God Heard Me

“I feel so down today,” I said out loud.

“Lord, please help me,” I added, as I drove out of the parking lot after work.

Maybe lack of sleep could explain my emotions. Perhaps it was the sad cases I saw on the psychiatric ward that day. Or was it that I couldn’t stop thinking about loved ones who faced severe emotional, physical, and spiritual crises in their lives? The worst part was that no matter how hard I tried to encourage these people, nothing I said or did seemed to help. They erected walls to keep out any truth I brought them.

As I drove toward home, I decided to turn on the radio.

With that action, God answered my prayer.

The pastor on a show called “Powerpoint,” which I listened to several times before spoke about what to do when we’re feeling discouraged.

Yes, that’s it, I admitted. I do feel discouraged.

Then he presented this list, which touched my heart and reminded me God understands our discouragement and wants to help. He knows what I need during those times of feeling down. And He used this man to bring me these powerful reminders.

Here is the list of five things Pastor Jack Graham presented as far as what to do when we’re discouraged from his talk titled, “How I Can Persevere.”

  1. LOOK UP. I confessed that once again I slipped back into keeping my eyes on problems rather than on my Protector, Provider, and Prince of Peace.
  1. SHOW UP. He spoke of showing up to our marriages, our jobs, and other challenges in our lives instead of walking away. I thought of showing up to the relationships that hurt and even to showing up to spend time with God when I felt He ignored my prayers for loved ones. I realized I also needed to show up wholeheartedly to wherever God called me and with a heart to give Him glory.
  1. TEAM UP. I knew I needed to spend more time with believers and more time praying with them and lifting each other up. It had been a while since I connected deeply to the encouragers God brought into my life. I especially needed it since I had spent the weekend with people who tended toward negativity.
  1. FILL UP. He spoke of filling up with God’s Word. I only spent a short time in the Word that day, but I realized on down days I needed to do it more and also speak out loud God’s promises and passages of Scripture I memorized.
  1. LIFT UP. This centered on lifting others up when I feel down. Yes, I spoke words of encouragement to my patients that day, but I didn’t consult the Lord on how I could really lift up another individual. I sometimes just went through the motions. Also, it came to me I sometimes try to lift people up who don’t want to be lifted up. I need to ask God to show me those who eagerly await a truth or word of hope.

By the time I finished listening to the radio show (some of it while sitting in my garage), I felt encouraged and determined to embrace that list. I thought of friends and relatives who seemed to be sinking lower and lower in being discouraged, and I realized some didn’t follow any of the items on this list. No wonder they felt so discouraged. Perhaps I had caught some of their discouragement in recent days.

I knew I couldn’t force them to embrace this list, but I could choose to do so.

My feelings of depression and discouragement melted away as I thought not only of the powerful solutions contained in that list, but of how God quickly answered my prayer once I called out to Him.

“Thank You, Lord,” I said, and I could feel a smile return to my face as I realized anew how much He loved me and cared about me.

Yes, it seemed others refused to listen to me, but God heard me. A Bible verse came to mind, and later I looked it up: “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Psalm 18:6 NIV

I continue to celebrate the fact He hears me when I cry to Him for help. And He gives me the help I need. That day He did it quickly and emphatically.

“Everyone Needs A Little” by Kari Jobe

http://www.hearitfirst.com/blog/top-ten-christian-songs-for-encouragement/

 

 

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What Is At The Core?

“Before he can be delivered from drugs, he needs to find out what’s at the core,” said the woman at my Bible study after I shared with the group about a loved one’s battle with drug addiction.

This woman who appeared in her 30s admitted she battled drug addiction in the past.

“I found out my deep issue was shame. Until I dealt with shame, I couldn’t be delivered from drugs.”

When Eileen passed along that insight, a word came to mind about my loved one: “abandonment.”

Later I texted him and asked the question, “What’s at the core?”

His immediate response? Abandonment.

I told him I would pray for him in relation to that issue.

As I thought about his core issue, I thought of my own addiction which I battled over the years—an addiction to food. God revealed quite a while ago at the core of my food addiction was shame. Even as a child when people shamed me, I ate—many times large amounts of sweets.

In recent days I returned to my pursuit of a sweet fix for my troubles. So I asked the Lord, “Do I still have shame issues?”

The answer which came to mind surprised me.

YES, IN RELATION TO PRAYER.

As I pondered this, I thought of how down I felt when others reported miraculous answers to prayers, while I prayed on and on—sometimes for decades with seemingly no answers. I prayed for healing of marriages, and divorce came. I prayed for salvation for scores of relatives with no one coming to the Lord. I prayed countless prayers for prodigals to come home, but they remained determined to live for their own pleasures.

At my church people fed my shame with statements like, “I prayed for my daughter for a couple months, and she came back to the Lord.” What I heard was “Shame on you for not being an excellent pray-er like me.”

In my recent time of contemplation over this, I realized when shame invaded my prayer life, and I felt like a total failure at the task, I ate to feel better.

In my work place recently, one of the therapists passed out a paper to the patients titled, “Core Belief Clusters.” One of the headings said “shame.”

(I looked up the word shame later: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”)

Here’s what it read on the handout:

I am…(core send of self)

I am unlovable/undeserving.

I am worthless/defective.

I am bad/selfish.

I am not good enough. (That was my main belief leaving my childhood.)

I am inadequate.

I am responsible.

All of these could relate to my prayer life and the conclusions my inner self came to because of the failure I saw there.

Across from these statements on the paper were other statements to counter the negative ones. I am okay as I am, I can accept myself, I am good enough, I can recognize appropriate responsibility. These were from a secular source, so I could add God to each statement to bring a powerful, healing truth.

I ran across a prayer list I prayed in recent days and saw that many of the prayers were answered for everyday things for myself: heal the pain in my leg, help me work out travel plan issues, help me to lose weight (I recently reached my lowest weight in over 30 years) Also, I prayed for healing of my daughter’s stomach problems, and after many months, they’re gone.

Once again I pray God will deliver me completely from shame. My prayers—especially for salvation, return of prodigals, and healing of relationships–aren’t being answered the way I want them to or rather in the time table I’d prefer, but God is at work. And He reminds me again and again that He’s not in time. I remember Him saying to me a while ago, YOUR PRAYERS ARE ALREADY ANSWERED.

I recall hearing that George Muller prayed salvation prayers for his friends from his youth for 50 years. And if I remember right, one of them received Jesus at George’s funeral and the others sometime after.

In recent days God revealed one way which helps to keep shame out of my prayer life and causes me to choose prayer above turning to sweets: to pray listening prayers. When I pray those kinds of prayers, God speaks to me about why certain relatives continue to stubbornly resist Him. He speaks to me about how to love them right where they’re at. He reminds me I AM WORKING IN THEIR LIVES He gently urges, RECEIVE MY PEACE.

I realize I failed to pray listening prayers for weeks, and that opened the door for the enemy to try to shame me again. And prayer time isn’t just about getting answers; it’s about communion with the Lord. And the enemy certainly doesn’t want that, so he uses shame to try to keep me from it.

I remember years ago a friend urged me not to let shame rule my life.

“Blame and shame is the devil’s game,” she said.

I praise the Lord that Jesus took my shame on the cross, and I no longer need to be affected by it.

And I thank God that He reveals when I need some more healing of core issues.

Lord, what do You have to say about this shame issue? ELAINE, I WILL SET YOU FREE AS YOU CONTINUE TO COME TO ME. SHAME CAUSES YOU TO WITHDRAW, SO EACH TIME YOU FIND YOURSELF AVOIDING PRAYER TIME, SHAME IS TRYING TO CREEP BACK IN. EXCHANGE THE SHAME WHEN YOU COME TO ME. I WILL NEVER SHAME YOU. INSTEAD I CHEER, ENCOURAGE, UPHOLD. I AM WITH YOU. I AM FOR YOU. I LOVE YOU. I ACCEPT YOU.

Lord, I receive that. Help me to live it.

Shame tries to drag us back into the dark, but we are the light of the world. The following song reminds me of that truth.

“We Are” by Kari Jobe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8cX6SHtxeE

 

 

 

 

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Keep Your Focus on the Lord

“Keep your focus on the Lord.”

Those words came from a priest who recently visited an elderly couple I know. Before he came to their home they felt desperate—the man because he frantically focused on his finances and financial losses from the past. He let worry about money affect his sleep and every waking hour, even though he possessed plenty of money to meet his everyday needs.

His wife focused on how desperation ruled her husband. She worried about his becoming more irrational over their finances and how he wouldn’t stop talking about it—to her and to others on the telephone. His agitation brought on anxiety in her.

The people they talked to on the telephone—including me–tried to calm this couple. Then one suggested they call their priest.

The next day he came over and delivered those six words along with others of hope and comfort.

When the woman told me about the six words and how they helped her, they spoke to me as well.

I thought of how often I slipped into desperation because I failed to keep my focus on the Lord.

My obsessive focus tends not to be on finances, but it can easily be on family and the different challenges they face. I can begin to obsess and feel unable to stop talking about the latest difficulties they find themselves in, which seem impossible to overcome. My focus on problems rather than on the Prince and His promises and provision robs me of peace and joy the Lord longs for me to maintain.

As I speak to fellow Christians, I see how frequently a locked focus on something or someone other than the Lord rules so many of us in the body of Christ.

Hebrews 12:2 comes to mind as I contemplate the need to maintain a fixed focus on the Lord.

“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” NIV

I like the way the Amplified puts it: “[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith…”

Like Peter who took his eyes off of Jesus while walking on the water, when I look away from Jesus, and keep my gaze planted on my problems and the flaws and failings of others, I begin to sink.

Lately a few issues tempt me to take my eyes off of Jesus. Daily time in the Word keeps me from this. Also, praise and worship along with time in the presence of fellow believers who possess a strong faith (even if it’s just with DJs on Christian radio stations) helps me to keep my focus on the Lord.

“What the priest told us helped so much,” the formerly troubled woman told me.

“It helped me too,” I told her.

Another verse came to mind: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Psalm 25:15 NIV.

This came to mind as I read this verse again: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he _________.

I can fill in the blank because so much in my life can only be resolved by His power, mercy, and grace.

For the rest of today and in the days ahead, I want to heed what that priest and what the Word directs: “Keep your focus on the Lord.”

I know the One who loves me more than I can ever know will remind me again and again to do just that.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Alan Jackson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90

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Spiritual Detours

I should arrive in a little over an hour, I thought and celebrated the light traffic and smooth travels so far.

Then suddenly, I saw brake lights in front of me. I stopped.

Hopefully, just a short delay. I certainly experienced many of those on the frequent trips I took to see my parents in Vero Beach. A bright orange sign on the side of the road announced, “Accident ahead.”

I looked at the clock. A few minutes before 2:00pm.

For an hour traffic crept forward, it seemed inches at a time. I searched google for any information about accidents on SR 60 near Lake Wales. I found nothing.

As I moved closer to where I saw a police car, I noticed vehicles turned right onto a road ahead. I wondered where that road led. I looked for a map of Florida in the car. I couldn’t find one. I tried to pull up a map on my phone, but saw nothing with clear routes through the state. As far as I knew, from this point SR 60 remained the one way to Vero Beach.

When I reached the police officer, he explained the delay would last hours.

“It’s best for you to turn right at the next road. Take it as far as it goes, turn left on 27 and then left on 70 and go to I95 and then Vero,” he said.

“It will take a long time, but it’s better than sitting here on the road,” he added.

I turned right onto a two-lane highway. Soon I found myself in the town of Frostproof. I heard of that town repeatedly in my 40 years in Florida, but never drove through it before. I stopped at a convenience store, called my parents and then went inside to ask the clerk how she thought I should get to Vero. She repeated the officer’s directions.

I turned on the GPS on my phone, which I rarely used, and it told me to turn right shortly after the store. Then it said to turn right again, and I found myself at a dead end. I turned around, and it then led me to an intersection near the store. It The voice instructed me to turn right, and then right and then right again. No mapped out route showed on the screen.

I turned it off and headed back to the road I drove on after SR 60 and resumed the instruction from the officer to go as far as it would take me.

As I drove and drove, I wondered if I heard right. The officer did say it would take a long time. I turned on my GPS again, but it told me to make a U-turn, apparently in an attempt to lead me back to SR 60. No help there.

I stopped at a couple gas stations to ask for maps of Florida. They had none. People tried to give me directions again, but I wanted to see it on a map—a big map—not the puny one on my telephone. One clerk suggested I try a CVS drug store. The clerk there said, “We haven’t had maps since this store was called Eckerd’s—years ago.”

I fretted about wasted gas, time, and energy on this detour.

Weary of driving, I wondered if I’d get to Vero before dark. I called my parents again to assure them of my safety and said, “I’ll get there when I get there.”

I needed gas, so I stopped at a Shell station. Yay! They had maps, so I bought one and studied it in the parking lot.

Yes, I could see proof of what the police officer said about “a long time.” I wondered if perhaps I should have stopped at a coffee shop somewhere near 60 and waited out the accident. Already 5:30pm, it looked like at least a couple hours more drive time lay ahead.

I decided to make the best of the detour. Music from the radio lifted my spirits. I determined to enjoy the scenery in towns I never went through before such as Sebring and Lake Placid. I prayed for the people who lived there.

After a while I turned the radio off and praise flowed from my mouth to the Lord as well as prayers for family, extended family, my church, my coworkers and whoever else came to mind. I sensed God’s presence in a mighty way in my car as I determined to let go of self-pity and anxiety over my extended detour. I also sensed His love wash over me, and I thanked Him for loving me so much.

I thought of spiritual detours in my life. My mind insisted spiritual growth or goals for myself come quickly and easily, but sometimes God called me to take a detour. I could choose to get worked up over the detour, or I could accept it, make the best of it, and even determine to have joy on the journey.

(Joseph comes to mind when I think of those in the Bible whom God took on spiritual detours. His attitude remained stellar. See Genesis 39-50)

Often in my spiritual life I complain, This is taking so long. I feel like I’ll never get there.

My map promised me I would get to Vero. God’s Word promises me I will reach my spiritual destinations.

Almost eight hours after leaving home—close to 7:30pm–I pulled into my parents’ driveway. I found out later the delay on 60 lasted six hours, and the road didn’t open until 6:00pm.

Arrival felt like a huge victory.

“Arrival” in my spiritual life feels the same way. However in those areas where God calls me to take “the long way around” to get there, I choose to maintain joy on the journey.

I praise God for using a detour on the road to remind me of truths in my spiritual life.

But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory]…” 2 Corinthians 2:14a

Here’s one of the songs I heard on the radio during my detour, which lifted my spirits and brought me truth.

Tauren Wells – Hills and Valleys (Acoustic Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4rRCjrAyCs

Lyrics to Hills and Valleys:

By Tauren Wells

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away.

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough.
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love.

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there.
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there.
When I’m standing on the mountain, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In you I hope again!
No matter what I know
Know…

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The Cure

Last week I wrote about someone who invaded my life once again to moan about the latest consequences of his wrong choices.

This person shows no desire to get right with God but communicates if he can get help from me and my husband, ie financial, circumstances can be made so much better.

Many offered monetary assistance to him in the past with disastrous results. They/we discovered people who prove unable to manage their lives tend not to be able to manage their finances. Their wrong choices also affect how they choose to spend money.

This individual refuses the cure to the many crises he faces in his life—ones brought about his own tendency to gravitate toward low life living. He wants a band aid for a wound which gapes and gushes.

Only God can cure what ails this man.

Unfortunately, he renounces that truth.

He did come to our door last week. My husband spoke with him briefly, but discerned he already closed his heart to any real help we could offer. He asked for assistance but refused any wisdom to keep him from repeats of this pattern of downward spirals.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said repeatedly.

Yet when we offered wise counsel, he rejected it.

My heart breaks over the many people who live like this man. They make mistake after mistake and yet never learn from their errors.

I continue to pray, but I realized to talk to this person wastes my time and energy.

The verse that comes to mind gives this message: Give wise reproof only to those who have a listening ear. (See Proverbs 25:12)

This man wants me to listen as he spouts negativity, hopelessness and helplessness, but he refuses to listen when I bring words which can save his life both figuratively and literally.

Over the last several years when I go for walks and come to a dead end, I pray for this man and others.

“Lord, deliver them from dead end living.”

Only He can.

“The Cure” by Unspoken

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JKXhxFwVZc

 

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Remember When

This year marks 40 years since I received Jesus as my Savior.

A song I heard lately reminded me of my messed up heart and life before I knew the Lord. One quest I devoted myself to before embracing Jesus centered on looking for perfect love from others rather than from Him. What a joy to experience His extravagant love for me.

God brings me back on a regular basis to a glimpse of my past, so I will extend mercy and grace to people who remain locked in dead end lives where they live for themselves and act the fool like I did way back when. (The Bible defines a fool as someone who says or acts like God doesn’t exist. See Psalm 14:1)

Not too many days ago one of these fools who lives life as if no God exists called our home to tell of the dire consequences of his continued journey on the path of destruction. Repeatedly in the past my husband and I reached out to him with the good news of the Gospel and wisdom from the Lord, which he rejected. Now he calls to say over and over, “I don’t know what to do; I’m so scared.” Still, he voices no desire for a walk with God—just an escape from the consequences of his vile choices, which he blames on others.

At this moment as I write this blog, this person who continues to reject the Lord called again. As we talk, he makes excuse after excuse for not doing the next right thing.

Despite all he faces, he still seems unable to humble himself and allow God to take charge of his life. He says, “I want to,“ but when I suggest what he can do to get right with God, He refuses.

The first prayer I prayed for him is, “God, have mercy on his soul.”

The next one: “God, break down his walls of resistance, so he can say ‘yes,’ to you instead of ‘yes’ to all these wrong decisions and deadly mindsets.

As I speak to him, I realize people who make wrong choices form a habit which seems impossible to break.

He keeps saying, I’m scared; I’m scared,” but it seems what frightens him most centers on being afraid to do the right thing, afraid of not being in charge even though his “I can run my own life” stance brought him to this place of desperation.

He wails, “I need to come over and talk.”

“OK,” I say.

On numerous other occasions my husband and I heard words of desperation from him, but they failed to lead to repentance. Instead he developed an urgency to depend on us to get his immediate needs met. But in the end it led to using and abusing, lying and betrayal and a continued dedication to the enemy and his ways.

Father God, speak through us when he arrives. Give us grace and mercy and wisdom. Open his blind eyes. Unstop his deaf ears.

Thank You, Lord, for the freedom I have because I said “yes” to you 40 years ago. Give this man courage to say “yes” to you—courage to allow You to be in charge, courage to receive Your love. Help him to see himself as You see him and to see You as You are.

Help him to see himself as a fool. Humble him enough to realize the only cure for foolishness lies with You. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

To be continued…

“When Love Broke” Through by Toby Mac

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdeSYHfJkqA

 

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Deliver Me From Unrealistic Expectations

Not long ago I realized anew one reason I allow myself to sink down a slippery slope in my mind and emotions centers on unrealistic expectations.

The problem comes when I possess high expectations of people and minimal expectations of God.

This happens in my vital relationships, especially in marriage.

Today I looked up the word expectation. I read: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a belief that someone will or should achieve something.”

The Amplified connects the two words expect and hope: “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” (Isaiah 40:31)

I wrote about this subject in my book, Or For Worse; Loving Your Husband Through Hard Times.

In the chapter titled, “Holding On To Hope,” I listed all the hopes I focused on in regard to changes I longed to see in my husband. Then I came to this conclusion as I discovered the list brought on disappointment:

“I saw God did not reside at the center of my hopes. Instead of hoping my husband would change, I needed to put my hope in God.

As I studied the Word and looked up verses about hope, I began to understand how wrong it was to put my hope (my highest expectations) in my husband, a fallible man who failed often. When I put my hope in God and His unfailing love for me, I found myself more joyful and having fewer ups and downs in my emotional life in regard to marriage.”

Here’s more from the book: “On the way to a counseling session one day, my husband accused me of this: ‘You have lost hope in me.’

After I thought about it for a few minutes, I realized hoping in him had been my problem—even in the latest crisis we dealt with in counseling.

‘Honey, my problem is I keep putting my hope in you and not in God,” I said. “This is why I repeatedly get crushed by disappointment.’

God’s Word reminds me that the right kind of hope—hope in God and His unfailing love ‘does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts’ (Romans 5:5).”

My lessons learned about marriage apply to every relationship in my life. If I let go of unrealistic expectation of others, I free myself to love them unconditionally in the present moment and not “if you meet my expectations.”

When I let go of high expectations of people, I center on expecting from/hoping in God. Some verses I found which highlight the word expect follow:

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

Guide me in Your truth and faithfulness and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You [You only and altogether] do I wait [expectantly] all the day long. Psalm 25:5 AMPC

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for and expect You. Psalm 25:21

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity; I have [expectantly] trusted in, leaned on, and relied on the Lord without wavering and I shall not slide. Psalm 26:1

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. Psalm 27:14

As I read these verses I discover another word related to hope and expectations. The word? Wait. If my hope and expectation truly remain fixed on God, my heart wills to wait for Him.

Sometimes it seems He takes a long time to intervene, but if no waiting happened, would I grow in faith?

I know I have my expectations centered on God and not people when my focus remains on Him and His promises and not them and their problems.

Today I pray God will help me to let go of unrealistic expectations of people (including myself) and turn my expectations toward Him. As I look again at the definition, I pray I will maintain “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future;” and that I will embrace “a belief that someone (God) will or should achieve something.”

No, He may not act in ways I want—or even demand–but He will perform on my behalf as He does again and again. Even now as I write this, I sense His peace begin to wash over me.

And this song comes to mind, a song God gave me years ago in the midst of a major family crisis: “Everything will be alright, everything will be alright, into the darkness, I will shine my light, and everything will be alright…”

I determine to do what Psalm 27:14 instructs: “wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.”

Note: God healed our marriage in mighty ways. We love each other now more than ever. He is able!

“Expecting” by William McDowell

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