Thank You Prayers

For years on various days when I walked or jogged, I prayed parts of Scripture which I memorized. Often I prayed Psalm 23: “Lord, please be my Shepherd today.”

Then one day, this thought came to mind: Instead of praying, God be my Shepherd, I need to thank Him that He already plays this vital role in my life.

Since then I pray memorized Scripture differently.

Here’s how I pray Psalm 23 (based on English Standard Version)

Thank You, Lord, that You are my Shepherd, and You have dealt with all my wants. Thank You for all the times You make me lie down in green pastures. Thank You for leading me beside still waters. Thank You that You repeatedly restore my soul. Thank You that You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Thank You for the times when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death (or as I walk through this dark valley) I need fear no evil, for You are always with me. Thank You for Your rod and staff, which comfort me. Thank You that when You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil, and my cup overflows. Thank You that goodness and mercy are following me all the days of my life. Thank You that I will dwell in Your house forever.

As I pray this way, my heart feels overwhelmed with gratitude for all the ways God intervenes in my life. I no longer beg Him to do so, but realize He already accomplished the actions in these verses. I feel closer to the Lord, and I celebrate His precious promises to me and how He fulfills them.

Also, since I have to add the words “thank You,” I need to think, instead of just reciting Scripture like multiplication tables.

During these days surrounding Thanksgiving Day, I will find more Scriptures which I can pray in gratitude. And I will celebrate all the ways God kept His promises to me and His faithfulness over this past year and over my lifetime.

Here’s another Psalm I pray often as I marvel over God’s forgiveness of my sins:

Thank You, for having mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love. Thank You that according to Your great compassion, You have blotted out my transgressions and washed away all my iniquity and cleansed me from my sin…. (Psalm 51)

How easy I fall into the trap of focusing on what’s wrong with my life. Gratitude lifts me out of that trap.

I think of Psalm 100:4 which reminds me to: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless his name.” For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

Verse 5 reminds me of three truths, which lift me up despite all the struggles in my life: “For the LORD is Good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

Lord, please keep me out of the pit of ingratitude. Let my heart ever overflow with thankfulness for all You have done for me, in me and through me. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

“Give Thanks” by Don Moen

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

Another “Thank You” song by Don Moen: “Thank You, Lord.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K44trVhtZX4

 

 

 

 

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Finding My Sweet Spot

Not long ago, I talked to a teen who told me she hated her high school.

“Can’t you find anything good about it?” I asked.

“No, I can’t.” she said. “People there take drugs, get in fights, and most aren’t very nice.”

“And the teachers and other adults just don’t seem to care,” she added.

As I prayed for this young person who last year loved her middle school, I asked God for an answer I could give to her.

“Tell her to find the ‘sweet spot’ at her school,” was the answer that came to mind.

I heard that cliché before, so I decided to look it up. This is what I found online: “the point or area on a bat, club, or racket at which it makes most effective contact with the ball.”

The non-sports definitions said, “a location or combination of characteristics that produces the best results,” “a pleasant or favorable place.”

I passed the “find your sweet spot at school” message on to her.

“There is no sweet spot there,” she answered.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

Suddenly she smiled and said a person’s name.

“That’s my sweet spot,” she said.

As we talked, I discovered this was an individual she had met this school year.

“If you didn’t go to this school, you never would have met that person,” I said.

Her attitude seemed to improve a bit. I’m believing it will improve even more as she stops focusing on what’s wrong in her situation and keeps her eyes on what’s right and good.

Lately as I think about this principle in my own life, I see God repeatedly brings something pleasant and favorable in the midst of difficult circumstances. The key is to keep my focus on that instead of on difficulties.

Growing up in a small home with seven siblings and lots of chaos, my sweet spot was reading.

Later it became writing.

These days in the midst of difficulties, music serves as my sweet spot. So many times when I turn on the radio (my first choice is the JOY FM) as I battle negative thoughts and hopelessness in regard to certain situations, a song will come on which speaks directly to my struggle.

On my job working with the mentally ill, I lead a music group where I share uplifting songs with the patients either through going to Youtube or on my guitar. Often I’m the one who’s lifted up. The time I spend with the patients enjoying music is sweet.

Other times God brings a person into my life just at the right time who ministers to me in such a way that I feel overwhelmed by all the encouragement one individual can give to me.

Even when these don’t seem to work to lift me up when days seem dark, there is a truth which proves true again and again.

Jesus is my sweet spot.

When I remind myself He is with me through every trial and trauma of life, I feel loved and cared for. I celebrate what He did for me on the cross. I thank Him for coming to this earth, so I could be set free.

A verse came to mind as I thought about God being my sweet spot in the person of Jesus Christ. I thought about the fact that no matter what happens, I can enter into His presence and be lifted up.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV

I can rest in the truths that Jesus loves me, He’s for me, and He’s with me.

Now that’s a sweet spot nothing and no one can ever take away from me.

“My Sweet Lord” by Crowder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlHp1GMJEww

 

 

 

 

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The Gospel Makes A Way

Forty years ago this week, I made the best decision of my life. I received Jesus Christ as my Savior. I thought I already possessed salvation, but I realized although I attended church and had a heart for Jesus, I never invited Him into mine. I wanted to follow Jesus, but I never surrendered my life to Him before that day, but instead tried to remain in control.

Not long ago I wrote a poem about the subject after reading a prompt: “The Choice.”

THE CHOICE

Forty years ago

in the midst of a storm,

and a stormy marriage,

while traveling to Florida,

I said, “Yes” to Jesus

taking charge of my life.

The cords of depression

and doubt loosened

as I gave up my obsession

to be in control.

I wanted to be whole,

but my efforts to heal myself

accomplished nothing.

 

That day I realized

He alone is my healer.

He alone is my helper.

He alone hears and heeds

the cries of my heart

He alone loves me completely.

That day I made my life’s

best choice, and because of it

every day I have

a reason to rejoice.

Since that time God healed our marriage, and we love each other more than the day we married. He healed hurts and heartaches and led me to help others deal with theirs.

My desire for friends, family, and those who cross my path in search for a better way to live life, I can say offer only one statement, “You need Jesus.”

He led me out of darkness, and He will do it for anyone else who says “Yes” to His invitation.

I pray if you never have, You will do it today.

Here’s a link to my official salvation testimony, which was published in Moody magazine in 1998.

https://elainecreasman.wordpress.com/a-love-that-never-fails/

“The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson

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

 

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The Untangling–Again

wind chimes (2)Over 20 years ago I had a piece published in a Sunday School take-home paper titled, “The Untangling.” I thought of that true story recently when I faced a new tangled mess, which I felt determined to untangle. Here is the story from years ago followed by my thoughts about my latest untangling:

“I give up,” I said and tossed the tangled necklace into the kitchen drawer with the paper clips and safety pins.

I had hoped to give Mindy, our 10-year-old, the heart necklace I found as a gift for Christmas, but getting the knots out seemed impossible. Finding it on the hidden road close to the hotel where the nursing seminar was held seemed special.

Not wanting to miss my daily walk, I set out during the lunch hour in the congested city area. To my amazement, I discovered a little road leading into a peaceful neighborhood on a lake. Trees abounded, the breeze refreshed me, and I felt thousands of miles away from the city. On that road, I found the necklace.

Now I knew why. Someone had probably thrown it away when they saw how tangled it was. It was so pretty–with a delicate chain  and a filigree heart a little smaller than a dime. Despite the abuse it had been through, the necklace looked shiny. I was sure if it was real gold, but it seemed a shame to throw it away.

Christmas arrived, and I gave a store-bought jewelry gift to Mindy.

The necklace stayed in the drawer until two months later when I decided to give it another try because Mindy’s birthday was coming up. It seemed the Lord urged me on. “This time don’t give up. I’m going to teach you something with that necklace.”

Suddenly the necklace took on new meaning. It was one of God’s children with a tangled, messed-up life. Beauty was there, but the tangled mess made it seem useless. My hands symbolized God as I worked on the untangling process.

Several times I felt like tearing at the delicate chain and then trashing it, but I knew God would never do that. Instead He works patiently with us, untangling the messes our lives have become.

I worked for over an hour, but the knots seemed worse. I thought of the disorders in my life. God had worked through them with me–my battles with depression, the crises in our marriage and with the children, my fear of intimacy with God. Gratefulness filled my heart for how God patiently untangled each one.

I had other things to do, but untangling the necklace seemed so important. If I could unravel this impossible mess with God help, then I knew he could solve any problem in my life and in anyone’s life. This necklace became a promise delivered to me from God–if I got it untangled.

It seemed amazing to me, as I coaxed my hands to be gentle like God’s, that the delicate chain didn’t break. I used a safety pin to pull the chain and spread it out to get a better look at the knots. After another hour, every kink was gone. Carefully, I spread it out on the kitchen table and stared at it in awe.

I felt tempted to put it away for safekeeping, afraid now to give it to Mindy, afraid she might tangle it again. But that was not God’s plan.

I presented it to Mindy for her birthday.

“This is a very special necklace,” I explained to her. “It was a gift from God.”

I shared with her the untangling process.

When Mindy wore that still tangle-free necklace, it reminded me of God’s patience with us. It also reminded me He never gives up on our lives.

Not long after, when things seemed a bit knotted in my life and in the lives of those I prayed for, I went into Mindy’s room and took out the necklace. As I fingered the delicate chain, I remembered, “He is able.” ….

My recent tangled mess involved a wind chime Steve and I bought a number of years ago out west on a trip. For a while it hung in my office at home, but over time the fishing lines which held the beautiful agate geodes and hung down, became badly tangled. So I took the wind chimes down and stuck them in a closet.

Not long ago I told myself I wanted to deal with broken things in our home. Those wind chimes came to mind. Also, my story from years ago did too. Even though the fishing lines remained tightly twisted with each other, I refused to believe it was impossible to untangle them.

If I could untangle that necklace, certainly with the Lord’s help I can untangle this mess, I thought. So I determined to work on the wind chime

I worked on it one day, and then proceeded to continue the task the next. I remained patient, I prayed along the way, and I enlisted help from my husband.

Praise the Lord! The wind chimes now hang in our kitchen by the sliding glass door and look and sound lovely. This untangled beautiful piece also serves as a reminder of all the times and ways the Lord untangled the messes in my life and continues to do so. I praise Him for His faithfulness.

On Thursday at the writing group I lead, one of the members had a quote in her writing, which goes along with untangling: “Yet through all, we know this tangled skein is in the hands of One who sees the end from the beginning; he shall yet unravel all.” (Alexander Smith, 1830-1867)

Verses that comes to mind as I think of untangling are these:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” Psalm 46:1 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Ephesians 3:20

I look forward to seeing how God will untangle the present “messes” I face in my life. The key is to remain dependent on Him.

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Letting Go of Trying To Control–Again

Not long ago, I once again got caught in attempts to control the behavior of others.

These individuals who claim to be Christians acted in unChristlike ways. This affected other people and me.

When I confronted them on their behavior and urged them to stop—spoke the truth in love—they quickly moved into denial and even seemed delusional.

Yes, the pressure of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma played a part. I wanted them to know that God gives grace to do the right thing even when life presses and stresses.

They refused to receive that grace.

Then I tried to stress this point: once we do the wrong thing, we can receive grace to admit it. They declined again.

In the midst of the situation, this truth came to me: You can speak truth to those who believe lies and act on them, but you cannot force them to believe truth or do the right thing.

God presented this revelation to me repeatedly in relationships over the years. Once again in this latest situation, he proved it to me. He showed me I cannot control the behavior of others, but I can choose my reactions to it.

So I let go of my demands that they receive truth and determined to love them where they were at.

A while ago, I heard a teaching from a man who said, “God is in charge, but He’s not in control.”

I realized because of free will, God allows people to have the reins in their lives. He does not force them to do the right thing. Instead He invites them–as Jesus invited the rich man to sell what he had and give to the poor. (See John 19:21)

As I contemplated God being in control, another truth came to mind: I can say of my own life, “God, I want You to be in control. I surrender to You.” God is in control when I invite Him and allow Him to be. A key factor is to stop trying to take the control back from Him.

I did that with these people in my life who chose a wrong path for a time—who chose not to let God guide them. So my response to them not letting God be in control was to try to control. My words didn’t change their wrong decisions, but I could ask God to be in control of my response and pray for God to help them draw closer to Him, so they could make better choices in the future.

God’s righteous response for me centered on mercy, love, and grace. I realize I started to slip into resentment and withdrawal of love—especially when I faced rejection of the truth and wisdom I spoke. One indicator of resentment revealed itself as I told others about their offenses.

I see when I try to control others, I’m not letting God be in control of me. Fear often drives this compulsion to control.

I hold to the promise in Psalm 34:4:  “I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.”

These people chose to behave the way they did because of their fears, and I chose to attempt to control because of mine.

Today I pray I will allow God to be in control of my life and that I’ll stop trying to play God in other people’s lives.

 

Thank You, Lord, for Your patience as I continue to learn lessons You’re trying to teach me. Thank You for the mercy You show to this slow learner.

“Control” by Tenth Avenue North

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFfztu8-bBQ

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Laying My Burdens Down Repost

Today I’m reposting a blog from this date seven years ago. I pray it ministers to you as it did to me in the rereading. I’ve added a song about laying our burdens down, which I heard for the first time today.

“I’m in a bad place,” I said to Kenn, my songwriting teacher, last Thursday. “Working on a song seems like a hard thing today.”

Not long before I had been in North Carolina visiting a friend. What happened to the peace and joy I felt there? My trip was to be a writing retreat I had decided, but God also turned it into a “righting retreat”–a time to set things right in my heart and soul.

Hadn’t God brought me to a place of feeling I was beside still waters and all was right with my soul? So what had happened since I returned?

“I challenge you,” Kenn said, “when you get home to sit down for 15 minutes even in the midst of this funk you’re in and write a song.”

At home I realized Satan was attacking me. He didn’t want me beside still waters experiencing rest for my soul. I’m sure he was miffed that while on my trip I spent time praising God for every bad thing in my life I could think of and for all the good God brought out of those difficult circumstances.

So I did what Kenn told me to do. With a pen and my journal, I sat in the recliner determined to write for 15 minutes.

A song came. And with the song came truth.

While on my trip, I had laid all my burdens down. When I came home I picked them up again and then some.

So the song was about laying my burdens down. In 15 minutes I wrote the first verse and the chorus. Later that day I wrote the second verse and the bridge. It amazed me since I rarely write a complete song in one day.

The next day I received an email devotion with the title, “Casting Your Cares Upon the Lord,” which included this verse:

 “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain you.” Ps 55:22 (NKJV)

The day after that laying down our burdens was mentioned in another email. Today on the radio I heard a song by the Newsboys called “Million Pieces” that was about yes!  laying our burdens down. A song we sang at church not long ago about the subject has also been playing in my mind.

Praise God for these reminders of this truth:  when I feel weary and worried, it’s often because I’m carrying burdens He didn’t mean for me to carry.

The verses that have been coming to mind since I sat down to write (or rather “receive”) my song are Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

Since God gave me my new song I’ve been singing it to myself over and over: “I’m laying my burdens down. I’m laying my burdens down. There’s rest for my soul, and peace can be found…” Once again I’ve given up on trying to control situations that seem out of my control and I’ve abandoned playing God in other people’s lives.

Rest is returning to my soul. What joy there is in releasing all my cares to Him and receiving once again the truth that He cares for me and is in control. I pray for grace not to pick those burdens up again.

What about you? Are you being weighed down by burdens? Listen closely and  hear God whisper, “My child, lay them down.” Then do it.

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Time In Prison

Not long ago a man I know and love talked about his chronic pain. Every day no matter what he does, he cannot escape the pain he feels.

“It’s like being in prison,” he said.

Although chronic physical pain remains something I do not deal with, I can relate to chronic emotional pain. For years I battled severe depression from which I failed for a time to find an escape. I praise God He set me free over many years through counseling by Christian counselors—both lay and professional– and by the Holy Spirit.

During those years, and sometimes in more recent years and months when painful circumstances threaten to shatter my peace, I felt the same way my loved one does, “It’s like being in prison.”

But yet as I thought about the whole idea of pain and prison, Paul’s time behind bars which I read about in Scripture, came to mind.

This directive came too, Do what he did when he was in prison.

I studied Paul’s time in prison—especially in the book of Philippians–and compiled a list of what Paul did while in prison:

He prayed to God. Acts 16:25

He sang hymns of praise. Acts 16:25

He thanked God for others. Philippians 1:3

He prayed for others. Philippians 1:3

He wrote a letter of encouragement: his letter to the Philippians.

He saw the good of his prison time—“greater progress of the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

He rejoiced in the Lord. Philippians 1:18

He gave godly counsel. Philippians 2:14

He urged others to rejoice. Philippians 2:17, 4:4

He spoke of trusting God. Philippians 2:24

He reached out to meet the needs of others. Philippians 2:25

He believed Christ would be exalted in his body. Philippians 3:20

He encouraged others to let go of anxiety and to pray. Philippians 4:6

He encouraged others to control their thinking. Philippians 4:8

He learned about contentment. Philippians 4:11-12

He depended on Christ’s strength. Philippians 4:13

He gave glory to God. Philippians 4:20

He encouraged others to take hold of God’s grace. Philippians 4:23

AS I read the complete book of Philippians, I discovered Paul kept his focus on Jesus, shared his faith with others, maintained an excellent attitude and encouraged that in others, and sent life-changing teachings and warnings to fellow Christians.

What he didn’t do was complain, feel sorry for himself, withdraw from God or fellow Christians, or proclaim lies about the Lord and His goodness, IE, “God doesn’t love or care about me anymore,” or “God has abandoned me.”

Since I saw that my loved one and I tend to slip into the above negative behaviors during our “prison time,” my prayer for both of us centers on learning to handle difficult circumstances in a way which pleases God—the way Paul dealt with his time in prison.

The difference between Paul and myself comes to this: I tend to do what comes naturally. What Paul did was supernatural.

God wants me to live a supernatural life, which comes about by being vitally connected to Him. I accomplish this when I abide in Him and depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than what my mind tells me to think and do.

In the days ahead, as I continue to face various difficult circumstances over which I have no control, I pray for God to help me to be like Paul. I will review the list above on a regular basis and ask God to empower me to live it out.

Doing so will help me grow, will be a powerful witness to those who don’t know the Lord, and will bring glory to God.

I thank God in advance for all He’s going to do in me and through me as I embrace these truths.

“King of My Heart” by Kutless

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jkMnq2Hfzo

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