Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2015 Year of Prayer - Week 8

The potential for God to do the level of things never seen on this continent, or at least on the scale we have seen, is frankly, tremendous.  When we agree in prayer, knowing His will and praying for His Kingdom to Come, stuff starts getting D.O.N.E.

I've gotten more glimpses of the investment in prayer starting to pay dividends this week.  By dividends, I mean God answering prayers in ways that exceed way above what I could possibly think.  I'm not only seeing Him answer, I'm getting glimpses of how He weaves situations together as only the One with His perspective can.  He is, literally-speaking, the Only One sitting up high enough to see how it all goes together.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

Prayer can be hard.  I won't lie and say there are days I would rather (and sometimes do) stay in the cozy warmth of my covers and my husband's prodigious body heat (he's like my own personal space heater).  Still, I just know I'll be missing out unless/until I get with the Lord.  I tell you what though, the things I'm seeing happen get me excited to get out of bed and talk with God!  The prayer of a righteous man (and woman) avails much. (James 5:16)

There are 2 keys to "availing much," as I can tell.  We need to maximize the potential of our prayers with faith and gratitude.  When we pray using these tools of heart and mind, not only do we line up with God's heart and mind, but I imagine there is a sonic boom in the heavens, as God releases the answer which blows away the presence of the enemy; there is atomic energy potential in prayer!

Prayer is like an muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. The opposite is true: the less you pray, the flabbier your prayers.  Faith, like prayer, is developed through experience and knowledge.  You pursue faith as much as it is a gift from God.  You can certainly ask for more faith - Mark 9:24 demonstrates when the father of the demon-possessed boy asks Jesus for help believing He could heal.

Throughout my faith walk, the Lord has given me special "dispensations" in certain situations - an extra dose of faith to believe in what He can/will do.  It isn't something radical: I just have zero doubt He will do it. I don't ever really know how He will, but I know He will and that is all that He asks....for faith the size of a mustard seed.
  •  (a mustard seed is smaller than this bullet point.)
 I have a few of those "dispensations" right now, including my friend Audrey who I wrote about a few weeks back (read about her here.)  I know my faith is not now (or ever) in vain.

We have to faith but Scripture also tells us over and over to encapsulate our prayers with gratitude.  Gratitude does more to usher me into the presence of God than anything else.  This morning, while I was swimming, I began to see gratitude as the streamline of prayer.

For those of you who are not swimmers, humor me.  Streamline is the position you adopt the second you push off the wall.  You can see in the diagram above, the better your streamline, the farther you can go with less work.  Your arms locked above your head, one hand on top of the other; your stomach and legs also tight together.  But if your position is floppy, your streamline will do you more harm than good.  A bad streamline means, instead of helping you cut through the water, it will slow you down.

Streamlining is the key to doing less work for more dividend.  Think of it this way: if you glide nearly halfway across the pool, you only actually swim half a length, instead of the whole!  It is worth the effort to tweak your form to get a streamline right for sure.

Gratitude gets us halfway across the divide between us and the Lord.  It slices through our thoughts, feelings and even our will power.  Gratitude put us right in the lap of Our Father in Heaven. I can testify the mornings I practice gratitude upon waking are the mornings I get the most out of prayer.

There are endless ways to express your gratitude to God: adoration, admiration, worship, praise and thankfulness.  They are all birds of the same kinda feather.  You don't just have to speak your gratitude either, you can sing, dance, get on your face on the floor, write, paint, walk...You can also just sit in restfully in the silence, basking in the goodness of God.

The body position and action of our prayers are not nearly as important as our heart position.  Faith gets us to ask in prayer.  Gratitude gets our hearts ready to receive His answers.

When we thank God, especially when we thank Him in advance of seeing the answer, we are doing heavy weight training of our prayer muscles.  We are building up what Jude calls "our most holy faith."  It takes faith to believe what we ask for, in His Name, He will do.  It takes gratitude to appreciate and see what He is doing in our lives and the lives of others.

Prayer is the most powerful of all our Christian muscles.  Keep strengthening yours as I strengthen mine.  Just imagine the work of God we will be looking back on in December!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 7 - A Recap So Far

No longer be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...Romans 12:2 (my version)

The pruning continues, but a change is in the wind.  You see, in talking to my friend Leslie, I realized I've been focused mainly on the areas the Holy Spirit has been cutting off.  Those hurt, so it is easy to put your attention on them.  Pruning isn't fun and has, at times, brought out the worst in me.  But that's only part of the story. 

You see, when you snip off the "bad," leaves/stems/fruit/blooms, the way I understand it, there is more nutrition for the healthy part of the plant.  I'd already had in mind to write a short synopsis on the fruit that is blooming and this idea was confirmation.  I don't do every thing well and I am facing challenges.

But in the current analysis, these struggles are "light and momentary afflictions," especially compared to what we've been through and what is coming.  God's mercies are abundantly new EVERY MORNING, PRAISE GOD.  We keep getting chances to start over and as my pastor likes to say, If you are still breathing, there is still hope. Not all the fruit is ripe but there is joy in seeing it grow and change color.  This process is able to take place because the bad is coming off and the good is getting more time, attention, care and feeding. 

So far in the Year of Prayer, strange and wonderful things have been happening.

I'm more intentional about my prayer and spiritual life.  I have more joy in it and I have more of a hunger for God.  My hands are staying cleaner, my heart is turning more and more to the Lord instead of others.  My eyes stay open longer each day (some days that is literally).  I am more easily able to let go of the things of this world, the enemy and the flesh - to pour into the Spirit. 

I'm centered in on what God wants as my priorities: my marriage, my children, my church and those currently in my sphere of influence.  I am better able to love them, be there for them, have compassion for them and treat them as the Lord desires me to treat them.

My (older) children are beginning to really see what it means to live for Christ in a world that increasingly doesn't.  They are experiencing the goodness of God for themselves, in their own struggles.  They, too, are growing to bear fruit.  (I know because of their desire for God, their little sister will also find her place in His Kingdom when she is old enough.)

My church is growing - physically, spiritually and emotionally.  We are seeing miracles as He builds up this Body of Christ to do the work He has specifically assigned for us.  Our hearts are being knitted tighter together, in preparation for the work, challenges, trials and rewards yet to come.

I'm writing every single day.  That's new for me and it is really cool to know I don't have to be a slave to a word count, but I do need to walk in faithfulness to these gifts He's given.

We have more peace in our lives.  We have more favor.  We have more blessings.  We are being made aware of how we are currently conformed, yet still needing conformation to the character, love and work of Christ.

The Year of Prayer has not been without its fits and starts but fear, frustration, sin and stress are being replaced with faith.  There have been some pretty major dust ups and failings, but I am not discouraged.  I know each day is an opportunity to see God's hand.

Now it is Lent.  This is always an intense season and I'm looking forward to it like never before.  It has a beginning and an end and some of the testing and trials going into this season will end with it. I'm really looking forward to that.

I'm looking forward to looking back.  Easter Sunday (my 40th birthday...which makes me feel legit :)) will be around Week 13, so I'll try to do another recap then.  In the meantime, stay encouraged.  The battle isn't over but it is already won.  With that victory comes freedom and the chance to do something really great - something God will make sure that lasts.

Let me know how your year is going and keep going.  We are seeing the fruit begin to bud and only more is yet to sprout!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Faith, Hope and Love Prayer Walk 2015

A man reaps what he sows....so let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the right time, we will reap a harvest! (Galatians 6:8-9)

Yesterday, 6 friends and I went on a walk.  We prayed, talked and shared as we walked.  There were no earthquakes.  There were no visible signs what we were doing was anything more than an ordinary walk.

But since this physical world is only part of the story - I trust what we did, by encircling the main campus of MD Anderson and Texas Children's (and by extension St. Luke's) - sent shockwaves into the spiritual world.  Results aren't my business - they are for God to handle.  Our part was to take steps in faith, in trust - that with every step, we tilled up the ground around these two major cancer treatment centers and planted seeds of healing, peace, comfort, goodness, love, joy and salvation. 

There were no anointing oils.

There was no massive shouts of praise or trumpets blown.

We only went up and back once.

But that was all it took.  We walked from the front door of the main MDA building, down Bates Street to Fannin and came back.  I don't know that it was actually a mile in total.

Yet, we stood against the gates of hell, against the spirits of sickness, infirmity, depression, side effects and death.  We walked to bring in the light - to add to where it is already shining.  We called to people to look at the gorgeous day from their windows, to see the sun shining, the clarity of the sky.  To know there is more to life, that there can be, even when you feel like a caged animal, trapped by your room, your IV pole, your very circumstances.

I know that feeling.  Sophia and I know it all too well.  But there is hope.  We still have our faith because we were surrounded....no, carried...by the love of God, mostly through the love and care of others.

Our theme verse was one I took from my Sophia's own fight with cancer - it was on the back of her Team Sophia shirt.  At the time, I liked it, as it felt right to think we were waiting to see her harvest of healing, but know I know, God (as always) had a much greater purpose in mind...for a harvest of healing....for MDA and TCH to become places of His healing, rather than just treatment!

This was just the first year and I'd like to do it again (always) around Valentine's Day.  As we drove away, I looked at the other parts of the MDA complex and thought...."I'm coming back for you."  Yes, this was our meager beginning and that's ok.  We had a list of people we called out by name, but they were surrogates for all those battling this disease.  We prayed for a cure and we prayed for comfort.  Both are in short supply but we trust cancer will not have the final say on this world.

We were thankful for all who have given to the cause because healing wouldn't be possible without the patrons to add their literal earthly wealth to it.  We are grateful for all those who have gone on to fight the battle in Heaven, having finished their earthly races.  They join the cloud of witnesses surrounding the throne of God - Our God - El Roi - Who sees all.  Nothing, not even a sparrow falling to the ground, is lost to His sight.

That gives me immense relief, knowing that our small band of prayer warriors were seen, heard and honored because we came in the name of Christ.  I do hope you will join us next year.  We will have awesome t-shirts, I already have the designed (see the pictures above).

Thank you to those who joined us praying at home (or wherever). Social media is a wonderful medium for prayer because to be connected, we just have to agree that what we want is what God wants. And He wants healing.

Here was the list of our "surrogates," who stood in for all those affected by cancer, everywhere.  Feel free to add a name in the comments and we will lift them up as they journey with the Lord.  He is never closer than when your heart and body are broken and He will lift your head to see His glory!

Mary Smith
William Lewis
Sophia Vogel (healed)
Brian Locher 
Bennett Nester
Audrey Fontanot (healed)
Bill Hoffman
Amy Teague
Anna Grace Dennis (healed)
Kieran Ellis
Melissa Ferrand (healed)
Shannon Perry's Mom
Brandy Nichols
Gunner Patterson (healed)
Rylee Beard (healed)
Matthew Lucas (healed)
Ali Smallwood (healed)
Devin Duncan (healed)
Diana Brown (healed)
Holden Underwood (healed)
Natalie Fraker (healed)
Izzy Slot (healed)
Linda Lummus (healed)
Zoe (healed)
Mike Dunlap (healed)
Kristian Barrett (healed)
Brennan Scurlock (healed)
Miles Rosser (healed)
Lucy Weber (healed)
Courtney Pette (healed)
Jimmy Coe
Hunter Calvey
Prissy Mikulanka
Steve Seeling
Tiger Coffman
Lynn Ashdown
Marion Jaynes
Jerry Smith
Thomas Laskowski
Kayla DeRoche
Maggie Cook
Ava Roten
Sherrie Higgins