Desolate

Desolate w
Some “barren land” in Picacho, New Mexico.

We have been on the road for the last five days (Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Phoenix) and we have driven through quite a variety of terrain and weather conditions. Some of the places were quite sparse. As we drove quickly by, it didn’t look like there was too much life out there but a good naturalist will let you know that indeed there is, even if there doesn’t appear that way.

And I got to thinking, sometimes we look at someone’s life (maybe our own) and we think there isn’t anything of value there. From the outset there seems to be not too much life, but we never really know what is going on in the heart.

I am one that has a tendency towards “hope”. If I lose something, I am hopeful to find it and if I am surrounded by situations that aren’t great, I am looking for hope to hold onto. So even as I look at this picture and it’s lack of color and seeming lack of life, I know better. I know there are things going on “behind the scenes”.

I am thankful for all the times that God has worked on my heart even when I didn’t know or understand it. How He has given me life and purpose even if it appears there is little life on the surface.

There are seasons that look desolate, but God is always working, shaping, encouraging, and tending to my soul.

We may look at someone and decide they are flourishing the way God wants them to by all outward appearances, but we may be completely wrong. So let’s not make a judgement either way — truly, only God knows the heart.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:7b, NIV]

So don’t let appearing “all together” be your goal. Let God work on your heart and things will flow from there.

Heart work is hard work!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: IDENTITY

Time

I pass it, mark it, don’t take it, mind it, waste it, honor it, keep it, tell it, push it, ignore it, stretch it, squander it, and I savor it. Sometimes it passes slower than molasses and sometimes it flies!

But whatever I do, time is always on the move, whether or not I keep up with it.

It is a constant.

How we deal with it is up to us. Do we ever have enough? Do we use what time we have wisely?

I have been guilty of using my time to complain, argue, sulk, seethe, and criticize. But the older I get, I am more interested in using my time to encourage, explore, connect, listen, uplift, laugh, learn, and love until it is my time to die.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV]

God’s blessings as you consider your time!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: DESOLATE

Forgiveness

I opened my mouth the other day and something really ungracious came out. I realized it immediately and reminded myself, also out loud, that God’s grace for me has been unending. I, too, have behaved in ugly, hurtful ways and yet, He loves me. I need to extend that grace.

Sometimes my memory isn’t the greatest, but when I have been wronged, my memory is amazing. I can remember the circumstances, the emotions, the damage. It can put me on a sad path. Surely others I have known over my lifetime can remember my hurtful and selfish behavior that has impacted them. Maybe I am even someone they need to re-forgive on a regular basis.

In my ungracious moments, I need to remember that I took this situation to God and I gave it to Him. I asked him to help me see that person as broken, in need of forgiveness, and to help me not get stuck in a cycle of anger and resentment over the circumstances. I may have already walked through the process of forgiveness but some vestiges have hung on. I need to loosen the grip of my justification for my anger and forgive again.

The trouble is, these are some of the things I don’t seem to forget.  Remembering and walking through the steps of forgiveness and God’s provision in the process help me remember that I, too, have hurt others deeply and it keeps me honest about my own need for forgiveness. Every day I need to be reminded that I need of a Savior washed clean by Baptismal grace.

I am not proud of my ugly moments, but they serve a greater purpose. My mouth speaks what my heart is holding onto. And it is important for God’s Word to shine in my heart and change me, and my responses.

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. [Matthew 12:34b-35, NIV]

An interesting thought from author Seth Godin today:

You made my day

When your day gets made, how long does it last? A made day–is that different from a normal day?

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a made hour or, if we’re going to be quite truthful, a made minute.

When something bad happens, we can revisit the humiliation and anxiety for months. But the good stuff, if we don’t work at it, can pass right by.

We get what we remember, and we remember what we focus on.

May God bless you as you come to terms with your own sin and forgiveness as you process unforgiveness you may harbor against others!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: TIME

Shelter

Sometimes we hear the tornado warning sirens and we know it is time to take shelter and seek a safe place to be. But there are other times in life it might not be so obvious that we are in danger. Maybe we are too innocent to understand the situation. Maybe we are too deep in some mucky stuff. Or we don’t know where a safe place is. Maybe we stumble someplace for shelter and it is really just a place where the vulnerable are preyed upon. And there we are, again; it seems we are in a hopeless place.

_______________________________________________________________

Good shelter, even if it is temporary, can give someone hope. In my mind, shelter isn’t just a physical structure, it is also a mental or spiritual place that provides respite, encouragement, or some level of peace and calm so the heart and mind can think and make a plan. It may provide food as well as food for thought.

A place to be heard.

A place to be cared for.

A place to be renewed and strengthened for the days ahead.

Where do you seek your shelter from these busy days? Do you have a place you like to dwell when you need a break from this complicated life?

For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock. [Psalm 27:5, NIV]

May God enlarge your view of shelter!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: FORGIVENESS

Generations

A new baby means a new generation: and an opportunity to intentionally pass along those things that are important. Some of those things you may have had in your family of origin. But parenting a new generation also means you have a chance to try parenting the way you wish you were parented. It isn’t always easy being parents and deciding what is important to pass along to the next generation. It is worthy of thought and conversation. When two people come together to have a child, they each come with a set of experiences that they would love to share as well as others they do not want repeated, ever.

God works with the long term in mind. “His faithfulness continues through all generations,” Psalm 100:5. I am so thankful for that truth. He always sees the bigger picture. He hears the prayers of His people.

Since the beginning of time parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents have prayed over future generations. I don’t know the prayer life of my grandparents of great-grandparents but I know they were people of faith. They knew God. And here I am. My life has had interesting paths and it feels like I have always known of and been confident in God’s love for me. And that love reached through to me in even my most unlovable moments.

I love praying for others. I have always prayed for my siblings, friends, children and their friends. But I don’t think I have thought too much about praying for the generations beyond them. I think I was too distracted by the immediate to think that far forward. But, here I am, awaiting a couple of precious grand babies to be born and my husband and I have been praying for them and their parents. The next generation is in the works. We are counting on God’s faithfulness!

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

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. [Psalm 100:1-5, NIV]

 

May God give you His insight into generations!

Liz

 

PrayerPrompt: SHELTER

Treasures

Stuff. Stuff. And more stuff!

Do you have stuff, too?

Some of it I don’t treasure but I do lug it around. I took it to Indiana from Nebraska. Then we moved to New York and I took it there too. And then we moved back to Indiana. Guess what? We brought it along. But I need to purge and donate some of these things I have been lugging around. I am tired of looking at it.

But it takes some time and some thought.

I tend to mull things around. And when I see these things I think, “This has potential!” I don’t feel like I am a collector of stuff but I have it all the same. Managing all this stuff takes away from more important things. It can also bog down my heart and mind. Sometimes I worry about the stuff being stolen. Or I think about what happens if there is a tornado or a flood. Then what about this stuff? Is all of it necessary? Some of this stuff is heavy —

And it isn’t just physical stuff, either!

I try not to lug around unhealthy, ugly thoughts but some do follow me from place to place. Even if I know things have been forgiven and resolved the emotions attached to the situations seem to come alive again and again. It’s like Groundhog Day! And those things I “put on a shelf until later” are always there waiting for me to review. Do I treasure my right to be angry? Do I treasure being at odds with some people? Do I harbor unforgiveness towards others who have wronged me? What emotional and spiritual stuff am I carrying around that I need to take some time and thought and process?

We do have to live this life so some of our energy needs to go to working our jobs, whatever those may be. But discovering what I do treasure and working on lining that up with what God treasures is worth doing daily. Each day is an opportunity to revisit God’s Word and His blessings and understand more about what He treasures.

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. [Matthew 6:20-22, NIV]

May God bless you as you ponder what you treasure!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: GENERATIONS

Disappointment

There are many things to be disappointed about in this life. We are set up to strive for “more” with all of the promotions and ads and marketing that bombards us every day. We often chase after things, people, positions, experiences, or degrees hoping they will bring us happiness and are surprised when, after we achieve it we are still feeling disappointment.

Or maybe we have experienced disease, death of loved ones, and other things that occurred through no fault of our own and now we are left to deal with daily reminders of that loss. Life can be so hard.

What is our response when things don’t turn out according to plan? Where do we turn? Who can understand? How can our heart and mind accept the situation and move forward?

It is important to allow ourselves time to adjust to the new circumstances, of course. And that time of grieving and the process of grieving looks different with every person. Talking to a friend or counselor or pastor can be helpful. I also like to pour out my heart to God and ask for His peace and patience while I navigate through the “new path” that He is allowing me to travel. It may not be what I would have chosen but it can have beauty and peace all the same.

Sometimes I need to adjust the way I view my circumstances.

Instead of asking “What is going on here?” or “What am I doing here?” I can ask,

“God, what are You doing here?”

“God, open my eyes to see what You want me to do or see here.”

I don’t want to suffer or endure difficulties but those things can strengthen me if I am looking to Jesus for His strength and perspective. That strength not only allows me to endure future disappointments (because they will continue coming) but to be a source of encouragement to others. There are others who are also suffering and enduring difficulties and, sometimes, the only way for me to see those needs and share the Love and Mercy of God is to be in those hard places. I don’t love to be in “hard places” but I know God is there.

And He wants to be my Rock.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. {Romans 5:1-5, RSV]

May God bless you as you work through your disappointments!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: TREASURES