Unexpected Gifts

I was 13-years-old and horse-crazy.

The fact that we lived in a suburban house with a small backyard didn’t dissuade me from asking my dad if we could buy a horse.

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you just don’t buy a horse. You also have to find a place to board the horse. Not to mention food and veterinary costs.”

End of subject.

Decades later, two horses graze on my rural property. I stand beside the black horse…my arm extended, hand open with an orange peace offering.

His nostrils flare when he sees the carrot. He brushes the palm of my hand with his moist, soft lips. My skin tickles; stirring memories of a young girl’s dream.

I don’t own these horses. They’re temporary guests, lodging here at the request of our neighbor. It’s a win-win. My neighbor won’t have to purchase hay. We don’t have to mow the field grass.

This gentleman’s agreement isn’t what I had in mind when I asked my father for a horse. But while I rinse dishes and watch these ambling horses from my kitchen window, I realize this is answered prayer from way back when.

Even though the answer looks different than I imagined.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen God answer prayers as though He were thinking outside the box.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a schoolteacher. Who knew I’d homeschool my children? Homeschool was a foreign concept when I was young.

I also dreamt of being a writer. Who knew my words would appear on a website Blog and online magazines? There was no internet back in the day.

The Lord knew. He had a plan.

Silly me when I think a subject is closed just because it doesn’t happen according to my time table and expectations.  

My desire for a horse waned like many youthful dreams. However, the Lord has gone above and beyond to give me the desires of my heart. Mostly, He’s shown me that desiring Him above all things meets my deepest need, satisfies my greatest longing.  

Even in this moment…

When my hands are buried in warm dishwater and I’m grinning because the Red horse is rubbing his neck against the Oak tree like it was a scratch post,

I’m reminded of God’s goodness. And I praise Him for unexpected gifts which sweeten mortal days.

 

 

Share a time the Lord answered your prayer in a surprising way.

Photo by: Jonathan Foster

 

What Do You Hope For?

My youngest child left for college a month ago. With the exception of some furniture, his bedroom is empty as a conch shell lying on a beach.

The occupant left. There’s nothing but a hollow space where there once was life.

View bigger - Conch Shell FREE for Android screenshotGone are most of my son’s clothes, his laptop computer, his Bible, the scent of his cologne. Even his lava lamp traveled East to get plugged into a college dorm.

So I decided to renovate the room. I stripped posters off the wall, and removed the camouflage curtains that I hand sewed.

Then I patched the holes in the wall with caulk…as if keeping myself busy with a room makeover could fill the empty spaces of my heart.

 If only moving into the next season of my life was as simple as replacing the fan blades in the ceiling fan.

Years ago, when our two older children left home at the same time, our nuclear family of five was subdivided. The sensation was like ripping a plant out of the earth, and then tearing the entwined roots apart to create three separate, smaller plants.

Transplanting my last child across the country feels like an amputation.

I’m still a mother, but there are no longer any children beneath our roof. I’ve severed my apron strings that held them within reach.

Those thoughts hovered in my head while the ceiling fan stirred the air which brushed my cheek like a child’s butterfly kisses.

This room never looked so good. But new paint won’t bring this room to life.

People make a house a home.

What happens when they’re missing?

I tell myself, come Christmas vacation, my son will return and this room will look lived in again—an unmade bed, socks scattered on the floor, the closet door ajar, a cup of water by the bed.

Family reunions, that’s something to hope for, right?

Isn’t hope hinged to every goodbye? If not this world, then the next….we’ll be together again one day!

“Faith is.the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I pull the brass chain hanging from the light fixture as the fan blades spin round the globe like planets revolving round the sun.

Who’s the center of my universe? The light of my life?

Have my children and house become the center of my attention…my affection?

If faith is the assurance of things hoped for….what am I hoping for?

Am I hoping my children will move closer? Visit more often? Stay safe? Be happy? Grow strong in the Lord?

“God Himself must be the one object of our hope and trust in our work, our needs, and our desires.

“Just as God is the center of the universe, the one guide that orders and controls its movements, so God must have the same place in the life of a believer.

“With every new day, our first thought should be: Only God can enable me this day to live as He would have me live.” ~~Andrew Murray

When will I learn, its indispensable to meet with God every day in prayer, and allow Him to renovate me.

I can long for the past or fret about the future, but my time is best spent praying for those I love.

So I pray for my children. I pray for my husband of 35 years who walked beside me during the child-rearing years.

And “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in our hearts as we trust in Him.” (Ephesians 3:17)

Even in this…..season of life.

Three Responses to Prayer

When I was a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force, fresh out of Officer Training School, I learned to respond to my superior officers with one of three phrases whenever they addressed me:

Yes Sir!” “No Sir!” “No excuse, Sir!

 

Those days of being a G. I. are long gone. I traded dog tags for diaper bags way back when. But I’m still faced with three responses to God’s commands: “Yes, Lord!” “No, Lord!” “No excuse, Lord!

Recently, I had no excuse.

We sat on the edge of the bed, her and me. We talked about the importance of prayer and the book she was reading on that subject.

As I scanned the synopsis on the book jacket, she shared her desire and need to pray more often, be more persistent.

We discussed prayer. Does prayer make a difference?

We discussed scripture about prayer.

We prayed over our meals. We bowed our heads in prayer during church. Can’t speak for her, but I silently voiced hasty, self-absorbed prayers.

But that weekend, we never prayed together for the issues that weighed heavily on both our hearts. Even when tension escalated and the need was great…prayer was absent.Praying Hands

No prayer? No power. No victory.

No Excuse.

Would there have been a different outcome, a different attitude and response toward our circumstances if we’d made prayer a priority instead of a subject for discussion?

 

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed….

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly….

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” (Luke 22:39-46)  

Exhausted from sorrow? Sounds like a good excuse to me, but Jesus didn’t want excuses. He wanted them to get up and pray. He wanted them to respond, “Yes, Lord!”

After Jesus prayed, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”  

Earnest prayer didn’t change the outcome, but it enabled Jesus to accept God’s will and obey Him even to the point of death on a cross.

If the disciples had prayed that night, would they have run away and forsaken Jesus when he was arrested?

If the Apostle Peter had prayed that night, would he have denied knowing Christ three times before the cock crowed?

 

“Devote yourselves to prayer….” (Colossians 4:2)

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“Pray to the Father…that from his glorious, unlimited resources He will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:16)

And every day, I either respond:

“Yes, Lord!” “No, Lord!” “No excuse, Lord!” 

Even in this……

What Would Jesus Do?

DSCN2544Alone, I go to a secluded area. I want to talk with the Lord. There are so many people in my life who ask for prayer, who have deep needs.

How do I pray for them? Does my perceived needs for them line up with God’s will for their lives?

I think of my own prayer requests, wisdom needed so decisions can be made.

What would Jesus do?

Those words have become a catch phrase on bracelets and T-shirts, but this truly is my desire “to do the right thing” so I pray,

What would Jesus do?

A thought stirs my heart like the wind blowing through the pine trees on the hill.

Jesus would pray.

“But He would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

He made communion with God, the Father, a daily priority.

o   Before he chose the twelve men who would be his apostles,

o   Before Jesus spoke to the multitude, and afterwards,

o   Before he healed the leper and the blind man,

o   Before he was arrested,

 Jesus would pray.

American culture has programmed me to be productive rather than be still.

Consequently, my Christian walk also gets caught up in a blur of activity:

Follow Christ, serve Him, live a life that is worthy, please Him, bring Him honor.…

I forget to be still….

And do what Jesus did every day of his life on earth…PRAY!

The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) are the words Jesus shared when the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. John Chapter 17 also shows what Jesus prayed for when He knew His hour had come.

He prayed:

Ø  His name would be glorified, and that believers would see His glory.

Ø  God would keep believers safe from the evil one, and care for them.

Ø  Believers would be filled with His joy.

Ø  Believers would be sanctified in the truth; God’s Word is truth.

Ø  Believers would be unified so the world would know that He was sent by God who loves them even as He loves the Son.

Ø  God’s love would dwell in His people’s hearts, and He in them.

Alone in the wilderness, I know what to do.

I pray likewise knowing these are the best things I can pray for myself and others because

This is what Jesus would do.

What Kinds of People Do You See?

airports,briefcases,businesses,businesswomen,checking the time,communications,gestures,late,metaphors,persons,running late,watching the time,women

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.

IMG_4537

“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!

The C Word

Heard the C word again; the one that fills the human heart with dread.

The C word that forces me to “lean not on my own understanding”

But rest in a sovereign God.

He tells me surgery is scheduled, but the doctor’s optimistic prognosis doesn’t slay the inner demons swimming in the back of the mind:

What if ?

Dwelling on the problem instead of the Lord,

Feeds FEAR and makes it grow into a gIANT   that only faith can slay.

“For the Lord your God will hold your right hand saying to you, ‘Fear not. I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

  • Fear not, even if it’s cancer.
  • Fear not, I will hold your right hand.
  • Fear not, I will help you.

I cling to that promise like a blanket and fall asleep, one ear listening for the phone to ring.

And it does ring, waking me up just as dawn appears on my horizon and bird song fills the air.

A weary monotone voice greets me from a thousand miles away where skies are blue, but not for him.

I feel the weight of the world on his shoulders as he waits for his wife’s operation to be over, and the lab results to show good news.

Words stick in my throat as I search for the right thing to say.

“May I pray with you?”

Instead of holding warm-blooded hands, I grip the cold metal of my cell phone and …

  •  Plead to the heavens on his behalf.
  • Pray to the Lord who is an ever present help in times of trouble.
  • Claim God’s promises that are true.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

If only I could crawl through the phone, and sit beside him. Show that I care beyond words. But I can’t.

So I hang up and do what I can.

  • Bow my head and pray some more.
  • Sound the trumpet so my fellow saints will pray too.
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit who dwells within my friend to do what I can’t.

Be his strength in weakness;

          give him grace that is enough,

                 guard his mind with the peace that surpasses human understanding.

Even in this ……