Tag Archives: Prayer

Joy in Our Call

1 Feb

Last year, the Lord gave me the word “Humility” to transform me. My word for 2014 seems to be “Joy.” Therefore, I’ve been looking at my collection of scriptures containing this powerful word. One verse jumped off the page, filling me with wonderful memories.

“Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy” Proverbs 12:20 NASB

I clearly remember driving home in the dark, tired but elated. I banged on the steering wheel and loudly announced to my empty car, “I love counseling!” So what if it was almost 10:00pm. When a couple worked at healing their marriage or a depressed client did the homework, I saw God at work. I saw the face of Jesus in the lonely and unlovable. I felt the exhilaration of doing His work, loving His people.

My own failures, sin, rejection, and loss helped me empathize with my clients. Yet I also knew that facing challenges makes us stronger. We can never really run from our problems or ourselves. I loved being able to pray with and for my clients. It thrilled me when a biblical principle or verse took hold in someone’s life, or when a client realized what we think/believe can transform actions and emotions (Romans 12:2).

God led me in this direction since my youth. I was the Dear Abby for friends as far back as seventh grade. Very few things compare with living out God’s call on your life. So why did I retire early?

I retired from counseling because I wanted a different relationship with those who needed my skills. I didn’t want the ethical boundary forbidding friendship. I wanted the freedom to take food to the sick and hug publically. I wanted to mentor young women or offer parenting advice over a cup of coffee instead of across a counseling office.

Living out God’s call on our lives doesn’t necessarily mean financial compensation for God’s gift. Sometimes we support our call through a different paid vocation. Other times, our vocation and call are the same—whether you’re an accountant, plumber, CEO, or childcare worker. When we use our God given abilities and education for Him, we are doing ministry. One thing is certain, answering God’s call, no matter how difficult, will bring joy.

Periodically, I’ll be sharing God’s lessons on joy. What brings you joy? Is joy and happiness the same thing? I hope we can encourage one another in this journey of joy. Please comment below. I’d be “overjoyed” if you would follow this blog and like us on Facebook. J

Have a joyful day.

Return

26 Jan

Life is so daily, filled with habit and routine. We long for time to rest, realign our priorities, and refresh our souls. I’ve done a bit of that since my last blog post on December 07. At the same time, my life has been extremely busy and full of surprising opportunities for ministry and fellowship. But now I’m ready to return.

I’m returning not just to writing this blog, but returning to God’s rhythm of life. That rhythm envelops all aspects of what it means to be created in His image: care for His temple (our bodies), creativity, strength, wisdom, work, rest, and so much more.

I’m also returning to a part-time tutoring job. What a joy to help kids be successful. George and I are returning to some of the attitudes and actions that first caused us to fall in love. Similarly, in the book of Revelation, Christ tells the church in Ephesus. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4 ESV). He wanted them to change their mind (repent) and return to doing the works that demonstrated their deep devotion.

The word “return” calls to mind a favorite Bible passage.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11 NRSV).

Just as moisture saturates soil, God’s word saturates our lives to produce good fruit. We can trust Scripture to work in us and successfully accomplish the Divine purpose. To that end, I’ve committed to daily Bible reading with some amazing high school girls. We meet weekly to discuss the connection we made with God through His word, to ask tough questions, and to pray for one another. It’s the highlight of my week.

Do you need to return? To what is God calling you? Perhaps you’ve neglected worship or time alone with Him. If so, Scripture has a good word for you. “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 51:11 TNIV).

Perhaps you’ve strayed so far, you think return is impossible. God has a good word for you as well. “Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness” (Isaiah 55:7 The Message).

It requires repentance and humility to admit we’ve abandoned Jesus Christ ,our first love. It takes intentionality and determination to trade the chaos of our culture for God’s rhythm. I don’t pretend it’s easy, but it’s exceedingly rewarding. It was difficult to sit down once again at my computer and share my heart. I’d lost the rhythm of writing. I’m hoping that this bit of writing will encourage me to complete a major writing project. Perhaps you’d pray for me to complete it before March 1.I’d count it a privilege to pray for you. Just use the comment box below to share your prayer requests.

Saving Sunshine—Part 2

15 Aug

IMG_0547
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest, they don’t have storerooms or barns, but God feeds them. And you are worth much more than birds . . . Consider how the lilies grow; they don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers (Luke 12:24, 27 NCV).

God says pay attention to His creation; we can learn something.

Months ago, I began asking God if I should get another dog after my little Sunshine died. I got on rescue websites and even made a call or two about specific dogs. In every case, someone else adopted the dog. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to adopt. My busy schedule combined with my husband’s reservations caused me to have second thoughts. Then I realized that three of the four local rescue shelters kept dogs alive; the fourth euthanized them after one week. I couldn’t save them all, but I could save one.

I still had my list of preferences: female, small, doesn’t shed. I went back to the Humane Society website and found Bambi who met my first three “qualifications.” I called; she hadn’t been adopted. When I got to the shelter (25 miles from home), she wasn’t there.

“She’s been taken to another shelter,” the rescue worker told me, “but I can give you that number.”
“No thank you. The point is not to have a particular dog, but to save a life.”
“You’re welcome to walk around and see if there is another dog you might want.”

So I found the cages marked FEMALE and walked up and down the aisles asking God to lead me to “my” dog. Nothing. Disappointed, I returned to the office.

“Did you find a dog?”
“Not this time. I was hoping for a small female, maybe part Shish Tzu.”
“Did you look at number 21? She’s a Shish Tzu-terrier mix.”
“I thought that row was males.”
“They’re next to the males.”

I went back to #21. A small dog put her nose against her cell and licked my fingers. Her entire backend wagged in welcome. She never barked once, though surrounding dogs howled, barked, and whined. I let the workers know I’d be praying about #21.

The next afternoon I went back to see #21 without stopping in the office.
She was gone!

Tears of disappointment surprised me. Surely, I hadn’t formed an attachment so quickly. I ran back to the office as I dried my eyes and put on a calm exterior.
“Number 21 wasn’t there,” I explained.
“Oh, she’s in the TV room.”
“Do dogs watch TV?” (I know. Brilliant response.)
(Smiling) “No. We were making a TV spot to encourage her adoption.”
Huge relief. “Could I meet her one-on-one?”
We got acquainted in the penned patio. Number 21 was a bit rambunctious and covered with bloody ticks and scabs—but she stole my heart.

“I think I want to adopt her. By the way, what’s her name?”
“ Sunshine.”
“Are you kidding?”
“No, that’s her name . . . Are you going to cry?” (Obviously, a rhetorical question)
“Sunshine was my dog’s name; she died a few months ago.
I signed the paper work and wrote a check.

So God made the wild animals, the tame animals, and all the small crawling animals to produce more of their own kind. God saw that this was good (Genesis 1:25 NCV).

Saving Sunshine—Part 1

10 Aug

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26 NASB95).

When they found my brother Jim, we estimated he’d been lying on his floor for at least five days. Considering the sores on his hip, shoulder, and elbow, he hadn’t moved. He was barely breathing. Every chemical, blood, and body fluid measurement was off the charts. If he lived, what would be his mental and physical condition? Hundreds of prayers went up for Jim, even when we couldn’t find words (Romans 8:26).

The doctor later told us, “I thought I was treating a dead man.”

Jim’s two registered Jack Russell Terriers, Hoss and Daisy, had been confined to his back den during those five days. Overturned trash and partiality-eaten paper plates showed their desperation for food. Eventually, they chewed through a heavy paper bag of dry food; a small puddle of water from a leaking toilet seal kept them from dehydration. A month earlier, Daisy had given birth to one male and one female puppy.

Not knowing if Jim would live or die, we had to find homes for the four dogs. I decided to take the little female home with me. I certainly didn’t need another dog, but she might be my last connection to Jim.

For years Jim’s greeting to me had always been, “Hello, Sunshine.” Jim’s future looked dark, so Sunshine seemed a perfect name for this tiny black and white ball of fur. When I told Robin and Regina her name, each had the same response. “Oh, that’s what Uncle Jim called me every time I saw him.” Until that moment, each of us thought we held exclusive rights to that happy name.

Toward the end of two weeks in intensive care, Jim squeezed a hand. His first words were, “Love you.” The sun began to shine again.

Jim spent six more weeks in the hospital. Next came months in a nursing home, assisted living, and finally home. Added to encephalopathy and other diagnosis, tests revealed he had dementia with Lewy bodies, which has symptoms of both Parkinson and Alzheimer’s. He spent his final days in an Alzheimer’s unit, but he never forgot anyone’s name. Although Jim couldn’t discuss his last meal or the TV show he just watched, Sunshine‘s antics provided a source of conversation and reliable memories for him. I’m extremely grateful for the five additional years God gave us with Jim.

Sunshine eventually transitioned from a housedog to a companion for Jax, our oldest birddog. Last spring I began making plans to bring eight-year-old Sunshine back into the house because of Jax’s failing health and age. That wasn’t to be. She darted under the back wheels of George’s pick-up and was killed instantly. We were both devastated.

I’m never sure if I rescued Sunshine or if Sunshine rescued me. She’ll forever be an inseparable part of Jim’s memory. I am sure she brightened many lives with her playfulness and love of people. She left a hole in my heart and about a month after her death, I began asking God if I should get another dog. Next week, I’ll share God’s answer.

Has there ever been a time you just couldn’t find words to pray? Has God ever answered your prayers through a pet? Please share your thoughts.

Worry

2 Aug

I sat cross-legged on the bed in our inexpensive motel room, midway into our 900-mile trek. Our destination was the university where George hoped to get his doctorate. All our possessions were stacked in the rental truck and stuffed into the towed Datsun station wagon. Two dogs and a ferret occupied boxes in the back of our aging van, which pulled the boat. (“The Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind.) The university hadn’t yet accepted George into the doctoral program; neither house nor jobs waited. I read Matthew 6:19-34, which concluded with these words.

[Jesus said,] “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:31–34 NASB95).

I wrote in the margin, “Does this mean tuition, books, gas?”

I’ve heard the definition for worry is assuming responsibility God never intended us to have. Perhaps the key is distinguishing between God’s responsibility and mine. The passage above says our part is to seek God first. God knows us and adds to our life all necessary things.

Yet that’s an incomplete picture. Second Thessalonians 3:10b says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (NRSV). George and I worked extremely hard—maybe too hard. Remember how Martha worked as Mary sat at Christ’s feet? Jesus told 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 10:41–42 NRSV).

Ultimately, God is our greatest need.

Still, we spend time worrying about so many things; most never happen. I realize we have legitimate concerns and God is not our fairy godmother. However, worry changes nothing. I’ve learned to do all I know to do and leave the results to God. We can trust His love and intimate knowledge of our needs. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Paul said, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11 NRSV). That gives me hope. Replacing worry with contentment is something I can learn. The three years it took George to get his doctorate taught us remarkable lessons in contentment versus worry and faith versus fear.

Several years after my encounter with Matthew 6, I wrote the answer to my own question. “Yes— tuition, books, gas and so much more!” In spite of discouragement and fear, God provided material needs, emotional support, spiritual strength, and encouragement—always in His time. Life is continually a matter of praying, trusting, and waiting.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NRSV).