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Tag: Prayer

Imagination Gone Wild

Rendition of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca the younger.

I’m notorious for jumping to the worst-case scenario. For writing, it’s a great skill. I identify my heroine’s greatest fear and then concoct the worst possible outcome that I can think of that preys upon her anxiety.

This skill is awful when it comes to real life, especially when you have a child getting his driver’s license. There is nothing worse than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, running through all the possible catastrophes, until you hear the garage door open. It also doesn’t come in handy when flying in an airplane, hearing strange noises at night, or during the onset of a pandemic. My imagination can be my own worst enemy.

In my stories, the heroine learns she must trust God, yet in my own life, how often do I choose to worry first and give it to God afterward? Why do I let my anxiety build until it pours out in complaints or groans? Why do I allow fear a grip when 2 Timothy says, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind?

I’m still learning how to turn off the bombardment of negative thoughts like one would a faucet, but through prayer, I’m able to filter them to a trickle or a drip. As soon as I realize the flood of worst-case scenarios is assaulting me, I take my thoughts captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. My simple prayer sounds like this: God, you know my fears. I can’t control this situation, but You are all-powerful and all-knowing. Protect myself and my loved ones in Your loving care because I know you care for us.

dripping faucet
When we pray, God becomes a problem for our problems.

We need to bow our heads, fold our hands, and introduce our fear of the worst-case scenario to the One who wrote the book and who already knows the ending. Why should we suffer from our what-ifs when God tells us to cast all our worries on Him (1 Peter 5:7)? It’s time to turn off our run-amok imaginations and turn on our prayer warrior side. Unsheathe the sword of the spirit and battle in the spiritual realm instead of in our heads.

It’s time to stop talking about our problems and instead start speaking to our problems. Remind them who is ultimately in charge and who wins in the end. Introduce our mangy fears to our fearless God.

Struggle vs. surrender

The Struggle is Real

Struggle vs. surrender words

With my second book, The Merchant’s Yield, launching, I feel like a mother sending my young son to his first sleepover or off to his first year of college (which will happen sooner than I realize). My nerves are twisted in knots, and all I can do is pray it will be received well. You never feel so helpless than when you have to surrender up something you love.

But I couldn’t imagine a better place for it to be than in God’s hands.

Fanny Jane Crosby, the composer of the well-known hymn “Blessed assurance,” was born blind. Not only did she write over 9,000 hymns, but her life was also an example of trusting God and walking by faith. Despite the hardships of being blind, she considered her blindness a blessing:  

Hymnals in church pews

“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” (Franny Crosby: America’s Hymn Queen,, April 2010)

Franny Crosby never started writing a hymn without praying first.

I was recently asked why God wasn’t stopping the coronavirus. Tough question. I mentioned about the earth being cursed. When sin entered the world, so did death, but then an awareness hit me. I questioned if they’d prayed to God to stop it?

At that moment, I had to check myself. Sure, I’d prayed for protection over my family and friends, but had I asked God to put an end to the virus?

James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you have not asked God.”

You better believe I’ve started asking. Can God stop the coronavirus tomorrow? Yes, He could. God’s arm is never too short. Will He stop it tomorrow? That, I don’t know, but I do know the prayers of the righteous avail much, and if we’re praying, God will be merciful.

This, too, will pass, but in the meantime, God will use it to draw His children to Him. The virus is a reminder that this is not our home. We are temporary residents—missionaries on a strange planet. Our home is in heaven, where there is no sickness, death, or disease.

I saw written on a T-shirt, “The struggle is real, but so is God,” and I couldn’t help thinking, how true. I have blessed assurance because I know God is real. He never wastes a hurt, and He certainly isn’t about to overlook this one.  

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Woman's praying hands

The Perfect Way of Unanswered Prayers

“Did you ever wish you had a girl?”Woman's praying hands

I froze, ornament in hand suspended midway to the tree. My middle son peered at me, his eyes seeking an answer. His question drew the attention of my youngest, and they both stared at me with unblinking eyes.

Was this one of those questions that could impact them for the rest of their lives? I could picture them lying on a couch addressing a future psychologist, “The reason I can’t hold a job or have a family is that my mother really wanted a girl.”

I am a girl, and it’s natural to want what’s familiar to you, but thankfully, we don’t always get what we want.

I hung the ornament on a limb and turned to face them with an honest answer. “At one point, yes. I thought having a girl like myself might be fun, but God had a better plan. God knew what I wanted before I realized it myself. He knew that as soon as I met you, you would be the ones I wanted, and so I’m very thankful that God went with His plan and not mine.”

Later that same night, as we were setting the table, my youngest poured the milk and asked me, “Did you have a boyfriend before Dad?”

I set a plate down and wondered what was it about today that had them asking all these questions. “Yes, I dated some boys in school.”

His eyes grew big and solemn. “Did dad know?” He whispered the words as if I’d been cheating.

Holy moly, I needed to be very clear. “No, no, no. I hadn’t met your dad yet.”

“Did you break up with them?” he asked.

“Well, some I did, but some broke up with me.”

“If you didn’t want to break up, did you want to marry them?”

Dinner could have been burning on the stove, but I wouldn’t have cared. It was one of those rare, amazing moments when you hold your child’s complete attention. I inhaled a deep breath. “At the time, I had wanted things to work out, but I’m very, very, grateful that God didn’t answer those prayers. He knew there was a better man for me—your dad.” I smiled. “God’s ways are higher than our ways. If I had married one of those men, then I wouldn’t have had you.”

I searched my son’s eyes for an indication that my elderly wisdom might have registered.

“How did the other boyfriends break up with you?” He smiled a mischevious grin. ​

Maybe it would sink in later.

All those questions reminded me to be grateful that God hadn’t answered my prayers. Back then, I had wondered where God was, why he hadn’t responded. I My boys sitting togethermourned the loss of what my mind had conceived, but God was patient with me and forgiving. All the while he was maneuvering the pieces of his puzzle into place to form a bigger picture. Looking back, I see his fingerprints everywhere. And, if I had one prayer now, it would be that my own children wouldn’t try to force the pieces of the puzzle together. That they would trust in God’s plan and relinquish their own. Psalm 18:30 says it best, “As for God, His way is perfect.”

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Poison ivy vine growing up tree trunk

Getting Your Skin Out of the Game

If you Google how to get rid of poison ivy there are 794,000 results, and I’ve tried a good chunk of them: white vinegar, lemon juice and salt, rubbing alcohol, calamine Poison ivy vine growing up tree trunklotion, Ivarest, Tecnu, and Zanfel. You name it, I’ve tried it with little success. (Personally, Zanifil I’ve found works the best. It’s a bit pricey, but if it shortens the duration by a couple of days, it’s worth it.)

I get poison ivy or poison oak at least once a year. I’ve learned to avoid any plant with three to five leaves whether they are shiny or not—better safe than sorry. However, I have boys, and boys love to romp in the woods especially since they aren’t allergic to poison ivy. Their clothing still holds the oils and sorting the laundry, will cause their poor mother to break out into itchy blisters which spread all over. I now wear those rubber yellow dishwashing gloves that cover up to your elbows to do laundry. I may look funny, but I don’t care.

There is nothing like poison ivy to remind you of your flesh. And by flesh, I don’t mean just skin. I mean the ugly side of us. The Bible refers to it as inequities. It’s the spiteful, angry, sinful side of us that, for the most part, we keep under wraps until Kraken attacking a shipsomething causes us to snap, and the Kraken is loosed. A wise woman once told me, “Never let yourself get too hungry, too tired, or too stressed, or you’ll be more likely to sin.” I’d add “don’t get poison ivy” to the list for the constant irritation wears down a person’s defenses.

Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). In our hearts, we truly want to do the right thing. We may desire to read the Bible every morning, to be nice to our neighbor, and eat well because the Bible says our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. Yet, how often do we cave, justify our actions, or do it anyway and feel guilty later?

So, how do we battle our flesh?

Follow Jesus’s example—Pray. Whenever Jesus needed to power-up, He stole away to be alone with God and pray. Prayer helps to not only align our will with God’s, but it strengthens our spirit to overcome our flesh. Sometimes a simple prayer is enough, but sometimes you need to dig in, get down on your knees, and keep at it.

Even Jesus had to go back to pray a second time in the garden in Gethsemane before He was crucified. After checking on Peter, James, and John, He went back to His prayer spot, fell with his face to the ground, and prayed, “May this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus already knew death lie before him, but He wanted His Father’s will to be done. So, He prayed again until He sweated blood so that His flesh could do what His mind already knew.

not my will, Lord, but Yours.

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Roller Coaster

Being Prayed Up

When I was eight years old, I went to Six Flaggs Theme Park in Illinois with a friend of mine and her dad. Back then, this Six Flaggs’ held the largest wooden rollercoaster in American called The Great American Eagle. It had broken world

The Great American Eagle Roller Coaster at Six Flaggs

The Great American Eagle Roller Coaster at Six Flaggs

records for being the tallest and fastest coaster. It also had the largest drop, and of course, we were determined to ride on it.  As I peered up at the wooden tracks that towered higher than any building I’d ever seen and listened to the rattling of the cars and the terrified screams of the riders, a sense of unease prickled its fingers up my back. My friend looked at me and said, “You want to go, right?” I looked over at her father and figured there was no way he was going to let a pair of girls, who barely met the height requirements, go on this monstrosity, so I replied, “Of course!”

Next thing I knew, I was led through a labyrinth of zigs and zags and was ushered into a seat in an open car. I American Eagle Roller Coaster at Six Flaggsthought my friend and I were in this together, so I slid over for her to sit beside me. However, there was three of us, so she scooted into the car behind me next to her dad. That left me to ride with a complete stranger. Back then, I was extremely shy. Not only was I petrified of the potential agonizing death that loomed ahead of me, but I was also panicked by the unknown young man buckling his belt beside me. He asked if I’d ever ridden the Eagle before. I remember I couldn’t even form words, so I shook my head.

Then, the car began to roll forward, clicking at a steady pace as we moved up the steep incline at an agonizingly slow pace. My fingers clutched the cold steel of the lap bar in a death grip that turned my knuckles white, and as we crested the top I prayed, “God, please help!”

I don’t remember breathing the entire ride. The stranger raised his hands above his head and screamed his lungs out. I prayed for it to end. When the car finally came to a stop, the stranger smiled at me and said, “You did well for your first time.”

I wanted to laugh, but if I did I probably would have started crying. I didn’t respond just pried my frozen hands from the lap bar and stepped off the ride on legs that wobbled.

How many of us wait until the lap bar is lowered and we’re cresting the hill of life’s roller coaster to then cry out to God for help? What if we learned to pray while we stood in line or before we even got to the park?

“What is God telling you about it?” This is a question I’ve been asked when telling my husband or others about a problem.  This question is perfect because it assumes you’ve already taken it to God and have been praying about your issue. If you haven’t (for which, at times, I can be faulted), then it’s a nice nudge to get you back in the right direction. Daniel from the Bible was great at this. Three times a day he bowed down and prayed to God. He knew God was his source of strength. He made certain he was prayed up and filled with God’s wisdom. So when the unexpected happened and he was tossed into a lion’s den, Daniel was prepared and trusting in God’s protection.

Try it. Pray over your day. Set aside some quality time with God and get prayed up. Then sit back and enjoy the ride.

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