Make me strong again

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV My friend (and pastor) Nathan is kind of how I picture Jesus. Cowboy boots, faded jeans, and crinkly eyes—the kind of crinkles that come from smiling so much. He lights up when he sees you. Everything about his demeanor is wide open. He walks through a room and people lean towards him, like flowers turning towards the sun. He exudes warmth and acceptance. And wherever he goes, whether he’s having dinner at Applebee’s or sitting with village elders in Afghanistan when he was deployed in 2005, the conversation turns to Jesus. It doesn’t feel contrived. It just is who he is. It’s what his whole life is about. But Nathan tells a story about how years ago he didn’t know how to evangelize. And he prayed, “Jesus, take what is least in me and make it the greatest.” Whenever I talk to a group about prayer, I usually say this: I’m not teaching you because I’m so good at this. I’m not an expert. I think God put me here, though, so I could tell you it’s OK not to be perfect. It’s OK to mess up, to forget to pray, to get busy and distracted. Because I’m the poster child for those things. But if anything sets me apart at all, it’s...

How To Get Your Heart Right This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and yet if I’m being honest there are days in this season of life when it is just plain hard to be thankful. Shocking, I know. I shouldn’t be saying that to you, I should put on my Patty perfect pastor’s wife hat and pretend to have it all together…but, I just can’t do that anymore. You and I both know that being real with each other is so much healthier than some pretend story of how someone else’s life is more put together than yours. Plus, it is a reality that many can relate to right now. I can count my blessings, I can try to be positive, but let’s face it–life is hard sometimes and it’s not enough to know that fact in your head, you’ve got to give it time to get your heart. So, what are you supposed to do when you should have a heart of thanksgiving but your heart and your head aren’t talking to each other? That’s a great question and I’ve found some incredible wisdom for us right here in this verse; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Let’s dig right in because this is just too good to wait on…if we are anxious then chances are we aren’t going to have a heart of thanksgiving, will we? We’ll be, well…anxious. Worried, frazzled, distracted and trying...

A Fast from WHAT?

Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 It sat in my inbox for nearly a week. The title simultaneously stirred me and scared me. I knew I NEEDED to read it. I knew simply by the title of the email that I needed some time to prepare to enter this ring. The other day, I felt like a boxer prepared to fight. I opened the email. The email with the subject header: A Fast from Judgement. This could take awhile. We are undeniably a culture of JUDGEMENT and this was a challenge to fast from judgement. I was hoping for coffee. I was convicted not only to read it, but study what the Bible really says about it and take a long, hard look inward. It doesn’t take much to see that we’re caught up in it y’all and it’s making us a hot mess. It’s destroying what Jesus died for; the heart and soul of mercy and grace. Okay. It may be just me, but my judgement comes in the form of THOUGHTS and unspoken ATTITUDES rather than vocalized social media commentary and since it’s just between ME and JESUS, it’s justified, and considered discernment, right? Uh, no. It’s still merciless. It’s conclusive without ever seeking Jesus. The unspoken thoughts and attitudes are just as relevant, destructive and sinful as ones openly expressed and for me, a fast was in order to expose the weakness of my flesh and to draw me into Jesus. Let’s be clear. There seems to be some confusion, especially in a social media obsessed,...

Break the Fast

I enjoyed ten wonderful days with family and friends: eating, visiting, laughing, seeing beauty, and having fun. Nothing wrong with that, except I also neglected prayer and reading and meditating on the Bible. My normal routine is to start every day reading His truth and mediating, talking to Him. My rationale was that it was just for a few days. I could get back to it when I got home. However, it wasn’t easy to go back to where I was. I felt disconnected from God, I was weak spiritually and I struggled for a couple of weeks. One morning as I was walking and praying, it occurred to me it was like I fasted from spiritual disciplines. What happens when one fasts from physical food? The body feels weaker. If a person does a ten-day fast from food, do they go back the next day and eat 3 full meals? No way. That person would have to start small, maybe even with broth. What about our muscles? If a part of the body is injured and has to be immobilized for a period of time, such as having an arm or leg in a cast, does that person go back to normal activity the next day? Not a chance. In fact, most will need the help of a physical therapist to get back to the strength they had before they put the cast on. So why do I think I can go without spiritual food for an extended time and then go right back to the state of mind and heart I was before? It doesn’t happen that...

How to Embrace Seasons of Change

Change: we all go through it at some point in our lives and it happens whether we want it to or not. So what do we do when the winds of change start to blow and we simply don’t want things to change? Do we stomp our feet like little kids and cross our arms, forbidding change to happen? Do we jump on an imaginary surfboard and ride the waves of change like a free spirit? Do we go through the motions of change, doing what we gotta do, all the while wondering, “what just happened?” If you are anything like me, you’ve probably done all three at some point or another in your life. This year though, has been different. This year has been all about change in every single arena of my life. Okay, so not every single arena. I am still very much happily married, but pretty much everything else has changed and this has proven to be one of the most emotional, gut wrenching, spirit checking, soul searching seasons in my life. I’ve always pictured myself as an “adventurer” type of person. The one who leads change, blazes new paths, plows right ahead. It wasn’t until everything changed that I realized just how comfortable my life was and how much I liked it that way. Isn’t that usually the way it is in life? You think things are one way, then quickly realize you were off in your view of reality. This has absolutely been the case for me, and while I wrestle with all the change, I’m slowly starting to let the words from...

In God’s Country (Reflections from prayer ministry)

  The sun’s ubiquitous light greets the wooden floor planks of the antebellum house like a warm handshake from an old friend. Morning motorists scurry by on 37th street— their whirring brushes the sides of the comfortable yellow house. We gather in. With similar hearts— the knowledge that prayer works— we start the morning call for our school. Little do we expect the individual nourishment each of our souls is to receive during our prayerful session. Scripture readings from Genesis retell stories of God’s provision and prevenient grace toward his people. The story of Abraham’s tamarisk tree is the focus: So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time. (Genesis 21:31-34) (Genesis 21:31-34) The task of Abraham planting the tamarisk tree comes chapters before we recall how God later tests Abraham’s faith with the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Before that difficult challenge, God had Abraham plant a tamarisk tree as a reminder of a covenant between two people. The Omniscient God knew what was to come for Abraham. His prevenient grace laid a path in Abraham’s mind where certain truths would wait for the appropriate time to be established: a time that only God knew for Abraham’s future. The planting of the tamarisk tree foreshadows what Abraham needed to know about God and his covenant toward Abraham...

Bubbles of prayer

Praying as I drove, I felt my heart bursting with affection for the names that popped into my mind. LeeAnne—Lord, heal her. Be with her, inspire her, comfort her… Our pastors, Lord, thank You for them and the way they love You. Anoint them and inspire them… Another friend who I won’t name here… heal her marriage. Bring about change. Give her hope… And suddenly the tears were flowing. My heart went from one desperate need to another. As the requests flowed and my heart and mind aligned in prayer, I felt like each prayer was a little bubble floating upwards. Released from my heart and directed towards God. But that’s not what made the tears flow. I could imagine God on the receiving end of these prayer bubbles, watching each one rise towards Him and then gently cradling it in His hands before tucking it away. He treat4ed each one with tender care, like rare and special and fragile artifacts. They are. Sometimes I think I’m too careless with my prayers. It’s like I’m pitching a baseball in God’s general direction. Plenty of energy and speed but no time to aim. Many of them go wild. And then, there are times when I realize how important these prayers are. When I recognize them as God’s love in my heart, giving me supernatural affection for the people He has placed in my life. When the prayers I pray come from my heart, which comes from God’s heart, and go back to God’s heart, there’s something special that happens. The prayers change me. The love overflows and rubs off onto...

be Still

In our society, we are always on the go. Our to-do lists are constantly running through our heads and chances are even as we skim over this we are thinking of all the other things we still have to do today. Oh my, sweet friends, it’s time for us to stop the running, the chasing, and the endless pursuit of what the world tells us that we should want– – money – status – stuff – more _______ (fill in the blank) …and stop long enough to simply be still. Just for a moment. Come on, try it. Just be still, take a deep breathe in then exhale slowly. Don’t text, tweet, instagram or update your status (ha, caught you!) — there’ll be time for that later. Right now though, let’s try to simply be still and see what God does. Listen, I’m not great at this either, I’m about as “Dory” as they come, but it is something I’ve been challenged on lately and wanted to share some of what I’m learning through it with you. Here’s what you can do to get started on learning to be still. Ask Him to join you in your be still and silent moment. Release all the distractions clamoring for your attention. Take a few deep breaths in and really start to slow yourself down a bit. Wait for Him to come sit beside you. I’ve found that it’s best to do before your days gets away from you, but here’s a little heads up as you get started. I can guarantee you that it will not be easy at first. Everything around you...

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline. What organization. What are you doing, Jesus? Sometimes, I slip into a mindset that says the more others-focused my quiet time is, the holier it is. Intercession has a place and a critical one at that. It deserves more energy and attention than we often give it. I need to spend time everyday praying for specifics and going before the Throne of Grace on behalf of others. BUT, that is not the point of my intimate time with Jesus. I go to Jesus to just be with Him, not for the sake of getting answers about my life. The idea isn’t to walk away with some revelation about what He’s calling me to or where I’m going (although, that’s often a part of it). It’s not to figure things out for someone else. It is literally to just be with the God of the universe and savior of my soul. To read His Word, to worship Him, and to hear His voice. I go before the Father to hear what He thinks about me, because my soul needs to be reminded who I am and who He is. May the magnificence and the humility of that not be lost on us! That we get to approach the Maker and Sustainer of the world with boldness...

The Garden Prayer

For years, the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane puzzled me. I couldn’t get past the following train of thought: “If Jesus is God, then He knows what God knows. If God knew that the only way to redeem humanity was for Jesus to be crucified, then Jesus knew that. Then why on earth did He ask God to ‘let this cup pass from me’ if He knew that wasn’t an option?” I dissected the account of Jesus in the Garden more times than I can count. I looked for answers, prayed for answers, asked others for answers… and got a lot of nothing. I was trying to make sense of my second cancer diagnosis when I was drawn back to the account of Jesus in the Garden … and it finally clicked. In the Garden, Jesus showed us how to go to Our Father and ask Him to take the hard things from us. He asked for another way to deal with the sin of mankind while remaining completely submitted to God’s will. The account is there for me (and for you). Scripture says this: Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39 HCSB Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:43 HCSB   In the Garden, Jesus shows us this beautiful truth… When life presses on you so hard that you can’t rest, your chest hurts, and you have a hard time breathing…...