So Just WHAT Do I Need to Change?

Look at this:
Another
suggestion.
“God,” I whisper,
“You know that isn’t
what it felt like.”

I’m agitated about
the substance
of a conversation
with an acquaintance of mine.
She showed a keen interest
in learning my answer
to the Big Question
(“What are you doing
with your life,
hah-ney?”)–
that is, until she heard it
from me.

Then she seemed to
jump into gear,
prepared to fix
what wasn’t quite right.
Her advice came with a
subtext I had no
trouble absorbing
along with the words she spoke
(“This wasn’t a task
I was looking for tah-day,
but since you’ve
foisted
it upon me,
let’s try to work with me,
huh?”)

I don’t believe she ever heard
my heart.

Have you had a similar encounter?
You started out,
pleasantly surprised
by the attention
you were receiving
from someone
you didn’t know well,
but almost immediately
found yourself repenting of
your earlier gratitude–
wanting nothing more than
to welcome the disappearance
of your adversary.

Oh! The worst part
is when they do leave,
and we are left
feeling chained to
all the things they
said with the
skimpiest of words.
Where is the advice for that?!

I’ve been asking
that question,
and searching for its answer,
since the days
when I was
the little lady
the average adult didn’t
understand.
I felt the punishment
of every comment
informing me that
my atypical behavior
had not gone unnoticed
and, of course,
would not be free from
whatever
suggestion
seemed appropriate.

Years have passed
with little changing.
I’ve decided
there isn’t really
a promise
of escape
out there
waiting for me.

Instead, I’ve been learning
to walk through these
continuing confrontations
looking for God,
expecting Him to use
each one
as a backdrop
for the revelation of
something that only
the poor in spirit
wait to see.

Because I’ve watched Him do this
again and again,
I’ve learned to end
the prayers I begin
like the one above
with something like this:

“What could I gain
from this,
Lord?
What would you like me
to work through,
to learn by trying,
to act upon
that the change
You want in me
might take place?”

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God’s Greatest To Do List

Have you ever wondered what God might have on His to do list? Maybe you try to guess what is most important to Him in the scope of a day. If you knew this, you might know how to please Him by what you did with a day.

So, is it possible to know what God really wants for you–down to the things He has in mind for today? We’re all aware that He wants us to do a lot of things His way, but does He go so far as to have a plan for these mini, sometimes mundane, segments of our lives?

You may find this hard to believe, but I think He does. I think following God can truly only happen on a daily basis. God isn’t looking for us to make a point of keeping a couple rules once in a while. He wants us. He wants our hearts. And we can only give Him our hearts today.

And, for us to give Him our hearts, we must put them at His disposal so that they may do His will. This may sound like a very distasteful option to you. Surely giving God our hearts doesn’t sound so bad, but being made to do His will is an entirely different matter. I hear you. What you’re saying makes total sense…unless you know God.

His will may not be our first choice, but this does not make it something we cannot learn to desire. You see, the thing is that God’s will is the general and specific delineation of His character. If we love the character of God, how can we hate or fear His will. His will shall be precious to us because it is the means by which His desires and intentions are put into play through out our world.

Thus, if you have a problem with God’s will, spend some time getting to know God’s character. Ask Him to teach you about who He is. Wait for Him to lead you into discoveries about His Person that will make you fall in love with Him. When you know what God is like, when you see how He is toward you, you will understand love for the very first time. Then you will want that love to take over every part of your life. You will want nothing to get in the way of you always experiencing more of that love–what it means to your heart and what it can do in your soul.

You’ll be climbing up into His lap (what some people call prayer) and asking “What’s up for today, Papa?” You will be filled with joyful anticipation, knowing that everything He has to share with you will be for your good. Your heart will be confident that He’s going to show you more of Himself; the only unknown detail will be regarding the type of vehicle that will bring the revelation. But you won’t be worried about that either: He’s going to let you experience knowing Him in a little different way than He did yesterday and what you experienced yesterday will have whet your appetite for what He’s got planned today.

It’s exciting. You’ll get to the point where you don’t even care so much what’s on your to do list; you’ll just want to get a peak a things are endowed with His pleasure; what makes the cut for the life He wants to have with you. Now, if that doesn’t sound like a treat you’d like to see more of, than you don’t know what you’re missing!

 

Prayer napkins–and other things that might help us pray

Do you ever get ideas that you don’t know where you’re going with when you think them? I do. Sometimes I need to lay them aside, hoping they will grow into something I can understand in the future. That’s where this prayer napkin idea comes in. I was going somewhere with it, but I’ve forgotten where. Now it only confuses me.

Do you identify with this problem when it comes to your prayer life? You start out with keen determination to pray and put all your desires before God, but within a matter of minutes (or long yawns), you’ve run out of steam. You wonder why you thought this was such a good idea in the first place. It seems only reasonable to surmise that you’re just not made to be compatible with prayer. Perhaps you’re not even very compatible with God. If you were, would it be this hard?

But, perhaps the question is not would it be this hard if God and I were truly compatible? but, what does it take for God and I to grow in our compatibility? If you think about it, no relationship begins with instantly deep compatibility. There may be grounds for great compatibility, but two people must commit themselves to developing that compatibility over time. If they choose not to, there is still the promise of enjoyment and benefit in relationship, but no experience to authenticate it. It can be no less with God.

God is asking us to enter into a relationship with Him that will grow with time and patience. It will not hit its apex tomorrow. It does not need to. He is asking you to exercise prayer to develop your connection with Him, but He promises to give us grace for this connection to become real to us.

If you have grand expectations that involve you and God experiencing fireworks every time you call His name in prayer, you may consider it is possible that this is not God’s goal for you–at least not one that will be fully realized today. Yes, there are great joys in knowing God, but sometimes we forget that you need to get to know Him before the joy of knowing Him can come. It’s a simple matter of sequence.

If you want the kind of fireworks you’re used to, maybe you should be looking somewhere else. But, if you want to find a fire-like joy well up within you and rival anything you’ve ever known before, put in the work of seeking God so that you can know Him…a little more every day.

You’ll find it’s worth it, whether you put in five minutes or ten. Start where you are and ask Him to come be with you as you are. While you’re together, ask Him to grow your hunger so that you will want more and more of Him as time goes by. That’s a prayer that doesn’t need a special napkin or any kind of wizardry to make Him answer.

 

Merriam-Webster: he’s definition: he is.

Can I trust You in the stillness of my life?

Boredom seems to eat away at my soul–slowly depleting my hardy reserves of faith and hope and love. What is the matter, Lord? Why aren’t You doing the things You keep insisting You will? Why do You find it necessary to wait–especially when the echoes of this silence stifle my cries for an outbreak of divine commotion?

How could You fail to meet my expectations for a very exciting God in this moment of my life? I see You doing things, but I am left feeling like You are holding out on me. What is going on here? Do my senses lie or am I just not ready for what You’ve got planned next?

I don’t think I can bear much more stillness. My prayer muscles seem thoroughly fatigued: Could this mean the prayer-only stage of this process is coming to an end? I thought I was content with the routine You and I had going, but now You are switching everything up on me. I can’t really put my finger on anything, but my spirit is sensing a lot of “never-been-here-before” and “what-could-be-next…” And let me say that these spiritual syndromes really don’t feel all that fun right now!

I want to ask, “Couldn’t You give me more clues, Lord?” Since You know everything, isn’t it about time that You decided I could know the same? I’m impatient and weary. I would think everything should be all wrong because of these musings of mine, but yet all seems right on track–I just haven’t figured out which track that is yet.

Could You help; could You give me whatever it is You know I need right now? I don’t know how to ask any more. I have exhausted all that I know in the form of requests and suggestions. I need only grace and another glimpse of Your glory.

There’s no deficit in the prayer department

Is prayer something that you enjoy or dread? I pray that you know it was never meant to be the latter, but is one of the fullest forms of enjoyment we can have this side of heaven since it unites our hearts with God — that we may love and long to see Him.

Prayer is like boot camp — it puts our whole beings into the paces of preparation for fighting victoriously here and being presented a good and faithful servant there.

Prayer is essentially a matter of making God our great Satisfaction. When we approach Him with our whole heart, the way He tells us to, we will meet Him and receive what we need and most want from Him.

This is not just a matter of moral or religious obligation — this is a matter of voluntarily attending to the only Source of blessing and help that will furnish our souls with life and liberty.

Prayer is after all, where our relationship with God starts. We communicate to Him our appreciation for His willingness to die in our place that we might be delivered from death-row. We extend our hearts to Him in repentance for our sins and acceptance of His forgiveness and life.

Prayer is simple yet also supremely sanctifying. By it God pours out His Holy Spirit in us and we receive the power to live lives that display His goodness and glory. Prayer is a gift of grace — it welcomes us into the inner courts of the Maker of our Universe and bids us to freely fellowship with Him. Every time we engage in this practical and spiritual act we are reminded that we are considered by God as His friends.

As often as we recall how venomous our animosity has been against Him; as often as our sin should remind us of how far we are from knowing and impressing God we should be in awe of God’s tender mercy towards us. Tender because we should not have known anything but the abject terror of God’s wrath, and mercy because nothing should have stood in the way of our full judgment.

When our vision is infiltrated by the character and consequences of Christ, we will eagerly reach out to know Him and what He has for us. And only then will faith be lived out out in us through prayer and every other means of action we do.

Faith is the only thing that will break up the doubts and fears in our hearts that keep us from being effective in prayer. When you believe that God desires to limit what you enjoy, you will pray small prayers. But, when your ideas of God become accurate in belief, you will pray prayers that are powerful in their ability to glorify His grace filled purposes.

Rest is lost on the racetrack

If you are struggling because you seem to be missing God, do me a favor: Sit down, be quiet for a few minutes, and don’t move. Don’t be rigid, but rest.

God Himself has been watching your every move, ready to meet you, but unable to get your attention long enough for you to consciously slow down and move in to hear what He has to say to you.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God can feel far away even when we have been peaceful in our anticipation of His revelation.  But, if that’s where you are, and you’re growing impatient, know that the story isn’t over. You can’t write up your disappointment report until God moves, speaks or reaches out to you.

The question is not, will God respond? but will I like how He responds? God never fails to return the attention we give Him, but we must learn how to interpret the aspects of that return.

If God takes longer than we think He should to answer us, is He wrong? If He says no, when every happiness in the world pointed to yes, has He deprived us unfairly? If He says yes when we were desperate for Him to relieve us with a calm no, has He lost His compassion; can we no longer trust Him to do good on our behalf?

Before you try to make those judgments, I wonder if you have realized that God never said that any of those things were not good. And if I may now go one step further, I am curious if you know that He is adamant that they are good so long as He has chosen to give you this response to prayer. This is true because everything that God does is good — absolutely every time.

Now consider that God grants half of your wish: you ask for peace and happiness and He gives you peace. Do you judge His response as soon as it comes, or do you turn to the Lord in a spirit of humble submission and offer the Lord your worship even in your momentary ignorance of the beauty in His plans?

Let me tell you that God wants the latter, but not just for His own sake. Take this into account:

More than anything else, our prayers teach us what we value and show us where we need to grow. He is working to make clear to us, in every instance that we seek Him, just how we are missing the heart of God. But He does this not for the purpose of finding fault with us. He does everything with the intent of bringing us closer to Him, and bringing our character into greater conformity with His.

This is not a punishment, but an opportunity in everything we do to be like God and full of God. There could be no greater gift: God, when He is known for who He truly is, proves in us, that He is nothing short of everything we live to know and experience.

Do we vaunt pride more than patience; do we value power over persistence; do we seek prestige to the neglect of persecution? Then we are missing the point of living, the object of seeking God.

No matter what He says, I want to be able to show off God’s answers to my prayer, especially the ones that show His glory in contrast to my sin. For, how can He appear more faithful, more purposeful, more compassionate and merciful if I deny that I need all these things? And if I do not realize and proclaim that I am in debt to Him in all these ways, I will absolutely revert to believing that I am deserving of everything that comes to me from Him — and then, even more than that.

So, the keys to hearing, and more importantly relating, to God are resting and waiting. And the way we rest and wait is summed up perfectly in James 1:4:

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Recognize that God’s ways are above your own. Rather than grumbling, use your responsive efforts to praise Him for that — knowing that the end will make clear His wisdom that is mysteriously in play now. Let us not meet that end and be grieved that God’s only offering from  us was anxiety and displeasure.

It is impossible to have regrets with God when we trust Him. When we rely on Him with our whole being, we will neither look back with disappointment at His behavior toward us, nor remorse for our behavior toward Him.