Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts

Why You Shouldn't Ignore The News In 2016





This past year, I understood for the first time why some people don’t like watching the news.

I have always been a bit of a news junkie.  Part of this may have come from being a dental hygienist.  People are nervous at the dentist, and it helped to have some outside interest to divert their attention from their vulnerability and the dental poking and prodding that was coming.  With current events, we are all in it together.  

I used to hate it when a patient brought up a story I had heard nothing about.  All I could say was “Oh really?”, which is not much of a distraction from the despised plaque-scraping.  

I like to feel informed, I like to be able to contribute an opinion to the conversation, so I still turn on the news each morning and keep my radio dialed to talk stations.  But in 2015, the news was heavy and dark, and for the first time I felt the weight of it. ISIS, persecution, refugees, Planned Parenthood atrocities, Supreme Court decisions.  The world is changing at a rapid pace, and I don’t know if I want to watch where it’s heading anymore.  

I’m no longer working as a hygienist, so I no longer need to keep up on the news for my patients’ sakes.  It’s terribly tempting, as we head into another blank year on the calendar, to bury my head and ignore all the “negativity”.

But I won’t, because I know it would be irresponsible of me to do that.  The world is spinning out of control, the country as a whole is turning it’s back on God more each day, and people are going their own way.  

But it’s not too late for things to change.  

If I didn’t believe that, I would bury my head and hunker down in my house with my family until Jesus comes back.  We are not to the point of no return, but change in the world will only come through something that only those of us who follow Jesus can accomplish - prayer.

I have a little confession - I used to secretly think that there was little practical point in prayer.  Nothing can thwart God’s will.  Sure, there are benefits of prayer on our relationship with God, but I doubted whether prayer really changed anything else.   

Through a recent in-depth study at our church, I’ve come to realize that God chooses to use our prayers as a catalyst to accomplish His work on earth.  His will is that we pray, and He chooses to involve us in bringing about His will through our prayers.  It’s kind of cool actually, that He chooses to include us, because He didn’t have to set it up that way at all.  That is why prayer is powerful. Because God allows His will to be worked out on earth through prayer. 

As I watch the news now, I realize how desperately our world needs prayer.

So what is my prayer for 2016? I pray that God will bring about a great revival, and that it will start within our own families.

We turn on the news, and it is easy to see how mainstream culture has forgotten the things of God.  But I wonder how much of that same attitude has seeped into our families?  Do we turn to God with our struggles and sorrows, or do we try to find our own solutions?  Do we take our concerns about our world to Him, or do we turn the channel and try to forget what we saw?  Are we modeling the truth of prayer for our kids, or just going through the motions?

I want to teach the importance of prayer to my children this year.  I want to turn every news story or personal situation into a chance to show them that prayer matters.  I want to make our nightly prayers more rich and meaningful, instead of rushing through them. (A cute resource for nightly bedtime prayers is Max Lucado’s Treasury of Bedtime Prayers, and I think it will be a good place to find inspiration when I have trouble coming up with the words.) 

There will be no revival in this country without a revival of prayer.  God tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much, and it is time for those who follow Jesus to pray fervently for hearts to turn back to God in our nation and world through each situation we see on the news every day.

In 2015, I had to practice taking that heavy, dark feeling and shining the light of prayer on it.  In 2016, I want to pray more fervently that God would use the darkness to emphasize His light all the more.  I pray that in the midst of these scary days in history, God would draw people to Himself.  I pray that He would use me and my family, in whatever part of His story we must play, to bring our country back to Him.

Will you join me in praying for our nations as we start 2016?  I don’t know what this new year will hold, but I do know that the future looks brighter when we turn our faces to Jesus.


---

Lord, we need Your help.  We have all turned aside to our own paths, and there is none of us who is without sin.  Thank You for sending Jesus to pay for our sins.  Thank You that when we believe in Him, You cover us with His righteousness.

Lord, forgive us when we forget that in the midst of these scary times, You are our Hope.  Help us to remember to turn to You with our fears.  I pray that You would bring about a revival in America, the greatest one in our history, and that You turn people here and around the world back to You.  

Forgive us for our own failure to turn to You and our passivity in the face of evil and suffering.  Please work in our own hearts to put You first, and to obey Your voice as we try to shine Your light in the darkness. May we all do the work that You have for us in 2016, and give us the strength to be fervent in prayer.

Amen.









(Note: This post is sponsored by Tommy Nelson, but the topic is something I am passionate about, and as always, all opinions are my own.)

When Prayers Get Stale

When prayers get stale

I don't know about you, but it is easy for me to fall into a prayer rut - where I find myself using the same 'ole words, to pray the same 'ole things, from day to day.  I do this when I am praying by myself, but also when I am praying for my kids at night.

I don't like getting into my prayer ruts when I pray with the kids at night, because I don't want them to get bored hearing me pray in the same way every night - and I don't like it when my own prayers start to feel stale, because then it is so much easier for my mind to wander.

I think the reason I do that is because there are a few core things that I want to pray for each night when we say our bedtime prayers, and it's hard to think of new ways to say it!  To me, it's a constant battle to keep my personal prayer time, and prayers with the kids, interesting and fresh (I hope I'm not the only one who has trouble with this).

I think this is something that is worth paying attention to, because being able to come near to God in prayer is a huge privilege - and we can come boldly because of what Christ did for us on the cross!  Something like that should never become boring, and it's something I want to work on.

I listened to a Focus On The Family broadcast the other day, and the speaker recommended trying to put theology into our daily, habitual prayers.  I try to do that when I pray with the kids, but I realized that I could do a better job of it.  I have been challenged lately to try to re-word things, and sneak more theology into my prayers with the kids.

So instead of "Please protect us while we sleep", it could be "Thank you, Lord, that you are so powerful, and in control of everything, and that You are always with us - thank you that you are able to protect us while we sleep, and we pray that You would."  Or instead of "Bless this food to our bodies", it could be "God, we know that you have made everything, including out food, and we thank you that you have provided this meal for us.  Thank you for the way you have wonderfully made our bodies to use this food for energy, and please protect us from any germs we might not know about."
Something like that.  Those are kind of long examples, but you get the idea.

Another fun resource for ideas on changing up day-today prayers is Max Lucado's "Treasury of Bedtime Prayers".  Don't let the title fool you, because there are prayers for every time of day in this book!  As I was reading through it I was gathering ideas for changing up some of my wording when I pray with the kids.

Bedtime prayers blog

The kids have also really enjoyed sitting and listening to the poems, Bible verses, and prayers in this book.  Gwen has especially liked it - this book is just her speed, I think.  I think she likes the rhythm of some of the poems, and the pictures are adorable - lots of cute woodland creatures and outdoor scenes.  I think the illustrations are what make this book special to me - these are the kind of pictures I loved to look at in books when I was a girl!

Bedtime prayers blg 2

We haven't read through all the prayers yet, because this book has a lot of them, but I have loved every one I have read so far!  I think it is a great tool to focus the kids (and myself) on God's goodness right before bed.

Bedtime prayers blog 3

I love the idea of focusing on theology and who God is during prayer, for a couple reasons - first it's a good way to sneak biblical truths into the kids brains without lecturing.  And second, when you remember how great is the God to whom we pray, it is hard to stay bored!  It is amazing that such an incredible God takes the time to listen to us.  It reminds me of Psalms 144:3 - what are we that God pays attention to us? Prayer is something special, and I don't want to forget that.

Am I the only one who gets stuck in "prayer ruts"?  What do you do to keep your prayer time fresh?

---

Note: I received a copy of :Treasury Of Bedtime Prayers" for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.


Do Something For The Persecuted


Do Something For The Persecuted

I have a book for you to read.

I recently finished reading "Killing Christians" by Tom Doyle, and I have to tell you guys, this book might make my top ten list for the year.  It's still early, but this book was so good.

I picked up this book thinking it would be like a different book I read a couple years ago that gave a lot of stats and facts about persecution of Christians around the world, and it was totally different than what I was expecting, in a good way!  This book has eight main chapters, and each chapter reads like a chapter of a fiction book - except the stories that are told are not fiction, they are real.  These stories are specifically focused on Christians in the middle east, so it is especially applicable to what is happening today.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it - these stories are brutal.  The types of suffering that are described in these pages are horrific, and in a lot of ways it was difficult for me to read.  I can't imagine going through what Christians in the middle east (especially converts from Islam) endure, and the way they endure it with such courage and faith is inspiring.

It may not be easy to read, but it is so important to be aware of what our brothers and sisters are suffering so we can pray for them!  I especially loved one line at the end of the book.


"Even though personal hostility, danger, and martyrdom may not be present in your life, there is something else you are experiencing: you are suffering.  Did you know that? . . . Your connection to those living in persecution is stronger than you may think - if one suffers, we all suffer.  That is why you recently may have felt unsettled, angry, or disoriented by the pervasive evil in the world and overwhelmed at the bombardment of Christians globally as you view it on television or read about it online or in print media.  You should feel this way.  After all, it is an attack on your family."


That so perfectly describes how I have been feeling lately every time I hear about Christian kidnappings or executions in the news - it is almost a physical pain, and it finally makes sense to me why it makes me feel that way.  We are the body of Christ.  We are more connected than we realize.

I think it is so important as Christians to not forget those of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and killed.  It is tempting to turn off the news, close the windows on our computer and not think about it, but we can't do that.  Our family needs us.  They need our prayers, every single day.  We should be petitioning our Heavenly Father on their behalf. We shouldn't let them suffer and die with no notice.

I just wanted to close this post with a resource that was shared at the end of this book, called 8thirty8.  This is a challenge to set your phone for 8:38 PM each day, and when the alarm goes off, take a minute to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted.  There is also an 8thirty8 Facebook page that will give you specific updates and situations to pray for.

It hurts to feel so helpless, but there is always something we can do - we can pray.  And "Killing Christians" and 8thirty8 are great inspiration for doing just that.

0718030680 jpg


Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

Thanksgiving



Psalm37

I am finally getting around to writing about Thanksgiving, a week later.  In years past, when I write a Thanksgiving recap, I usually just include a bunch of pictures and say we had a lovely day.  But I know Thanksgiving 2014 will stand out in my memory years down the road.

Derek was let go from his job last week.

It was a shock to both of us, and I feel like a lot of the week we were either totally stressed out, or in a daze.  This job hasn't been a good situation for our family.  Although I didn't write about it a lot on here, the last couple years have been pretty miserable for me, just having Derek away from us so much.  For about 8 months out of each year, he has been traveling 3-5 days a week.  It was lonely, Derek and I were both stressed, and the kids missed him.  It was far from ideal, but we both tried to remind ourselves to be thankful that he at least had a job.  And then all of a sudden, he doesn't.

The day we found out, we were driving home from dropping off Derek's work equipment at his boss's house, and I saw the clouds turning orange as the sun was setting.  Then it hit me that I had spent most of the day with my head down, lost in thought, looking at the floor.  After that, I told myself that I was going to try to keep my head up.  Problems don't seem so overwhelming when you look up at the sky and see this gorgeous sunset.  Somehow I know the Lord was trying to tell me to trust Him.  He keeps everything in the world running, and paints sunsets in the margins. He cares about the little things.  This is big to me.  It is so tiny in comparison to everything else going on in the world.  But God still cares about it, because He cares about me.  That is comforting.

This was the first Thanksgiving, except maybe the year of 2008, when something in our lives was actually going wrong during the holiday.  But I found that though I wish last week hadn't happened the way it did, it was still easy to find plenty to be thankful for.  God has been good to us.  He has given us each other, He has given us our health.  He has let us live in the best place in the world to be unemployed.  And if everything we have on earth were taken away, no one could take away our salvation through Jesus's death and resurrection.

I'm still stressed out.  But Derek has a couple job interviews (one today, so please pray for us!), and I was able to pick up a couple extra days at work.  Even in these very early days, I see the Lord already starting to provide for us.  We are praying He'll provide a new (better) job, we are casting our cares on Him.  And we'll be okay.

Prayers are so appreciated!

----

P.S. I am also up for a contest that Firmoo is holding with people who wrote a review for them this year - and if I win first place, I could win $100!  Which would be nice while we are waiting for the Lord to provide Derek a new job.  So can you vote for me?  Thank you!  

Three Ways To Help The Christians In Iraq


Saysomething


Something has been weighing on my heart over the last week, and I felt like I needed to write about it today.

I'm sure many of you are aware of what is happening right now in Iraq and Syria.  But for those of you don't know, a militant Islamic organization called Isis has been taking over many cities in Iraq and Syria.  Many minorities, including Christians, are being driven out of their homes, and people are being captured and forced to convert to Islam.  If they refuse, they are being beheaded.

The media has been picking up on this and reporting more on it, especially since a reporter, James Foley, was captured and beheaded by this same group.  But what has been somewhat disturbing to me is how little I have seen about this on social media.

I remember when the Tsunami hit in Haiti, and how many blog posts I read about that.  I read even more blog posts and tweets about some of the shootings that have occurred in recent years.  These things were tragedies, and they certainly deserved the attention they received.  And I imagine part of the response was due to the extensive media coverage and the fact that some of these tragedies hit so close to home.

But I have read next to nothing on social media about this genocide in Iraq.

I had a hard time tracking down any specific numbers of people who have been executed so far, but I did find that at least 1,900 were killed in June  - and things have only escalated since then.  I found that 400,000 Christians have been driven from their homes and now have nowhere to go (via).

I listened to a Focus On The Family broadcast on this subject last Friday, and they interviewed a Christian who is on the ground in Iraq - and you could hear the sorrow in his voice as he talked about a five year old boy, whom he had recently baptized.  The boy and his family were captured by ISIS.
And they killed them.  They beheaded a five year old boy.

That hits close to home for me.  Maybe because my son is not much younger than that boy.  But really, this should hit home for all of us, especially for those of us who follow Jesus.  This isn't just some distant conflict between people who have nothing to do with us.

These are our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being slaughtered.  

These are our brothers and sisters in Christ who are crying out for someone to help.

Frank Wolf is a congressman who has been speaking out about this atrocity for months, and he sent a letter last week to President Obama (before the President approved targeted US air strikes in Iraq) reminding him of the President's own words that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is . . . a core moral responsibility of the United States Of America".  Wolf's letter ends with words that haunt me.

"Mr. President, say something; do something."

I want to pass that challenge on to all of my American brothers and sisters in Christ.  We can't stand by while Christians are persecuted in such hideous ways throughout the world, and specifically in Iraq and Syria right now.

Say something.  Do something.

------

I think one reason I've heard so little in the blogging community (at least in the corner of it that I'm a part of) about the genocide that is going on in Iraq and Syria is that we feel helpless.  What are we supposed to do to help?

I know I have felt pretty lost on what to do about this, but I have put together three ideas for things we can do for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted in Iraq and Syria.  This is what I've got.

------


1.  Write your congressman.  There is obviously not a lot that we can do physically to help stop this genocide unless our government steps up.  Thankfully the President did authorize targeted air strikes in some areas last week, but I think it is important to let our representatives hear from their constituents that we want them to act on behalf of these minorities who are being killed.

I feel like writing your congressman can be a bit intimidating - maybe that is because I feel like my words have to be super-eloquent.  But it doesn't have to be hard - just a basic letter will do.  Here is what I wrote (feel free to copy my words or adjust them however you want):

To Congressman _______,

I am sure you are aware of the genocide that is being performed against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria at the hands of ISIS.  This is an atrocity, a gross human rights violation.  Religious liberty is one of our foundational freedoms in this country, and I believe it is our moral duty as Americans to speak out against and put a stop to such horrific violations of that liberty.  President Obama also recognized this in a 2012 speech when he said that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America."  I urge you to do what you can to put a stop to the genocide in Iraq and Syria, and to support any action on behalf of those who are being slaughtered there.  Thank you for your attention to this crisis.

Sincerely,

Name
Address

You can visit this website to find your representative and get a link to your representative's website - typically each representative's website will have an email link somewhere on the first page.


2.  Donate to help the 400,000 Christian refugees in Iraq.  Focus on The Family announced last Friday that if you donate to their office in Egypt, they will make sure the funds go directly toward relief efforts.  I trust them to get my money where it supposed to go.

You can donate by calling 1-800-A-FAMILY, and telling them you want to give to help the Christians in Iraq.

American Christians are probably the Christian group that has the greatest resources for sending help, and I think that means we also have the greatest responsibility - so if you are a believer, prayerfully consider donating to help our brothers and sisters in Christ!


3.  Pray.  Sometimes I feel like I'm not really doing very much by praying, but in reality, prayer is one of the best things we can do.  We may not be able to see the effects, but it is making a difference.

Rev. Canon Andrew White, a guest on the FOTF broadcast asked for prayers for three things specifically, and I thought this was a great guide to use.  Here they are.

-Pray for protection.   Pray for the Lord to put his hand of protection over the Christians who are being persecuted in Iraq, to rescue those who are in captivity, and to protect those who are fleeing ISIS.  I love to pray through Psalm 91 for protection, especially the following section:

"Because he loves me", says the Lord, "I will rescue him.  I will protect him for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him.  I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation."

Psalm 91:14-16

Let's pray those verses over our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

-Pray for provision.  Pray that organizations will be able to get relief to those refugees in Iraq.  Pray that God will put it on the hearts of His people to provide monetary help to the refugees (and consider donating yourself, if you haven't).

-Pray for perseverance.  One of the saddest things to me was hearing that many in Iraq are losing hope.  Pray that the Lord would be with those Christians in Iraq, and make His presence obvious to them.  Pray for Him to strengthen their hearts and give them courage to stand.  Pray for Him to fill them with peace and hope in the midst of this horrific trial.

Will you join me in praying daily for our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering right now?

-------

I'd love to read about any other ideas or resources you might know about - comment below!

On Complaining

Attitudes matter.

I keep starting and re-starting this post, because I'm not exactly sure how to say what I want to say here.  I've written before about the problem with venting and about being careful not to spout off careless words.  But this week I was reminded again of how much I stink at controlling my tongue.  And my attitudes - because the venting, careless words ultimately come from my poor attitudes.

What I hadn't thought about before was how much my bad attitudes can wear off onto those around me.  And it's becoming painfully obvious as I think over the last few weeks.

This has mostly taken the form of me over-explaining my woes to those I love, to the point where they start to get irritated for me.  Although sweet in a way, it's not good that I'm recruiting others in my life to carry my self-imposed burdens.

Most of the things I'm frustrated about or disappointed with are indeed frustrating or disappointing things.  But does that mean I have to display my frustration for all to see and to pour my burden onto someone else to the point where they start to adopt my attitudes about the whole situation?  

Something happened this past week that made it all the more obvious to me that my bad attitudes don't just affect me.  They affect those around me, especially those within my own household.  

The truth is, complaining about certain situations can make it more difficult for those close to you to remain at peace with the circumstances.  In my case, though they try to encourage me, I just won't be encouraged, and my complaining eventually changes their attitudes as well.

It's a power I never consciously realized I had - to affect the attitudes of those in my family in a negative way through my own attitudes.  I haven't been handling that power responsibly.

It's a fine line to walk - the difference between bearing one another's burdens in marriage and unnecessarily burdening one another with our complaints.  We really aren't supposed to be complaining anyway (Philippians 2:14).  Even to our spouses.

I think it would be much better to discuss situations with my spouse, take it to the Lord together in prayer, then let it go.  

It's the letting go part that is hard.  Instead I continue to sit there even after supposedly handing it over to the Lord - griping about things I can't change.  That's not helping anyone - not me, not my family.  I need to give it to Him and then stop complaining.  Just stop.

Goodness knows the psalmists did quite a bit of venting to God when they were scared or frustrated or lost.  But one thing I noticed as I was reading through some of the "complaining" psalms - once they poured out their hearts to God, they remembered God's power.  They remembered His faithfulness.  They let Him be the one to bear their burdens.


Psalm77


He needs to be the One I go to first - I need to give Him my burdens from the start instead of letting the default be dumping things on my family (and then maybe remembering to pray about it).  

If I'm feeling irritated or overwhelmed about something, a little private "venting" time to God would be okay I think.  

Because I can't change God's attitude, but He can change mine.  And that's what I need help with in the first place.
© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.