Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hezekiah's War Room

I'm reading through the book of Isaiah and it is, for me, both an encouragement and challenge. Parts of it have stuck with me for days. I've written verses on index cards so I could look at them and ponder them over and over again. It's like it's a message just for me - something that I needed to read, to hear God speak into my soul.

Then there's those times when what I am reading in Scripture intersects with other messages I'm hearing from other sources: a sermon, a Bible study, or even, in this case, a movie. Johnny and I recently went to see the movie "War Room." (**spoiler alert**) It's a movie about prayer where the main character is challenged by an older woman to take seriously - to pray earnestly - about her marriage. The woman is instructed to go to battle for her family by writing her prayers and set aside a place of prayer to verbalize those prayers to the One who is able to do the miraculous. Even if you haven't seen the movie, surely you've seen the trailers with pieces of paper and sticky notes attached to the wall.

Sometimes life is just like that - we feel like we're in a battle. We actually are according to the apostle Paul. Why would we need armor if we weren't in a battle? (see Ephesians 6:10-17) Paul writes that our battle is not against flesh and blood - even though it certainly seems like it at times - but it's a spiritual battle. After we've put on the armor of God we are instructed to pray. (Ephesians 6:18)

Starting in chapter 36 of Isaiah, Judah is threatened by a real-life, flesh and blood enemy, the Assyrians. The Jews were mocked and ridiculed. By outward appearances, the Assyrian army was more powerful than the one protecting Jerusalem. When King Hezekiah got the message from the Assyrians about their treaty offer and the consequences of refusing it, he took the threat seriously. He took the letter and went to the house of the Lord and spread it out there. (Isaiah 37:14) He then prayed - his prayer is recorded in just 5 verses (verses 16-20). He spoke words of truth about the character and nature of God. He spoke about his situation and the threat against Jerusalem. He asked for deliverance SO THAT people would know that the Lord alone is God.

Isaiah, the prophet, the spokesman for God, sent a message to Hezekiah that because he prayed, Jerusalem would be saved from the Assyrians.

I've been guilty plenty of times of taking my prayer life too lightly. I've been guilty of making my prayers all about me or the things on my list. I've been guilty of not taking the holiness of God seriously. I've been guilty of making God small in my own estimation by the way I've prayed or failed to pray.

Then those things come up that remind me about the battle. The enemy is threatening. I'm reminded to go to the war room. For Hezekiah, the war room was the house of the Lord. For the Jews, the temple represented the presence of God. For the follower of Jesus, we are ushered in, brought into the presence of God by the Holy Spirit. I don't want to take that lightly. My prayer place is where I go so that I'm not distracted, so I take seriously the enemy, so I recognize the power of the only One who is able to do the miraculous.

I write my prayers out and present them before the Lord because I need to. I need to recognize the challenge so I know how to pray. I write Scripture because I want to recite God's powerful Word back to Him as a promise for my own life. I write my prayers out so I can rejoice and offer praise and thanksgiving in the answering.

A movie and a text of Scripture intersected with my life and where I am right at this moment. If the message is for me then I get it. And I move forward from this moment with my battle plan, headed to my own war room.

Serving the King,


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Paradise Comes in Many Forms

I was on my almost daily walk with my dog at the park when I passed a couple walking 3 dogs. We said the usual greetings. You know, "Hi, how's it going/how ya doing?" The guy's response to my greeting has stuck with me for a few days. He said, "Paradise comes in many forms."

I just looked up the word paradise on merriam-webster.com and the first definition has to do with the afterlife but definition #2 is this, "a place or state of bliss, felicity, or delight." I then had to look up the word felicity because it's not in my everyday vocabulary. It means "quality of state of being happy."

Some days I have to choose to see my current situation or place as paradise. Maybe it doesn't always involve felicity but certainly should involve thankfulness. Honestly, when I see my life in light of some of the really horrible things going on in the world this is paradise. God has given me more than I deserve and, in many instances, more than I've asked or imagined.

Those days that are heavy, though, the choice is harder to make. Those days when you get a phone call that is like a kick in the gut. Those days when you have to give up something because you realize you've made it an idol but it's not without heartbreak. Those days when you miss someone you love so much it hurts. Those days when you realize you've said hurtful words and you wish you could just take it back. Oh, forgiveness is there but so is the sting. Those days when you face uncertainty but you just want to know the answer.

Yesterday, as I contemplated paradise, I flipped my Bible open and it fell to Daniel 9. Starting in verse 4, this chapter records Daniel's prayer of confession. Verse 3 is this, "So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." It's not the first time we see Daniel praying in this book that bears his name. Even with a threat to his life if he continued to do so, Daniel got on his knees three times a day to pray and give thanks. (see Daniel 6:10)

Perhaps the key to paradise is prayer, giving thanks, being submissive to the Lord God despite personal desire. Maybe paradise doesn't always involve happiness but it does include peace, joy, and assurance.  At least that's the definition I'm writing as it applies to my life today.

Serving the King,


Thursday, May 14, 2015

On My 25th Mother's Day I Realized I'm a Failure As A Mother

That's right, a complete failure. I came to that realization standing in a coffee shop in Alabama with my daughter, Jessica. I mentioned that I'd like to go to Gulf Shores someday. Jessica replied, "Mom, no one in our family likes the beach except you. Even Christy." Christy, by the way, is my daughter-in-law and I adore her but even she is against me when it comes to the beach. How did I raise 3 kids and not guide any one of them to common interest of white, sandy beaches; beautiful, clear, salty water; and bright sunshine? Failure.

Later that evening, Jessica and I went to Brook Hills Church. Since they are without a senior pastor right now, the worship pastor preached. It was a Mother's Day sermon from Proverbs 31. Not the Proverbs 31, virtuous woman passage that one might have expected but it was from the 1st 9 verses of the chapter. Really, go read those 9 verses. It's a mother's desperate cries for her child. The 3 main points of the pastor's sermon applied to mothers and, really, to anyone who is discipling other believers.

Johnny and I tried to do those 3 things all the while we were raising our children. Some days (lots of days) parenting was really hard. I know we made mistakes. Probably lots of them.  Somehow, in God's grace and economy, we came through it. Toward the end of the sermon, the pastor said something to the effect of, "sow the seed and trust God for the results." We sowed some seed, we plowed some fields, and now we are reaping some pretty great benefits.

I loved the days I spent over Mother's Day weekend with Jess. I got to see her in her new environment and the life she is building in Alabama. I'm so proud of her and the responsibilities she has undertaken with her new job. I love how Josh is pursuing ministry and having lunch with him every Thursday is our routine. With one of my offspring already living in another state, I don't take weekly lunches for granted at all. I love the conversations I have with Jacob about politics (even when we don't agree) and history and music and food. I love how he is so loyal and kind-hearted. It's seriously grace and God's goodness toward me and Johnny that we are a part of lives of these three.

A couple of days later I was on my flight back to DFW with my earbuds in and playlist on shuffle. It never fails that Taylor Swift's "The Best Day" comes on when I'm thinking about my kids. Thankfully the seat next to me was empty so no one was there to see the tears fall down my face. Such good days have passed. I miss them terribly at times. The sadness for what is past is replaced with pride at the excellent adults these people that I gave birth to have become. I'm not proud because of anything I've done unless it's pray like crazy. God did the work.

I'll never stop being thankful for it.

Serving the King,