the wonder of simple prayers

Posted in faith

“Prayer is the quiet, persistent living of our life of desire and faith in the presence of our God.” Andrew Murray

The Bible says we have God’s Spirit inside us. In other words, there is someone by your side every moment of every day. And even more amazing, this someone is purely good and perfectly wise and beautifully kind and insanely powerful and loves you unconditionally.

Why wouldn’t we share every detail with this person?

My answer to that question, though difficult to admit, is I get distracted by lesser things, or I’m so absorbed with myself that I don’t think of anyone else, or sin deafens my desire to share, or I’m juggling so many expectations and tasks I never still long enough to listen. I read that sentence, and I repent.

The gift of prayer, of ongoing conversation with infinite, holy, all-knowing God, reigning King Jesus, and Counselor Holy Spirit, is a gift I take for granted too often. And there’s a need for right understanding of this exchange. He’s not asking for long monologues and formal phrasing. He’s not expecting a pretty appearance or perfect grammar. Like I told my middle schoolers last Sunday, a way we worship is by confessing our need of Him. God is not glorified when He’s made small in our minds.

You do not need to swindle yourself into thinking that you are strong. You can face your weakness with joy because you know that you have been given grace for that weakness; grace that is not a thing, but a person—the Holy Spirit, who makes you the place where he dwells in power. Paul David Tripp

A way to magnify God’s greatness, care, and love is to invite Him into every decision, conversation, and circumstance.

I’ll paint a recent scenario for you. The morning of a meeting I know will result in awkwardness and honesty, I ask for God’s help in preparing what to say. At the table, I visualize Him sitting in the chair next to me. While others are speaking, I wait patiently, peacefully, awaiting His ‘cue’ to voice my opinion. Dialogue ensues. I lean over and ask what He thinks the topic, and I listen. The conversation ends, having had it’s uncomfortable but healthy interactions, and I see His smile, affirming He’s in control and I did well. In a situation I deemed a little trivial, something I would handle on my own, God worked with me. He helped me, and I could sense the difference it made. I actively engaged with His power and presence, and it turned a big gear inside me.

This could be our everyday experience. We may not perceive Him clearly or even feel His presence, but the Bible promises He is with us (2 Timothy 1:14). Some days will take greater faith than others, but I have no doubt the habit of sharing and listening will produce beautiful fruit in our lives.

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a few thoughts for the graduates

Posted in inspiration

My cousin Kaitlyn graduates from college today.

A few other good friends and family members will graduate from either high school or college this month as well. As I reflected on how proud I am of these humans, my pride and love spilled over into a desire to give (unwanted, but we’re going with it) advice. I remember the excitement of graduation day. I also remember thinking, “well, once today is over, what will the rest of my days look like? It’s my choice.” I remember the large neon sign in my soul telling me to find my footing before I was thrown into full-time, no summer months off, you’re responsible for you, super cool adulthood. Thinking about Kaitlyn and others I love, at this milestone in life, a few sentiments (convictions?) came to mind. Some of these I knew well at the time of my college graduation 4 years ago, others I would grow into, painfully but thankfully.

Comparison genuinely is the thief of joy.

We are all human. We are all imperfect. We are all in process. There will always be more to read, more to do, more to achieve. Resist the lie that your life should look like another’s. Fight back the temptation to believe that you aren’t capable enough for a particular task or job or adventure based on another’s success. Even if they never show it, all humans struggle and all humans desire happiness. You are never alone. You have a voice. Your life has a purpose. You have unique passions. Sometimes you’ll be right. Other times you’ll be wrong. The habit of sizing yourself up against another person will only result in either discouragement or pride, neither of which you want to mark your life.

Don’t let fear stop you from dreaming large.

I speak here from personal experience. I lived afraid for many years of my life, even if I didn’t wear it on the outside. These were the thoughts circulating when it came to choices: I’d probably look silly… I’ll mess up and embarrass myself… I could never do it as well as so-and-so… That’s pretty bold so I’ll settle for what I’m comfortable with. The only thing this habit of thought was good for was cultivating a life of Netflix, missed opportunities, and a limping ability to dream boldly.

Figure out what you fear most, get to the root of it, and face it head on. The adventure and abundant life on the other side of fear is pretty remarkable. It might be trying new hobbies or moving across the state or honing a craft or finding a job you love, dream large. If (and when) it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but I promise you will look back in 2 years, 5 years, 15 years, and be thankful you made a habit of taking bold steps.

Decide the kind of person you want to be and fight for him/her.

I speak here of character and integrity. For me, my people-pleasing nature caused a gap between self-confidence and my worldview. I look back now and regret not standing up more assuredly for what I believed in. And I don’t only mean your faith. I mean kindness to others, honesty in life and conversation, humility when it comes to another’s humanity, the kind of wife or husband you want to be someday, service to those in need, loyalty to friends and family, emotional boundaries, or healthy conflict resolution. Take a look at your parents and your grandparents. What do you admire about them? How do you desire to be different than they are/were? Decide these things. Seek God about them. The Bible has every answer for every question about every problem that you will ever face. The world will tell you to lessen your standards. Culture will say “it will only be this one time.” Your own sinful self will rationalize and justify sinful habits that seem small, but will inevitably hurt you and those around you.

You will never regret any time or energy spent in the pursuit and love of God.

Up until now, these observations can apply to anyone, no matter their religion. In a small way, I feel like I saved the best for last. No matter where you are with the idea of faith, or however you feel about God, I’d like to tell you something. Here it is… bottom line… The God who created our entire universe, the things we know about and the things we don’t know about, desires a relationship with you. Not only that, He is the perfect Friend. Every ounce of energy spent learning about Him, trusting Him, seeking Him for help is never wasted. On the contrary, spending life this way, in the greatest relationship on this planet, is the only path for happiness, satisfaction, strength, and adventure.

If you know about God, but have yet to seek Him personally in companionship and worship, I strongly (as strongly as I can since we aren’t sitting across from each other and you can’t see the excitement all over my face) challenge you to dive in the deep end. Even if your faith in this invisible God many call Father is weak, keep taking steps toward Him, keep talking about it with others, keep asking Him. Find a version of the Bible that you will enjoy reading. Find a community of people who will inspire, teach, and help you.

Four years out of college, and I truly think this is my greatest word of advice for all those graduating this weekend in 2018:

There is no greater Lord, no wiser Counselor, no gentler Father, no stronger Protector, no better Provider, no mightier Power, and no sweeter Friend than God. 

You will grow. You will change. You will learn. You be challenged. You will flourish. Enjoy it. 

Also, congratulations!!!! You have accomplished a challenging, enduring, and marvelous feat. Soak up all the fun, nostalgia, and celebrating with loved ones you can. And, I say this with love, but please remember to thank your parents, and anyone who has supported you along the way. (I know it would mean a great deal to them.)

chronic pain: exchanging my brokenness for God’s wholeness

Posted in faith

There is something about suffering. For those of you who read this not near me on a daily basis, a little context: for 2+ years, I experienced constant pain in my neck. What began as a (surprising) pinched nerve after a 10k race resulted in a variety of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, dietary changes, a steroid injection, and lifestyle changes, with no relief.

I have, however, become quite educated on the spine. (If you aren’t interested in the anatomical explanation, feel free to skip down.) Hereditarily, I have a more ‘upright’ neck where most are curved. I also have disc degeneration (which is not uncommon) and a bone spur on the C5 disc. The facet joints, in between each disc, are primarily long and flat, but with my neck’s lack of curve, around the lower discs, those joints are shorter and steeper, causing sharp pain and stiffness. (Let it be noted with joy that I am now seeing a chiropractor and experiencing genuine relief.)

After two years with no real change, I was in a pit and needed new vision.

My feelings and knowledge were at odds with each other, and the battle was exhausting me.

When we choose Jesus, a desire is permanently implanted in us to glorify God with our lives. But when suffering walks in and decides to stay for a while, weariness, discouragement, self-absorption, and a lack of glorying can mark the days. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

How do I magnify God when I would rather stay hidden from the world and distract myself from the pain? How do I glorify God when my body isn’t what I think it should be, when every other movement hurts, restful sleep is a struggle, and giving of myself feels impossible?

My injury wasn’t debilitating, and didn’t call for surgery (for both I am deeply thankful), but managing daily chronic pain was new territory for me.

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