Tuesday, July 30, 2019

If you're wondering if the prayers matter and what we found in the sawdust

Jerry recently spent a week preaching at another campmeeting and witnessed a wonderful work of God while there. I visited for a day and was reminded of a story from when our kids were little. I’m hoping some mom who has prayed long will find encouragement from it.

I found the sawdust trail alive and well in a campmeeting in North Georgia when my husband was asked to preach there when our kids were little. Begun in the mid-nineteenth century, it was virtually unchanged from that time with the exception of a few modern kitchen appliances in the tents (small cottages) and electric lights. I was made aware by family members that my father, grandmother, and great-grandmother attended this campmeeting as children. For this reason, as we began our experience, I felt I was claiming something that was mine in some way.

The second year there, we were especially excited. We knew what a wonderful time we had the year before spending a week sleeping between little stalls in wooden tents where you could see through the cracks in the planks. Maybe that doesn’t sound like fun, but it was. My nine-year-old son came especially equipped for major water gun battles but the second night of camp he came home angry. 

Into this Eden had crept a snake. He had an altercation with two fellows a little older than him, which involved name-calling and physical pain. My son was home schooled so in some ways he hadn’t experienced this level of rejection before.

Jerry told him sometimes God allows our feelings to be hurt so we’ll pray for the other person. Still, my son’s plans seemed to be smashed because of this incident and he was destined to days of moping around the tent and playing alone.
But God was at work.

 Wednesday night those same two boys who acted out earlier made their way to the altar after an invitation for salvation. My son was sitting beside me and when he saw them at the altar, he looked up at me with great sincerity and said, “Mama, I prayed they would get saved.” A tear rolled down my cheek as my husband made the invitation for those who would rededicate their lives to Christ, and my son joined the others at the altar. 

The next days were filled with such joy, as these young fellows became frequent visitors at our tent. It was wonderful to see the change God wrought in my own son, as well.
The night we returned home, I had a dream in which I saw my father’s mother, and she was in a kitchen preparing food. In the dream, I looked at my children who were standing beside me and said, “See your great-grandmother has prepared this wonderful meal for you.”

My devotional reading for the next morning just happened to be, “one generation will commend you works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4
I sensed God saying through the dream and the scripture that in the sawdust of that campmeeting my children discovered a treasure, a treasure left there through the prayers of a great- grandmother they had never known. I sensed God’s wonderful work as I realized she prepared spiritual food for my children through her prayers, which have nourished their souls and my soul, that indeed one generation was commending the mighty acts of God to the next generation. 

Many of you women who are mothers have long prayed for your children and grandchildren. There may be those of you who are wondering if God is hearing because of the circumstances your precious loved ones are in. I pray God would give you a new perspective and in the middle of those difficult situations you would hear God speaking in a fresh way―that you would experience a peace that passes all understanding as you give those situations over to him. In ways we can’t imagine God is bringing about the answers to our prayers not only in this generation but also in the ones to come. 

Could I offer this prayer? Dear Lord, we thank you for your watchful eye over our loved ones, that because you “neither slumber or sleep” we can rest knowing the ones we care for are in your hands. I pray for that wayward child or grandchild that you would bring a harvest in their lives from the seeds sown into their souls by praying mothers, and grandmothers. We remember from your word, “Those that go out weeping carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them" (Psalm 126:6). In Jesus name. Amen.

May we all leave a legacy of prayer that will stand through any earthly circumstance. I pray those who follow us would indeed find themselves standing in a Godly heritage because of mothers who prayed.

Available HERE.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Holding on to hope

Something remarkable happened in the last few days.

I was in a ministry situation that appeared would be a big disappointment. But as God calls us to be faithful, those of us in that circumstance pressed forward and continued with what we came to do.

Things began happening. Amazing things. Marvelous things.

I left with such a strong sense of God’s saving power and presence.

It reminded me of this story Terry Tekyl tells in his book, Most Wanted. “I held a New Year’s Eve service in my small country church. . . my first pastorate. With a steady drizzle falling and temperatures hovering just above the freezing mark. . . it was a night to stay home. My wife, my three kids, my sister-in-law, and I were the only ones in the tiny chapel. I decided to give a short message anyway, however, and when I was finished, my sister-in-law came to the altar. She said she wanted to give her life to Jesus to start the new year off right.”

The scripture that precedes Tekyl’s story is this, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

When we pray long and see no results, when we labor day after day, year after year, and the fruit appears nil, when we face closed door after closed door, that is the time to be diligent in what God has called us to do. Because in our acting and hoping, we express our faith.

I believe the events of the past days will help me reframe future circumstances. In a bleak situation, instead of thinking, “Oh, no. This is going to be awful.” I can now think, “Oh, wow, I wonder what God is going to do.” As the prophet Isaiah wrote, He wants to gives us “beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

So friend, if you’re where I was, scanning the situation and wondering--press on and be encouraged. Who knows what the Lord may do in His perfect time?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When they're far away and what she said

My sister handed me an envelope. “Patsy gave these to me. She found them while going through old photographs.”

Our friend Patsy’s mom and ours were friends and coworkers when young. I opened the envelope and found a picture of my mom I’d never seen, which had to have been taken during the mid 1940’s judging from her age.

Interesting that after more than seventy years, the picture came to me at this particular time.

Here's why. Someone I love is working in London for a month. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime with all expenses paid. Such a blessing!

Yet, may I admit in a very unsophisticated way that it’s a bit challenging when people I care for are on another continent.

My mother always liked to keep the people she loved close, too, so when Jerry and I announced we were embarking on a Wesley studies tour in England, she was none too happy. After a few days of wrestling with the idea, she called me. “I guess I’m going to have to trust God with you.”

What she said.

Yes, I guess I’m going to have to trust God for my traveler.

Why does it seem I’m surrounded by people with huge adventuresome spirits. My writer friend Darrell Huckaby has a daughter they nicknamed, “Danger.” I understand that. It could apply to many I know starting first with Jerry, that plane flying, quarterback sacking, swamp wading hunter- gatherer I married.

When this picture showed up of mom with her hand on her hip, it’s as if she were saying, “Uh, huh. Now, you know what I went through.” I had to laugh.

That trust thing, well, I’ve written about it so much.

I don’t imagine anybody I know will suddenly decide to hole up somewhere (and I don’t want them to), so I guess I’m going to keep writing about it and hopefully doing it.

At present, I am reading Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing. In it, he describes a practice he uses which I find helpful. “On my good days I begin my morning with a cup of coffee and a conversation with God. I look ahead into the day and make my requests . . . Then if a sense of stress surfaces during the day, I remind myself, Oh, I gave this challenge to God earlier today. He has already taken responsibility for the situation. I can be grateful, not fretful.”

Gratefulness, not fretfulness. Don’t you love it? That one practice has changed the way my days go. I pray in the morning, and then the rest of the day I rely on Him and give thanks.

I’m convinced God allows these situations where we’re totally out of control to occur so we’ll look to Him alone. If you’re facing one of those yourself, pray over your day, and then trust that He’s got it.

So, thanks, Patsy, you had no idea how meaningful those pictures would be.

Praying the words the Lord spoke to Joshua for those close to me, “. . . for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

When things don't turn out the way you hoped

Waiting for the edits for my new book A Plan for Everything to come in, and taking a bit of a break. I reached into the archives for this post with the hope that it helps someone who's dealing with disappointment today.

According to Mr. Webster, to disappoint means “to fail to satisfy the hope, desire, or expectation of.”

We speak of times of disappointment in sentences which begin with should have or could have.

I’ve found disappointment to be one of the most finely honed weapons in the enemy’s arsenal, because if we’re not watchful, disappointment can lead to a root of bitterness which can quickly establish itself in our lives. And bitterness is like a cancer, eating away all that’s good.

When disappointment leaves me protesting, “I didn’t know it was going to turn out like this,” I have to make a choice not to embrace toxic thoughts by electing to replace those thoughts with God’s word.

I keep coming back to this quote, “Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining.” —Ann Voskamp

Often, faith only begins to flex its muscles in times when the darkness settles in around us. Faith is “our handle on what we can’t see” (Hebrews 11:5 The Message).

Even in times of great disappointment, through faith, we can fix our eyes on Jesus. Whatever situation left our hopes, desires, and expectations wanting, we trust will be used by Him for our good and His glory.

“…those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23).

“We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3-5 The Message).

“And hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5:5).
(edited repost)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Fireworks, Fear, and Faith

We attended a Fourth of July celebration in an Atlanta neighborhood where our daughter was working for the evening. What we didn’t know is our seats were just yards away from where the fireworks would be set off. We had Lucy with us.

The Aussiedor had never shown any reaction to fireworks before, but again, we’d didn’t realize we were so close.

When the pyrotechnics began, Lucy went into panic mode and shot out pulling Jerry over in his chair then proceeded to clear a path in her wake. I ran through the crowd fearing we might never find her in an unfamiliar place like this if she became lost. Thankfully, a man seeing my situation stepped on her leash as she passed and stopped her.  By then, Jerry had caught up with us, and we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Since then, fireworks really get Lucy going and around the Fourth, we have lots of fireworks in our town.
For the past few nights, the Big Guy (Jerry) sleeps with her beside him. She likes that. A lot.

It reminds me of Mason, the son of friends.  As a child, he had a hard time staying in his own bed and getting to sleep at night because of his fears.  One night, his dad put him back in his bed again and reminded him as he had many times before that God was with him.

The little fellow said, “I know, but I want somebody with skin on them.”

Don’t we all?

Don’t we just crave the presence of God in skin? Someone we can touch, hold, and lean against.

I know I do.

But then there’s this thing called faith, the “evidence of things not seen,” wrote a man who dealt with fears of his own.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians he was with them “. . . in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3).

But God told Paul in a vision one night, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).

Whatever God calls us to do, he will equip us for it. We don’t have to be afraid. I’ve repeated those words to myself as I’ve stood before the locked doors of a prison gate before being admitted to do ministry there, as a plane touched down in a faraway place on a mission trip, or as I’ve struggled for the words when praying for a seemingly impossible situation.

Yes, like Mason, we want someone with skin on them, and like Lucy, we want to climb up beside the Big Guy and feel him next to us.

But Jesus, God with skin on Him, told us around eighteen times in the New Testament not to fear. In all, “Fear Not,” appears 365 times in the Bible.

God calls us to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:70.)

Today, that little boy, Mason, is a pastor, so I believe he’s latched onto that walking by faith thing.

May we all.

Praying with you, friends that God would give us all we need to do just that.

Meanwhile, for what it’s worth, Lucy will be wearing her thunder vest for a few days. It works a little, anyway.

I found a printable with all the “Fear Not” references on it HERE.
edited repost
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