Hope for the Mustard Seed Prayers

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Recently we traveled back to where this blog started, where my prayer was most alive. It was good to be there. The downside was the mustard was blooming, it was beautiful but I think it was really wreaking havoc with my sinuses. I wasn’t acclimated to it as I used to be. As my Grandmother used to say in German, “With beauty comes suffering” or some such thing. The mustard plants made me think of what Jesus said about having faith as small as a mustard seed:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, ‘ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matt. 17:20

I don’t know about you but that verse has always made me feel a little doomed. Who actually expects that they could move a mountain with a prayer? What did Jesus mean? I can imagine the disciples being a little exasperated. And yet when He sent them out two by two, they came back exhilarated…….the lame walked, demons cast out, hearings occurred right and left.

And later, when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost they found that their prayers did indeed produced great miracles. In fact, people had only to grab their garments and they were healed!

What does this mean for us today? Does this mean that we shouldn’t even pray? No indeed. It means that we should always pray for God to help our unbelief and increase our faith. Prayer transforms us from the inside out. There are so many people I know whose prayers began with: “If you are there Lord…….” Or just plain, “Help me, Lord!”

It means that God blesses even little scraps of faith. He takes those tiny seeds of hope and prayer that we send up and answers us with an assurance that He does indeed hear. In fact, He loves it when we acknowledge Him, however insignificant our words may seem. He can take that mustard seed and change a heart, change a life, and yes, move mountains in our lives. I have seen way too many lives changed (including my own) to not believe in prayer, however small and weak my faith might be.

Keep on praying. I can assure you that you will be blessed by God opening up a canyon in your heart. I love these quotes from Frederick Buechner:

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images He uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again.

Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29)

May your day be peaceful. Talk to God today, even if you are not sure He’s there or even listening. You will be blessed!

The Refiner’s Fire

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You may have heard the story about the woman who attended a Bible study and wanted to know about the process of refining silver after she read Malachi 3:3. She writes of her visit to a local silversmith:

“As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’”

As I meditated on this story and passage I also thought of our part in it. How we must willingly stay in that fire. How many times have I been through something painful and sought only to relieve the pain not thinking or caring about the end result. It’s humbling. And it’s what I leave you with today. If you’re in that “refiners fire” today, know that He is surely with you. Right where you are today, know that He will never leave you or forsake you!

 

A Million Avenues

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“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9 

It’s a miracle really that any of us seeks or knows God. Navigating this faith journey is a great mystery. What makes some of us look up, look in, look outside of ourselves to something or someone bigger than we are? God placed within each of us that need and desire. What do we fill the vacuum which C.S. Lewis so aptly describes as “God-sized?”

He calls us, each of us, if we listen. He uses a million avenues to do it. To me the “no-brainer” is nature, but that doesn’t work for some. They can explain that one away, but I can’t. To watch the redwoods glow red as they filled up with sunlight this morning was Holy and I can’t deny it. I don’t want to either.

The nation God is talking about is not any country here on this earth. It has no boundary or border or President. Its origin and beginnings were already established in the mists of Creation as God’s Spirit moved along the waters. He already had me on His easel. There was a place for me there. That astounds me.

This year has brought big changes in my life. I am continuing to deal with anxiety and clouds of depression that come. There is a weight on my soul such as I have never felt before. I am no longer fighting it, but am trying to rest in it. I don’t know why but I somehow feel it is a necessary season and it will pass.

I am very blessed to have a wonderful confidant (Elaine, yes you) and support here on earth and I know God hasn’t left me. I stand on His word and the Holy Spirit who resides in my heart. I am sealed for the day of redemption. (Signed sealed and delivered, but still a work in progress.)

I rest between the brilliant flashes of beauty He gives when He knows I need them most. They leak into my soul and reassure me that all is well and all will be well. They are like the stones you use to cross a body of water, you don’t look at the swirling water but give your concentration to the individual stone.

Life continues to be good.

As I listened to David Nevue this morning in the quiet hour of 6:00 I saw a spot of sun rest right on the doorknob of my Aunt’s house and it reminded me of the verse where Jesus says He is standing at the door of our heart knocking to come in. If my writing causes even one person to look toward Jesus, then I know I will have used my gift right.

Look up friends. God never disappoints.

Redeeming the Time

 

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“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

Looking Up in 2017

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Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self-pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to Heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus you are lightened. Heaviness is not of My Kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As Jesus and His disciples were walking by the temple one day, one of them remarked on how beautiful it was. I can see Jesus glancing at it, maybe nodding in agreement, then saying (Message version) “All this you’re admiring so much–the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.” Then He goes on to explain just how bad things will get before He comes back and sets everything to rights. At first glance that might seem like a real joy-killer, but then He says at the end of Luke 21, “Look up, for your redemption draws near.”

It’s easy to despair looking at the events of the world around us. And I’m only thinking of the things that happened this past week! It’s easy to forget how to look at the world through the lens of  wonder, filtering out all the anxiety and dread about what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to buck up, or think beautiful thoughts. He points us to Himself. He is our ultimate hope and the hope of the world.

Sometimes He reminds us of this in the simplest of ways. The other morning I took a walk down by the river and the neighbor cat decided to tag along. I watched as she sprang ahead, leaping with a wild joy as she chased blowing leaves. She high-stepped it, and shaking her feet at the wet grass she almost tripped me by running across my feet. I have to admit, I got caught up in her playfulness.

Why do we humans complicate everything so much? Why do we eat ourselves up with worry? On Friday night I lamented that I was worried about finding a new stop on my route. My wise friend said, “You’re not driving it today.” Then I said something else and she repeated, “You’re not driving it tomorrow either, or Sunday.” I was robbing my moments of peace which I do repeatedly.

As I continued my walk, camera in hand, I got several cute shots of the cat comedienne. I laughed and caught the wonder again through my camera lens. I looked up at the sky peeking through the trees. I need to do more of this, I thought. I walked back up and then smiled all over again when I downloaded the pictures to the computer.

This quote by Frederick Buechner kind of sums up my thoughts today:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and the pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

I plan on re-doubling my efforts to keep looking up during the course of the coming year. I plan to remember how to live in wonder at the world around me, and letting Jesus be my filter. I will fail sometimes, of that I have no doubt. But sometimes I will succeed.

What are You Waiting for?

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The end and culmination of all things is near. Therefore, be sound-minded and self-controlled for the purpose of prayer [staying balanced and focused on the things of God so that your communication will be clear, reasonable, specific and pleasing to Him.] 1 Peter 4:7

As I sat this morning in the quiet, my thoughts traveled back through the years to a maroon pew and a summer night. It wasn’t any particular church night,  just a culmination of all of them I guess. I heard the melody of a hymn that I can’t quite place but I wish I knew what the title was. I may have to do a search later, it might be “Calling Today.”  I see the organist at the front, her name was Amy and I see her flowing robes spilling over the bench. I smile when I remember what my Grandma used to say after Amy got her divorce…….”She should be in the back of the church, not up there playing the organ.”

I remember those warm summer nights. The world seemed different then. Across the tracks on the east side, the gangs hadn’t moved in yet. There wasn’t much difference from the east side than the west. The local bakeries were still open. I hear the bell over the door. You could still buy German pastries and fresh sourdough bread that they would bring out in the mornings. The smell was overpowering. I can still see those loaves stacked in the baskets by the cash register, and the trays of long johns and crullers. That was before all the big grocery stores came in.

I long for the simplicity of those times. It seems everyone is waiting for something to get better. Or change. I can see it in the faces of the people. I see it in the faces of some of the refugees on the news. They are waiting to go home, waiting for peace. The world has gone askew. Everywhere, someone is waiting for something, for someone.

If I could just get out of this hospital bed……

If they would just die so I could get my life back…..

If they would just come back to me……

Waiting for birth, waiting for death. Waiting for financial freedom, waiting for the ship to come in. Deep down we sense that things have gone terribly wrong. The whole world is waiting, holding its breath. But here’s what I can tell you for sure. Whatever you are waiting for can be fulfilled in just One person. All of your deepest longings can be fulfilled in that same One person. He came once before and He’s coming again. This is the most important part:

Whatever or whoever you are waiting for doesn’t matter if you don’t know Him.

All the pieces are falling into place just the way He has arranged it. The stage is set in motion. It has been since the beginning of time. But the days are growing darker, even though there is still so much good in the world. Hope remains. Against the backdrop of world events and everything else we see in the news, Scripture speaks with a new authority. Unfortunately, just as many people aren’t listening. Listen to what Scripture says about our times:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. 2 Timothy 3 (The Message)

It’s time to turn toward the Light folks.

For He says,

At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— 2 Corinthians 6:2

Whatever you are longing for, He’s the God who can bring it. Eventually, He is coming to restore all things to what they were in the beginning, back before everything went to hell in a hand-basket. This is not a pipe dream, this is a promise. But until then, let God pitch a tent of peace in your heart and know that whatever you are waiting for will indeed come at the right time.

I have a deposit that’s already been put in my account, safer than any bank or savings and loan. And you can have it too.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13,14

The wait is over.

The Flip Side of Sadness

Last night I had some company. First to show up in my dream was my cousin John with the crazy staccato laugh, huge heart and endless pranks. He and his brother George were always up to something. When they were little, they asked my Aunt Esther if they could decorate their rooms for Christmas. After she told them they could they scooped up buckets and bagfuls of brown pine needles and covered the floor and everything else in their room…..Join me here at Bibledude for the rest of the story…..