Tag Archive | prayer

Lessons In Brokenness

angels-falling-broken-feathersToday was the first Sunday of December, which means at church it was the day to celebrate the Lord’s supper, communion.

I had gone over the things from Pastor’s email, and spent time praying during the service, and there were things I needed to confess.

In my heart I carry a root of bitterness toward my soon to be former sister-in-law.  I won’t go into details other than to say that I see her as a very evil, manipulative person.  But the Lord put it on my heart while praying about things I needed to confess, that I need to forgive her for  the perceived wrongs toward me, and pray for her daily.

During that time of prayer, thinking on the fact that Christ died for my sins…and then it hit me.  He died on that cross over 2000 years ago for my sins…sins that had yet to be committed!  Mine and everyone elses, yes, but MINE.  Sins of a woman that had never even been born!  Sins that would not be committed until nearly 2000 years later!  He died to cover the sins of all of His sheep, and those sins, so many were yet to be committed because those sinners were not even to be born for a long time to come.  How unimaginably incredible that weight must have been!  I cannot begin to wrap my head around this!

How could I not want to fall on my face and serve the Lord, the One who paid for my sins thousands of years before I’d ever walk this earth?  Sins I had not yet lived to commit?  The love the Lord Jesus has for His people is not something to be comprehended, that He was willing to die such a horrible death, suffering like we cannot begin to imagine under the weight of sins He knew would occur but were yet to happen?  It is beyond my ability to begin to understand.  Any parent understands they would take a bullet for a child…but can we imagine dying for a child or person who was thousands of years in the future???  No, we cannot.

While  in Sunday School, a passage came up that really made me think, especially during communion:

Isaiah 55

New King James Version (NKJV)

An Invitation to Abundant Life

55 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—

It really made me stop and think…What IS my focus on?  What is it I “buy” with my time and efforts?  It isn’t that it is wrong to work hard to achieve my goals, but which areas of my life are taking the priority?  My study in the Word of God? My walk with Christ?  Or is it still all about me, and things of this world that won’t last?  I need to prioritize my life, really focus on the things that last, delight in the Lord’s abundance first, then the rest of my life will take shape according to His plan for me.  I can pursue my dreams, but pray for what His will, for where I should go and trust that those paths will open up if they are His plan for my life and how I can best serve Him.

I’m thankful that I’m broken, or I’d never have returned to my Father in Heaven, the prodigal daughter, the broken angel in need of Him.

Coloring Outside The Lines – How It Began

Sin never seems to just burst through the door waving a flag, blowing on a bugle and screaming “COME ON FOLLOW ME!”  Instead it creeps in slowly, at least in a believer’s life.  Like David on the roof top, maybe we look just a little too long, or take a second glance.  Someone flirts and we flirt back.  Someone gossips or speaks ill of someone, and instead of shutting it down by changing the subject or walking away we join in and make an unkind remark.  Someone tries to provoke us and instead of praying for our enemies as God commands, and loving them as His Word instructs, we poke back.  Maybe we reason away that one drink won’t hurt anything when we know we might have a problem controlling our alcohol intake.

Regardless of what it is, we let it slip in through a crack that forms in our foundation.  That crack happens when we take our eyes off the Lord, when we start letting other things come between us and prayer time, study time, and gathering with other Christians.  Maybe it is a TV show, or a football game, staying up late and over sleeping on Sunday morning.  Whatever it is we allow things to start taking priority in our lives.  In and of themselves they are not bad or wrong things, but we let them come before what is most important.  And anything that we put ahead of the Lord is an idol.  Over time we hold that up, giving it attention when something else should be getting our attention.  The crack starts there.

What begins as a hairline crack, nearly undetectable at first, starts to grow in length and width.  Not fast, mind you.  It takes time.  We start to notice short comings in others because if we are focused on them and their behavior, we are not focused so much on our own.  We become disgruntled, the crack grows more.  Dirty water from around the foundation begins to seep in through the crack.  Just a drop here and there, but then bigger drops, and more of them, until it is a tiny stream.

The bible says in James 1:12-15:

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

We’re first tempted, when we let our desires seep in through the cracks.  We are enticed by fantasies and dreams, and we begin to breathe life into them, verbalizing and sharing them.  As time goes by they grow and become more prominent in our speech.  Before long those desires conceive and give birth to sin.  We act upon the desires and fantasies, and the crack breaks open more and sin is born.

That is exactly how it happened.  Time, events, “life” got in the way of what was important.  Little by little, we let more and more things become more important than being at church.  And the fantasies began to be voiced, talked about, used to entice and excite.  In time they were acted upon and we began to lead 2 lives, one that on the surface looked like we were good, church going, bible believing Christians.  The other was kept in secret and away from the eyes of friends and family.  We made new “friends” that helped us to justify what we were doing.  Consenting adults, it wasn’t sin if we both were in agreement.

The first clue that something is a sin might be the ‘secret’ part.  When you have to hide it, there is a reason.  Cheating on your spouse usually starts out with secrets…texts, flirts, emails, conversations, meeting up for drinks or lunch, things you do when your significant other is not around.  Things you would never do in front of them with their full knowledge because it is WRONG and you know darn well what their reaction would be.  If you cannot share it with the church family, or your blood family because they would ‘judge’ your actions as wrong, then maybe you need to be thinking again.  Hidden things, secret things, things that could cost you your position in the church, damage your testimony and/or reputation, cost you your marriage….yes those things are not okay, or you would not be hiding them.

We justified that they would not understand, even tried to convince ourselves that God never intended for us to be monogamous because after all, He made us with these desires and as long as we go home each time with our spouse at the end of the night or party, then it is okay.  If it was we wouldn’t have been hiding what we were doing.  I believe deep down we both knew very well what we were doing was completely wrong and sinful.  But oh the fun, the parties, the open mindedness.  Sharing intimacy wasn’t really my  thing, that was the other half’s joy.  But I enjoyed the parties, dressing inappropriately sexy and embracing the knowledge that I was sexy, desirable and so many men wanted me.  Sure, that was indeed a draw, but what I really wanted more than anything was for my spouse to feel that way about me, and me ONLY.  But I walked into this with him and saw no real way out.  Instead of shutting down those fantasies when they first came up, I put him on the pedestal and tried my best to be what I believed he wanted.  I am just as guilty as he is for where we went.  I could have prayed for him, steered things gently away from the sinful desires, but I opted to feed the flames.  I put my husband’s desires and happiness ahead of the Lord, I actually made him my idol.  I carried things entirely too far from his being my hero and center of my world, when I should have had his spiritual health, the state of his soul as my major concern.  Instead of praying, I added to the temptation.  I ate from the forbidden fruit through the images I’d verbally weave and handed the fruit off to him.

Let my coloring book stand as a warning.  We cannot allow even the smallest temptation to cross over into our lives.  Once we let just the smallest sin in, it takes over and grows.  I have no idea who said it, but I’ll stop tonight with this thought, as it is so very true:

Sin  will take you further than you want  to go.  It will keep you longer than you want to stay.  And it will cost you more than you want to pay.

God’s Amazing Timing

For weeks I’ve felt a tug at this prodigal heart to return to church.  And not just any church but the church family I knew and loved in the past. The one that has prayed for me and my ex husband since we walked away years ago. The same loving faith family that welcomed me back almost 2 years ago, before I ran away again.  That same family that once again welcomes me with open arms and tears, and prayers.  Oh how they have been praying and waiting for God to bring me back on track.  Thankfully they never seem to give up.

I had started a Kay Arthur study a few weeks back, Lord, Only You Can Change Me, and also started reading again the book Dan gave me last time, The Way Back To God, Psalm 51 by Clarence Sexton.  Awesome stuff, both of them.  I actually considered working through 3 of Kay’s studies, the other two are Lord, Heal My Hurts and Lord, Give Me A Heart For You but I’m one  woman with a limited amount of hours in a day.  24, just like you.  So I figured it best to stick to those and get in them in depth and take my time chewing on each lesson.  I’m so glad I did, it’s been life changing stuff all over again. These helped me to open my heart again to focus on my faith.

Wednesday evening I went to the midweek service, which was the home groups that meet once a month.  They are starting a new book, Walking Like Jesus Did; Studies In The Character Of Christ.  I also attended the  women’s bible study Friday, and they are just kicking off, this time in Unit 3 of a great study called Gospel Transformation.  

Interesting to me how many new things are starting just as I return.  And all are things I NEED more than I ever realized.  God’s timing is so perfect.

During the past few weeks I’ve really struggled with ME.  My “it’s all about ME” attitude, the idea that my world revolves around me and “if you don’t like it take a hike” line of thinking.  PRIDE much? Yes, I know.  And then my prayer of late, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”.  I heard that many times over in bible  study Friday, and it is nice to know that while I was away from being fed, my sisters in Christ all struggle daily with many of the same things I do.  When the ladies were doing a quick  review of the last unit and what had touched them in it and unit 1, something stuck out to me regarding the whole “ME” complex I have had.  Idolatry.

The book says, “An idol is anything we believe we need, apart from Jesus, to make us happy, satisfied, or fulfilled.  An idol arises when we desire something more than we desire Jesus; when we fear things rather than God; when we worship ourselves rather than Christ; when we put our trust in anything other than God; when we serve anything other than Jesus.”  The book provides some areas of fear, trust and desire that may be idols to us.  All I can say is wow.  SO many areas that I could check off either in a direct or indirect way.  It is suffice to say that ME has to get bumped aside.  I  know this, knew it weeks ago, and I have to do away with my self centered thinking.  But first comes the root of this ME idol.  That root would be pain.  The pain I still carry around and even cling too, of my divorce.  I am not so sure that I wanted to hurt, as that it is just familiar, like my teddy bear, so I can hold it.  Do I still feel I was wronged? Certainly. But what does it matter? It is done, over and I needed to let it go.  Forgiveness didn’t come easy, but in the past few weeks I truly was able to just let it go and accept the healing that comes from God and not anything of myself.

Before I made the journey back last week, I knew it was not about me anymore. It was about Christ and my walk with Him.  This time when I went it didn’t just feel like ‘home’, this time it felt like I had never left.  I realized at one point that I had to remind myself I had been away a long time, because it felt as if I had never left there and had just been there last week.  And while  kids have grown up and there are been changes to people, so much still felt the same, as if there had been no absence for me.  That was when I realized that I am right where I belong.  And as I sat there, taking it all in, wearing my Harley Davidson long sleeved, v-neck shirt and jeans, with my wild, bleached blond hair, I knew that I can still be me, who I am.  I don’t need to lose the person God created, that Marti is who she is because she was fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t want me to not be an individual, He wants me to be HIS individual.

Keep My Seat Warm…

Not  to worry, my dear sisters and brothers, I’ve not gone away again.  I’ve missed a number of Sundays but I’m okay, and I’ll be back.  Don’t stop praying, I’ve been struggling, but not with my faith.  My struggle  is  with me.

I  know where I belong, and know where I should turn when my heart and mind get all confused.  I’ve had too much on my plate, but nothing of substance  from the only food that  matters, God’s Word.  Yes, there is dust  building up a  bit on my bible again, but tonight I assure you all, I will have it cleaned off, in my hand and be in it again.  In fact I am seriously considering not going tonight to my district meeting and bingo for Avon, and  spending the time in quiet time.  One way or another, I will be  back on my knees again, and in the Word, tonight.  Someone feel free to hold me accountable there.

My time management has not been what it needs to be of late.  I’ve let all sense of structure vanish from my life and that includes my time at church.  But I am hungry, and I need to be there I know.  Call me, email me, text me…I need the encouragement, need to pull myself out of my funk and be there this Sunday.

Keep my seat warm…on the sheep side, right next to Jane…I’ll be there.

About Last Night…

I hate the time before you go to sleep at night
because that’s when all of the thoughts
you try to avoid for so long
start to linger in your mind

Last night I found myself up late unable to sleep. I have entirely too much on my  heart and mind, the thoughts would not quiet themselves.  Dozens of questions with no answers, and one particular person who was very heavy on my heart.  I decided to read and have some quiet time with God.  I’m working through a book by John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ.  The ‘chapters’ are 50 reasons why Christ came to die.  Each 1-2 pages in length so it is the perfect devotional book.   What better to go through leading up to Easter/Resurrection Sunday.  I’m also reading through the gospel of John too, and Proverbs.   I spent a while reading these before deciding it was time to close the books and quiet my heart and pray.

I did something I have not done in years…many many years.  I lit my luminary (my favorite night light), turned back my bed, shut off the lights, then instead of sitting on/in bed to pray, I opted for my knees next to the bed.  What a difference that made!  In the quiet darkness of my room, on my knees,  I was able to quiet my heart and mind to pray, and to feel that Presence that tells me I am not  alone, that I am heard and there is One that loves me and watches over me.  The awareness that my pleadings are indeed getting past the ceiling.

I used to know this closeness many years ago in the quiet  of the morning, bible, notebook and coffee and on my knees to pray.  I have  so missed that.  Back then I used to cover my head with a lace veil.  I had done an extensive study on women being veiled for prayer, their heads covered according the scripture.  I wore it for church and wore it in my personal prayer time.  When married, back when we used to pray together each night before turning in, I wore it then too.  It didn’t ‘do’ anything…except bring a hush over my spirit.  It helped to foster within me a humble heart, a quiet spirit, a mind focused completely on that time to pray. I  will be using a prayer shawl instead, just as soon as I can get one made.

It was hard on the knees, though not until I went to stand up and crawl in my bed.  I felt peace and went to sleep quickly after that,  knowing that my prayers were heard, and that no matter what comes into or out of my life, resting in the loving hands of my Creator, all is right in my world.

Sometimes The Words Aren’t There…

Sometimes I have SO much in my heart that I need to pray about, only to hit my knees and find the words simply are not there.  I have burdens on my heart and I want to lift those up but I cannot begin to put into words what is in my heart. 

I’m so thankful that He knows…only He knows my heart and knows the deepest thoughts and concerns there.  Sometimes the silent heart of prayer is what is needed.  And sometimes it is the song sung from the heart and soul that carries those burdens heavenward.  Tonight is one of  those times when words fail me.  And one of those many times when I can just worship and praise Him with songs and know that the Lord hears the cry of my imperfect attempts to pray, and knows what weighs me down, and WILL answer.

This is one of my favorite songs of late on the radio, and Sunday morning Mr. Wonderful sent it to me on email.  It is ministering to my heart tonight where I cannot form the words to pray but my heart does, and I know the Holy Spirit intercedes for me, as scripture says.

The Same…But Different

A  number of years ago we got to hear Pastor Mark Webb preach at the Mid-American Reformed Baptist Family Conference, and he used that phrase throughout one of his rather amusing sermons.  To this day if someone says it and others laugh,  you know they attended that conference.

I was noticing this past Sunday, my 5th one in a row back in my church home, how that applies.  So much is the same  and yet different. 

Many of the same faces are there, but many are not and have been replaced by new ones.  Of  those that are the same, many have grown up from little kids that I last recall! Some families expanded in number through natural and adoptive means. 

I am now sitting on the ‘sheep’ side of the church.  That was a running joke that we had always sat on the goat’s side, so when I came back I was told I needed to sit with sheep this time.  So in that sense it is different, from the view to the pew occupants. 

That is something I’ve noticed that has been a bit of a brief emotional moment here and there, the absence of half of a couple that at one time were so precious to us (me and the ex) as friends.  He is there, the remaining half of that couple, with their  kids, in the same pew as always.  Second row from the front, goat side.  For years we all shared that pew, often had lunch after church together, played Rook on Friday or Saturday evenings, attended the men’s softball games while our husbands played and we socialized with the women.   It was a far more relaxed and fun time back then, and for a moment I sat and looked over at that pew noticing who was missing, and it hurt a bit.  I stopped and prayed for my friend, I miss her in my life so much.  For years she was my best friend, we shared so much, including some dark parts of our hearts, and some horribly painful times in our lives.  Our friendship was truly forged in the fires of trials when we came together and leaned on each other, prayed for each other, and sat on ‘attitude row’ together at women’s bible study on Friday mornings. (we were your non-conformists of sorts back then!)  Later she and I  would also go on to walk those dark and sinful roads together as well.  I prayed for her while sitting there in church, that one day she too would return to her faith.  Her and my ex.  Where  they land  not so important, but that they do in fact return to where  I know their  hearts truly believed, where fruit was evident in them and where one day again their lives would be honoring to the Lord.

I just thought of her again this evening and stopped to pray.  On one of the shelves of my desk is a Zingle-Berry she gave me one year long ago for my birthday.  I love this thing, it is cute and reminds me of us both.  But especially me, as chocolate to me is a food group and should be the base of the food pyramid!

I miss you, C, very very much!  I’ve made it my goal to pray for you whenever I see the Zingle-Berry.