Desolate

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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

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

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

Serving Others

When I am asked to serve someone I care deeply for, it is a joy. When I am asked to serve a stranger, I might also do it with joy. But, as human nature would have it, if I am asked to serve someone I know and I do not like, I need to ask God to change my heart and perspective and focus on Who I am doing it for. When my heart and mind are right with God, the “serve” is all from Him, regardless of the situation.

If I find myself stuck and unable to freely give, it is important to pray and ask God to reveal what is behind it. I know I won’t do everything perfectly. Sometimes situations are in my life for my benefit. Serving others could be simply a byproduct of God working on my heart and perspective. Someone may receive from me but the greater outcome is what God is doing with my heart.

I don’t believe I am meant to fulfill every need that is out there. But creating space in my day can allow me to be available to serve when the opportunity presents itself. The task might be a meal delivered to a grieving family or participating in a Habitat for Humanity home build. Sometimes the opportunity for serving is in my zone of “easy” and other times it takes more time, effort, and money. There is no one way serving looks except that it comes from a heart that overflows.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  [Colossians 3:23-24 NIV]

Blessings to you as you ponder your capacity for serving others!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: DISAPPOINTMENT

2019 PrayerPoints for Lent

 

Florida Beach wHello! Hello! and Welcome!

It’s time for PrayerPoints again!

One thing I have discovered about myself is that I like to employ a variety of perspectives when I am in a learning mode. It helps me round out my view and see things from different angles. I also need to focus intently if I am going to move forward. Otherwise, I get distracted.

In 2019, PrayerPoints will take a little different approach compared to other years. It might not be your thing, and that’s ok. I won’t be offended if you choose to find another way to prepare during this Lenten season.

This year, my encouragement to you will be to reflect and journal your thoughts as you contemplate the verse and writing prompt provided each day. If you don’t like to write, you can choose to video or audio record your thoughts. You can also simply pray all around the topics with no “record” of your thoughts. Feel free to adapt it to your needs. But don’t be afraid to try something new. It is important to not get so caught up in perfecting the process that you miss the chance to step away from your regular routine, create some space,  and do some honest reflection during this Lenten season. Writing things down helps me gather my thoughts and it might be a useful tool for you as well.

Each day, starting today, I will provide you with a prompt that will serve as your PrayerPoint for the day. I will write my responsive prayer/thoughts and you will write (or otherwise consider) yours. On the following day, I will share what I have pondered/prayed for that prompt and I will also assign the next prompt. If you want to email me your response, I would be privileged to read it. But if you want to keep it between you and God, that is completely fine. There is no requirement to share, but the option is available. Some people, like me, benefit from outside accountability.

Where you have been in life will absolutely inform and impact how you see and hear Scripture and each experience you go through. If you have been an underdog, you will likely have a huge heart for a fellow underdog. If you have watched addictive behaviors in your home, you may (or may not) have compassion for others who struggle with addiction. Allowing God’s Word to cast light on how and what we process as we go through life is a way to grow in our understanding of our experiences, particularly in the light of God’s Word. We each come with our own prayer perspective. I encourage you to allow God to shape and mold your prayer perspective because it will help you make sense of your trials and tribulations. Remember, your words can comfort, love, and support others as they journey alongside you through this life.

So much of what we walk through in this physical life has a spiritual correlation. You might be able to make that connection with these PrayerPoint prompts. If you are in the midst of processing the physical realm of these things, the spiritual connection may not be apparent and that is okay. The connection may come later.

This time during Lent is for contemplation and reflection and might include things like:

  • Where am I in my relationship with God?
  • Am I stuck somewhere on the road toward healing?
  • Am I in a place of repentance?
  • Am I struggling with pride?
  • What has God done for me through Jesus?
  • How does Jesus’ death and resurrection impact my daily life?

PrayerPrompt: INHERITANCE

May God bless you as you discover more about His love and provision for you in the weeks to come.

Liz

 

Regrets, I’ve had a few….

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A chruch in Kecskemét, Hungary

Sometimes we get the opportunity to redo something we haven’t done well but more often than not we are left with an experience that helps make a better decision in the future.

There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from experience if we pay attention. I have some regrets, of course. I think if we are honest, we all do. Some of my regrets relate to missed opportunities, relational foibles (relationships are my Achilles’ heel), things I have done, and things I wish I wouldn’t have done. And there are some things that I wouldn’t change because, while they may not have been fun to go through, they helped shape and mold me into the person I am.

As I learn and grow, I also change. And so I might look back and think “Oi! I wish I wouldn’t have done that!” It also developed something in my person or strengthened my relationship with God or brought something (or someone) else into my life that I really treasure. Things are so crazily interconnected that it isn’t always to isolate a decision or a path and wish to eliminate the difficulties it brought and not also see how the experience could be a blessing to someone else in some way.

God can do that – take a bad move and make something good come out of it.

Have you ever thought about forgiving yourself? Have you walked the process of giving all of your past, all of your present, and all of your future to God and asking Him to use it all?

  • the stupid stuff
  • the evil stuff
  • the selfish stuff
  • the reckless stuff
  • the “I was clueless” stuff
  • the “I can’t believe I did that” stuff
  • the “I sure caused a lot of pain to the people I love with that activity” stuff
  • the “I blew it” stuff
  • the “I can’t believe I didn’t notice that” stuff

On the way,

Liz

Dwelling Places

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Another incredible view in Transylvania

Why am I here? …And why are you there?

Yea, yea, yea….some of it may have to do with the choices we made and all that, but sometimes we have done some of the exact same things and yet one of us is living out some challenging consequences and the other is not.

Sometimes where we are has nothing to do with our own choices. In fact, many times it has nothing to do with what we have done. We might experience the benefit or the consequence of someone else’s doing.

We didn’t choose the family or circumstances we were born into nor did we choose our ethnicity or our race. We had no choice about whether we were born into poverty or crazy wealth or a barely functioning family. We didn’t even choose the country we were born in.

And yet all these factors play into our early years, which, in turn, can create a path for our lives.

Life is hard and it definitely isn’t fair.

Some “advantages” aren’t actually advantages but it takes some time to sort that out. And sometimes what we think we see isn’t accurate at all… our own perspectives are often skewed.

Good deeds go unrecognized. Bad behavior appears to be rewarded. Illness doesn’t care if you have the sweetest heart or the most meager of bank accounts or even if you live in a remote village, away from any modern medical services.

I can’t dwell there.

Loss and death and disease are universal and trusting in God’s provision and comfort is the only way I survive. Sharing God’s love and compassion in practical ways is one of the ways I cope and move forward in a positive direction. If I think too much about the injustices of life on Earth without a plan to give and serve, I dwell. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by your situation, I have included some Bible verses that are good to memorize. If you are going to dwell anywhere, God’s Word is the place to do it:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

On the way,

Liz