The Prayer Jesus Prayed

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“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this……….”Matthew 6:7-13 The Message

I have come to really love the simplicity of the message version of the Bible. Here is what is says in the introduction of my Message version:

Accurate but readable:

The Message was paraphrased (by Eugene Peterson) over a period of ten years, straight from the Bible’s original languages (Greek and Hebrew). The idea of the The Message isn’t to water down the Bible making it easier to digest. The idea is to make it readable–to put those ancient words that their users spoke and wrote every day into words that you speak and write every day.

To me the beauty of the Christian faith is that we have a free and open relationship to God and that we can pray anywhere and everywhere without worrying about how we sound. I guess I like the Message because it sounds a lot like my own prayers which usually start in the form of one-liners like:
“Oh, Jesus, I’m in a real fix, you gotta help me out of this one.”
I have come to see the perfect beauty in the way Jesus directs us in the Lord’s Prayer. I see it as not something we have to recite each day, but more like a formula to go by. The Holy Spirit breathes life into it and around it and through it. I have added my own words in between the verses.
 Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed by Your name. 
Here, I pause……..It’s a good time to just sit in the stillness and reflect on who God is…..His goodness, His fairness, His graciousness. That, in turn flows into a sense of gratitude which is the best place to start for prayer.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. 
Here, I ask myself, how can I bring Heaven into my day. What can I do down here to help others see that the Kingdom of Heaven is in the here and the now. I ask for help in making down here look a little bit more like Heaven and I ask for His help in doing that. And it doesn’t have to be anything huge, we can do this in little ways throughout the day.
Give us this day our daily bread. 
I can’t remember a day when I didn’t have food, so here I focus on asking what I can do to always remember and actively seek people who are in need. I thank Him that there has never been a day where I had to wonder where my next meal is coming from.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
Here there is a big opportunity to reflect and ask myself some honest questions. “Who am I withholding His grace from? Is there someone I need to forgive? Am I harboring feelings of resentment with those who don’t have to struggle, who don’t have to worry about bills or debts? What gifts am I withholding from the Lord? It is a good verse for soul-searching and many times uncomfortable, but always necessary for me.
 
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This is a no-brainer for me. At any given time there are always several things I am arm-wresting with Satan over. I go down the list one by one. Usually there is one that takes precedence over the rest. It’s important to be really honest here but be careful what you pray for. Don’t pray for God to change something you really don’t want Him to change. If you find you can’t let go of it, then pray that God will loosen your grip and then open your heart to obedience with whatever He says.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
This to me is the best way to end a prayer, by giving God His rightful place.
Thank you for indulging my lengthy post here. I thought it was important and hope your prayer life is enriched by the Word, which is living and active and has power to change lives, always!

Spiritual Amnesia

My favorite Bible

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-25

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. Thomas Merton

I decided I needed me some Thomas Merton today. He brings me close to nature and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what really matters. Because don’t we all suffer a little bit from Spiritual amnesia? That’s why church, that’s why Scripture, that’s why going out into the yard, gazing up at the moon at night. This ‘ol world just gets too noisy, too outlandish, too filled with things that really don’t matter.

You see, I am guilty. I am guilty of putting myself, my problems, my train wreck, my dysfunction on the throne where God belongs. And in doing so, I steal the joy that resides in every day, the joy that is rightfully mine as His child, the joy that the Holy Spirit longs to lavish on us. I am guilty of making myself God every time I am overwhelmed by my circumstances and give in to fear.

So for this day, I will remember how big God is. I will remember how He holds the moon and the stars and me. And in each and every little thing I do, I will bring Him into it. He’ll be there when I’m washing my car, and going to Costco. What a thought! At work when we wanted to get down to the heart of a problem we used the term “drilling down to the root cause.” Well, when we drill down to the root cause of discontent it’s because we’ve lost sight of how big God is.

I challenge you today to open the Scripture and see where it leads. I can guarantee that it always leads to life, just give a listen:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46: 1-3

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2,3

Lord, I pray for all those today who are overwhelmed with the world, with the mess outside and in, I pray for peace for turbulent hearts, peace in dysfunctional families, and the assurance that God is still in control of everything and that He has a plan and it’s a good one. Amen

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Jesus

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Love is always the right answer

Weighing in on the side of Love

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7 The MSG

4:00 AM Prayer:

What a mess I am, God. I don’t love nearly enough or nearly the right way. I let petty things get in the way far too often. I miss way too many opportunities. I’m too critical of people and I am tired of it, I just want to love. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down because tearing down can become a habit. But so can building up. Can it be that simple? Help me to have peace and let me get a glimpse of You in this still hour while everyone else is asleep. Help me to fall asleep for just a while. Stop these thoughts, quiet my mind. Jesus……Jesus……Jesus.

Right after I prayed that prayer I allowed my mind to fill with a vision of what life would be like if we all truly lived by the Spirit and allowed Him to control our words, our deeds, our plans. And while I was still pondering that I fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke with an indescribable feeling of what could only be described as a “golden peace.” It was as if my heart was lit from the inside out, and I felt the peace that I recognized as the one only God can give.

I write this as if it happened just this morning but it didn’t. It happened as I lay awake on my brother’s couch last week the 17th of May. And I am still trying to piece together just what I dreamed because I can’t remember a thing, only that wonderful peace when I awoke. We get those gifts sometimes and when we do we are always amazed. I am anyway.

I never got a WWJD bracelet when they came out, but in any given situation should we not ask ourselves that question? More importantly maybe we should ask: “How would Jesus love in this situation?” This culture we are in, it’s not a culture of love. All we have to do is look at the headlines. Really, has any culture ever been about love?

Peter sliced a guy’s ear off when they came to arrest Jesus. But somewhere between that time and when he died (tradition says by crucifixion upside down) he learned how to love like Jesus did. I can’t even get my mind wrapped around that kind of love. I have a very long way to go.

But that peace I experienced that morning, and the joy and wonder and grace I experience so often tell me that Jesus still loves me this I know.

We’re all broken and in need of healing. If only we would let down our walls long enough to turn towards each other and help each other mend. That’s the Spirit of reconciliation God wants and desires for each one of us. Especially in the church.

Too much of what we take part in here in our modern world is unnatural–that’s why we don’t have peace. We don’t even know how to get it. In reading the Psalms, praying in the quiet hours and spending time outdoors we can begin to relearn what we have forgotten.

Teach me to love, God. Teach me to love. And thank you for loving me.

I Stand Amazed

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Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6, The Message 

As I write this, a bit of the disbelief and wonder still surrounds me at the circumstances which brought about my sudden retirement from the company where I had spent the last 20 years. If you would have told me a month ago I would be sitting here writing this with my career at Intel behind me, I would have said you were crazy. I had been thinking about it, praying about it, wrestling with it seriously over for the past year, and had even set a date for December or January of this year. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

And so many times, I had held this verse in my heart and tried to live it, asking God for a definitive Yes or No, Yea or Nay, some kind of deciding factor that would push me one way or another and let me have the confidence I wanted to know I had made the right decision. And then, this……

We had all heard rumors about the layoffs and cuts at Intel, but of course we had weathered all these before. Yet this time, soon after the announcement was made, the roll-out was swift. Suddenly, people we had worked with for years were gone. Everyone was a bit shell-shocked. And then I got the enhanced retirement offer and I knew it was what I had been praying for just a month before. And it was more than I could have hoped for.

And I stand amazed at how good God is. And not because it worked out for me, but because God is always good. Yet sometimes, He does something that so flat-out astounds you with His timing and how perfect it is you know without a doubt it came from Him. I want to stress that it’s nothing I did. There is no formula ever, to guarantee things will fall in line with how we pray. I don’t believe in that kind of gospel.

What I do believe is that sometimes God rewards the one who clings to His word and hangs on for dear life even when there is no evidence whatsoever that an answer lies just beyond the bend.

Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal today:

Thank you God. You fill me with wonder. You became a flesh and blood God well acquainted with suffering and grief and tears and yet still vast and unknowable and full of mystery; able to create this whole universe with a word. I stand amazed that you died because you wanted to save my life and you thought that maybe if you did that, we could have a chance to be together forever. You removed the intimidation factor that might have kept us apart and you brought me near at the foot of the cross. You confounded the minds of the best and the brightest in your short time on earth and shattered their hearts because when they came face to face with you, they knew what they lacked was not intelligence or religion but love. You made them see that all their efforts were worthless because they were blinded by the pride that didn’t let them see you for who you were. Forgive me Lord for those times when love gets left out of my own actions. You have led me with patience and love and picked me up when I could go no further so many times. Thank you for loving me even in my great weakness and failure and for your grace that is greater than all my sin. I stand amazed.

So now I am on this different path and it’s scary at times, but I know He’s got us. It’s a new chapter and I find comfort in the fact that He will be in this next one as well. He was gracious enough to let me make my personal goal of 20 years with the company and reward me at the end.

I stand amazed.

Hope in every morning.

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God is still in control, in case your’re wondering. The morning bird’s hopeful song ushers in the day, not questioning whether to sing. In joyful exultation, he sings because God made him to sing. He finds reason enough in the birth of the new day.

God put the song there so who am I to doubt? The evening bird assures me as well, with his solitary song at dusk. This small fact astounds me. One bird and one only to bring in the sunrise, and one only to close out the day.

The Master Creator unfurls His sunrise and sunset like a banner across the sky. Genesis repeats itself, it is finished and it is very good. Who am I to say God isn’t in control?

Who am I to say there is no hope?

Lori A. Heyd

And here is a little nugget of truth I found in Proverbs today, I don’t remember ever reading it before:

The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
So don’t second-guess him;
he might take you to task and show up your lies.”
And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:5-9

Winds of Change

 

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I laid in bed listening to the hum of traffic out on the road. I wanted to revel in the sameness of things the way they’ve been for the last 11 or so years for a few more minutes. To let the cocoon of the wonderful comfortable rhythm of days the way they’ve been wrap itself around me for a little while longer. I am aware that today is different. Today my retirement may be accelerated. The plan might be kicked up a notch. 

Today is the day the email will drop, the one everyone at work has been waiting for. The one that will announce the changes and what if anything it means for us here in Arizona. What it might mean for me. My work phone is on the charge by my bed. Usually I shut it off all weekend. But this morning, I wanted to see the message first thing.

Funny isn’t it? How you can pray and pray for something and then when it comes down to maybe actually having it answered, you dig your heels in at the last and a little part of you is afraid that it may not happen and also afraid that it will.

This is what I saw when I finally opened it:

“You are eligible to participate in the Enhanced Retirement Program (ERP).” And then a long explanation about restructuring and reinvesting and growth in the company.

All I kept thinking is how amazing God is. Just when I decided to retire at the end of year, this comes in. And it’s a good offer. The timing leaves me in awe once again of how He works. All the times I prayed, and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing by staying. And later, in prayer in my little shed, this is what my devotional said:

“Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.” Jesus Calling April 25

All day long the wind howled between the houses as if to mimic change blowing in. It picked up strength mid-morning and never wavered. My allergies kicked up something fierce. Elaine came home looking like she’d been in a war. She said driving the bus was like wrestling all day. And then she had to wipe boogers off the seat and window…….

At the end of the day, the wind finally stopped. I sat out for a little while on the little deck, wondering about the road ahead. I can relate to Mary in Scripture when it says, she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I spend a lot of time pondering things in my heart. I guess that’s what writers do before the words make it to the page.

Today, I stand amazed at all He’s done and continues to do in our lives. I may not know all the ins and outs of how it’s all gonna play out, but I know He’s with us. And I know He’ll never leave us. And He won’t leave you either, my friend.

He’s in it for the long haul.

The Reluctant Prophet

 

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It was one of those mornings…….the dawn was bursting over the Superstitions and the birds kicked up their chorus a notch as those rays touched earth.  We had some rain recently and they were celebrating what the earth had brought forth. God always births new days and each one is miraculous. Yet some come and go with little celebration, or I am too busy or overwhelmed to notice. Others however, like this one are like the hosts of Heaven are all raising their glasses in a toast to the new day.

At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares growing in the field together waiting for harvest at the last day. God in His grace and mercy raises us up to resurrection after sleepless nights of worry, out of those times of deep disappointment in ourselves and others, times where it takes all we have just to get out of bed. Sometimes that’s the greatest miracle of all.

But today, this morning, God’s mercy and love take my breath away. When I opened to the words in Jeremiah tears immediately sprang to my eyes.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

I read the words again and again………”Before I formed you, before, before……….” the words echoed and lodged deep in my soul. I know this verse refers to the prophet Jeremiah, but it also applies to us. Those of us who know Him. There is something of the ancient in that verse. Almost as if I can imagine what it must have been like in the dawn of Creation when the morning stars sang together.

This world and the people in it can do its best to steal our joy, but the joy God gives is eternal. It springs up from somewhere deeper and older than we can imagine. Circumstances might snatch it away momentarily, but this joy that springs up at unexpected places and times is God giving us back what has always been ours. In those moments of extraordinary grace we experience our Redemption all over again.

They called Jeremiah the reluctant prophet. He said he was too young and couldn’t speak well. Aren’t we all just as full of excuses? But God stood by his side and protected him when the news was anything but good.

Like Jeremiah, God wants to use us. He speaks out of the deep eternal today. He says, “Tell others of My joy, give them a reason for the hope that lives in your heart. Be my love for them and my mouthpiece not so much in your words, but in your actions.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3