Tag Archives: Prayer

Swimming with the Fishes Fearlessly

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took a vacation to Maui. It’s only our second time to Hawaii. The first time we went, I missed out on the snorkeling trip he and our son went on because I was afraid of the water. I missed out on cool tropical fish, octopus, spinner dolphins, and more. Simply because of fear.

It all started when I took swim lessons at the Collier Park pool in Ramona, California in the third grade. I was a skinny little thing back then, with not an ounce of fat on me and pitiful lung capacity due to living with smokers. The instructor told us to get into the 7′ end of the pool, push away from the side, and tread water. I followed his instructions—and a sunk like a rock. I frantically tread water at the bottom of the pool, looking up at the surface of the water where life-sustaining air was in abundance, terrified that I couldn’t get to the top, until someone jumped in and pulled me out.

Ever since then, if I ever got in a pool, lake, river, or even the ocean—and it has been seldom that I have—I always stay in the shallow end and my hair and glasses stay dry.

But as we planned our trip to Maui, I felt a strong desire to snorkel so that I could witness the beauty of God’s underwater creation. I knew it was going to take more courage than I have on my own to overcome a decades-long fear of water.

So I asked several groups of friends to pray specifically that I would be able to overcome my fear and snorkel. I prayed myself that God would give me courage to experience a successful and enjoyable snorkeling adventure.

God is good. He answered that prayer in ways I never imagined. In fact, I realized afterwards that He had begun answering my prayer 29 years ago when I met my husband, long before I even knew it would be my prayer. God knew I would need more than courage—I would need encouragement and someone to hold my hand through the experience.

I started in the hotel pool with rented snorkeling equipment, including prescription goggles so I could actually see. My husband was patience and encouraging as he sat relaxing in the lounge chair by the pool. Once I had mastered the ability to put my face in the water and breathe through the snorkel, we ventured out to Black Rock just down the beach from our hotel. As we first began to snorkel, my husband literally held my hand and we paddled around together looking at the fish. When I got water in my snorkel and became frustrated and wanted to quit for the day, he didn’t give me a hard time but was understanding.

Although it was a short snorkel that first day, we snorkeled three more times during the week. As long as I needed him to, my husband held my hand. Once when I felt a little panic, I recited one of my favorite versesPhilippians 4:6-7and God’s amazing peace did calm my heart. Eventually I was comfortable in the water and was able to snorkel on my own around Honolua Bay and Honokohua Bay. I even saw an octopus, a turtle, an eel, and a ton of colorful fish and coral.

Are you letting fear hold you back from something you would love to do? Are you missing out on life’s abundant blessings because you are paralyzed by fear and anxiety? Ask God to give you the courage—and whatever else He knows you need—to overcome that fear. He is faithful and He will answer, “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.

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God Is Always with Me

At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus says to the disciples, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NIV). When He said this, He was talking not just to those disciples who were present, but to all who believe in Him even today. That includes me. He is always with me. He showed me that in a very concrete way this past week.

On Tuesday I had an appointment that I had been putting off for over a year. It may seem like a small thing to many of you, but to me it was huge. I was afraid to make and keep this appointment. But with God’s encouragement I finally did it.

I went to the dentist to have prep done for a crown. I know, people get crowns every day, but I have since childhood been extremely uncomfortable in the dentist’s chair. It stems from a childhood experience that I won’t go into because it’s not the point of this story. Suffice it to say that I have for as long as I can remember been tense and nervous when I have to go to the dentist, even for a cleaning.

There was no getting around the fact that I needed a crown. I have a hairline fracture in a tooth and I barely chew on that side because if I chew on anything even slightly hard it hurts. A year ago the new dentist I started seeing told me I needed to do this. He was nice about it and understanding about my fear, and he didn’t pressure me to put a crown or overlay on every molar in my mouth as a prior dentist had tried to do. I liked his manner enough that I finally felt like I’d found a dentist I could trust. (His name is Jack Henry in Lake Oswego, if you happen to be looking for a good dentist.)

After praying for God’s peace (see Philippians 4:6-7), I finally scheduled a cleaning one week and the crown prep the following week. Halfway through the cleaning appointment, I realized I was the most relaxed I had ever been in a dentist’s chair. This gave me hope that the crown prep wouldn’t be so bad.

Did I mention that I dislike Novocain intensely? It tends to cause my cheek and jaw to hurt for several days. So in spite of the good cleaning appointment, I was still feeling anxious as I looked ahead to the crown prep because I knew there would be Novocain and drilling involved.

But again, I prayed that God would give me peace and help me to not be afraid during this appointment.

I arrived on time and was escorted to the dentist’s chair. I asked if I could listen to music while they worked because I had brought my iPod and headphones. The dentist not only said I could but said it was a great idea. He likes to listen to music when he has dental work done, too, because he doesn’t like the sound of the grinder and drill. It was very reassuring to know that he understood that this procedure was not at all pleasant and that he was going to do whatever he could to make it better.

As he began to work, I shuffled my iPod on a MercyMe and Jeremy Camp playlist I had created in anticipation of Fish Fest that I am going to in August with some friends. And that’s when God so clearly reminded me that He is always with me. The first song that played was God with Us by MercyMe. I heard these beginning lyrics:

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release from the grip of these chains

I knew that He was mindful of this small thing in my life. I knew He had released me from the chains of fear that had kept me from making this appointment a year before. As that song ended, I felt the peace of knowing God was with me, but He wasn’t done reminding me. The next song to randomly play on shuffle was Here with Me, also by MercyMe, with lyrics that say:

And I can feel your presence here with me
Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty
Caught up in the wonder of your touch
Here in this moment I surrender to your love

You’re everywhere I go
I am not alone
You call me as your own
To know you and be known

Oh, that He would care so much for me; that He knows so well my anxiety and fear and also how to calm that fear. And then He reminded me of why I was feeling such peace in what would have otherwise been a tense and stressful situation. The next song to play was Every Time by Jeremy Camp. The chorus and one of the verses of this song say:

Every time I’m on my knees, pleading for Your strength
I will find You there, find you there
Every time I’m on my knees, reaching for Your strength
I will find You there, find You there

I’m holding on to this hope
I’ve been given, to be always with You
I’m seeing now
That this fullness of faith is, always seeking You

That very morning I had been on my knees pleading God for strength and peace to endure this appointment that my natural self dreaded. I held onto the hope that He would be with me, and He was faithful as always. Rather than be anxious about my appointment, I brought my concern to God, with thanksgiving, and His peace was my reward.

By the time this third song ended, Dr. Henry was done with the drilling and grinding. I was not tense and had not felt a thing. And to top it all off, the Novocain wore off much more quickly than I had expected and there were no lasting effects of pain in my cheek or jaw.

God is always with me, even at the dentist. What an awesome and wonderful God He is!

 

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Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

Any serious study of the Bible includes some basics of Bible prophecy. There are, of course, the prophecies that Jesus:

For me, the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament through the fulfillment of prophecy is sufficient proof of the Bible’s authenticity and Jesus’ authority as King and God. One of the things I love about God is how He frequently shows me new connections when I read His Word, in answer to a prayer I said many years ago (which you can read about here). Truly all of the Old Testament scriptures are about Jesus and His relationship to His people.

Last Monday I was in a Bible Study Fellowship seminar titled “Personal Quiet Time” given by our wonderful Substitute Teaching Leader Ginger. We learned a great method for reading God’s Word and listening for what He has to say to you in the passage you’ve read.

In the middle of this seminar, as we were each practicing a method of personal quiet time we had just learned, God revealed an Old Testament – New Testament connection to me in a most awesome way.

First of all, He worked ahead of time to make what He wanted to teach me possible for me to see. For some reason I went to the seminar without either my Bible or my phone (which has a Bible app on it). I left both in the room my group was to meet in after the seminar. As I entered the seminar I sat in the front row next to my friend and fellow Group Leader Gina. When it came time for us to open our Bibles to read the passage Ginger asked us to consider, Gina loaned me her study Bible and she used her iPad Bible app. If I’d had the Bible I bring to BSF (and had left in the room) what happened next would not have been possible because that Bible doesn’t have a concordance.

As part of this exercise, we read Mark 1:35-45, which begins, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” As I read this, I was reminded of another verse that I have long felt was a call to me to not sleep in so late but rather to get up early to spend quiet time with God, as Jesus did in the Luke passage. I knew the text of the verse, but not what chapter and verse it was. Using the concordance in Gina’s Bible I found that the verse was Isaiah 50:4, which says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” I was sure the Lord was trying to tell me that I had ignored His prompting to get up earlier long enough.

But then my eyes fell upon the next verses in the Isaiah passage that describe Jesus’ obedience and endurance in going to the cross, as well as His unwavering trust in His Father:

The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Isaiah 50:5-8 (NIV).

Suddenly I knew that it wasn’t about what time I get up, but whether I desire to know Jesus more and spend time with Him in my otherwise busy day. I realized it was okay that I am not a very early riser even if Jesus was. He had to be to beat the crowds and have any time alone with His Father; I have other options. Then, to confirm what I had heard from Him, the Lord spoke again through Ginger. As we finished the exercise and discussed what we had learned from the passage, Ginger pointed out to the group, as an example of developing personal quiet time habits, that I had found a creative way to spend time with God, and that is by doing my BSF lessons while I eat my lunch at work.

What a blessing! I learned new prophetic connections and received wonderful encouragement, all because I made the time to arrive early for this one-hour seminar. And because God is good.

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You Can Call Me Peter

Among Bible characters, I have often identified with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. I can easily spend time in contemplation about God or spiritual matters, essentially sitting at the feet of Jesus, while the chores of the day go unnoticed.

I have also identified with the apostle John, who referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I know that Jesus loves me in the same way. Plus I love John’s gospel, epistles, and account of his vision in Revelation. I love the way he writes and his focus on the deity of Christ, and I identify with him because of my desire to do the same in my writing.

But this week I found myself identifying with a Bible character I never really identified with before. And that is the apostle Peter.

In Bible Study Fellowship we are studying the book of Matthew, and there is much about the character and behavior of Peter in that book. Last week we were studying Matthew 26. In that chapter, at the Last Supper, Jesus warns all the disciples that they will fall away that very night, and Peter fervently denies this, saying he will die with Jesus if he has to, even if all the others do fall away. Jesus then tells Peter he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows the next morning.

In the next scene, the little band of disciples is off to Gethsemane following their Master after a long day. In the garden, Jesus goes off to pray but brings Peter, John, and James with Him. He tells them to stand watch and pray, but all three fall asleep instead of praying. Jesus awakens them and again tells them to pray because “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Then He goes a little further to pray again His heartbreaking prayer that the cup of the Father’s wrath be taken from Him if it is possible. Jesus returns to the three to find them again sleeping and not praying.

In the next scene, Jesus has submitted to the Father’s will and awakens the disciples yet again to go and face His betrayer and the crowd that is coming to arrest Him. In spite of Jesus repeatedly telling the disciples that His arrest, crucifixion, and ultimate resurrection are the Father’s plan, Peter takes matters into his own hands and pulls out his sword, lopping off the ear of one of the crowd. Jesus rebukes him and tells him to put the sword away. Then as Jesus (and Old Testament prophecy) predicted, the disciples, including Peter, all scatter.

Two scenes later we see Peter again, slinking around the fire outside the courtyard where Jesus is being unjustly tried by the high priest. Three times Peter is asked if he was with Jesus, and three times Peter denies that he even knows Him, just as Jesus predicted.

Many times this year in BSF, something has happened in my life that fits right into whatever the lesson is for that week. Maybe God knows I learn better when the lesson is directly relatable to my life.

This week is no different as I find myself identifying with Peter. This bold and sometimes hot-headed disciple faced a great difficulty. And though he was warned by Jesus about what was to happen and admonished to pray so that he would not fall into temptation, Peter did not heed that warning.

I faced a difficult situation this week. I felt the Spirit’s nudge to pray about it, and to do so earnestly. Yet I did not pray. Although I didn’t literally sleep instead, I might as well have because I filled the time I should have been praying with useless activities. Then I found myself unprepared to face the situation. Instead of meeting it calmly, with love and grace, I exhibited my Peter-like hot-headedness. I met the situation with anger and fear instead of forgiveness and faith.

The good news is that if I repent of my sin and turn to Jesus, He will forgive me and restore me, just as He did Peter. And His plan will prevail in spite of my failings, just as the plan of redemption through His crucifixion and resurrection prevailed in spite of Peter’s failings.

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The Disciples’ Prayer – A Poem

My dear blogging friend Bryan Lowe posted some great quotes on discipleship the other day. My favorite was this one from Gilbert K. Chesterton: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” I have to admit that it hit home a bit because I have not yet attained the Christian ideal, and in part it is because it is difficult. Discipleship has a price; it is a price that is truly a bargain but a price nonetheless. But I refuse to quit trying, because I am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

The Disciples’ Prayer

Help me, dear Jesus,
to keep trying
to never stop following
no matter how difficult the road

Awaken me, O Lord,
as one to be taught
each morning, each day
that I may learn to follow You

Teach me, Holy Spirit,
the gravity of my need
the truth of Your grace
the magnitude of Your love

Blind me, O Lord,
to the obstacles in my way
that I may see only You and
confidently pursue Your ideal for me

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Fire Season – An Elfje

The western United States experiences wildfires every year, but this year it seems to be particularly bad. Several firefighters have lost their lives fighting these blazes, some started by natural causes such as lightning strikes, others started by careless people. On our way to eastern Washington this weekend the sky was redder than I’ve ever seen it going through the Gorge, and I wondered if it was in part due to smoke from these wildfires. It inspired this short poem that I hope is a reminder to keep the brave men and women fighting these fires in our prayers.

Decided to share this for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night. Head over and check out some of the other great poetry linked there.

Fire Season

Crimson
Twilight sky
Burning hot flames
Smoke fills firemen’s eyes
Wildfire

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My Dear Child – A Letter-Poem

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write a letter-poem. Mary suggested a number of options, but I decided to write a letter from God to one of His weary children.

My Dear Child

My Dear child,

I see that you are trying to be
just as good as you can be
but what you clearly do not see
is you can’t do this without Me

I know that you are wondering why
I do not stop what makes you cry
but if on Me you will rely
every tear that falls I’ll dry

I love you more than you’ll ever know
in you holiness I want to grow
and though your progress may seem slow
the path you walk is the way you must go

I will comfort you when times are tough
I will watch over you when life is rough
I will rescue you when you’ve had enough
What’s too big for you, to Me is small stuff

Grace and peace,
Your Heavenly Father

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Life Is Fragile – A Poem of Hope

This mortal life is fragile
housed in these jars of clay

Here we are living the good life
then at the end of the day
we may be struck down, bewildered
by the impermanence of our stay

Yet we know we are not abandoned
by the Truth, the Life, and the Way
The life He promised is eternal
as for grace and mercy we pray

This mortal life is fragile
yet He lives in these jars of clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NIV).

A dear friend is in the hospital in critical condition due to complications from a routine surgery. He was supposed to be in and out in a day, but he is likely to be in the hospital for 2 to 3 weeks. It got me thinking about the fragility of life, and this passage from Corinthians came to mind. As I read it, I was reminded of my friend’s strong faith in Jesus and the comfort that comes from knowing he is in the hands of the Great Physician.

9/24/13 Update: My friend is now home after 10 weeks in the hospital and rehab. He still has a long way to go, but has made great progress. I’ve decided to share this poem for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night today in celebration of the power of prayer in my friend’s recovery.

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Break’s Over – The Silence Speaks

The last time I posted was on March 30, the day before Easter, at the end of my 40 poems for Lent challenge. I never intended to go three months without posting, but I guess I needed the break. A lot has happened this year to keep me otherwise occupied, and I’ve spent a lot of time just listening to God. But I’ve really missed blogging so now the break’s over.

It’s funny how the longer I went without blogging, the harder it has been to get back to it. I think I just put so much pressure on myself to make this post so profound that I couldn’t come up with something I thought was worth writing about. So I finally decided to just start with a simple poem about how sometimes it’s more important to listen than to speak. In the coming weeks perhaps I’ll share what I’ve been hearing.

The Silence Speaks

Sometimes I feel compelled to speak
Often, truth be told,
I talk too much,
afraid of the silence

But when I stop, perfectly still
Listening thoughtfully,
Waiting patiently,
the silence speaks
His love and grace

7/2/13 update: I decided to share this poem at dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night, which I’ve also missed over the past 3 months.

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Betrayed and Denied – A Poem

Betrayed with a kiss
by one whose feet
He washed
but whose heart
remained unclean

Denied three times
by one whose feet
He washed
but who felt remorse
and was restored

May we all be like Peter
and not Judas

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