Category Archives: Articles

Lord, Please Teach Me How

 

So I’m working to understand this verse better:

 

 

Confess your faults one to another,

 

and pray one for another,

 

that ye may be healed.

 

The effectual fervent prayer

 

of a righteous man (or woman) availeth much.

 

 

(King James’ version of James 5:16—beautiful poetic language that I often have to ponder in order to internalize)

 

Other versions use these words:

 

Powerful

Great power

Supplication

Wonderful results

Can accomplish much

Very powerful

Continual prayer

Heartfelt supplication

Insistent prayer

Very strong

 

I positively don’t want to waste my time praying wimpy limp-along prayers that don’t accomplish much. So I’m striving to be a better pray-er. (perhaps that’s a key; maybe it’s not so much praying better prayers, as it is being a better pray-er)

 

I read in Matthew Henry’s commentary that one needs to be careful to actually pray in prayer. I paused for much thought there. Then caught myself this morning saying words while my focus was really on the pictures I was taking; and I’m pretty certain there’s no such thing as half-hearted effectual fervent prayer.

 

God doesn’t want me to treat his listening presence as if I can contain it on the back burner.

 

And there’s not a cookie cutter design for prayer because God says:

 

 

“When you pray,

 

don’t babble on and on

 

as people of other religions do.

 

They think their prayers are answered

 

merely by repeating their words again and again.

Matthew 6:7

 

 

However, God was so meticulous when he gave his OT worship instructions to Moses that I have to believe some conditions and methods are more effective than others.

 

I asked some friends what they think the verse means:

 

Without ceasing (3 repeats)

With an honest heart.

Takes a lot of intentionality to be constantly aware of God’s presence during prayer.

Pray with conviction.

Just pray!

Be consistent.

Sometimes pray with a broken heart.

Desperate.

Honest.

Like you are on fire and you just want to burn hotter and you don’t want to stop or even have a slow down—if that makes sense.

Pray believing and often.

 

I even listened to one of Dr. David Gibbs, Jr.’s sermons on prayer:

 

Get clean

Be righteous & clean

Be faithful to pray

Expect answers

Expect God to do the impossible

 

My personal takeaway:

Lord,

 

please teach me how

 

to be a pray-er

 

who prays fervent

 

effectual prayers

 

that avail much.

 

Amen

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Only 60-ish More Days To Go

 

Several months ago I gave myself a timeout from political news because even I could tell it was making me grouchy.

 

As I gently waded back into news consumption, it was with full knowledge that, if I were going to keep my attitude intact, I had to have supernatural help. Literally.

 

So the plan I formulated was that each and every single time I instinctively (and sometimes viscerally) reacted to something I saw from any of the three camps—Obama, Clinton, or Trump—I was to STOP. PRAY. For all three—regardless of which one prompted my prayer.

 

Then I reminded myself of Romans 13:1

 

 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.

 

For there is no authority except from God,

 

and those that exist have been instituted by God.

 

 

So far it has worked beautifully—only 60-ish more days to go.

 

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In The Beginning

 

When I read that less than 3% of self-professed Christ followers had ever read the Bible cover to cover, it bothered me immensely. I’d read its entirety when I was a teenager and had studied Scripture in order to teach adult Sunday school classes; but was embarrassed to admit I’d only read God’s complete love letter to me one time.

 

There were a lot of things in my life I couldn’t control, but that sure wasn’t one of them. So I opened to the first page and began reading through; began again in February 2015; and then again yesterday.

 

My Bible’s pages are practically dripping with yellow gel marker; and their margins are filling up with tiny notes, prayers, praises, and names (you may know who you are) of people for whom I pray. Just last week the dictionary concordance detached from the rest of the book—result of being carted around so much.

 

I don’t have a written reading plan to cover chapters, pages, verses or minutes; instead I’m reading to spend time with God in his presence. And I’m usually surprised when I finish and glance at the clock.

 

The book of Revelation is probably my favorite and I love its promise in Chapter 1, verse 3:

 

 

God blesses the one who reads

 

the words of this prophecy to the church,

 

and he blesses all who listen to its message

 

and obey what it says,

 

for the time is near.

 

 

I decided before beginning Revelation last week to read the words aloud, just to myself; and I asked the Lord to show me things I’d not seen before. Not surprisingly, “listen to the Spirit” jumped off the page every single time I saw it.

 

Yesterday I started all over again, “In the beginning…”—this time with orange gel marker in hand. And I’m paying particular attention to sentences that begin with, “And the LORD said…”

 

So, if you like a challenge, I challenge you to begin at the beginning; and I’d be more than honored for you to tell me when you reach the end.

 

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Finding Joy In Failure

 

 

Have you ever come across a powerfully constructed learning propeller and wished you’d learned it years ago? I did the other day when I saw Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of Spanx, talk about childhood dinnertimes with her dad.

 

I was so excited I called my son-in-law to tell him about the video; and then showed it to my daughter the next day. We’re always excited to watch Faith Cora learn because she has a real knack for taking a concept and generalizing it to new areas. And lately her physical antics have brought such squeals of appreciation from Abram, that I expect he’ll soon be racing to follow her footsteps.

 

Ms. Blakely explained how her dad taught her to define failure as “not trying” instead of “the outcome of trying” by asking at the dinner table what she’d failed at that week. She said he was actually disappointed if she didn’t have a failure to report; but when she did, he celebrated it and anchored the joy of trying with congratulations and high-fives.

 

I absolutely love that he was able to separate her efforts from the results. What an amazing way to teach the joy of trying new things without the fear of failure.

 

Another thing he taught her was, that if things hadn’t turned out the way she wanted or perhaps she was embarrassed about a situation, write down the hidden gift that came in the experience; then identify what she got out of it. Ms. Blakely said she began to realize that every experience always had an amazing nugget she wouldn’t have wanted to pass up.

 

What a wonderful gift to give your children.

 

 

And we know

 

that God causes everything

 

to work together

 

for the good of those who love God

 

and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28

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http://www.businessinsider.com/sara-blakely-spanx-ceo-offers-advice-redefine-failure-retail-2016-7

I Love My Country

 

I love my country, but I’ve never liked politics; and this is my first political season to be so attentive. But after taking in multitudinous debates, interviews, shows, and articles, I finally reached attitude overload and gave myself a timeout.

 

I’ve since waded back in and am again paying attention.

 

A few weeks ago someone posted a political news story and then, instead of addressing the issue, slammed the politician’s intelligence. It felt yucky and reminded me of one reason why I dislike politics. I’d much prefer to hear an honest opinion about the policy or character flaw than hear a cheap shot about the person.

 

Interesting how God’s word has answers to problems like these. He tells me I’m supposed to pray for those in authority; but if I lump the person, their policies and character issues all together, it creates a prayer problem for me. It’s hard to pray for someone if I can only see the things I don’t like— be that policies or character issues.

 

So I’m trying to maintain clear mental distinctions between the political issues, the politicians, and their character flaws. (And it helps considerably when I remind myself that I have character flaws too.)

 

He said it so I’m trying to do it:

 

 

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.

 

Ask God to help them;

 

intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

 

Pray this way for kings

 

and all who are in authority

 

so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives

 

marked by godliness and dignity.

 

This is good and pleases God our Savior,

 

1 Timothy 2:1-3

 

Amen.

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(on-line photo)

Just Walk To Me

 

I was the Sunday morning speaker yesterday—in the pulpit Dan filled for over 20 years. I thought about him maybe peeking down and chuckling at the sight. He would know, better than most, that public speaking isn’t very high on my “most comfortable things to do” list. But I know the pride he would have felt for me and can almost hear him saying, “Honeybun—I am SO proud of you”.

 

I deliberately sat on the far right front pew where he used to sit; and Bryson, our great-nephew, sat beside me—just like he used to sit beside Dan.

 

I didn’t want my speaking to be a sad teary event and had asked a few friends to pray to that effect. Sitting there and listening to the songs, I smiled and thought a bit about how far I’ve come in these last almost five years that have passed; and how thankful I am for all the prayers the people there have prayed for me.

 

Different memories flitted through my thoughts as I waited for my time in the service; and I prayed a prayer from a Rich Mullins’ song I’d not thought of in a long time:

 

 

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf

 

You have been King of my glory

 

(Now) Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

 

 

For years and years, anytime I felt scared in a situation, I’d pray those words—they always worked to calm my fears back then—and they worked yesterday too.

 

My prepared words were about being BOLD in sharing my faith and Jesus; and about how much I liked the prayer concept of reversing the thunder. I’d included a funny story about Faith Cora and “Chair Leaf” Abe and pointed out that if I want people to listen to the message I share, I have to speak it in love.

 

There comes a point in preparation for me when it’s time to quit thinking about what I’m going to say and just let it flow.

 

So I listened to the words of the songs and focused on the overhead screen pictures behind the printed lyrics. Nothing was specifically sung that prompted the words that I then heard repeated three times very clearly in my spirit…

 

 

Just come to me on the water…

 

walk to me on the water…

 

just come walk to me.

 

 

Yes Lord.

 

Vivian

Real Star Wars

 

My day-of-the-funeral gifted copy of “Streams In The Desert” is highlighted, underlined, scribbled in, and noted with multi-year’s dates. This May 7th partial entry caught my attention in 2012, 13, 15, and 16.

 

“…prayer not only is calling upon God but is also a battle with Satan…God uses our intercession as a mighty weapon of victory in the conflict…”

 

 

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies,

 

but against evil rulers and authorities

 

of the unseen world,

 

against mighty powers in this dark world,

 

and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

 

 

Star wars aren’t a figment of anyone’s imagination; and spiritual battles are fought with spiritual weapons.

 

I’ve never doubted the spiritual personage authenticity of Satan; anymore than I’ve ever doubted the spiritual personage authenticity of God. But I’ve also never ever doubted knowing Who holds total final authority over whom.

 

I know the power of prayer; and I know firsthand that another’s prayer can be sensed and felt. I know the presence of the Holy Spirit in the same way—an almost palpable scoop-it-up-in-my-hands sense of presence.

 

Maybe I’m living out my 2016 word exhilaration—loosely translated to mean that I’m pretty much past being bothered by what other people think; or maybe the oxygen’s just thinner at my newly reached altitude of red and purple.

 

Whatever.

 

It’s time to speak honestly about things that are real.

 

Amen.

 

Hubble

(Hubble telescope photo)

What’s Your Mom-ism?

 

Years ago, during the week prior to Mother’s Day, a local radio station ran a listener-driven piece called “What’s Your Mom-ism”? The gist of it was to identify whatever phrase your mom repeated to you the most times while growing up.

 

I had no difficulty recalling my mother’s words, but was far more interested in my own young adult kids’ memories; and wasted no time putting the question to each of them.

 

April’s answer, “It’s healthy to make yourself do things that make you feel uncomfortable—given that they’re legal, ethical, and moral.”

 

Joshua remembered, “Now…let’s think about this logically…”.

 

I was pleased with their answers; and do remember saying those things a lot. I also remember repeatedly saying, and was a little concerned it might be at the top for Joshua, “I don’t care if you are in bed, get back in here and turn your dirty socks right side out”. Whew! What a miss that would be, if those words were the loudest ones hollering out of the past. Although, in my quest-for-clean-socks defense, he actually called me after he got married and told me that he appreciated my diligence—because it sure made doing his adult laundry easier.

 

Maybe it has something to do with recently reaching the age of red and purple, but when I saw two small books “Forever My Little Boy” and “Forever My Little Girl” in a gift shop display last month—I bought them; and now they’re personalized with some tiny details of the young family that we once were. Time moves forward and I wouldn’t change a thing—wouldn’t go back any number of days because I’d never ever want to live through the sad bad awful ones again; BUT I will forever rejoice that I, along with their dad, was blessed by God to raise such awesome kids.

 

 

You saw me before I was born.

 

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

 

Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16

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Happy Mother’s Day to Bryson’s Goody

Dear Goody –

 

I didn’t know Bryson had a secret assignment when we headed west toward Bryan-College Station back in March; but, as it turned out, he was there to stretch out the drive just as long as he possibly could. Evidently, coordinating a surprise party for my significant birthday was taking its toll on the planners.

 

 

Mama Jan, could we stop and take a picture of me in front of the Indian Mounds in Alto? It’s sort of a school project.

 

Mama Jan, I’ve never been able to stop and read any of these historical markers along El Camino Real.

 

Mama Jan, we’re just fine with you stopping again and taking more pictures of more wildflowers, aren’t we Corbin? (Silence from the back seat)

 

You know, I always say it’s not the journey—it’s the destination. Isn’t that right, Mama Jan?

 

Mama Jan, I’d love to turn around and go back and see that 1848 Pepper Tree up close. Would you take my picture?

 

Mama Jan, that historical marker in front of the Tejas State Park entrance had some really interesting information.

 

 

Goody, it was so funny listening to him and thinking about how mature he sounded and realizing that he’s nearly all grown up. When I asked about his future plans, I could hear his voice speaking the words I’ve heard you say about him ever since he was a little boy.

 

 

I love learning and I’m interested in so many different things.

 

My grades are really good, even Math.

 

I’m considering a lot of different career options.

 

I have so many different interests.

 

There are just so many different things I could do with my future life.

 

 

 

Good job, Goody; good job.

 

 

 

So teach us to number our days,

 

that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

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My World of Faith

 

I asked Faith Cora if her baby brother knew his name; and if he looked at her, when she called it. She immediately ran to his resting place on the sofa, put her little mouth down to his ear and hollered, “CHAIR WEAF”!! Sure enough, he turned and looked.

 

Mama Jan is struggling a little tiny bit to replace Chair Leaf with Abram. While theoretically I agree that Abram Michael is a better name for a year 2016 non-hippie child, it’s hard to let go of Faith Cora’s whimsical moniker.

 

I also inquired if he had a nickname, and sure enough he does: Pillow.

 

Our conversations range all the way from her honest-to-goodness-application-grasp of a vortex and an interloper to imaginary talking squirrels named Salt and Pepper. Her words and knowledge make me think, smile, and oftentimes swell with pride.

 

I hope my life and conversations with my Father are doing the same. I know he wants to smile at me because he told me so in a win-win loop around blessing in his book of Numbers:

 

Then the Lord said to Moses,

 

“Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel

 

with this special blessing:

 

‘May the Lord bless you

and protect you.

 

May the Lord smile on you

and be gracious to you.

 

May the Lord show you his favor

and give you his peace.’

 

Whenever Aaron and his sons

 

bless the people of Israel in my name,

 

I myself will bless them.”

 

Numbers 6:22-27

 

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