A couple of people in totally unrelated situations have come to me lately to talk because they are at the end of their rope. They have exhausted everything they can think of to do. They see no possible way out of their situation. They have tried and tried to no avail. Nothing has worked and there is nothing else they can do. After they poured out their broken, weary hearts, I wanted to say with excitement, “That’s such a good place to be!” Yet I have to do it kindly—because I’ve been where they are. I know how painfully hopeless it can seem. I know how it feels to give it everything you can possibly give—and for it not to be enough. But, it is actually one of the best places to be.
Father, it is when we have come to the end of ourselves and our own ideas—that we realize we can do nothing. That is a ripe time for people to simply surrender their will to You. What they see as a hopeless situation, You see as the possibility for a new beginning with You. When there is nowhere else to turn, it is an opportunity for them to turn to You. It has to be our choice to turn to You—not to tell You how we want You to work things out, but to admit that we can do nothing through our own strength, wisdom, plans, and will. It is obvious that our own plans have failed. Now, we can ask You to accomplish Your will in our lives with no thoughts or ideas of our own. We can truly ask You to take over. We can finally surrender our own ways and be open to Yours.
Lord, I know You see deep into our hearts. You know what a painful place it can be to surrender our own will. Your Son Jesus had to struggle through that same place in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He willingly headed to the cross. It is when we give up and let You know there is nothing we can do…when You say, be still and watch what I can do through a surrendered will. Lord, help me become better at surrendering before I’ve tried absolutely everything else. Help me learn that I can do something—I can surrender my will daily and pray for Your will to be done. Then let me watch what You do in and through me. I pray the same for these two people I love who are at this place right now.
Jesus prayed…”My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39
“Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for ME will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from ME you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Father, I admit I can do nothing apart from You. I surrender…
As we get reports on different stories coming out of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey dumping torrential rains and causing widespread flooding, I am once again reminded of Your eternal presence no matter what we have to go through. So far, I have heard of 15 deaths and over 500 deep water rescues. Countless homes, schools, churches and communities are under water right now. Businesses, earthly investments, and worldly dreams may have been blown apart or drowned in the powerful winds and deep waters…but even more valuable eternal riches are being discovered in a new way.
When our earthly security is shaken, we often turn more fully to You, Lord, for our eternal security. We may lose everything including our home, only to find that You are our everlasting shelter. We could lose a loved one, and find that You never ever leave us. Our dream of a business might be washed away, but hopefully we find Your kingdom which stands forever. We, or someone we know, may have come eerily close to death, only to find eternal life through Jesus Christ.
We will continue to see and hear more reports of devastation and rescues from this tropical storm. As we watch and pray, may we be reminded that what looks like the end is often the beginning. As we pray for those in the midst of pain and suffering, may we pray with confidence that You are right there with them- each in a very personal way, coaching them on, opening their eyes to the eternal new life before them found in Jesus Christ. Some hurricanes come in the form of water, others come in the form of cancer, chronic or terminal illness, death of a loved one, financial ruin, divorce, a lost job, a legal mess, a broken relationship…It may truly appear as the end for those going through it; but I pray it is just the beginning of an ever deepening relationship with You. That’s what true life is. I love You, Lord.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of war, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pangs.” Matthew 24:6-8
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:1-2
“A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him, saying ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith? He asked the disciples.” Luke 8:23-25
Father, I pray for those going through the flooding from the hurricane…and for me to see You in my own hurricane…
It’s unimaginable that You made us and gave us free choice. That has been boggling my mind lately. Part of me wants to say, ‘What were You thinking?’ Everything would be so much more orderly if You had created us to automatically obey You. Yet the parent, grandparent, teacher in me kind of gets it. What joy there is when my children, grandchildren or students freely choose the right thing of their own free will. This world is full of people making many choices…but there is truly one ultimate choice that affects everything- for all eternity. That is the choice to accept that Jesus is Your one true Son who You freely chose to send to save us from our sin so we can live with You in peace both now and for all eternity. All the millions of choices in the world do not mean a thing unless we choose Jesus as our Savior.
It pains me to see people choosing to make other things their greatest priority: money, fame, drugs, alcohol, sex, entertainment, education…what emptiness is found when they choose to live their own way, to try to control their own lives. What foolish pride to think we can handle this life without You…the very One who made us! There is no way we can be strong enough, pure enough, good enough, or genius enough to make it to eternal life without Your help. Your choice to save us is Jesus. It is Your deepest desire that not even one should perish but have eternal life…yet You give us a choice of whether we want to be with You or not. One day every single person will have to bow before You to acknowledge what their choice was concerning Jesus. I have already made my choice to accept the loving gift You’ve given me in Jesus Christ.
I choose to love You with all my heart, mind and soul. I choose to worship You alone. I choose to honor You with my life. I choose to acknowledge that I am nothing without Jesus but I am complete and whole and filled with Your Holy Spirit when I continue choosing Him. I choose to follow where You lead, to obey what You say, to stay close to You each day. I choose to gratefully accept the sacrifice You gave to me through Jesus Christ. What an amazing God You are to love me so much to send Jesus to save me when I was a sinner…and to let it be my choice whether to accept the greatest gift ever given. I choose You because You first chose me. How I wish everyone would choose You!
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20a
Heavenly Father, today I choose….
I just spent last week at an awesome church camp (four nights and 5 days at a 4th-5th grade camp and then a day camp for K-1st grade). The most miraculous things happen at church camp which makes up for the hard waterproof mattresses on old squeaky bunk beds, the dirt that totally covers your body from the dust stirred up by so many feet, late nights with giggly girls, stinky boys who pride themselves on no showers, wet clothes thrown all over cabin floors, wet swimsuits which fall off the line and get dirt mixed together with snow cone and ice cream drippings, a few cases of homesickness or real sickness, several real or imagined boo-boos, and being asked a million times “What’s next?”
The eternal benefits far outweigh the downside. I want to thank You, Lord for a few of the miracles I had the privilege of witnessing this year: the boy whose family just moved to a small town in OK and attended church for the first time. His mom heard them talking about leaving for church camp and wished out loud her son could go to meet new friends. In less than an hour, he was packed and back at church to go to camp with people he didn’t know. He ended up getting baptized and camper of the week!…the very smart but extremely shy girl who fought through tears and fear to say memory verses in front of the whole crowd and discovered You are with her and will help her…4th and 5th grade kids who happily gave up their “canteen money” to donate to the mission of building chapels in OK prisons. They broke the record by giving $1000 towards helping inmates know about Jesus inside prison walls… the unbridled worship of children who sing to You with all their heart, minds and soul…
Lord, I was overcome by the history of this small church camp that gets city kids out in the country, that makes children forget all about TV, video games and cell phones. Many of the adult sponsors grew up going to camp there. That’s where they came to know You. I wonder how many of the 9 baptisms in the swimming pool last week will end up as pastors, teachers and living long lives for You. I have no way of knowing how many lives have been changed eternally through this one humble church camp serving a group of OK churches. Not only are the kids’ lives impacted for Your kingdom, adults are drawn closer to You as well. I know I found time to be still and quiet before You this week. I grew in Your word, Your presence and in sweet fellowship with big and little brothers and sisters-in-Christ. May we all take our renewed fire for You back to our daily lives and shine brilliantly with the Light of Jesus Christ! Thank You, Lord, for letting me be a part of church camp.
“He (Jesus) took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me.’” Mark 9:36-37
“Let the little children come to ME, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:14b-15
Father, show me how I can worship, obey and live with You like a child…
In this day and age, most of us have chaotic lives with hectic schedules. Every day I see parents picking up their children and rushing to a practice or a game. They barely have time to say “hello” or share the happenings of the day. Meals are fast, often in the car on the way to another location. Every moment of “off time” from work or school is packed with entertainment, chores, errands or activities. Every space is filled with noise from the nonstop blare of TV, radio, news, video games or social media. All that noise fills us with worries of crime, terrorists, financial woes, relationship concerns, what we might be doing wrong, and the terrible shape of the world. We are driven to make more money so we can spend more and then we worry over more bills. We want larger homes then it takes more time to maintain them. It can, indeed, be a chaotic world. Most everyone longs for a more simple life with less stress.
It is up to us to slow down and simplify our lives. We have a choice to answer Your call to “Be still and know that You are God.” Those quiet times with You certainly simplify our lives. When we consistently take time to be still in Your presence, You help us to get our priorities straight. You show us what needs to be cut out so we are not overwhelmed. You remind us You have a plan for our lives…and it is not to add more stress but to give us Your peace. Lord, You open up a way when it seems there is no way out. You restore and refresh our souls. You teach us how to truly love and enjoy the moments with our families and those You put in our path. You let us know what we need to handle and what we need to simply place in Your masterful hands. You open our eyes to see the beauty we would be too busy to notice if we weren’t still with You. You reveal more and more of Yourself as we seek these simple times with You.
Lord, help me to consistently choose a more simple life with You. Let me seek You and love You with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. You sent Jesus to give me a more abundant life. The more I simplify my life and seek You, the more blessings are multiplied. You are all I need. You are far more than I could ever hope for. It’s simple…I choose You!
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
Heavenly Father, help me seek You first and above all…
All-Knowing Heavenly Father,
It takes holiness to hold back sometimes. I’m seeing that more and more as I get older. I certainly didn’t understand when I was young. When I was younger, it seemed everything revolved around me. When I wanted a certain toy or dress, I thought I should get it right then. It appeared to me that my parents were being cruel or unreasonable to say “No” to my current whim. As I became a parent, I had to learn to hold back on granting my children’s every wish or demand. I knew what was best for them in the long run. Their development of good character was far more important than giving them momentary satisfaction. What a reward for one of my grown sons (after becoming a dad and admitting he used to get mad at us) to come back and genuinely thank us for not letting him watch certain movies, go to uncertain parties or play games with unstable morals. The greatest reward is seeing his awesome character.
Through the years, I’ve struggled with seeing those I care about in pain. At times, it’s been my husband, children, grandchildren or people who are grieving a death or a loss that has rocked their world. I just want to take away their suffering. But You have shown me the eternal value of holding back. If I tried to fix it, they might gain momentary relief…but if I hold back and simply stand with them in the pain and let You fix it in all Your holiness- there will be eternal results. You, Lord, are the only One who can see the whole picture. You, alone know the good which will come from holding back. That is why it is always better for me to wait upon You and Your perfect ways.
It is comforting to know that it must have been hard for You to hold back when Your Son Jesus struggled in the garden, was falsely accused, condemned to die an unjust death, whipped beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. It was all part of Your plan to give us eternal life. It was part of Your plan since the very beginning. I can’t imagine the holy love it took for You to hold back when Jesus cried out in forsaken agony on the cross. He died alone without You for our sakes so we would never have to live without You. It would have been easy for You to take the cup from Him; to relieve His pain and suffering…yet You held back. You knew what His death and resurrection would mean to each of us. Father, help me hold back when it is part of Your plan …but let me hold nothing back when it comes to worshipping, loving, obeying and following You!
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. ‘Abba, Father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.’” Mark 14:35-36
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “my God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mathew 27:45
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
Most Holy Father, thank You for holding back when I ask for the wrong thing like…
The last few months I’ve been doing a lot of pruning on trees and bushes. I grew up watching my horticulturist dad prune. He taught me well. If someone watching me didn’t trust my pruning abilities, they might think I was butchering if not killing the poor tree. If the tree could talk, it might be screaming out- not understanding what the beloved gardener is doing. It appears to be harmful when the cutting starts, but pruning in the hands of a gardener who knows what they are doing is an art. There is a vision of what that tree is capable of becoming. It may be the same tree, but the pruner sees a new creation in an ever-better form. The selective surgery is done, knowing it might take seasons (or perhaps years) to fully develop into the design the gardener has in mind. But the gardener is willing to wait for it to grow into its design.
Father, You are the Master Gardener! You have been doing some major pruning lately. Though it might hurt for a while, I trust what You are doing. I trust the fresh strong growth You are bringing out. I submit to Your design for my life and those who I care deeply for. There are times You cut out a perfectly healthy branch because You know another new fresh branch will come out where the other was cut away. You cut out the dead wood that’s just taking up space and not producing any new life. You cut away one branch where two are rubbing against each other. The constant friction will rub open wounds on both branches, giving entry ways for all kinds of diseases and insects. Then there are times You simply dig up a shrub after pruning and move it to a new location where You need it to flourish and produce.
Lord, though I may squirm or even wrestle under Your pruning; though I hear the cries of those I love who are undergoing pruning- I am already seeing new shoots of life coming out where the pruning took place. Those new buds will make strong branches which will produce much fruit in Your kingdom. Thank You, Lord, for the loving way You tenderly prune with such beauty and purpose in mind. Let me submit willingly to Your Master hand. You made me and You know what You designed me and those around me for. Let us flourish and blossom under Your all-knowing care. I love you , Lord, even when there’s pruning!
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:10-14
Lord, where are You pruning me? Help me submit to You loving design…
What a beautiful sight to wake up to…pure white snow blanketing everything. All the mess; all the brown piles of dried up leaves; all the trash cans; dirty cars and broken fences- they were all transformed into beautiful sparkling pure white snow still untouched by humans hands and feet. I happened to be one of the first to drive on it yesterday morning. Though the sun had not quite risen, the undisturbed cover laid out in front of me glowing in the soft pre-dawn light. The atmosphere was filled with peace with the muffled softness of sound from piles of brilliant fresh- fallen snow. The morning almost had a sacred feel to it…until I walked into work where they had to salt the sidewalk for the safety of incoming feet. What a mess! The salt and slush was tracked all over in no time at all!
I watched the snow out the window as the day went by. It was too cold to go outside and play in it so for the most part, it lay undisturbed! On the drive home, the dirty ruts of tires spoiled the pure whiteness. Though I ‘d admired the pure clean snow, I couldn’t help but think how my very best attempts at pure holiness on my own are filthy and impure compared to Your holiness. There is not one iota of meanness or manipulation or spot of impurity in You, Lord! You are more holy than the cleanest whitest snow.
You, Lord, are untouched by my filthy sin which somehow always makes its way through as I go through the fiery trials of this life. I cannot blemish Your holiness…but You can completely cover my sin. You did it once and for all by sending Your Son Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross. He came quietly, softly and let His pure blood cover and cleanse every bit of ugly rebellious sin. I may still feel the sin pop through, but I believe You look at me and see the beautiful holy covering of Jesus’ blood that makes me pure so I can live with You for all eternity. You not only cover me but make me new from the inside out!
“But we all are as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
“as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
Father, I need the pure holy saving grace of Jesus. Forgive me and cleanse me from…
It is so fun living with You, learning from You and growing in You! Lately, I’ve been seeing how much fun it can be to trust You! Of course, I wouldn’t have always described trusting You as fun. At times, it has been a little like jumping out of an airplane for the first time (I’ve never done it but I have trusted You on some issues that were very similar!) There have been times I have known exactly what You wanted and my trust in Your goodness led me forward with confidence. There have been a few times, it seemed You asked me to do something and I wanted to say, “You’ve got to be kidding! You want me to what?!!”
My old human self was filled with fear. I was the furthest from an adventurous risk-taker there could be. I still like my feet on solid ground as opposed to deep water or icy slopes. Yet those years of trusting You have changed me. It all started long ago, with me truly trusting that You sent Jesus to save me and to give me eternal life. All my years since have been spent learning to trust You more and more in every situation- in little things and huge issues- with circumstances and with people. Some things have been easier to trust You on than others. I cannot count the times I held on with all my might before simply letting go and trusting You.
Yet, oh the joy that comes from trusting You. A sweet peace comes from trusting that You are in charge and have good plans despite what any situation looks like. What confidence to be able to go through a challenging situation, knowing You have the final say in the outcome…and Your love and goodness can be absolutely trusted! What joy that comes in waiting upon You, trusting You through whatever comes my way…and then getting to share in the amazing way in which You work. I love watching You work, Lord! I love getting to be a part of it even when it can look dark at times. I love trusting You through it and seeing the outcome! I get to share in Your joy! It’s the joy of loving You, trusting You, following You, living with You, sharing in Your goodness and in Your eternal work. Yet the joy is not my only reward. My true reward is You!
“Come and share your Master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:23b
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
Father, show me how I can trust You more…
I’ve run out of gas. My energy is all used up. My body, mind and spirit are setting on empty. I don’t want to talk or move. It’s OK, though. I’ve run out of steam before. It’s not the worst thing in the world because I know where to go to get filled back up. In fact, I believe it may be good for us to experience our own weakness now and again. It is a reminder of how much we need You, Lord!
So here I sit, quietly in Your Holy presence holding my empty tank before You…
I don’t want to try to take another step, make another plan, or talk to another person til I am filled up again. If I try to go on an empty tank, I will just sputter and stop. It might even do more damage than good if I attempt to go under my own power instead of Your’s.
Even now, as I am still before You and thirsting for more of You, I can tell You are gently filling me up. Being in Your presence is refreshing and renewing. You restore me. I am not in a hurry to get going again. It is beautiful to be filled by You. I was made to be filled by You. We were all designed to be filled with You. My joy, my peace, my strength, my purpose are all found in You through Jesus Christ. Fill me up!
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3a
“I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I Myself may be in them.” John 17:26
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Father God, I want to be filled with…