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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

This post is part of the Deeply Loved Advent Blog Hop series.

A favorite Advent reflection for me is meditating on the many ways Jesus comes to us:  He comes as the Living Word and the Living Water, as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as the Bread of Life and the Light of the World.  And so much more.

One of my favorite ways that Jesus comes is as the real Promise Keeper.

As I have joined with others in going through advent with the Deeply Loved devotional by Keri Wyatt Kent, I loved stopping at day 11 to “Meditate on the Promises of God. “

I promise

And oh what promises our God has made to us:  forgiveness, a relationship with God, abundant life and eternal life, peace, comfort, hope….

And one more that I love: He hears and answers prayer.

(more…)

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As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua

My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel.  It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.

I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter.  I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way.  So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.

Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:

God never gives up on me.

So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made.  This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate.  But he really wasn’t interested.

I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing:  “I give up.  He doesn’t care—why should I?”  And every day God responded with the same words:  “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”

So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average.  For which he is grateful.

I am weak and prayer is my strength.

Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears.  Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life.  We were desperate.

So we did what most people do when they are desperate.  We prayed.  I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative.  But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.

Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed.  Prayer became my life breath.  It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will.  Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.

I am so grateful.

Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give.  By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it.  Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with.  He couldn’t betray her by loving me

I understood that.  I was patient.  My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded.  And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.”  I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.

So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.  If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.”  So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.

It took 13 years before he could say those words.  I am so grateful I waited.

These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.

But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over.  We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.

I have felt like giving up.  And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you.  Keep believing.”

I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.

My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.

Yes, as parents we teach our children so much.  But I think God uses them to teach us even more.  And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.

I’m ready to get off the carousel.  Probably the roller coaster is next.

What about you?  What lessons are you still learning?

C2012 Judy Douglass

.Related articles:

Go Low–A Path to Selflessness

It’s Okay Not to Speak French

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Some Ways I Pray

photo by shutterstock

I used to think I knew how to pray.  Then life required desperate prayer—and I thought I really learned what it meant to pray.

Now that I’ve lived lots of years and lots of life, I realize I  know almost nothing about praying.  Prayer is a wonder I can’t comprehend.  I feel woefully inadequate and terribly ineffective—does anything happen when I pray?

Yet I pray.

Often.  Always.

Here are some of the ways I pray. (more…)

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Manna.

“What is it?” the children of Israel asked?  “Bread from Heaven,”  the Lord told them.

“It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey… the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.” (Exodus 16:31-32)

I feel like I’ve been walking in the wilderness lately, and God has sent me bread from Heaven.  The encouraging, sustaining words from some of my praying friends are strengthening me in the journey.

May you be refreshed and strengthened with their holy sustenance:

You are not alone. You are an encouragement to many. This e-mail encouraged me and I will pray that you reap what you sow–a hundred fold.

Thank You Lord that You continue to hold us in Your loving arms through all of our valleys and mountaintop experiences.

Prayers continue and know that you have done all that you could and God has to do the rest as you rest in Him.

A mother’s heart feels the pain her child goes through.

His Grace is sufficient.  We are humans.  Relinquishment is required.

“…just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we must also learn to trust God one circumstance at a time.  Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will….” by Jerry Bridges

Praying for peace and comfort with all that is feeling like a loss in the moment.  May the LORD do exceedingly, abundantly above all you could ask or think.  We serve a God of miracles.

The truth is, “old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” In my life it is more like they are becoming new. Praying for (him) to walk in newness of life as he draws closer to the Comforter in his pain.

I know about control and struggle with it in many areas of my life.  Giving God total control of (my daughter) scared me… I finally understood that God wanted to change me too.  This wasn’t just about her.  Do I like going through the wilderness deeper and deeper and feeling like progress she made is all gone to waste?? NO….  Am I the same person I was 4 years ago? Thankfully, NO! …Do (her choices) keep me awake at night?? Very few nights, I am happy to say, because when I go back to my old habits of trying to manipulate and control the situation, I look at scriptures and sayings I have written down to remind myself that God has this!

May His goodness surprise you today!

What about you?  What manna has refreshed and sustained you?

c2012 Judy Douglass

Related articles:

A Wilderness Experience: Loving Prodigals, Release, & Rest

In the Wilderness: Words of Encouragement and Admonition

When Faith Falters: Relearning Rest

 

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Praying for My Grandboys

I love being Jeedoo.

Jeedoo is my grandmother name, and I love hearing it from my grandchildren, which has happened many times over this weekend.

It’s such fun to play, tell stories and read with them–and we have done much of all those.

But probably the most important role I play in their lives is to pray for them.

Father, I pray for Carter.  May he grow to love You with his whole heart.  Thank you for his competitive spirit, his hard-charging attitude, his love for active play and his obvious leadership.  Use these strengths for your glory as he grows into the man You created him to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father, I pray for Aidan.  May he grow to love You with his whole heart.  Thank You for his creative spirit, his artistic bent, his love of words and his curiosity.  Use these strengths for Your glory as he grows into the man You created him to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father, I pray for Ethan.  May he grow to love You with his whole heart.  Thank you for his joyful spirit, his fun-loving exuberance, his boundless energy and his impish smile.  Use these strengths for Your glory as he grows into the man You created him to be.

 

 

These and many other prayers I offer to God on behalf of these boys.

What about you?  For whom are you praying?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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The man who led Ethiopia from the fall of communism in 1991 until the present, Meles Zenawi, died this week.  His illness and whereabouts occupied much conversation when I was in Ethiopia last week.

Generally revered by many of the people, Zenawi was credited with enabling the nation to weather drought and war and economic downturn to become a fairly stable republic with a growing economy.   Poverty, still starkly evident, was not so pervasive as I had seen 10 years ago.   Roads and infrastructure were clearly improved.

I also know that God is working in amazing ways in Ethiopia.  Students are boldly going, at risk of their lives, to share the gospel where it has not been welcome.  Churches are growing and spreading—and cooperating.   Leaders have sensed that women are key to reaching families, neighborhoods and workplaces.

A few women, brought together by Martha Hilawe of GCM, began to pray–for 40 days, then 30 days, then 21 days.  Participation multiplied.  The vision and interest spread.  The intial plan to reach hundreds of women expanded to equip thousands.

Women: Key to Transformation

So for the 8,000 women I was with last week, the primary topic was how God could use them to bring transformation to their country.  The Rise and Shine National Women’s Conference was sponsored by the Great Commission Ministry (GCM) and many churches.  Coming from churches throughout the country to Addis Ababa for five days of inspirational speakers, practical training and lively worship, the women were tireless and enthusiastic.

As one of the “inspirational” speakers, I was surely the one who was inspired.

An amazing worship group opened and closed the conference.  Twenty minutes of non-stop singing, dancing, rhythm, with props and percussions.  I was almost as exhausted as they were as they concluded.

The beautiful women, quite distinct in features and coloring from other parts of Africa, sang, swayed and danced to the frequent worship interludes.  They frequently, in unison, bent over and swung their arms back and forth in shib sheba—dancing as David danced—with palms open to the Lord’s plans for them.  From that they moved to clapping, then hands raised above their heads, swaying side to side.

The distinctive Ethiopian trill repeatedly punctuated the worship and the messages, signifying enthusiastic agreement.

 

 

 

 

Amens and Hallelujahs

As a speaker, I appreciated the encouraging Amens and Hallelujahs!  I was awed as I surveyed the crowds spreading in three directions, protected from the rainy season by the church’s tin roof, with sides open to the elements.  They squeezed together on hard benches, breaking only for lunch and waiting in long lines for the few toilets.

I loved sharing with them about God’s intentions in making them women: in His image, as ezers—strong warrior helpers called to serve alongside their brothers in blessed alliance.  The Lord had me change my next two messages.  We talked about giving all to Him—and seeing what He will do with it.  And we ended with an emphasis on grace.

My friend Elizabeth Schenkel spoke three times about God using these women to make significant differences where they lived as they ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Erick Schenkel enabled us to soar with the eagles and run in the Olympics with his devotional.

Shocking Reality

Inspiration transitioned to application.  Sessions on leadership, family and the use of Magdalena, a moving  version of the Jesus Film told by Mary Magdalene, for sharing the love of Christ helped to equip them to return home with effective ministry.

Probably the most powerful session, though, addressed issues concerning women in Ethiopia.  A young professional woman presented staggering statistics concerning forced child marriage, abuse, abductions and female circumcision.  Then she made her point vividly by showing an horrific video of a young girl undergoing female genital cutting.  I can still hear her screams.

Conference leaders felt that, although many women in the audience would have experienced that procedure, most had no idea how widespread it still is.  Hopefully the shocking video will cause many to rise up against such practices.

GCM director Damtew Kifelew gave the closing challenge, exhorting them to pray,  to plant thousands of churches–so that there was a church in walking distance of every person.  To reach children and students and families. To transform Ethiopia with the love of God.

My purpose was to open their eyes to their value in the sight of God.  I hope I did that to some degree.  But truly my eyes were opened to a passion and oneness in the Lord that touched me deeply.  I was reminded once again of my privilege—of the comfort I live in, of the relative ease of almost every aspect of my life.  And of the incredible privilege to be friends with such women.

I hope I encouraged them as they walk with God.  I know they challenged and encouraged me.

What about you?  Who challenges the comfort of your life?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Texans are often characterized as independent, strong, loners.

Maybe that’s where I got it—growing up in Texas.  Or maybe God just put it in me.  I like to be independent.  I love to be by myself—even for weeks.  I have always had to deal with wanting my own way.

But God has refused to let me live in my independence.

He has repeatedly clarified for me that I cannot do anything all by myself.  He has created me for community and he has amplified the holes in my life so that I will be forced to let others in to fill in those many gaps.

I am so grateful for those he has put me in community with.  Here are just a few and some of the life lessons I have learned:

My family:  Steve believes the best of others—and especially me—all the time.  He always tells me I can do it—whatever it is.  Debbie loves what is right and has often called me on less than stellar behavior.  Michelle has helped me to enjoy the journey and appreciate the process.  And Josh has revealed to me God’s unconditional love, that He never gives up on me and that He loves to meet with me on my knees.

Some very close friends:  Susan floods my mind with her ideas and holds me accountable when I get too independent.  Jan has walked and worked by my side for many years, loving me and my children amazingly well.  Tricia has listened and encouraged and prayed through dark times.  Dayle has reminded me to laugh even when life hurts.  And many others…

Special mentors:  I had the privilege of working with and observing Bill Bright for 39 years.  He lived out  real faith and great compassion and a passion for excellence.  Vonette Bright has demonstrated such faithfulness and astounding energy.  In so many ways God has used them to transform me.

The staff of Women’s Resources:  They have been amazing servants and helpers and prayer warriors.  But most of all they have owned the vision to help every staff women be and do all God has for her—and have pursued that best contribution in their specific arenas.

Our mission’s Executive Team and Area Team Leaders’ wives:  These women have broadened my understanding, given me global eyes, stretched my faith, become my friends.

My prayer teams:  These warriors have held me up, interceded, encouraged, advised.  They have been faithful partners in my life and ministry.

And I’ve only just begun.  There are so many more on the job, in my church, next door, around the world.  Can I live just “me and God”?  If necessary, of course.  But God has put us in community, in His body, needing each other in so many ways.  He wants us to lean on and learn from and walk with others.

Yes, He is the source of all I need for life, godliness, ministry.  But most often His Spirit is poured out into our lives, filling our gaps, by the sisters and brothers God calls us to live among.

What about you?  Who’s in your community?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Once again I have the privilege of introducing you to one of my Redbud Writers Guild friends.  Michelle Van Loon is my guest today.

“Our driver is running a few minutes late. Is that O.K.?” The voice on the other end of the phone waited for my answer.

What was I supposed to say? I’d been sitting in an office with nothing much to do except wait for the guy from the office equipment company to come pick up his copier. “Sure. I’ll be here.”

It is the mundane nature of days like this that threatens to numb us from savoring the activity of God in our lives.

I diddled with some paperwork, wrote a few emails, and watched the minutes tick by like migrating geese. At last, there was a knock on the door. “Sorry about the delay.” A man in his early forties wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. “Hot one out there, eh?”

We exchanged weather-related pleasantries and I shot a glance at the clock. I could still make it out of here before rush hour starts. We talked through the logistics of how he’d get the aging copier out of the office building and into his truck, and discovered we had an acquaintance in common. He busied himself unplugging cables and readying the machine for transport, then stopped and looked at me.

“So what do you do?”

It kind of a funny question to be asked while I was standing in an office, though he did know that I did the bulk of my work for the organization from home.

“My primary job is writing,” I told him, and explained that I have a variety of different gigs going these days, most writing-related, including the one that brought me to the office that day.

His curiosity was piqued. “What do you write?”

When I tell people I’ve written two books about the parables of Christ, the conversation usually goes in one of two directions. Either they smile at me like I am a deluded fool and change the subject, or they begin to tell me a little about their own faith story.

Our ensuing conversation was in the latter camp, but with a confessional twist. For a moment, he looked like he was about to break down, then the words poured out of him like a river. “This economy has been brutal on my business. I’m the owner, but can’t afford to pay a delivery driver right now. I am a person of faith and love to share it, but the first and the fifteenth of each month when I have to pay bills, I take my eyes off of Jesus. I’m scared.” He paused, an attempt to dam the river. His face reddened a bit. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this…”

I nodded. Maybe he thought that because I wrote a book, I’d have a solution for his fear. Honestly, I’m a little scared these days, too, in several different areas of my life. I told him briefly about my own struggles, and referenced the words we pray (see Matthew 6:9-15) but sometimes struggle to believe when fear’s shadow threatens to block out the truth about who God is. As we talked, the copier and the truck and the clock metering out the moments of our respective workdays faded into the background as if it was bad scenery from a high school play, and the kind of fellowship found only in the kindgom of God filled the space between two struggling strangers. A tiny fragment of eternity had invaded our now.

Our conversation came to a resting place, and the clock again came into sharp focus. “I better get going,” he said, glancing at it. “Before I do, I was wondering if you’d think it was weird if we prayed together?”

Weird? It was the only logical place we could go. As we said our Amens, each of us let out an involuntary sigh, lightened from the release of lifted weight from weary shoulders.

“Thanks,” he said. “By the way, my name is John.”

“Nice to meet you, John. I’m Michelle.” After he left, I stood in the office, chastised by the echoes of my grumbling just a few minutes earlier about the inconvenience of the delay to my precious schedule. I didn’t deserve the grace that filled that conversation, and remembered again that these sorts of encounters are exactly what daily bread tastes like.

Michelle describes herself:   “I use my words to tell the stories of spiritual ragamuffins, rebels and refugees to show how God uses our mess and his grace to transform us.”  You can read more from Michelle at her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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I wrote this post months ago, but it continues to draw many readers.  It seems that we often need to forgive.  I know I do.  And I think the grace extended in forgiving expands into gratitude–especially appropriate at Thanksgiving, but needed all year long.

Steve and I had the privilege of teaching at our church—Antioch21—on Sunday.  Over the summer the theme is Relationships, and we are teaching on two of the Sundays.  This Sunday we talked about forgiveness.

One of our main points:  Relationships require forgiveness.

We focused on the importance of forgiving—in big things and in the little every day irritations—for all relationships, but especially in marriage.  We are flawed people who hurt others—even those we love.

Scripture is abundantly clear that God wants us to learn to forgive, even though people have wronged us and don’t deserve forgiveness.  Paul sums it up with this instruction:  “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

And of course, our model is Jesus Himself, who said from the cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

We spent a lot of time talking (conversation is always part of the sermon time at Antioch21) about forgiving—the big, seemingly impossible to forgive things, and the little hurts that happen every day.

Then we provided a prayer to help us to take the step to forgive someone who has hurt us or offended us.  (I first shared a similar prayer in my recent post “Grace Forgives.”)

Perhaps there is someone you will want to forgive.

A PRAYER FOR FORGIVING

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your Son’s death on the cross.  Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small.  I am so grateful for your grace.

Lord, I need to forgive ___________, who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me.  It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused.  So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________.  Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.

By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________.  I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me.  I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person.  I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love.  Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed.  And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.

Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit.  In Jesus’ name.

 

What about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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This is the ninth and final in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

 

We have prayed for Jon over the years. He has been estranged, then reunited with his dad, Louis. He and his girlfriend had a baby. Then they moved back to where he had lived previously. He returned to drugs and alcohol.

One day, high on drugs, he drove erratically down the highway. And caused a crash in which a woman was killed. He will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

Louis was devastated. How could this happen? Heartbroken. Is there no future for my son?

But days and weeks on his knees and in the Word, and Louis found peace. He writes:   “God’s majesty shrinks at no one’s behavior. Everything we know is for God. He uses every last thread of our lives. How he uses it? We only get to participate, not know exactly his will at any particular time… “

God’s grace was sufficient for Louis.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

God’s grace is enough.

These brief nine devotionals have perhaps (hopefully) opened up some new aspects and understanding of God’s grace for you. We looked at some definitions of grace, at who qualifies—those with no alibi, at how amazing it is, and how grace stoops to serve. We considered the voice of grace, the forgiveness of grace, the scandal of grace, and the grace-full Father.

We have barely scratched the surface on the height and width and depth of God’s grace. I have not intended to be exhaustive on this incomprehensible topic. But there are a few more things I want to mention.

Grace is an undeserved free gift, undeserved favor, and undeserved love.

And it is more than enough for any person, circumstance, tragedy, need.

God’s grace has made His love and salvation and provision—everything He offers—available to us. There is a catch. In order to live in it, we must receive it. And he gives us a little understanding of who will be able to truly access and experience that grace:

Those who are humble.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

This truth is repeated several times, and it is the first step toward accepting God’s grace–to understand that you don’t deserve it.

But that grace is abundantly sufficient.

We are saved by grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God freely gives the grace that save us—we can not earn salvation. And it is that same freely given grace that will save our prodigals. Keeping the rules, doing the right things, not doing the wrong things—none of this will save us or them.

Only grace is sufficient to save us.

Grace enables good works

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The good works, doing the right thing, not doing the wrong thing—these all matter and are desirable. But we can’t live that perfect life ourselves.

Only grace is enough to enable us to live like Jesus.

And today, when my son told me of another marriage conflict, my emotions took over. And at first I didn’t access that grace to speak kindly and to believe the best. Then God reminded me of what I had just been writing—the words above…

And His grace was more than enough.

What about you?  Where have you found God’s sufficient grace?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation. June 2 is our Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

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