Imperfect Prayers: Spirit of Hope

How I desire to be infused with a spirit of hope on this bleak gray overcast chilly winter morning. After another fitful night without restorative sleep there is no comfort for my pain. Why do I wake up in anguish? Oh how I struggle with the winter blues—Lord bless me with your healing and graciously fill me with the light of your presence.
Father-God I’m trying not to let the troubles of those I love keep me in despair. I fear for my children, my family and friends. As I listen to their concerns, receive multiple prayer requests, scan the headlines, I confess my worries about the evil oppression that surrounds us. I must look away from my weakness and let go of the burdens. I will focus my thoughts on your promises* to deliver us from this world. I seek you early as I renew my mind continually in your Word. Transform me from the inside out so that I might live in peace with hope.
Although I feel vulnerable in today’s desperation I trust it will not be like this always. There is hope even in the darkness. The faithfulness of God’s love continually returns as tender mercies with every prayer. I could not live without His comfort and strength.
There is relief for my soul—the present discouragement fades as I pray:
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.” Psalm 42:5 NASB
“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38
There is nothing that can defeat the rising of hope. There is nothing that can separate us from His love and from one another. I will keep the faith and keep my hope in God.

1.12.16 – I made a new year’s commitment to blog again after a grief recovery hiatus. Although all I can offer for now are bits and pieces of my brokenness; I will do my best to imperfectly blog every 12th day of each month in 2016.

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Word of God Speak

3 Keys Bible cjs Agape Feast Testimony – 1-11-14

I like to ask a lot of questions especially to God. How and why’s my most common favorites…it is easier to get answers to WHO, what or where questions. Honestly, I seldom get answers to my why questions!?! So for me I find it is best to focus on the practical life-applications for figuring out how to live above my circumstances.

How do we live in this world?  How do we get through the tough times?

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33

Due to a seriously painful broken ankle, I had a lot of time to read, pray and meditate during my extended recovery. On Friday, October 18th (the day before my son Joshua’s birthday), I was teaching my water exercise class at Willamalane Swim Center. Mandisa’s song “You’re an Overcomer” had just played as we transitioned into the full aerobic session. Suddenly out of nowhere while demonstrating the cross country ski move—my left foot hit a wet spot. Boom-bam! My ankle slammed against the hard concrete surface several times with a powerful force. I couldn’t get up so I signaled the lifeguard who at first hesitated but realized I could not get up. Another lifeguard came and helped me get onto a chair then I proceeded to finish the class. It hurt but I thought it was just a sprain. My call of duty took over and I knew my students needed their complete workout. A few members of my class recognized the seriousness and began to further assist me as they could see how contorted and twisted my ankle and foot was from their view below in the water.
I was totally unprepared for this emergency—even further unaware of the seriousness of my injury or the prolonged recovery ahead. The first weeks after surgery were really tough. Intense pain, medication side effects and helplessness plagued me as I was unable to walk or even get a drink of water. It can be very unsettling to be disabled. How will I get through another setback? Being inactive gave me plenty of time alone in my thoughts. Remember this is temporary. No why’s this time—just prayers for healing.
When you don’t feel good it is almost impossible to do anything that you enjoy. I love to read my Bible for inspiration and guidance. I love to write in my journal to express my desires, feelings and prayer requests. I kept coming across this one Scripture which really became a turning point for me through my recovery process:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Really? Rejoice in pain and be thankful in all circumstances? Seriously! I was already heartbroken before this accident and now I had injury on top of grief. I wanted to trust and obey God but I needed to cry and vent. Ok God it hurts and I am discouraged but I will to try. I would write in my journal what I was thankful for…only after I cried and prayed first. Eventually I found I could list more and more things—so it became very uplifting to remember and recognize God’s blessings. I could be thankful for a friend who came over with a meal, or flowers, or a card in the mail. I was thankful for the birds singing outside my window. I found great encouragement from my Facebook friends. I knew people genuinely cared and prayed for me. Eventually I could even be thankful when the TV quit working—just as long as I had the internet. But after we got the TV working a month later the Internet quit working!

Being thankful was one of the best remedies for healing. I finally wrote a Christmas letter first time in years especially after the great losses; it became a compilation from some of my gratitude lists and a thank you card to precious people.

With my questioning heart, I did further study to try to understand God’s will related to being thankful for clarification and understanding….

Paul’s injunction to “rejoice always” is based upon God’s activity and deeds. When we live in the power of God’s Spirit the result is “a consistent stable and deep-rooted joy” the opposite of a put on human emotion of “feeling good.” In difficult circumstances of suffering we can trust God in faith that circumstances neither create nor prevent His comfort, peace and joy. Ok I get it I will rejoice in my Lord JESUS always!

To pray continually means that every activity must be carried on with a sense of God’s loving presence. In urging the Thessalonians to “pray” and to “give thanks” Paul is giving advice he himself modeled over 27 times in the New Testament writings. Clearly Paul suffered many difficult situations—yet he learned to be content and to be thankful. Remember God’s commands are not met in our own strength.

“Be blessed in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ.” JB Phillips NT

This Scriptural command is deeply rooted in Paul’s understanding of God. Paul stated we could be assured in knowing God works all things for our good. Romans 8:28 Thus he could urge the people to “give thanks in the midst of circumstances” for there is always hope in Christ. Romans 8:39 We can recognize that both rejoicing and giving thanks become forms of worship or praise of God.

Life in the Spirit consists of positive joy, communion, and thanksgiving made possible as we are in God’s presence.

P.S. I even got an answer to my why and how’s? Being thankful is a testimony of my faith in a loving God who gives me peace, comfort and hope even in the midst of suffering. I will be faithful and share the comfort I receive to others.

And they overcame…because of the blood of the Lamb
and because of the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
Revelation 12:11 NASB

Next post: Overcoming The Lies When the Doors Close

Focus: Trust

     My Reckless Abandonment – Part I

“What she trusts in is fragile, what she relies on is a spider’s web.
She leans on his web, but it gives away, she clings to it, but it does not hold.”

This verse aptly describes my formative years as the continuous strands of abuse, betrayal and abandonment formed my web of destruction. A spiral of sticky naïve ignorance kept me from making good choices and blinded me of my true worth. The venom caused painful symptoms in my mind and body; but fortunately it was not so dangerous to take my life. Although my past web has been abandoned the cobweb scars linger…so I learned to trust and found healing in a loving God.

My first twelve years I did what I was told; the next twelve years I did life my way! I was rebellious against every person who broke my trust especially my abusive addictive parents. My father was a raging alcoholic and my mother’s drug of choice were “Black Beauties” (the Rx for weight loss). I hated the agony and abuse they inflicted upon themselves and their six children. Since they abandoned me, I chose to leave the chaos and foolishly continued the destructive ways enlarging my own web of destruction.
I began a pattern of relocating and seeking love in all the wrong places. I preferred older men of influence: someone who would provide a way of escape. I settled for the “bad boys” choosing drug dealers who numbed my pain; then I switched to incredibly wealthy selfish men in Palm Beach. Next I sought the educated and dated successful business men, my community college professor, my Real Estate Instructor and Amway leaders. I eventually turned away my doctor, Willie Nelson’s drummer and even Jimmy Buffet. The reality was none of them proved to be trustworthy of my love.
My choices minimized my value and filled me with shame, guilt and sorrow. I added more addictive traits to my web portfolio. I knew it was time for another escape and relocation. I became a seeker replacing my self-destructive choices for a new spiritual journey. First I experimented with new age, meditation, yoga, Hinduism and Scientology. I was open to invitations so I attended Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist churches.
God seemed so distant, so far away and mysterious. I could not comprehend a loving Father nor could I understand His ways. To begin life, unwanted and abandoned is incomprehensible. To experience repeated abuse, abandonment and rejection over and over again creates deep wounds. I did not want to live my life as a victim. At 23, I was exhausted, wounded and ready to give up. I didn’t trust anyone especially myself and definitely not God. It was difficult to be unable to trust, so isolating without someone to love and so awful not to be loved.

I finally found hope in Jesus Christ. I fell deeply in love with God and found my first really satisfying relationship. I began a new journey of intentional abandonment to a loving Sovereign Lord. I learned how to experience absolute trust even in suffering, in spite of circumstances, even in the face of death, beyond my fears for genuine unfailing love.

A prayer of abandonment and trust in God:

“Dear Father-God, Open my heart that I may receive your love. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may abandon my selfish and destructive ways. Forgive me and help me to graciously forgive. Lord, create in me a new heart, renew my mind and restore my soul. Guide me in your everlasting truth, grant me wisdom, and set me free in your grace. I believe and trust in You. I love You with all my heart, mind and soul. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

My next post will be how I learned to trust again and how to practice complete abandonment  to God and His divine providence.

A few of my favorite TRUST Scriptures:

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:4

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” Psalm 37:3

[1] Job 8:14-15 The first quote was actually a false accusation from one of Job’s friends Bildad, whose name means ‘son of contention.”

FOCUS: Gratitude

FOCUS:  Gratitude

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein to be content.” Helen Keller

I woke up this morning thankful for many Sabbath blessings: beauty, worship; special time with precious children at church: singing Acts 16:31 and sharing Bible stories. Then we shared a healthy meal with family, a beautiful walk in a garden setting and a soothing warm soak in a natural hot spring…yes I had plenty to be thankful for!

But there is always something to draw us near to God, to our knees for prayer and today was no different. My Mother-in-law, sweet Ila was admitted to the hospital this afternoon with pancreatitis; she is in good hands with the great Physician, stabilized with medical treatment, and very much loved and supported by her family and friends.

This powerful promise reminds that us that God understands: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  (Philippians 4:6)

I just came home from the hospital, so I’m write a new addition to this message from what I wrote earlier.  I was preparing to facilitate a group meeting this coming week. I chose the topic gratitude because I know it to be a true remedy to life’s woes. I read many different things about “gratitude.” I found it interesting that many of the stories about gratitude kept referring to problems but in the context of being grateful. Here are a few paraphrases from some of the quotes:

Even the darkest of moments can be faced with a grateful heart; not for the problems but for the growth it can evoke with the help of Jesus.

When things seem their bleakest, I can choose to seek the courage and strength and hope accessible in my Lord and Savior for the light of understanding and gratitude.

For “when it gets dark enough you can see the stars.”

Just for today, I will practice gratitude. I will choose to accept the gift of gratitude, receiving the things that come my way. Knowing I can trust my Heavenly Father, I will be content and let the peace of Christ keep me. I will cultivate thankfulness. I will be thankful for an attitude of gratitude.