Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

To be honest, I am still seeking a direction and vision for where I want to take this blog. I don’t particularly want to make it a self-indulgent place where I spill my guts, but I feel somewhat indebted to share what I’ve been up to, and how God has worked for, in and through me over the past year. He has been pleased to introduce two major themes to the forefront of my heart.

The first is Trust.

On August 24, 2017, in what cannot be anything other than an act of God I providently discovered that my blood pressure had suddenly rocketed up to 197/95, and refused to come down. I was at 31 weeks and 6 days of my pregnancy, just about 8 weeks shy of the due date. After about 4 hours of steady attempts to bring down my blood pressure to non-life-threatening levels, it turned out that the safest thing was to deliver the baby immediately. And so my little girl Lydia Brienne was born at 9:56 pm, well formed, perfect, and tiny. Due to being premature she spent 2 full months in the NICU, and we her parents faithfully visited every single day, driving back and forth the 15-odd miles to the hospital. It seemed like an eternity to live day by day, rejoicing with each half ounce gained and weeping from frustration of not being able to breastfeed or be there with her.

But God was so good to us – he provided financially, emotionally, spiritually, through family and friends, some of whom we had never even met. I can’t sum up the whole experience in one truncated post, nor do I desire to; there were so many things that happened that deserve attention (postpartum being a big one). However I will say for now that it’s much easier to stand back and see God’s hand moving even in the pain and hardships as we approach baby’s first birthday. In the moment it was hard to appreciate. God provided ample comfort in the form of loving people – nurses, doctors (basically all hospital staff) who lovingly cared for my baby when I couldn’t, church family who prayed, loved on us, and fed us for several weeks after my operation and once the baby came home, family and friends who visited and gave us the space we craved for processing.

The second has been Prayer.

Each year I make the attempt to start at the beginning in my One Year Bible (no judgement, I haven’t made it perfectly, but it’s more than nothing!). But this year I replaced that with a vow to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before I began to cultivate a constant attitude of prayer, I will be absolutely honest – I found prayer to be boring, time consuming and not amounting to much. I considered it to be a last-ditch effort rarely bring results. That has changed.

I began small, a little prayer said for something that worried or bothered me as I stood in line at the store, or while I did monotonous chores like washing dishes. It was awkward at first, and felt a little silly. But as I did it more I found that more often than not that one little prayer would turn into another and another, longer ones, leading to more heartfelt worship. Prayer has a snowball effect where once I get started it is difficult to stop.

I’m still learning, but the combination of these two ongoing lessons has created an incredible peace that I am staying rooted in Jesus.

Dangerous Love

Dangerous Love

I have a problem with forgiveness. I cannot let go of the afflictions I’ve suffered at the hands of a loved one. I lay it before the cross one day, and creep back in the dark of the night to steal it back again.

Pain is powerful. It controls us. In a sick way, it seduces us and makes us to believe that we are justified to cut off the flow of love in the direction of the offender. In one fell swoop of the mind we make ourselves the judge, displacing the real Judge whose ways are as high as the Heavens are from the Earth. Is that really what it looks like to commit my ways to Him?

Why must we always allow others to dictate whether we obey and follow the Lord’s call to holiness? We may not think that’s what we do but it is whenever we withhold love from others.

I’m not doing (blank) for her… she never (blanks) for me

This sentiment, coming in many forms in our day to day conversation, is a regular one in my attitude. Whether it’s a rude customer, or difficult friend, or someone I’ll never cross paths with again – I love others based on how they love me. That is called conditional love.

But being righteous and perfect, as the Lords desire is for us, means unconditional love which is love that is not dictated by any other force than love, of which God is the ultimate source.

I think unconditional love seems dangerous ground for us because it pulls the rug of control and security from beneath us. It says, “You’re not in charge of policing the actions and attitudes of others. Your hurt feelings are not relevant when it comes to the love God commands of us for each other.” Harsh as it may sound at first, it is true. We avoid it because it feels unnatural to our natural flesh, but

Unconditional Love…

Is NOT being a pushover // It is strength under control

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness..png

Unconditional Love…

Does not render justice impotent // God has promised justice for sin and mercy for sinners who turn to him.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (1).png

Unconditional love…

Is the defining characteristic of God // We love in this way if we claim to belong to God.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2).png

Take some time to sit with the Lord and answer these questions. Tell Him honestly where you struggle. I pray and ask that God would gently reveal in His time what you need to hear.

How are you loving others today?

Have you ever experienced unconditional love? (In addition to Salvation)

Is there something standing in the way of loving certain people?

What would it take to remove that obstacle?

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this-6 He .png

Wide angle

Wide angle

I knew I was going to take the test last night, I waited all week for it. It was stupid to get my hopes up. Our first went to live with Jesus last year. Now each failure stabs a little deeper. I hate being disappointed so I usually try not to hope too much. But this time, for whatever reason, I really thought I’d be pregnant.

I find out that someone, who struggled with the same affliction, is pregnant. My mild mannered demeanor is shattered at this news. Jealousy overcomes and I’m an ugly monstrous version of myself. The mention of her name is normally enough to set my jaw and fix my gaze. And now she has a baby. And I remain barren.

I know the grudge I hold against her cannot continue. I’ve known this for some time. “I’ll get to it Lord,” I falsely promise. “…but shouldn’t I get to a place of greater faith first?” I’m not ready to face my hatred for her and what she has done and what pain her presence in my life brings. He tells me it’s already happening, and that I have all I need in the way of weaponry.

But this, Lord? Her?  This is too much.

My desire for children doesn’t come from a place of fear. Truth be told, I just want to nurture and teach, model godliness and grace, read mom blogs without feeling like a fraud. I want this more than anything. God knows. He also knows my heart isn’t ready.

Forgiveness is difficult enough even without jealousy to muddy the waters. I am Jonah pouting under a withered leaf and wiping the sweat from my furrowed brow. Arms crossed, I can see Ninevah’s salvation in the distance. While she praises you, my heart is stone.

What a strange thing it must seem to You, to see one of your creatures who at once understands and doesn’t understand. She gets my most cherished wish and I get a lesson. My head defiantly turns to the side. No. You are faithful, merciful, ever patient and too loving to comprehend. And you gave her a baby and not me. I want to scream at your throne. But I know You.

I do not require evidence. I do not struggle with the big questions of faith and doctrine. No, it takes something much simpler to trip me up: Your “no” to my deepest desire. It makes me wonder about all the other things that have come so easily. Others would call me blessed beyond measure, but my imperfect focus both sharpens and skews my will. And yet you say I already have the control.

How is it that I am overflowing with desire to show my child how to follow You when in the waiting place I won’t even try?

He’s showing me the lens dial. It moves from pointed focus to wide angle. If only I could see the rest of the picture I would know what he knows. For now, all he can do is discipline in love because I want but can’t have a child to discipline in love.  Now it is your humor that is too much.

Dear Jesus, forgive my bitter and jealous heart. You have dominion over every storm and every blessing. Let me always cling to the promise that you have a hope and future for me, even when I can’t see it – I will believe that you are good.

Seeking God: Seeking answers

Seeking God: Seeking answers

Read: Psalm 17:1-5, John 16:7

Christ: My disciples fretted about what they didn’t understand instead of coming directly to me. They went to each other like the blind leading the blind, but I am the Way.

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Think: Is God my first resource for answers? Who or what do I consult for answers before going to God?

Pray: Dear Jesus, lead me yourself. Save me from false information. Where am I getting my information about You and Your nature? Teach me yourself. I will rely on none but you. Amen.

Seeking God: Safety in his arms

Seeking God: Safety in his arms

Reading: Psalm 31:1-5, Ezekiel 34:15-16

Christ: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full..jpg

Think: God has promised restoration to those who turn to Him in belief. When I’m overcome with fear, does my heart remember my true safety? Or am I quick to forget the power of His promises?

Pray: Dear Lord, Thank you for being our rock and fortress. We entrust our spirits into your hand. Amen.

Seeking God: True bravery

Seeking God: True bravery

Reading: Psalm 27:1-14, Psalm 109:5-6

Christ: Sometimes true bravery means waiting for God to act on your behalf. Be confident in my consuming love for you and have fearless trust in Me. I will not fail you, though My timing may not agree with yours. But “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 28:14).

My heart has heard you say, -Come and talk with me.-.jpg

Think: Consider David, who being pursued by his enemies, prayed and consulted God first. When he had the chance to ensure his own safety and easily kill King Saul (see 1 Samuel 24) he did not take it because he feared the Lord and knew that it was not His will. David chose to let God take care of it, even though it meant allowing Saul to possibly survive and prosper longer. Do I ever take decisions into my own hands out of fear? What would it look like to trust in a stressful time?

Pray: Dear Lord, I am deeply sorry for the times when my actions betrayed my trust in you. Help us to bravely have patience and confidence in your good will for our lives. Amen.

Seeking God: When scoffers scoff

Seeking God: When scoffers scoff

Read: Psalm 129:1-8, Isaiah 53:2-3

Christ: Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? I don’t come with clanging cymbals and flashing lights. Only those with discerning eye of faith can see Me in truth and Spirit. As my disciples you will not be treated with respect by everyone. You’ll encounter some persecution from time to time because no one likes to be told to loosen their grip on the world. Even so, do not let this upset or discourage you because I’m the only one whose opinion matters and I’m the one who holds your hand through everything.

they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.jpg

Think: Jesus said “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). Have I ever been mocked for following Jesus? How did I react? Sometimes the way we react by instinct does not match the way we want to react. Take a moment to pray for the next time we are persecuted. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your resolve.

Pray: Jesus, you came to save the poor and weak in faith, not the ones who think they have it all together. We can see your beauty and glory. Help us to remain strong in our faith when it is challenged. We pray that seeds would be sown in these encounters. Amen.

Seeking God: He will not fail

Seeking God: He will not fail

Reading: Psalm 13:1-6, Jeremiah 31:15

Christ: Grief and sorrow are consequences of sin on Earth and they touch each person uniquely. Do not think Me ignorant of your pains; I weep with you. In such times, you must cling even tighter to My lovingkindness to you. I have helped you before, will I not help you again?

I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue.I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers..jpg

Think: Even in his most desperate times, David praised God’s faithfulness. He says: “But I have trusted in You in the past, and my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (my paraphrase of Ps 13:4-5). The real test of faith comes when we cannot see the rest of the road due to darkness and fog. It is in these times when we use the truth of who God is to fill in the blanks – I will sing to the LORD because He has dealt bountifully with me. How has God dealt bountifully with me in the past?

Pray: Dear Lord, You are always good and never changing. You care for us in your own way and timing. Blessed be Your name because you are good and mighty to save. Let us not confuse grief (which is caused by sin) with despair (which is the loss and absence of hope in You). You never forsake us. Amen.

Seeking God: Keep a soft heart

Seeking God: Keep a soft heart

Reading: Psalm 95:1-7, Isaiah 40:11

Christ: Remember that I am your place of rest and your shelter of comfort. The cares of the world are stressful and not at all aligned with the original purpose for which you were made. The symptom of a hardened heart appears when you try to make a shelter of safety for yourself. I cannot do my work or you if your heart is hardened against me.

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Think: “The seed sown on the rock never brought any fruit to perfection” – Matthew Henry. When I lie, cheat, steal, I am hardening my heart against God’s heart for me. I may justify my choice, or ignore it altogether but it is still sin.

Pray: Dear Lord, let us keep the ground of our hearts as fertile soil which grows the seed of faith to perfection in the dew of your grace. Help me to notice the moment my heart refuses to receive your wisdom. Holy Spirit, make clear to me the state of my heart so that I may never miss out on the gentle leading of Jesus.


 

Seeking God: Running the race

Seeking God: Running the race

Read: Psalm 18:1-19, Hebrews 12:1-2

Christ: Please never doubt that I hear your prayers. Every time you incline your heart to Me in prayer and praise, do it with a sure belief that I will answer you. Do not be discouraged by my timing. Recall how limited your reach of mind is, and how unlimited is Mine. Do not fear or be downhearted when something appears to go downhill, for I have already won.

he heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.jpg

Think: God does not leave us alone with our faith. It is like an engine which is only powered by His grace and He never stops filling it up for us. Not only that, we are not alone to run the road of endurance all by ourselves; by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we ever strive as a family together toward His will. Who are the people that run alongside me in our journeys of faith? How can I cheer them on today?

Pray: Jesus, thank you for hearing us and being so intimately connected with our struggles at every moment. We want to strip off every unnecessary burden and turn away from every sin in order to follow along the road you have set out for us. For you are my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Amen.


 

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~The PD Team