Beyond Words

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Photo: Courtesy of Jason Foster

Haunted by Ghosts of Regret?

231 Do the ghosts of past regret haunt you with the words “If only?”

When Daylight Savings Time ended last Sunday, the sun rose at 6:35 a.m. instead of 7:35 a.m. because I set back my clocks by one hour.

If only I could change my past that easily by switching back the hands of time.

Hindsight has taught me many lessons, made me wiser.

Even so, I’d like to go back and change poor decisions. Sometimes, I wonder how life would be now if I’d made different choices.

There are also things I wish I’d done…..

For two years, I promised myself I’d visit an elderly friend. But she lived “so far away” and “life was busy.” By the time I went to her home, she had passed away.

 IF only I had known….

Regret is difficult to avoid…   

If only I had taken a different path,

If only I had made better choices,

If only God hadn’t allowed that circumstance,

If only I had known then, what I know now.  

But living with “what might have been” paralyzes me.

Before Paul was an apostle of Christ, he persecuted Christians. The memory of watching Stephen being stoned to death must have made Paul cry, “If only I had known Christ then, I would have ….

Paul experienced remorse over his actions: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

But he received the peace of God. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Read Romans 7:15-8:1)

“If only” didn’t hold Paul captive to the past.

Instead, he believed that he was loved by God, saved by grace, and forgiven.

And those facts enabled Paul to say, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Read Philippians 3:8-14)

Like Paul, we get to choose where our mind dwells.

“Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things…..and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

                  The only “if only” anyone should regret……is not knowing…..the God of peace.

What Kinds of People Do You See?

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I was in the Ladies Room at the San Francisco Airport when I heard someone ask, “Are you okay?”

A woman in her sixties was sprawled on the floor in a bathroom stall. She’d slipped on a puddle, twisted her knee, and smacked her cheek on the commode.

The person left who asked, “Are you okay?”

So I helped the woman stand up. She was dazed and held her bruised cheek.

Are you lightheaded? Are you traveling alone?

I’m alone,” she whimpered. “And I’m worried about my knee.”

I gave her a wet paper towel for her cheek, and held her arm as she limped to her nearby departure gate. When I told the gate attendant what happened and asked for ice to put on the woman’s cheek, she took immediate action. She filed a report, and sent for a paramedic to look at the woman’s knee.

I walked away, glad I had taken the time to assist her.

While I waited for my plane to depart, I smiled at strangers and exchanged pleasantries.

When I sat down in the plane, the woman next to me talked nonstop about her life including some painful memories. Even the flight attendant talked with us, telling us about her parents who had escaped Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the 1970’s.

As our plane landed in Texas, I thought about the people I’d met that day.

Why was I surprised?

When I’d driven to the airport that morning, I’d prayed for God to give me His eyes and ears. I wanted to be available to people rather than isolate myself in a book. Wasn’t it just like the Lord to answer my prayers beyond my expectations.

What and Who am I missing when I rush through my days in my self-absorbed world?

Who knew there were so many friendly people in the world?

Which made me think of this story:

      An old man sat outside the walls of a great city. When travelers approached, they would ask the old man, “What kinds of people live in this city?”

      The old man would answer, “What kind of people live in the place where you came from?”

      If the travelers answered, “Only bad people live in the place where we came from,” the old man would reply, “Continue on; you will find only bad people here.”

      But if the travelers answered, “Good people live in the place where we came from,” then the old man would say, “Enter, for here too, you will find only good people.” ~Author unknown

What About My Needs?

There are Naked Ladies in my garden, soaking up the August sunshine.

When I see them, I think of the Lord’s Prayer.

Naked Ladies are also called Belladonna Lilies. They earned their nickname due to their leafless long stems that produce funnel-shaped flowers in late summer.

What do Naked Ladies have to do with the Lord’s Prayer?

Yesterday while I dug shallow holes for these plants, it occurred to me …

Plants like my Naked Ladies need four things to survive: water, oxygen, sunlight, soil.

According to the Lord’s Prayer, these are my needs.

Bread

Forgiveness

Deliverance 

What about Marriage? Children? Success? Wealth?

Sorry, these aren’t mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

This passage, simple enough for a child to memorize, packs a deadly punch….to my egocentric heart.

Even the words preceding this prayer humbles me.

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

The disciples didn’t assume, they wanted to know how to pray.

“Lord, teach us to pray” …. is a prayer in itself.

A challenge for me to come before God with a teachable heart and one request. “Lord, teach me to pray.”  

I don’t want my prayers to resemble a laundry list of perceived needs for myself and others. 

I don’t want to be a taskmaster, telling God what I want fixed, finished, and furnished. And make it quick. 

Even when I praise God’s attributes, thank Him for my blessings, and ask Him to forgive my sins….

There is still too much of me, and too little of God in my prayers. 

HE should have turned me into a pillar of salt long ago.

But instead, the Lord teaches me to pray while I kneel in the dirt, head bowed beneath a canopy of oak trees…an earthly sanctuary where His Prayer convicts and fills my heart anew.

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“Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed by YOUR Name

YOUR kingdom come,

YOUR will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Hmm, this prayer is all about God. What about ME: My reputation, My life, My will? My needs?

“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.”

Bread

Forgiveness

Deliverance

There are other prayers in the Bible, other needs addressed.

But, when the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Our Father was the prayer Jesus taught them.

I need to pray likewise, and be thankful when God meets these needs!

How To Respond To Pain

“Your grandmother has a beautiful smile.”

The young man nodded. “You’d never know she lives with migraine headaches.”

His comment triggered the same question, the one in my previous blog.

How do people live with pain?  

Some people say, “It is what it is.”

Others credit “God’s grace and people’s kindness.”

When I look at my own life, I realize how I respond to pain and suffering has a great impact on my well-being.

That’s because my response determines my mood which affects my ability to cope.

I’m a slow learner, but over the years, three Biblical principles have shown me how to respond during trials.

Acknowledge

Accept

Adore

Remember Job? His children died, he lost his fortune, he suffered from bodily sores and the insults of foolish friends. He was miserable.

“What is my strength that I should wait? And what is my end that I should endure?”  

Job questioned why these trials happened, but he never questioned God’s sovereignty in his life.   

“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

“I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleaded for God, the Father to spare him from the agony of the cross. Even so, Jesus was obedient, and willing to accept God’s eternal purposes.

Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Hebrews 12: 2 says, “Jesus.…for the joy set before Him, endured the cross…”

Habbakuk, the prophet, trembled while he waited for calamity. He knew the people of Israel would be attacked and taken captive.

Even so, Habbakuk adored God regardless of his circumstances because he trusted God’s character.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food …  

yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; … He enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)

Learning a lesson isn’t the same as application. 

My first reaction is not humble submission or praise. But whenever I am willing to …..

Acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my life….

Accept unpleasant circumstances because  “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”(Romans 8:28)

Adore God because He is faithful and “His mercies are new every morning”

Then I receive the Lord’s joy and strength which enables me to carry on even in this….pain and heartache of life.

Illustrations/photos courtesy of Microsoft Office

What’s the Expiration Date of a Prayer?

IMG_4945Slumped on the ground among my Irises, I wanted to quit.

I’d spent almost three hours trying to fix my drip-line sprinklers while a platoon of blood-thirsty mosquitoes dive-bombed my forearms.

On the brink of surrender, a Praying Mantis landed nearby.

His prayer-like posture and calm repose made me realize how easily I’m defeated in the dirt and sweat of life.

Reminded me that prayer is vital, it’s not a last resort.

“Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4: 2)

Earnest, unwearied, steadfast, alert, intent, thankful…hardly describes my prayer life these days.

More like good intentions, and microwave prayers that make me grumble if I don’t see immediate results.

Knowing God’s Word regarding prayer, impacts how I pray.

But knowing ain’t the same as PRAYING……….

I can be a Prayer Warrior or a Prayer Wimp.

A warrior is a brave, experienced fighter.

A wimp is a weak, timid coward.

Why would I choose the latter?

Knowing I can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 14:6)

 If there’s a problem, maybe it’s because

  • My prayers have an expiration date.

        I’ve been praying for this situation for two months. It’s impossible. Nothing’s going to change. I give up.

  •         I make excuses why I don’t pray.

       I promised that person I’d pray for them, but I forgot. Besides, I don’t know what to pray. God knows their needs better than I do.

  •          I dodge prayers so I don’t have to obey.

        I should pray for _Fill in the blank_ but I’m afraid God will say, “NO!”

       I’d pray but I’m afraid God will tell me to forgive that person.

  •     I neglect specific prayers to avoid disappointment.

        I’d rather pray Thy Will Be Done and accept what comes than ask for specific…test results, needs, healing, loved one’s salvation…because if God doesn’t come through, my faith might flounder.

But God is faithful. Last week, He used a Praying Mantis to get my attention, and answered a prayer through an unlikely person when I least expected it.

That’s how I KNOW that God sees me and loves me.

Just like Hagar who “gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13).

Photo by: Jennifer Wrede