As a simple spiritual practice I often have a “song of the day,” in which I meditate on. Here is today’s song, “Nobody Like You.”
Giving is a necessary part of life. In fact, if you are reading this post, you have been given something, you were given life. From the moment you and I were conceived, we were given nourishment, time, and room to grow in our mother’s womb. This conceiving process of giving and eventually laboring occurs every day throughout the world. In fact, you may be very familiar with this fatigue, pain, love, sleepless nights, heartache, joy, cost, sacrificial giving and so much more that comes along with having a child.
I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn, I would often say, “This kid is sucking my blood! He is taking EVERYTHING from me!” This statement wasn’t always a complaint, but a reckoned truth. I was GIVING my all, my everything, at every moment. There wasn’t a minute in which I wasn’t giving. Even in my sleep, I was providing nourishment for my son to grow and develop.
A paradoxical analogy that has recently come to me is pastors give this same kind of constant nourishment. Being a pastor is like being pregnant ALL THE TIME! They are fatigued, experience pain, have sleepless nights, anticipate the future with both joy and hesitation, sacrificially give and so much more. Each congregation is a growing body that continues to develop and receive from their pastor(s).
As I conclude this paradoxical analogy, my plea is simple. Although we are a body, a body of believers, we aren’t stuck in a womb. We are out, and we can give back! This month, October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and since pastors give their ALL, let’s give to them in return. Let’s appreciate our pastor(s)!
If you are in need of some ideas, here are a few:
1) Cash – green goes with everything!
2) Gift Cards – find out a place your pastor likes. Ask them! I know my pastor like Chic-fil-A.
3) Speaking of food who doesn’t like food?!? We all need to eat. Bring a meal or take them out for lunch, coffee, tea, etc.
4) Presents – again ask! If you are in a large congregation and you don’t personally know your pastor call his or her secretary. Maybe your pastor likes movies, archery, books, football, or collects small antique cars. Amazon is always there for you. You don’t have to go out of your way to get a present!
5) A card, phone call, text or thank you in person is a refreshing change from all the other Monday (or any day ending with y) emails regarding some complaint. Seriously pastors get more complaints than thank you’s. Give a thank you!
6) Team up with your home group or entire congregation to give your pastor a much-deserved vacation!
7) Last but not least, pray for your pastor! Prayer could be the greatest gift of all.
Yesterday I was praying with a friend, and while she was praying, she used the word “resist” to describe something. Once she said, “resist” my mind went straight to America, and the Resistance Movement. As my mind thought of how America is tangibly resisting, my spirit echoed in how it is not resisting. James 4 clearly states we are to RESIST the devil.
Therefore on this National Day of Prayer, I am praying we RESIST!
~We resist pride.
~We resist envy.
~We resist addictions.
~We resist adultery.
~We resist prejudice.
~We resist murder.
~We resist false idols.
~We resist quarrels
~We resist jealousy.
~We resist sickness.
~We resist hate.
~We resist confusion.
~We resist lust.
~We resist depression.
~We resist fear.
~We resist lies.
~We resist false accusations.
~We resist torment.
God, we resist EVERYTHING that is not of or from you.
We want to resist and now submit, solely to you. Knowing that you are the only thing and One worth drawing toward.
*This is not a political post. Please don’t make it a political post. It’s a prayer post.
When my youngest was just a baby, and my oldest was in preschool, we were just at the beginning stages of figuring out what it means to be a medical fragile family. I was working part-time, trying to help with medical bills while the kids were in a program called Mother’s Day Out.
I loved Mother’s Day Out. In fact, one day I came to pick up the kids, and the preschool teacher said something about it being book day. As she described the day, she handed me the book, “Hug.” I quickly said, “I can’t pay for this!” She replied, “No, it’s a gift.” I started to cry: First, because I couldn’t even afford a simple paperback book and second, the kindness of teacher Sachi blew me away.
The other week while picking up our weekly Costco pizza, I stopped in the book aisle. Lo and behold I saw the book “Hug.” Since “Hug” changed my life in so many ways, I had to pass “Hug” along.
You see, “Hug” was given to us at one of our lowest points, at least the start of our lowest points. I never imagined not having enough money for a small paperback book. I also never planned “to not plan” to get my kid a book, on book day. This just wouldn’t be! However, it was our reality.
Teacher Sachi changed and saved the day by giving “Hug” to my oldest son. She also hugged me while tears rolled down my face. “Hug” was a huge gift to our family. It was one of the biggest hugs we ever received.
You never know what may change someone’s life; a small paperback book named “Hug” changed mine.
Often, when I take my dog out, I pray. Today was no different. When I heard my dog bark, my natural routine took place. I got his leash. I told him to sit. Once he sat, I gave him a treat.
When I walked out my front door I thought about texting my husband, but then I remembered how much I’ve been wanting to “stop before texting” so I decided differently. We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, but I’ve been thinking about stopping before I walk, sit, stand, or do anything.
I have wanted to question the moment, the necessity, before I actually text: Do I really need to text him/her at this very instant? May this wait, and I talk to him/her later? Do I even need to say this at all? Would I just stop and pray?
Since the text I was thinking about sending my husband wasn’t urgent, and didn’t really matter at all. My next thought was the goal I’ve been trying to reach – Will I stop and pray? Will the moment I reach for my phone to text someone, be a trigger to pray for someone?
This idea to stop before texting is kind of a form of fasting because it is saying no to something we do so easily. Without much thought, we grab our phones like we grab food. In fact, I might say it is harder for some to fast their phone, then to fast a meal.
As I put away the idea of texting my husband, I started to pray.
This one person came to mind and I didn’t know specifically why I was praying for this individual, but I did. I prayed for her, her daughters, and her son.
As for a funny paradox, when God puts someone on my mind I often text the person and say, “I am praying for you.” I hope to encourage the individual as maybe they are having a hard day? Some days I never know. So after I technically stopped. (I put down my phone to pray.) I started again. I texted the individual who I just prayed for. I didn’t say much of anything, but, “Praying for you as I take out my dog.”
Ironically, all of a sudden my dog decides to stop, and sit right next to the black hot pavement. He didn’t even go pee. I began to laugh, and actually texted the person again (along with the picture below), “I guess God or my dog wants me to pray longer.”
I needed to stop again. I needed to keep praying.
There are so many times in life where we need to stop. Alternatively, our society has been trained to move fast. It’s even declared in our music, “Life is a highway, I want to ride it….” I’m convinced that life shouldn’t be a highway ALL THE time. That is chaotic.
We need to stop.
We need to stop, and pray.
When my kids were little, they had the cutest time-out chair, ever!! I wish I were small enough to sit in it. It was a nice place, a safe place. My boys could re-gather their thoughts and behavior, and start again. Sometimes their cries would out last the timer, but I would give them the opportunity to stay in that nice, safe place until they gained their composure. Better said, I would NOT let them get out of their time-out, until they cried it all out!
As a mom, I have found myself in need of more time-outs than any other time in my life. Maybe even more than I had as a toddler? I don’t know, but recently I needed a time out. I needed a time out for a cry out!
Remembering back when my boys had a cry out, in a time-out, I never saw it as a gift. In fact, the scripture in Romans, which mentions kindness leading us to repentance, was certainly not in my mind, nor theirs. However, recently when I was alone, my time-out could only be described as a glorious gift.
Of course you might be thinking anytime in which moms are alone is a gift, and I would concur 100%! However, when we are particularly placed in a time-out, do we see it as a gift? Do we see that kindness leads to repentance? Do we see waiting leads to a promise?
As I think about my kid’s lovely blue time-out chair, I can vividly imagine myself rocking back and forth as if I were in a time-out, in their chair. It seems I’ve been rocking back and forth for a while. My back is beginning to hurt because there are no cushions. Even thought I’ve described the chair as nice and safe, it isn’t the most comfortable. It’s actually really hard. It’s just a little wooden rocking chair.
Now I begin to wonder, “How did I get here? How did I get in this time out? It seems like I have been in this chair FOREVER!! When is the timer going to go off? Did it go off already? Am I still complaining and nothing has changed since I first sat down?”
As I continue to think to myself, I say, “Okay, I am going to gain composure. I am going to get out of this time out!” Then all of a sudden the tears, the true tears start rolling. I confess, my envy, jealousy, discontentment, and all the stuff that has built up in my heart. I let God know I am scared. I didn’t intend or purposely do something wrong to get in time-out. Alternatively, it was just life. Many things aren’t fair, and just as kids, we get mad, we pout, and we end up in time-out.
As I discovered myself in time out, I realized God wasn’t harshly disciplining me. I just needed to gain composure. I was acting like a child complaining in a grocery store. I wanted all the pretty items on the shelf. I saw others getting items off the shelf, so why couldn’t I get something new?
As tears continued and my soul cried out, I got something new, I got mercy.
The next day, I woke up and when I looked at my phone I got a text that said, “Praying for you today: Lamentations 3:19-24 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I said to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”
Again, Jesus revealed I have something new, I have Christ’s compassion, His mercy, which never fails.
Although I will continue to see people have new items, (new careers, new homes, improved bodies, new levels of education) in which I may not get, I am promised to have mercy; and mercy unlike everything else I listed never fails, never breaks, and never ends.
He does not forget the cry of the humble. Psalm 9:12b
When I was a little girl I was scared that if I fell asleep with my hands above my head, I would get shot. You know, because in the movies when the cop comes out s/he says, “Put your hands above your head,” and the officer(s) ALWAYS have a gun in hand! It was such a terrifying thought! One night when I saw my mom sleeping with her hands up, I was certain I would never see her alive again. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t know that putting her hands above her head (whether accidentally or on purpose) was the universal sign for signaling someone to shoot?
Thankfully my mom didn’t die that night, and shortly after I found out that if you accidentally have your hands above your head, no one is going to pop out of thin air and shoot you. I also learned, often, in these types of movies, officers would come out and say to the person who would soon be putting their hands in the air to, “Put the gun down.” So I realized they weren’t random people putting their hands in the air. Often these people broke the law. They were the ones who first had a gun.
Now that you know I learned the abc’s of getting arrested through television, let me tell you how I broke the law.
Many people think you should start your day reading your Bible, but I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. In my teens and maybe early twenties, I would lay in bed with guilt as I tossed and turned only to fall back asleep. One day I learned about giving your best to God. I knew for sure my best was NOT IN THE MORNING. Ever since then I’ve made a habit to read my Bible and pray, in the day, or evening before bed.
Although I am pretty good about reading my Bible before bed, I do have a problem when I purchase new books. I often find that when I open my Kindle App (where a few of my Bibles are found) the last intriguing book I bought seems to catch my eye. Therefore I’m guilty of reading other books. In fact, last night I went to bed a bit grumpy and said out loud to God (as my husband listened), “Why do I have to read my Bible? It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible, ‘You have to read the Bible!’ It’s not a commandment.” As my husband laughed, I quickly recalled the passage of scripture that states, “You shall meditate on it both day and night.” I then thought, “Grrrr, IT IS in the Bible!”
As I continued to finish up my day I checked emails, Facebook, and Googled some random fact and all of a sudden I seemed to hear a voice just like I did when I was little. However, I didn’t hear the usual “Put the gun down.” I heard, “Put the phone down.” I thought, “Seriously?” Did I just hear, “Put the phone down,” as if my phone was like a gun?!? Geeez, I must be having another naive moment like I did when I was little. Why would my phone be like a gun?
Then I realized why my phone is like a gun. It is holding me hostage. I’m holding myself hostage. In order to be free, I have to drop my phone. I have to raise my hands in surrender. I have broken the law. In fact, that lovely scripture that came to my memory actually states, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua 1:8
Although I haven’t broken a law in which my hands were in the air and the police were going to shoot me. I have broken the law or better yet, I haven’t met with grace in a few days.
I prayed, “Jesus forgive me. I’m naïve or down right foolish at times. I need help. I want to surrender to You. Help me drop what needs to be dropped so I can be free in You. In Your law, in Your grace. Amen.
I just got back from a prayer getaway and since returning a hundred things came to mind before praying did. Of course, then the hundredth and one thing popped on in and I thought, I should pray. Thankfully, I didn’t start the conversation. In fact, sometimes it’s much easier when God starts first. God knows that I am a mom and all that entails. I also think God knows that I’m probably an undiagnosed ADHD believer, as God often has to interrupt me to get my attention. Can I get an Amen?
Tonight God interrupted me though two lovely space invaders. One space invader I gave birth to, the other one I bought. Of course I would never say, “I bought a kid.” However, I did buy this kid, he is my dog. So two children (one by birth, another by bucks) got so close that they only left me with an approximately 2-foot square on my king size bed! Thanks to Google I found out the length or footage of a king size bed is 76 x 80. Therefore, my child and dog had up to 74 x 78 feet. Granted they didn’t take it all, but they crowded me into this little upper right hand corner in which I had no space. They invaded!
Ironically earlier this evening I told my husband, I wish I could go hide in a closet or a cubby whole. Since being gone this weekend, I didn’t have any invaders. I had space. I had my own room! It was lovely.
Tonight as the hundredth and one thing popped in my head, I realized why I should pray. God wants to invade my space! God wants to get close. From experience I’ve learned sometimes when God wants to get close it isn’t always fun. Sometimes God wants to clean out the closet. You too may know it isn’t always fun until after the closet is clean. But tonight, I knew God wanted to be present with me. God wanted to spend time with me. Like my dog and child all snuggled up so close. God wanted to invade my space.
When I started to pray, I said, “ God, thanks for invading my space. Thanks for being present even when I’m not thinking of you. You always want to be so close. You are such a good father. You teach me in so many ways. I love my space invaders. Thanks for interrupting me through them. Thanks for teaching me how to pray.”
God is not shy in asking questions. In fact it seems God is a bit fond of asking rhetorical questions. One of God’s first rhetorical questions is noted in Genesis 3:11 after Adam and Eve ate of the apple. God asked them, “Who told you that you were naked?” Of course Adam and Eve didn’t need to answer the question, nor did they make a verbal response. They were fully aware, they were self-aware, and precisely understood God’s point.
Another question God asked is listed in Genesis 18:14, when God asked Abraham, “Is there anything to hard for the Lord?” This question arose after the story of three visitors coming to tell Abraham that Sarah will have a son. Again, there was no need for explanation. Abraham knew, nothing is to hard for the Lord.
One of my favorite rhetorical questions is listed in the book of Job. When God asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked of its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Those two verses are just part of the beginning of one of the most beautiful rhetorical pieces ever written. It captures who God is and magnifies God with immaculate details. Who better to describe God, than God himself?
This past week as I was singing and worshiping I felt like God asked me a question. The question was, “How do you know what healing looks like, are you the healer?” You may know I suffer from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, along with many other complicated ailments. I recently got a port and I am getting infusions weekly to help with hydration and keeping my electrolytes balanced as much as possible.
Getting infusions is one aspect that is helpful to POTS patients and brings a bit of relief. By no means is it total healing! In fact, even with infusions every night around 8:00PM or even a little earlier, I feel as though I am getting sick. You know the feeling, when you are tired, cranky, your throat begins to hurt and overall you feel worn out. I try with all my might to stay awake till 9pm, and then I crash. The good news is I have been waking up in the morning before 8AM and I’m actually able to stay awake a whole 12 hours or more. A year ago, most of the time I couldn’t last 6 hours without taking a nap. So there is improvement.
Although I am happy with the improvement, I wish I could see more…do more. I would like to see something more tangible and physical – what I determine healing to be. I would like to run 5 miles a day, do everything possible with my kids, make phenomenal meals, have an immaculate home, be active in my community, church, and so much more. I want to do it all! I guess I want to be some super hero, because really, who alone can do all things well? My ideal healing is nearly impossible for any average person. I’ve defined healing as being able to do what ever I want. As I write this definition on paper, it seems so arrogant, lofty and completely selfish.
I don’t know what healing looks like. I don’t know what transpires in a body after a surgery is performed. As stitches close a wound, I can’t see beneath an incision. Of course I can see the affects of healing. I can see that I no longer take naps every day. I can see improvement in my blood work. But what is there I can’t see? Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” All these things I can’t see – my belief, hope, and longing to do so much more. Do I believe?
My belief is running five miles a day, doing everything possible with my kids, making phenomenal meals, having an immaculate home, being active in my community, church, and so much more. It looks like my belief is rooted in selfishness, not healing. It is rooted in I; not the I AM. Me trying to be super. Ultimately, it’s a superficial healing. It’s what I deemed healing to be. But the real, the real is so much deeper than I could ever see.
So I pray, God heal me. Heal me with and by your definition. Not mine. I do not know. I am not the healer. You are the healer. You are the great I AM. Heal me however you see me healed.
If you have read A Little Piece of My Spiritual Journey you probably already know in 2008 and 2009 I thought I was going through the hardest moment of my life and was going to lose something, if not everything. I specifically mention the night my son started to turn blue, and I thought I was going to lose him, and if not him, I would definitely lose our house, car, or whatever else we had, due to medical bills. We had 5 hard medical years. Now, I laugh, because it has been 10 years. Regardless, in those dark moments I realized as I wrote in A Little Piece of My Spiritual Journey “I had never felt so stripped in my life, I felt like I was walking around completely exposed.” I had generous neighbors pay our mortgage, I had a mother’s group I attended, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) give us money, I was given groceries and most importantly my child lived, and blessings didn’t stop. Still blessing haven’t stopped, but things haven’t been easy. In fact, I almost feel things are harder now.
For instance, recently I have been given the diagnoses of losing brain mass. I have a long medical history starting from the day of my birth being told I would not live through the night. Now 37 years later by God’s grace, I am still alive after fighting death numerous times. Currently I battle 2 diseases (asthma and GERD) and four hospitals are currently looking for other diseases, disorders, and/or syndromes. Overall, I am grateful because I have battled and conquered a nasty disease called C-diff. I am so thankful c-diff is gone, but it did leave battle scars.
One scar that continues to open is a syndrome called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), I also have multiple disorders’ (Endometriosis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, PMDD, Anxiety, Depression; added with a whole lot of other symptoms.) It’s a lot to manage on top of having medically fragile and/or special needs children. However, after reading an article tonight from Christianity Today I am wondering about vulnerability, because the title of article in the November 2014 issue is called, “Sorry, Brené Brown: Not All Vulnerability Is Brave.” With that being said, I began to wonder if being as vulnerable as I am, should I be asking the question “Who took off my clothes?” I can’t deny the feeling of being stripped regarding the circumstances that happened in 2008 and 2009. And as funny as it may be I really do have to take off my clothes a lot of the time for all my medical procedures, but I always put them back on after my appointment. Through all of this I’ve discovered after my appointment with my neurologist, discussing that my brain mass loss is like equivalent to dementia I realize I took off my clothes. Of course not literally, but as I was crying outside the hospital sitting next to a cement wall feeling like I should just go live on the streets, I took off my clothes.
It has been a hard battle not being dressed for a few weeks, in fact the other day I was sitting with my dad (obviously with real tangible clothes on) talking about how he was going to preach a sermon specifically about garments. He mentioned scriptures like Isaiah 61:3 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” He also mentioned other verses regarding the priestly garments and we discussed his sermon some more. At that time it never occurred to me then that I took off my clothes, specifically my spiritual clothes. I took off the garment of praise. I took the breast plate, the belt of truth….I took everything off. I took off my identity in Christ.
With all that being said, I encourage you to put your clothes on! Isaiah 5:27 is encouraging too. It says, “No one will be weary or stumble among them, No one will slumber or sleep; Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, Nor the strap of their sandals be broken.” God encouraged them to fight and keep their clothes on!
So again, I encourage you, put your clothes on! Be strengthened in God’s righteousness, his identity and his garment. When we are naked, we are ashamed. I’ve been ashamed of my losses, but I don’t have to be. Jesus can cover me just as Isaiah 61:10 says in The Message, “Sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dresses[s] me up in a suit of salvation, he [fits] me in a robe of righteousness.”
We got some great clothes to wear so let’s put ’em on, and keep ’em on!