and somehow find shoes in the half dark morning. Once I have completed the half hour walk with Mickey, I am really awake and feeling good, but I haven’t prayed. My husband and I eat breakfast, read the Bible and then we read from the prayer book. This is ok, but I still haven’t worshiped or taken my personal issues to the throne of grace. Such intimacy in prayer is what I rob from God and of which I deprive my soul.

May I no longer ignore Him Who chooses to be with me,

Dawn