My New Job as a PHM: On quitting teaching, walking labyrinths, and foolishness (part 1)

A lot has changed in a matter of about a month.

I quit my job. That was probably the biggest thing.

No longer am I a CPS teacher on the Southside of Chicago. In fact, no longer am I a teacher at all, unless you count fitness classes, but I don’t. No longer am I getting a large paycheck every 2 weeks either… which is also quite an adjustment.

Can I be honest? Oh, you know I will be no matter what you say– I’ve been wanting to quit my job at CPS since about the second week of school this past year. Going there everyday for the rest of the school year was very hard for me. There were days when I could barely keep it together before the kids left, and sometimes when I had to physically leave my classroom to keep from breaking down in front of them all. The end of the weekend was hard, and so was the close of a long break. Getting out of bed was hard. Walking through those doors was hard.

But do you know what as harder?

Actually making up my mind to leave. 

That was way harder.

“I am not a quitter.”

— This is what I kept telling myself day after day. But inside my soul was crying out. Inside I knew that I could be so much more alive and so much more fulfilled in a different environment, doing a different kind of work– a different calling.

After wrestling with God about this for month after month, I finally felt it deep down in my bones: the only reason I would be staying is for the financial security; I was afraid to leave only because of the pay cut it would mean for me. Was that a reason to hang on to a draining job that was quickly squeezing the life out of my passion? Would staying be truly acting out of my identity in Christ?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” -Romans 8:15-16

My heart burned with the conviction that God would be with me, wherever I went and whatever I was doing. Being a CPS teacher was a calling— for a time— and leaving my job as a CPS teacher was also a calling–for this time. I couldn’t live as a true Child of God if I was acting out of fear– being a slave to it, and in doing so, a slave to my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned before about how God took my identity away from some things, and so doing, healed me of a 7-year-long battle with bulimia, and so I knew that if God wanted to take away my identity from the role as “Teacher”, then some serious healing or blessing would probably follow. See, whenever He takes our identity from something, he places it in Himself. This way, we are never defined by this world, but by He who overcame the world. This, in and of itself, is a blessing.

What could I do? God did not give me a spirit of fear! I informed my principal that I would resign from teaching at the end of the year. 

As more and more people “found out” about my departure from CPS, there were mixed opinions.

Some were proud of me, wishing they could do the same with their disliked job.  Some were confused– why would I quit a high-paying job that I was having such success in? Some were supportive, encouraging me to do what what was best for me and my family. Others were discouraging, implying that I was quitting and giving up too soon.

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t let any of their opinions effect me. But after some Spiritual Direction and time of solitude at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, I found myself ready to truly say “Goodbye” to my former job, be utterly grateful for every part of it– the good and the bad– and to fully embrace this new and refreshing season in my life.

At the Center, there is this blabyrintheautiful labyrinth that the hermits can walk while meditating or praying. There is only one way into the middle of it, but you must walk the entire interior of the maze. There are no dead ends and no ways to skip or even look ahead in anticipation. You simply have to follow the path, trusting that it will lead you to your destination.

This is how it is when you follow God. You cannot look ahead but a few steps. You cannot fear getting lost, because He is guiding you, and although you may stumble, you will not fall off the path (Psalm 37:24). This takes a lot of trust, and many people on the outside will probably just think you are taking the long way, going around in what appears to be meaningless circles and odd turns that make no sense. But…

“..the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” -1 Corinthians 1:25

What appears foolish to the world is often the wisdom of God. What appears like weakness to humans, often is taking the mighty strength of God. These facts have comforted me as I think about how my career change may be perceived by others.

All this to say that I now have a new profession.

I call it a “PHM”.

I’ll be explaining what that is in a later post, but rest assured that is it far more energizing, fulfilling, and live-giving than my previous job, and I am so grateful to God that this job is part of my journey on this labyrinth of life. Even if the rest of the world scoffs, I have the reward of my Savior shouting “Well done faithful servant!” in the far corners of my heart.

Stay tuned for more… I’ve got  to get back to work.

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A Week of Prayer and Fasting: Day 5- Prayer for the Engaged

The day Dennis proposed to me was probably the most romantic and surreal day in my entire life. I was over-the-moon-happy and wanted to keep pinching myself that this wonderful man would choose me above all other women. But the … Continue reading

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 4- Prayer for the Married yet Sperated

The phone rang in the middle of the night, and she* was going to just let it go to voice mail. Who calls this late anyway? And she glanced at the screen to see who dare make a phone call at 10:46pm on a Tuesday. With an intense urgency, she forgot all annoyance and picked up the phone. It was her best friend, who she knew was having some pretty serious marital issues, and who she had just offered to have call her anytime, no matter the hour, if she ever needed to talk. This must be important.

“Hey girl, I’m sorry to call so late. I just… I just need to tell you that I put him out tonight. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m tired of crying over someone who doesn’t want us to work. I can’t even look at him without getting so angry, and I can’t hear God’s voice anymore… maybe I’m wrong for it, but I told him to go away and come back in a few days….”

She stood, speechless with the phone in her hand. What do you say to that? What can you say to that? She began to feel her friend’s pain in a way that she never knew before. She felt just as angry with her friend’s husband and just as hopeless. How was God going to change this around? How was He going to work this to good? Her friend was one of the most passionate and positive people she knew, one of the most strong and patient and long-suffering women around, and she felt a deep anguish at the injustice of it all. Why was she being left alone to fight for her marriage? Why was she at the point of giving up when she had followed God and had been faithful? Why wasn’t it working out the way she wanted? Why? Why? Why?

The fuzzy silence on the other end of the line prompted her to speak again. She silently asked the Holy Spirit for words for this situation, and then uttered the words “okay dear friend, let’s pray…”

*For the sake of privacy, the names in this story were not included and some of the details were changed.


splitThe topic of marriages separating is deeply depressing to me. I’m just going to be honest. I know more than a few people who this has been a reality for, and while I have not experienced it first hand, when it has happened to the people I love dearly, I feel that pain with them in very real way. I know that God’s word tells me that marriage is a holy covenant, meant to mirror His divine relationship with us, and that marriage is one of the most effective tools used to show Christ’s love, and so it honestly breaks my heart to see a marriage end or be put on hold for even a short period of time. The Lord puts certain issues and pains in our hearts so that we are motivated to pray for them or do something active about them, and this is one of the major issues He has placed on my heart. It is a burden that I do not take lightly and so I very solemnly dedicate today for these marriages that are separated.

Now, before I go on, I want to be clear that I am not condemning any divorced or remarried people in this post. This is very sensitive topic, and while I personally have decided that divorce is never an option in my own marriage, I know that we live in a fallen world and mistakes have been made to lead to this in many people’s lives. I know divorced people who have divorced for the reason given in the Bible as the only grounds for divorce, and I know people who have divorced for other reasons, and while it hurts my heart when any marriage ends, I do not pretend to know these circumstances that lead to these divorces, and I don’t pretend to have the answers. So please know that this post is not meant to shame anyone. It is only a hope that marriages which desire reconciliation, even if it’s only on one end, will come to be stronger and thriving despite these struggles.

With that being stated, today is obviously day four of my fasting and prayer for marriages. To be honest, I am very weary. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I feel discouraged when I think about the people in my life who have chosen to separate from their spouse. It feels like this week has already been a long and draining journey, and yet there have also been some moments of incredible energy and assistance that I know were gifts from God during this time of focused prayer. The Lord has granted me supernatural patience with my students when they are antsy and ready for summer vacation to start. He has granted me energy to continue my marathon training, which was scheduled this week, despite my fasting, and he has strengthened me to run even faster than I have in the past because of my focus.

I tell you these things not to brag about my experience or make you impressed at my dedication, but to share with you the hard parts, and also the amazing benefits that God gives when His children respond to his prompting. I can’t even take credit for my obedience, as that too has been a precious gift from Him.

This entire process reminds me of Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the Shadow of the Almighty”, because when I devote an entire day to focused prayer, even during the daily activities I do, I am dwelling His “secret place”, since no one around me can tell I am in prayer even as I speak with them. And because of this, I know The Lord is protecting me with His comforting shadow. I pray that you too are called to dwell in the secret meeting place of prayer with God, and that you feel the power and strength of his protective Shadow.

Dear Lord,

Today the burden of separated marriages lays heavily upon my heart. I grieve for them and weep for them and I ask you for Your comfort and strength to get through this day. There are a few couples for whom I have a special desire for today, and I pray that these individuals be blessed by the prayer I have to offer and the fast that I dedicate to them. At this point in time, I desire nothing more than to see them joyfully reunited in an even stronger and dedicated bond of marriage, and I pray that You can make this happen in the future Lord, or even instantly right now– nothing is too miraculous for You, O’ God!

I pray for those marriages that have decided to go their separate ways for the time being. I pray specifically for those marriages that desire reconciliation on one or both ends, but are struggling to come to it. May they experience peace and restoration in their relationship Father. Yet while they are apart, a I pray you strengthen them individually with Your Word, and Your Holy Spirit. I pray You convict them, shape their hearts, soften their conscious, and break down their walls of pride and indignation. I pray You turn them back to one another, and remind them of the vows they made to one another the day they made their covenant with You and with each other.

I pray also for the children of these couples who are separated. Lord, I can only imagine what it’s like to see two parents separate. You have blessed me with parents who have stuck together, even though financial difficulties, job losses, addictions of many kinds. Thank you for the example that they have set for me in my own marriage– one of dedication and devotion, no matter what the struggle. I know that my parents have done the best they can to show me what true marital love looks like. I praise them and You for that. I pray for those who did not grow up with that example, and who are creating a legacy of brokenness for their children without even being aware of it. Lord, separation can have terrible effects on children, I have seen it in my own father, my husband, and some close friends. I know it can be detrimental even for older children who understand imperfect relationships, and so I pray that You bring healing to these children and their families. I know from the examples of my family members and friends that You can do this! You can unite new families together, creating a better and safer environment for the child, and you can also unite formally separated marriages, and restore the child’s life in that process. I trust that You know what that looks like for each individual family, and I trust that You desire restoration and healing to bless those that seek you in this time.

Lord, I pray for unity. I pray for strength. I pray for Your presence to be made known for all of those who are separated from their spouse right now. Give them support by way of prayer, petition, fasting, and also by good friends who listen and invest time and energy. Use us all as tools to cultivate their hearts towards repentance and reconciliation and atonement. Lord, we know that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven by You, Perfect You, and so that we could see an example of what true sacrificial love looks like. I pray for that understanding to come into the hearts of those who are married, yet separated. Save their marriages, in the name of Jesus Christ! Only You can. Amen.

What has God laid on your heart as your burden of prayer for the married yet separated?

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 3- Prayer for Struggling Marriages

Image Last night my husband and I were up late, reflecting on our own relationship, as well as the good and bad seasons that we’ve had so far in our almost 3 year-long marriage. Currently, we are in a very happy season; we’re getting along very well, enjoying each others’ company, and we’re feeling totally in love!

… but there is a reason why I call it a “season”. It isn’t always like this, and while I hope to have more happy seasons as our relationship grows and progresses, I know that there will be times, just like there already have been in the recent past, where we are at each others’ throats, so frustrated and irritated that we want to break things. In fact… that reminds me of a story…

On my husband’s new album, there is a song entitled “Up All Night”, and essentially it is about…. well, making up after an argument. It’s about transitioning from being up all night fighting to being up all night… doing something else. Get the picture? The lyrics were inspired by the many arguments and fights we’ve had in our marriage and how we’ve overcome them. Here are some of those lyrics:

Another fight tonight and,
I think we’ve had this one before.
By the light gotta catch my flight
But your words won’t budge, you’re blocking the door.
I know you wanna hit me,
I’ve lit a fire deep in your eyes.
I don’t know why every time I gotta try
To keep this up, I’m pushing for more.
You push my heart to the floor.

You keep me
Up all night,
Back up, I’m lovin’ it
Don’t hit the light
This is gonna take a little
Bit of Time
Oooh you know you’re driving me
Craaazzzy.

By the time we calm back down
The glass is smashed to the ground.
Both know what to say but we aint
Gonna break gonna make the first sound.
Your lips are looking sexy
If only we could apologize.
I see your frown turn upside down
Cause love aint lost, Love is found.

 

I was mad about something. At this point in time, I’m not sure what it was, but it’s safe to say that it may have had something to do with Dennis being late, me overreacting to something he said, or possibly even PMS. Anyway, we were arguing, and I was in the middle of telling Dennis about himself (it wasn’t very nice things), when he said the dreaded words: “I need to be alone. We will discuss this later.” To which he then turned, and walked into his office, shutting the door behind him.

He. Did. Not! My face was burning red. So I did what I now know is NEVER a good idea, and I followed him, flinging open the office door and blocking the entry way so he could not escape. I was literally trapping him in his office so we could have the discussion I wanted to have, which, as a tip ladies, never worked out for me. Meanwhile, this made Dennis feel pretty darn disrespected, so he probably said some things out of anger, to which I was made extremely angry. So angry in fact, that I decided I needed to throw something. Staring at him like I wanted to hit him, I saw a mason jar half full of water on his desk. In a few short steps, I walked over to the desk, picked it up, and, not even thinking about what the heck I was doing, I smashed the glass down to the floor.

Water splashed everywhere, threatening to ruin some of Dennis’ music equipment (by the grace of God, nothing was damaged), and tiny shards of glass littered his entire office floor. Since this little number left the doorway entirely open, Dennis took his opportunity and left the office, then the house. Image

Meanwhile, I was left crying hysterically, cleaning up water and broken shards of glass, hating myself for not controlling my emotions better and for resorting to something so childish as throwing things in a temper-tantrum.

A few hours later, when we had both calmed down, we realized how silly this fight was. We knew we loved each other and didn’t want to hurt one another as we had both done in the fight. We apologized, and (long-story-short) we made up. Afterwards, we spent a good amount of time assuring one another of our true feelings and attempting to take back the ugly words (or in my case, cups) we had previously flung at the other.

Can you see this fight reflected in the lyrics? Blocking the door, the fiery eyes, the smashing glass, the love afterwards?

It’s pretty much a given that, being married to a musician, my personal life may be getting sung about on stage at some point, so I’ve come to terms with this. That’s why I don’t feel too embarrassed telling you this story.

It also shows you that, as I pray for marriages and write about Jesus, my life is FAR from perfect, and I have a lot of things I’m working on in my walk with Christ and in my marriage. Before I say more, I want to first tell you that I am married to one of the most patient and loving human beings on this planet. I’m utterly convinced of this. And yet, even with Dennis’ amazing patience and ability to show love, we still fight. Probably because, while I’m married to a man with the largest tolerance level, Dennis is married to a women with the largest temper.

In any case, sometimes our fights have gotten so loud and volatile (thanks to my firey temper) that our up-stairs neighbors thought that Dennis was physically abusive–which he has NEVER been! But this is because I have slammed doors, cabinets, and hit things, then screamed and cried afterwards. To an elderly neighbor, this probably sounds like physical abuse, so I don’t really blame them for thinking this. But sufficed to say that Dennis and I have since grown in our conflict-resolution tactics, and I’ve become a little more mature with how I handle my emotions (AKA I’m not throwing as many temper-tantrums).

This fighting season was very real, but it was just a season. We didn’t stay there.

I share this story with you so that you know I don’t exclude myself when I pray today for struggling marriages. I need prayer for God to help me control my tongue, and I need prayer for God to teach me how to be less contentious. His word tells us that it’s better for a man to live on top of a roof than in a home with a contentious wife, and having been a contentious wife, I can agree with this proverb very well. So here I go, praying for struggling marriages and my own marriage along with it:

Lord,

I pray for the marriages that are struggling right now, for the marriages that are in a rough season. I know that it may seem difficult and that things may seem like they will never look better, but I pray that You give these couples hope. Whatever the situation is Lord, I pray You bring peace and restoration to these marriages.

Lord, the struggle could be unfaithfulness or adultery. I pray you strengthen the marriages in these situations. While your Word does tell us that adultery is the only grounds for divorce, I know many couples who have struggled through unfaithfulness, sometimes on one end, and sometimes on both ends. I thank you for these couples who have chosen to remain married and work through this trial; they provide a great testimony to couples that are dealing with this kind of hurt. There is hope for a marriage that is under this sin, and I pray that you give these marriages restoration, that they may become stronger on the other side of it. Be a comforter to the ones in this relationship that need it, and encourage and convict those that need to change their ways and repent. I pray that You would help these couples kill the sin and the unfaithfulness that is in their relationship, that both can rejoice in a unified marriage that remains faithful and loving.

The struggle could be addiction. I pray that You strengthen the marriages in these situations. It could be alcohol, or drugs, or even pornography Lord, and only You can deliver men and women from the snares of addiction. I pray You give patience to these couples, and convict those that need to repent. Give them strength and support and accountability so that these marriages can come through addiction and be stronger because of it. Bring healing and restoration to these marriages Father, and show each couple how to specifically take action to banish the addiction forever.

The struggle could be finances. I pray that you give wisdom and discernment to those marriages in these situations. Lord, money can be a point of contention in any relationship, especially in a marriage. I pray for unified decision-making and transparent honesty with the ways in which couples spend their money. Give them courage to cut expenses where they need to and give them the humble spirit to ask for help when they need it. I pray that they continue to be faithful in their dedication to tithing for You Lord, because I know how this has blessed my marriage and helped us to trust You more fully. I pray You give these couples a sense of security and protection, and give them the resources they need to get by, all the time praying to and relying on You for their every need.

The struggle could be a change in life (occupation, physical ability, location, additions to the family), a season of irritability, a testing of faith, a series of trials, a disagreement on a big decision, a family death, or a collection of arguments that lead to a deep struggle. God, You know the struggles of marriages around the world more than I do, so I pray for any other struggles not specifically mentioned. I pray You provide examples of couples who have been through the same things, and I pray You provide support for those that need it. Give them strength to make it through these trials and the perseverance to keep loving, despite feelings of discontentment and grief.

Lord, I know that you have delivered me from a lot of superficial struggles as well as some deep and hurtful struggles in my own marriage. Thank you for the restoration you bring. I pray you continue to help me be a better wife to my husband, especially in the areas of being respectful with my tongue, and with my actions. I pray you help all wives be respectful of their husbands, because I know showing them respect causes them to love their wives more. And I pray you help all husbands be loving and gentle with their wives, because I know that loving them well will help a wife be caring and respectful. Thank you that You have provided a manual for a struggling marriage in Your Word, and that we can go to it daily to receive wisdom and advice in our relationships.

In Your Son Jesus Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

 

 

What marriage struggles do you feel called to pray for today? Share so we can be praying along with you!

 

 

 

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 2- Prayer for the Seasoned Marriages

“I only wanna be with you For the rest of my life I’m talking about growing old And wrinkling by your side…” At our church, we often call the older generation of our members “seasoned saints”. This often induces a … Continue reading

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 1 – A Prayer for the Newly Married

20140602-183113-66673526.jpgMy heart is pounding as I grab the groomsman’s arm and walk down the walkway, between pews of wide-eyed guests. Somehow we make it down the aisle in one piece, and both assume our positions on opposite ends of the alter. I watch as seven bridesmaids follow me, all carrying bouquets and on the arm of a gray-suited groomsman. Then, the music changes and all of the guests stand and look towards the back of the chapel. From where I am, I cannot see my best friend walking down with her grandpa. But honestly, I don’t want to. Besides the fact that I’ve helped her get ready for the past six hours (so I know what she’s going to look like), I’m more interested in something in plain sight from where I’m standing. So, I’m staring at the groom’s face, to see his reaction when he catches the first glimpse of his bride in all her beauty and then again when they lock eyes, knowing that this is the moment when their whole lives change.

It’s this moment when you can see all anticipation, all love, all excitement, all fears, anxieties, and “am I enough?s” in the groom’s eyes, and you know that his bride has equivalent emotions running through hers, sometimes even in the form of tears. It’s then when I start tearing up as well, because I know what a huge commitment this is. I know what an amazing decision this is. I know these feelings, and I am so excited when others make the plunge into the incredible life-long commitment that is marriage.

In my week-long fast and focused prayer for marriage, it made sense to start with a prayer for the newly married–the newlyweds— mostly because I just was in a dear friend’s wedding this past weekend, and my eldest cousin was also married the same day.

I don’t have to imagine the excitement, joy, weight, and anxiety that this new commitment entails– I felt it on my wedding day and I feel it every time I’m at a wedding. It’s something that you don’t easily forget, especially when you take marriage as seriously as it is meant to be taken. Yet I don’t pretend to know these couples’ stories or how they came to this decision, or how it will effect them and shape them as a unit in the time to come. What I do know is that these newlyweds will need prayer. A lot of prayer.

And so, without further ado, here is my prayer for all of you newly married couples out there:

Lord,

I pray for the newly married couples that have entered into a covenant with You and with one another. I praise you and thank you that they have chosen monogamy in a world that says you can have it all and never have to be satisfied with one person. Lord, we know that You have made marriage a beautiful image and reflection of Christ and the church, and that as husbands are to love their wives sacrificially as Christ does the church, wives are to submit to their husbands respectfully, as they do to God, never sacrificing dignity or the quiet strength and beauty that you created so many women to have.
Lord, I pray that you encourage these young men and women in their decision and their commitment to love each other. Allow them to keep their vows in their hearts and minds so that they work hard to keep those promises. Give them grace when they don’t keep them, and teach them how to forgive one another. Show them your character so that they may become more like you in their marriage, as they learn more about one another, and as they learn more about themselves.

I pray specifically for the husbands. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the man feels that he didn’t ask for the kind of responsibility it takes to be a husband, and the head of a family. There may be times when he is tempted to be unfaithful, or to be harsh with his wife, or to just give up. He may feel like he’s disrespected and unappreciated, and can never win. Show him that these are lies from the enemy, and give him strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called him to. Let him rejoice forever in the wife of his youth, and allow her to become his standard of beauty, so that he is not comparing her to anyone or anything else. Allow him to leave his mother and father completely, whether that be physically, emotionally, or financially, and cling to his wife. Give him the ability to be a servant leader and protector for his family, and give him fulfillment from this role.

I pray specifically for the wives. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the women feels that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she signed up to be her husband’s helper and to submit to him. She may feel that this makes her the “lesser” in the relationship, but Lord, don’t allow her to believe this lie that the enemy tells her! Encourage her in her role as a help meet, fit for her husband, and show her the beauty and strength that you created her to have. Lord, there may be times when she is temped to be unfaithful, or to disrespect her husband, or to just give up. She may feel that she’s unloved and unappreciated, and can never win. Show her that these are also lies from the enemy, and give her strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called her to. Let her be satisfied by her husband, and let her be content with the man that God gave her. Giver her the ability to be her family’s irreplaceable manager, the beating heart of her home, and giver her fulfillment from this role.

Lord, I know that it can be easy, in the euphoric feeling of love for the other, to place the other spouse on a pedestal, and place them above you in their priorities. I pray that both the husband and wife do not fail to make you first priority. I pray that they don’t expect the other to be perfect, because I know that this only sets them up for disappointment, and the other for failure. I pray they instead recognize that they each are only human, and I pray you help them bestow grace upon the other, in understanding that, while the spouse is the top priority among human beings, they can never take the place that only You, O’ God, can fill.

Let those who are just married rejoice and be glad! For the husband has found a good thing in his wife, and the wife has found a good thing in her husband! Your word tells us this O’ Lord. Allow them to examine themselves more closely as a result of this relationship, and in doing so, recognize their faults, as well as their strengths and beauty. Please encourage them to hold onto this joy found within one another and within You, God, so that they will work through the hard times, knowing and trusting that the marriage covenant was the right choice and that they will be blessed. Lord, we know that your word tells us that a cord of three strands is not easily broken, and so I pray that these couples be encouraged to keep you at the center of their relationship. Show them how to love each other in their specific love language, teach them how to spend time together and how to encourage one another. Instruct them about how to speak with love to one another and how to express their deepest desires and fears to each other. Let them be one another’s best friend, and provide them with the deepest level of intimacy to share with each other.

Thank you for the newlyweds in our life Lord! I pray you prompt us to pray for them and prompt them to pray for one another, and to turn to you for guidance and strength.

In your Son Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

What specific prayer has God laid on your heart for newlyweds? Share it here, so we can pray as well!

20140602-183113-66673526.jpg

Prayer Makeover Part III

extreme-prayer-makeover_for-web

I just realized that I never finished my Blog Series. Not the greatest of me– to start my first series and then just not come back to it. Sorry Saints, I am not the best with spam postings. But, without further ado: Prayer Makeover Part III (the last installment…. I hope it’s well worth the wait!)

So, if you remember, I told you all to keep your bookmarks in Matthew 6, which includes the “Model Prayer” there-in-which Jesus teaches us how to pray. Well, we’ve been looking at how to pray and why, so I guess getting direct instruction from God the Son wouldn’t be a bad idea…

However, since it’s been a bit, let’s have a short review session:

The Rules of Prayer: In order for our prayers to be heard and answered, we must abide in and accept Christ as our Savior and read his Wordshow our faith through our confidence in prayer, pray for God to do His own will before our own, rid any sinfulness from our hearts and especially in the words or intensions of our prayers, and finally, we must pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

The Process of Prayer: Go in your room and talk to God, listen to Him too!, Keep a prayer journal that you can revisit throughout the day. Read the Word and speak the Word. God will surely speak to you through them to give them new meaning and application to your own life. Work to see God everywhere! When you are constantly aware of God’s presence, it’s much easier to speak to Him and listen to Him throughout the day.

And now for the Model Prayer:

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’ 

-Matthew 6:9:13

This is a pretty simple prayer no? But how powerful it is!

If you were raised as a Catholic like me, you might remember the priest chanting this along with the members of the church, holding hands and singing in minor keys. During those times, I never really thought about the words we were all chanting so solemnly, but let’s look at them:

First, Jesus shows his ADORATION: he reflects on God Himself, praising him for His love, His power and majesty, and His wonderful gift of Christ and the Holy Spirit, who in combination, teach us the way to live and God’s will.

Second, Jesus shows us how to give a CONFESSION (he himself does not confess, for he is sinless): he asked God to forgive our debts and he instructs us to remember to also forgive those around us. We must be honest and humble, and remember that God loves us no matter what we do before our repentance.

The third is not directly talked about, but Jesus talks about it in other scripture, and that is THANKSGIVING: we should tell God how grateful you are for everything God has given–even the unpleasant things! Our thankfulness will help us to see God’s purpose for even the most painful circumstances, and this will allow us to have joy amidst  sorrow.

Lastly, Jesus shows us how to make a SUPPLICATION: when we ask him for our “daily bread”, or ask him to “deliver us from evil” or “lead us not into temptation”, we are making supplications to God. (AKA, asking him for things). We are allowed and encouraged to make specific requests, both for others and for ourselves, just as long as those things are within our pursuit of Christ. In other words, we should not pray for the God to hurt others or for God to give us more of something that we are placing before Him (our addictions, idols, or sinful, fleshly desires).

It’s always a good thing to pray like Jesus did in another circumstance, and add the words “But not my will; You’re will be done” after our supplications. This way, we give God the ultimate power to decide what is best for us. After all, He does know best!

The first letters of these four words form the words “ACTS”. Use this as a mental guideline for a balanced prayer life.

This way, you won’t be always exalting God (although He does love that!), nor will you always be making requests for thing, or asking for forgiveness in confession (I struggle with only making my prayers about confessing, so I need this reminder too!).

So there you have it: ACTS! (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). Conveniently, you can read the book of ACTS and see Paul and the rest of the disciples putting these into action. Or read any of Paul’s letters, which are similar to prayers in their structure…

Thanks for being patient in waiting for the last installment of my Blog Series on Prayer. I hope you have learned something and have benefited from it. Please feel free to offer any feedback or other thoughts!

Happy Praying ❤

Prayer Makeover: Part II

Last week I spent some time going over the rules or conditions of prayer. These five rules were not my own, they were found explicitly in the Word of God. If you remember, I used quite a few different books of the Bible to demonstrate God’s instructions about prayer.

This week, for Part II of our Prayer Makeover, I want to go into the process of prayer, and we will only be looking at one book of the Bible. So, (clears throat) please turn your books to Matthew 6, verses 5 to 8. You can go ahead and bookmark the page, because we’re going to be here for a bit…

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Here Jesus tells us a few things about how we should pray…. Well, first, He actually tells us how not to pray. We can’t be doing it out in the open for all to see. Now, does this mean we can’t pray out loud before a meal with our family? Does this mean that we shouldn’t pray in our small groups and group bible studies and prayer meetings with friends? Not necessarily.

See, the hypocrites that Jesus is talking about used to get all dressed up to go out on the street corner and shout out prayers that they could have just said at home in their pajamas. But they didn’t do it to talk (much less listen) to God. They did it so that other people would look at them and think, “Oh, look at that holy person! How faithful they are! They are so righteous! I love they way they pray!”

This is why Jesus says that these people have already received their reward. They get credit for their prayers from the people that hear them (the people that the prayers are actually for). These prayers are not for God, so God does not give them a reward in heaven for their windy, wordy, empty prayers.

Jesus warns us to not be like those people, who keep babbling, thinking that they will be heard because they keep on talking and talking and talking. When they do this, Jesus, implies, their words loose meaning, but they also insult God in the process; they are treating Him as if He doesn’t already know what they need! Our God knows everything! He knows what each and every one of us needs better than even we do! 

Now, back then, as I said, these people would go out to the town square to shout prayers to the Lord. Today’s equivalent might be praising the Lord in a Facebook status, or tweeting Bible verses. It all depends on the intent. If the intent is that you really truly think God is checking his newsfeed on “the Book of Faces” (as my husband so cleverly calls it), and so you want to let him know you’re a “fan” of His, then fine! But most of the time we post and tweet those things to make sure other people see them, not to make sure God sees them …. and honestly, I’m guilty of this too… so let’s all work on this one!

I remember being in a college prayer group when I first got saved. Each time we got together, we would talk about the Word and how it was working in our lives, then we would ask for prayer requests. After that, we would do what I like to call “Popcorn-Prayer” (this is the teacher side of me coming out!). One person would start praying, then after they had finished, another person with pick it up and pray as well, and then, after some silence, another person would pray… and so on and so forth until the last person prayed and we all would say, “In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”.

I would sit there with my eyes shut, not really listening to the others, but instead I would be rehearsing my prayer! I would think about what things to say and how to phrase things, and I would review the prayer request.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think I did this in order to be praised on Earth for my holiness or beautiful prayers. I think I was actually nervous about praying in front of other people because I was a new Christian, and I really didn’t know how to pray! 

Luckily Jesus actually tells us how to do that too…

He tells us to go to our room, close the door, fall to our knees, and pray in secret. This way, our prayers are only for Him and Him alone. We are not doing it for show and our reward will be saved for us in heaven rather than being wasted here on Earth with compliments from others.

So, now we have some general guidelines about how to pray, and we have Jesus’ direct words about how not to pray. What do we do now?

Practice!

  • Take instruction from Jesus and go in your room and talk to God, listen to Him too!
  • Keep a prayer journal that you can revisit throughout the day. Write about what you’re thankful for. Write about what you’re sorry for. Write about what you need or what you know others really need. Write about how incredible God is. Write about the questions you have for God.
  • Read the Word and speak the Word. God loves to hear His Word repeated back to Him, that’s why Jesus always quotes scripture. Read the Word, memorize verses, and speak them aloud in your private prayers. God will surely speak to you through them to give them new meaning and application to your own life.
  • Work to see God everywhere! When you are constantly aware of God’s presence, it’s much easier to speak to Him and listen to Him throughout the day. You won’t have to routinely rattle off a prayer during your lunch break at work just to fit your prayer time in if you are constantly communicating with God, whether silently or aloud. And remember, communication is a two-way street!

Next post, we will still be in Matthew 6, so keep that bookmark in your Bible or internet browser! We will take our prayer time to the next level with the “model prayer”

See you soon Saints!

Prayer Makeover: Part I

Recently I have been feeling… blue.

I think it’s got to do with a lot of things.

My husband’s out of town and I miss him. It’s getting darker outside faster. I’ve got a TON of work to do that keeps me busy… but kind of lonely. I’ve been tired…

But I think the real source of my certain shade of melancholy is rooted in my prayer life. Lately my prayers have felt weak, hard to muster up, and they’ve been lacking… gusto. I need to reexamine prayer.

In short, I need a prayer makeover!

For this next set of posts, I thought I’d explore the idea and practice of powerful prayer, it’s stipulations, it’s process, and it’s outcomes.

First, I want to take a close look at the stipulations or rules of prayer.

Now, before I was a true Christian, I totally still talked to God all the time. I never followed any rules about my prayer though, so all I did was talk; I didn’t listen. Communication with God is a two-way street. I didn’t realize that before I was saved. And if someone where to have told me that there were rules for prayer, I would have told them that they were “squashing my spirit” and “limiting my spirituality”… whatever that means. My problem was that I did not read the Word of God (the best place to really listen to God), and because of my lack of Christ’s actual words, I did not abide in Him (which is actually the first rule!).

The Five Rules of Prayer:

  1.  John 15:7 tells us specifically that if we want our prayers heard and answered, we must abide in Christ and Christ must abide in us. What does ‘abide’ mean? Abide means to accept or act in accordance with. So. We must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we must act in accordance to His will and way, and in order to do that, we have to know and study His word. In short, our obedience to His word is highly important when we pray. And because of this fact, guess where we will learn about how to pray? …yep! The Word!
  2. In 1 John 5:14-15, God tells us to pray as if we have already received, which is an exercise which strengthens our faith. We need to pray, knowing that God will answer. Why would we ask for something from someone we didn’t think would answer? We need to be confident that our prayers will be answered because we know that our God is faithful.
  3. In the same verses (1 John 5:14-15), God also tells us that we must ask according to His own will. This is exactly what Jesus did when He prayed in the garden of gethsemane :  Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. We need to be aware of the fact that God knows what is best for us, and so pray that His will be done rather than our own, which is limited by our own lack of understanding and selfish desires. (Also, if Jesus prayed that way, we probably should follow suite).
  4. James 4:3 tells us that a hindrance to answered prayer is greed. If we wish to spend what we receive on our own lusts and pleasures, God will be less likely to hear, much less answer your prayers. Psalm 66:18 explains that if we cherish iniquity in our hearts (in other words, if we have sinful intentions), then our prayers will not be lifted up. Now, sometimes we will make a mistake and pray for nasty things (revenge, excessive wealth, worldly power…). In time, God will reveal to us that our wishes are sinful and with the maturing of our faith, we will learn to pray in a selfless and grateful way.
  5. The last and most important stipulation on prayer is one that I never knew about before I became a Christian. You can find it in John 16:24: It is that we must pray in Jesus’ name. As believers in and followers of Christ, and because we belong to Him, we can ask in His authority and on His merit. Just as the Father answered Jesus’ every prayer, so He will answer us when we ask in Jesus’ name.

Now, you will notice that these rules of prayer are not my own. This is how God’s Word–The Bible– actually tells us how to pray.

To sum it up:

In order for our prayers to be heard and answered, we must abide in and accept Christ as our Savior and read his Word, show our faith through our confidence in prayer, pray for God to do His own will before our own, rid any sinfulness from our hearts and especially in the words or intensions of our prayers, and finally, we must pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior

In my future posts, I want to explore the process of prayer even further, in an attempt to strengthen my own prayers and deepen my relationships with the Lord. I also hope that you too will be strengthened and that your own prayer life will grow deeper in the love of Christ.

Jesus tells us that (after these previous stipulations), all we need to to is… “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24

 

I’m trading my blues for the joy that is completed by answered prayer.

 

Will you join me in doing the same?

Lazy Sundays are A-Okay: Mary vs Martha

Today is Sunday…

It’s a hot and steamy day and I am sleepy for no good reason other than the fact that I am being rather lazy today.

It used to be that I would begin to feel extremely guilty for even feeling tired when I “shouldn’t” be. Well, I might start to feel that way if I had a “do-nothing” attitude every day, but I aslo know myself and my tendencies to be a Martha, so I don’t feel I am in danger of this happening anytime soon.

So today I was restful, sleepy, and at peace with it. 

At the end of an hour nap after church and lunch with my husband, I walked into the living room to go read my Bible and journal, passing by our calendar on the wall. I stopped and looked at it more closely, as if I could not believe what my eyes were seeing.

I found myself staring at the reality that this was my last restful Sunday of the summer. Beginning next week my life will turn into travel, moving to Chicago for my 6-week “independent contractor” job, hitting the road to run some races and go camping with family, then packing up our life and heading out to God-only-knows to go live G0d-only-knows where.

In preparation for my crazy, fast-paced life style which will be coming up oh-so-soon, I thought it might be nice to explore my tendency to be a Martha rather than a Mary (as I referenced earlier).

Mary and Martha are the probably the most familiar pair of sisters in the Bible. Both Luke and John describe them as friends of Jesus in their Gospels, which is why I find them so fascinating. Luke writes only four verses describing the particular interaction I am referencing, yet despite its length, it has been a complex source of interpretation and debate for centuries (at least I presume so).

The Pithy Story According to Luke

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42)

So basically, Mary sat down and just hung out with Jesus, and Martha was so caught up in serving him as her guest that she didn’t even spend time with THE SON OF GOD.

You know that one friend who you always feel like you have to impress? Who, when they come over, you have to clean your whole house and make sure you buy a bottle of wine to give to them and make sure you are cooking the best meal you’ve ever made? Well, Jesus isn’t that guy. And frankly, if you have a lot of friends like that, you need new friends who are more down to earth.

You know that friend who you can just be yourself around? Who you just value time with no matter what you’re both doing?

That’s the type of guy Jesus is. 

He’s the friend who calls you up and says, “hey let’s hang out– I don’t care what we do, let’s just sit at your house and I’ll tell you stories”.  If we’re like Martha, we highly doubt that’s all Jesus really wants from us, so we take our unbelieving selves to work and end up missing all of his stories entirely.

But if we’re like Mary, we are assured that all Jesus needs is just to be in our presence and to be listened to.

In this slower time, God has been so good about keeping me like Mary; quiet, loving, content, in awe of Christ, and obedient. But I know that with the distractions of this world, I am in danger of becoming a more like Martha. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us find it hard to live in this fast-paced world as a devoted follower of Christ, so, in light of such assumptions, I have decided to prepare us both for this challenge.

Six Warning Signs You Might Be Turning into a Martha:

Martha’s Musical

1. You are distracted by many things. Martha let herself get caught up in all her tasks and to-do lists. When we let this happen to ourselves, Jesus is usually what gets pushed off to the side. Even if we think that what we are doing is for Christ, it usually isn’t if we don’t have time to be with him. We don’t have time for him because we don’t make time for him; everything else has to get done first before we can truly devote time. This means that Jesus gets our “spare time”, if we even have it. The truth is Jesus is worth so much more than our leftovers, and if we give him our first and best, suddenly that to-do list seems way less daunting. (I speak from experience.)

2. You get upset because you feel like you are doing all the work. So Martha’s the only one in the kitchen cooking, and the house needs to get picked up too, and she knows that lazy little Mary over there is NOT getting out of her seat next to Jesus to do anything! Would you be frustrated? There are times when we are called to work and work hard with our serving, in fact, most times we are called to do that. But there is a time and place. Sometimes it just isn’t the time to do dishes. It can wait. Like I said before, God gets our first and best. Doing the dishes will be so much more enjoyable after some Jesus time. We can approach our tasks with a servant’s heart rather than with grumbling complaints.

3.  You feel like Jesus must not care about your situation. Martha straight out asked Jesus if he even cared that Mary wasn’t helping her. I know; She done got snippy with Jesus! But many times we can feel this way. We feel like God simply can’t know what it feels like to be in our shoes. We need to know that Jesus was fully human and fully God and he came down to this Earth to be tempted and to be perfect. We Christians are blessed that we have God who knows what our human experience is like, who has been tempted in the same ways we are tempted everyday and who overcame them all. Jesus not only cares about our situations, he knows them deeply and personally.

4. You are talking more than listening in your relationship with Jesus. Being a writer and a natural talker, I am guilty of this one… John tells us in another passage that when her brother dies, Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha immediately responds that she knows her brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. She did get her doctrine right but she didn’t really listen to what Jesus was actually saying. To some of us, myself included, the acquisition of Biblical knowledge becomes more of a goal than hearing what God is saying to us through it. If you find yourself reading God’s word without truly asking how God would have you apply it to your daily live, you might be caught in Martha’s trap. When you read the Bible or listen to some teaching, start asking yourself what does this mean for me?

5. You make rational excuses why you can’t do what Jesus asks. When Jesus tells the sisters that the stone should be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha objects, saying, rather insightfully, that the stench would be awful. Sensible, logical, practical; that’s our Martha! But Jesus, the Savior, the Lamb of God, God himself! is telling her to do something….. shouldn’t she just do it?

The sad truth is that we often find ourselves making up even stupider excuses as to why we can’t do what God is telling us to do. Some of you may say, “Well, I really don’t know what he’s telling me to do!” Sure you do. He told you to forgive people who wrong you. But we often reason that the other person was at fault and they should be the first to ask for forgiveness. He tells you to give generously to those in need, but we quite sensibly think that some bills should be paid off first. He tells you not to worry about food and clothing but I know I myself have often laid awake at night wondering what to wear to my job interview, or in tight financial times, how we’ll get through another week without buying groceries. When Jesus says something, you don’t argue with him. Bottom line.

6. You just can’t get into worshiping; you’d rather do something “useful”. Soon after her brother was raised from the dead, Martha serves another dinner to Jesus. Hopefully this time she did it without complaining. Where is Mary during this dinner? There she is again at Jesus’ feet, this time pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair. Why isn’t Martha in on the worship? Jesus had already pointed out to her the importance of sitting at His feet and her brother had just been raised from the dead for heaven’s sake! She should have been falling all over Jesus… but she was too busy in the kitchen. Listen up: Don’t waste your opportunities to worship! Remember that Jesus told the disciples that the poor would always be with them when they criticized Mary for wasting her resources on worship rather than giving to the poor. Well, the household chores or business tasks will always be with us too. Prioritize them several notches below worship.

So… Why keep the Sabbath?

During the next few months, I know it will be a challenge for me to be like Mary rather than Martha. I know that despite the fact that this is my last “Lazy Sunday”, I still need to make time to keep my Sabbath and really spend time with Jesus. His desire is to be with us without distraction, worry, or chatter. But Jesus also tells us that God made that time available for us: the sabbath was created for people. So keep it yo– it’s for your own good!

Are there any other signs that Martha may be leading your mentality? How do you keep the Sabbath? What is your experience with creating time for Christ in this busy, fast-paced world? Please let me know!