Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Who do you imagine you're praying to?

"When I am alone, I like to see, Your face in my mind…" (How Can You Love Me)

I wrote that song in 1991 in Brooklyn, NY, as I fought through a lot of doubts about who I was to God, and if I could ever be worthy of receiving all of His promises.  I had a pretty bad case of low self-esteem then.  That song spoke exactly what my heart knew was true, and writing it helped to heal it in some way.

Picturing God in my mind, though my imagination will never truly do Him justice, is still an important part of my prayer life.  I need to see that He is eager to hear me, that He is pleased to see me coming before Him, and that He is full of light and power and truth and justice, that He is a warrior and a loving Father all in one.  Launching into prayers without making myself aware that I am speaking to a very real Person, usually makes my prayers dry and perfunctory, like any other duty that has to be performed.  When I realize I'm praying in that old religious way as I used to, I have to stop and refocus.  I have to remember that I am speaking to the One who is all around me, who made me, and who listens to every thought that runs through my mind.

For those of us who grew up in traditional churches, reading written prayers out of a book, the word prayer can feel like the opposite of what it's supposed to be - a dull, ceremonious, mumbling sort of practice surrounded by lots of sour-faced adults in a cold church.  If I hadn't begun this habit of visualizing God as He is described in the Bible before I prayed, I'm sure I would never have developed the spiritual ears to hear Him answer me.

Prayer is so powerful, that it shouldn't even be just called "prayer."  It's such a deep and profound communication, a give and take, with the Creator of all things.  I talk to Him, I share with Him, I cling to Him and He washes over me with a wave of assurance, and answers.

I always hear Him spur me on to anger against evil that is happening around me, He challenges me to fight for the freedom of someone who is in bondage.  And at the same time, there's a comfort, an embrace, and with it a new way of thinking, an inspiration to view a problem or situation with new eyes.  This is all done with words on my part, and virtually no words on His.   Though He speaks to me when I read the Bible, it's often deeper and more personal than the actual words that are written on the pages.

And then come the answers.  The surprises that happen because I've been talking to my Father and connecting to His Spirit, appear in transformations of people who's lives I've been fighting for and changes in tough situations that seem too big to budge.  And funny enough, other blessings happen that I didn't even ask for, just because I've been seeking Him first!

Every night for this 40 Day Fast, my husband and I have been driving around the perimeter of our town, praying constantly for all of our church members, for our town, attacking the demons and principalities that are destroying lives.  It's an unbroken, unstructured prayer between he and I, and sometimes with the kids as well, that lasts for over an hour every night.  Sometimes we leave church so late after a meeting that by the time our drive-around prayer is over and we pull into our driveway, it's already past 1am.  But we love it.  We see answers, we feel closer to God and to each other, and more than that, we know that we are pleasing God and we can see that He is smiling down on us.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Getting Ready to Be Slammed...

If you're not into science, read this anyway.  It's all about you, and the Creator of all things!

My husband just came across this fascinating article about new compelling evidence on how the moon was formed, from the Christian science website called Reasons to Believe.  The evidence shows that the moon was formed by a giant planet that had at one time slammed into the Earth, almost completely liquifying our planet, after which molten matter from that planet shot out from the core of the Earth, straight out of our atmosphere, and formed our moon.  Scientists have just discovered that isotopes found in moon rocks are vastly different from those on planet Earth.  Our Earth and the moon are made from very different materials.

(If you want to read the whole article, click here.)

How many of us have pictured the creation of the universe to be solemn words spoke by God here, and planets would magically appear - a proclamation there, and animals would pop out of thin air? We have TV and movies to blame for our crude imaginations of the power of God's hand.

So if this hypothesis is true, (and evidence is increasingly in its favor) God used the sacrifice of one planet to create much more than just our moon.  The Earth became liquid as it was slammed so violently by another planet the size of Mars, and later cooled and reformed it's solid shape. With God as the Master-Creator, the state of the Earth after that collision was made perfect for sustaining life.  The planet that melted as it entered our Earth's core, gave birth to our moon that was shot back into the night sky.  Our moon has a magnetic pull that determines our ocean's tides and seasons.  From the beginning of time, our moon is a necessary part of keeping our Earth alive and strong.

God used sacrifice, death, and rebirth to create the one planet in the entire universe that He chose to invest all of His love, creating children for Himself.

When God requires sacrifice from us, it's just a part of the laws of the universe.  It feels violent, painful and frightening, but it's beautiful!  Sacrifice, God's way, creates an abundance of life.  New, unexpected things enter into our orbit.

I'm ready for my sacrifice, to be slammed into by a giant "planet."  I'm ready to be liquified - to even feel as if I am imploding, to turn a rocky barren landscape into a thriving, abundant, life-sustaining world.  I know enough about how good and loving God is not to doubt Him or to resist Him.  Abraham knew that if he killed his precious son on the altar, God was powerful enough to raise him back up from the ashes.  God did better than that!

When you think about sacrifice, first of all, don't give unless you know that it's what God is asking of you.  He'll ask what is way, Way, WAY out of the ordinary.  You know you would never give that if anyone else had asked.  But if it's Him, don't resist.  Go with the giant collision that is about to happen.  Let yourself be liquified, and watch how new life will take a hold of you like you've never dreamed.

I say, bring it on!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What praying was meant to be

I don't have a perfect prayer life, and I'm not an expert, but I guess I have lived and prayed long enough to know what prayer isn't.  And as I learn and grow, I'm getting to know more of what it ought to be.  I still have far to grow, but this is a truth I have come to personally know.

When we were little, our moms and dads were the strongest and wisest people we knew.  In fact children don't even feel like they are independent people at all, but actually extensions of their parents.  They live and breathe and exist because Mommy or Daddy is there and taking care of them, and they are perfectly happy with that arrangement.  So much so, that when children are dropped off for Sunday School, there is usually a great deal of separation anxiety and tears and grasping onto necks and arms and legs for fear that the bond between them and their parents will be forever broken.  That is how our prayer life with God is supposed to be.  We see ourselves as an extension of Him.  We cling to Him for dear life.

God is not called "Father" for nothing.  No one really calls their dad, "Father" anymore, and the thought of calling God "Dad," or "Daddy," sounds too casual and almost silly.  But set aside the word for a moment and think instead of what a child senses when their very loving and caring father is right close by, strong and protecting. Children care nothing about their parent's bank account, or bills, or mortgage.  All they know is that they are safe and cared for.  When they need to talk, their dad stops what he's doing, listens, laughs, jokes with them and lovingly reminds them to finish their dinner and clean up their toys.

They feel strong arms carrying them upstairs to bed whenever they are too tired or sick.  They smell his cologne, they hear his heartbeat as they lay their heads on his chest when he reads them a story.  They play with his pens at his desk and draw rocket-ships or fairy castles or flowers while he's on the phone talking important grown-up talk to those people he's always talking to after work. He is the strongest and smartest and biggest person they know.  He's scary when he's angry, but most of the time he's funny and kind and gentle, and he always, always loves them and is always, always there for them.

As children grow in a healthy and happy home environment, they continue to feel the constant urge to tell their parents anything new that they are going through or learning about.  They want advice, and they want to hear the approval of their dad's voice and see the joy in his eyes when they have done well.  They yearn for his comfort when they have failed, and though they know he's disappointed, they also know that he believes in them to get back up and try again.

Human children eventually outgrow that need for their parent's constant approval.  But spiritual children, born of God, never do.  Those who are born of God run to Him all of their lives.  They throw their arms around Him, dialogue with Him, listen closely to Him, and more than anything obey Him because they trust Him.

Prayer for those not yet born of His Spirit, is a burden, a task to perform.  They run out of words to say, and fall asleep when they try.  For those who just claim to believe in God but have not real relationship with Him, prayer feels like a waste of time.  But for those who really know their Father, prayer is like the air they breathe.  They are hopelessly  dependent on their Father who loves them and wants a deep and rich relationship with them.  They can actually sense His laughter, His approval, His comfort and His discipline when they come to Him.

If your prayer experience hasn't reached that level of closeness with God, you have so much to look forward to.  But this kind of closeness comes at a cost.  It only happens to those who die to their flesh, and give up control over themselves and all that they value.  They hand control over to God, even before they have felt anything.  They have risked it all to find Him.  Don't stop seeking and reaching out to Him until you have truly found your Father.  You'll know when prayer becomes a joy instead of an obligation, and the answers to those prayers come as freely as the trust you place in Him.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ending the Victim Mentality

Last Saturday's Rahab meeting in Katy was awesome - as always!  Such great comments and input from all the ladies there makes our meetings so much fun and insightful.  The topic was the Victim Mentality.

I researched and looked up a checklist of questions to ask yourself if you fall under that category.  I could see from the start that ALL of us go there from time to time.  Having "poor me" thoughts about ourselves, to thinking that life will only improve when circumstances or other people change first, keeps us stuck in that rut.

Just within this past week, a number of women have come to me to say how much that list has helped them break out of old habits and thought patterns.  Some have seen really positive changes on their jobs because of it, and some have said that they've posted up the list on their walls as a reminder that behaving as a victim is dangerous territory.

Personally, I have really benefitted from the lesson, discovering that I often sink to that level without even knowing it.  No one wants to admit that they are acting like a victim, but once you are honest with yourself about your failures, you can start to catch yourself and save yourself a great deal of useless agonizing.  Unfortunately I have known too many "spiritual" women, who won't admit they need help. When you are a victim, you feel completely justified to think of yourself this way, and become offended if anyone suggests that you need to change your mindset - you feel even more victimized to be encouraged to change!

Just to clarify, most of us have truly been victims in some form or another, from abuse to victims of curses and terrible circumstances that were physically beyond our control.  But that is not what the victim mentality problem is about.  It's about a state of mind that keeps us captive to the pain and abuse, even long after it is over.  We respect and recognize everyone who has been victimized by any form of evil, but the most subtle and damaging of all, is when our emotions are held hostage to the victim mentality.  We continue hurting ourselves needlessly.

What was our answer?

Fight!  Push back the negative thoughts that this is all you are good for, and even more, fight against the thoughts that circumstances dictate your happiness and freedom.  Faith gives us power over circumstances, and we no longer have to be enslaved to them.  We can break down the spiritual forces that block us, we can destroy the demonic obsessions of worry and guilt.  There is so much power and freedom available to us when we stop being victims and instead go on the offensive, spiritually speaking.  Entire kingdoms of oppression can be torn down, and that all begins within ourselves.

As much as we believe in fighting and casting out demons in our church, I am amazed at how few women actually implement these tools when it comes to destroying fear and negative thinking.  We need to be wiser and more proactive in our faith.  We need to bully our problems, bully the demons, bully the thoughts that keep us in victim mode.  You are not victims any longer when you are the aggressor!

Here is our list of questions we gave out in the Rahab meeting.  See if you can relate to any of these, and then... start fighting!

The Victim Mentality
• Do most casual conversations end up centered on your problems?
• Do you tend to play the poor me card?
• Do you engage in negative talk about yourself?
• Do you always expect the worst?
• Do you tend to act like a martyr?
• Do you often feel like God or the world is causing bad things to happen and that there is nothing you    can do about it?
• Do you believe that everyone else has an easier life?
• Do you focus mostly on negative events and disappointments?
• Do rarely feel responsible for your negative behavior?
• Is your misery contagious, affecting the mood/state of others?
• Do you seem to be addicted to misery, chaos, and drama?
• Do you feel that the world is out to get you?
• Does blaming others seem to improve your state of mind?
• Do you have a tendency to make others take responsibility for you?
• Do you have a knack for finding other victims and rescuers?
• Are you the kind of person that always seems to have everything going wrong?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Everything is connected - say yes to God

(Continued from yesterday's post)

So now you know the downward spiral that saying no to God causes.  Yesterday's post was just an imaginary scenario, but I'm sure all of us can relate to that in some form or another.  It could just be saying no to reaching out to someone who needs a prayer, or saying no to that extra hour of late-night TV when you really ought to get to bed.  Most of us think of saying no to God as a choice to blatantly sin, but for most of us, it's more of a choice between choosing between what is acceptable, and what is right.

 Here's an example of choosing what is right:

So you decide to do the 40 Day Fast, and delete your Facebook account, suspend your cable subscription and select a few good inspirational blogs to follow on your free time.  The first few days you pray more, you read your Bible more and you psych yourself up into a state of mind that say's "This is great!"

A week goes by, and you don't feel any different, other than you can't pick up that remote and put up your feet for some entertainment after a long day.  Your super spiritual psyched-up state of mind is slowly fading, and you don't want to admit it, but you are wondering if you really can last for 40 Days. But even so, you stick to your vow - you won't break the fast for anything.

The next day at work, a crisis arises.  Everyone is angry and blaming each other.  You've seen this before and it always ends ugly, and you get hurt.  But this time, you rise above it.  Your mind is clearer, you see the problem for what it is, not the exaggerated version that everyone at work is portraying it to be.

You remain calm, you pray.  You don't just pray, you fight.  You silently rebuke the demons in your workplace, you rebuke all the attacks on your job, and determine that God has to be Lord in that place and that this problem needs to find a solution without all this stress and drama.  You ask God for wisdom, what to say, what to do, and how to react.  He answers right away.

You are filled with a sense of boldness and peace, a knowledge that you are connecting with the power of the God of all Creation.  A frantic coworker comes to vent her worries at your desk, and words of strength and encouragement come out of your mouth, instead of the usual gossip that you have fallen for in the past.

You go home in joy, knowing that Psalm 91 just happened in front of you.  "A thousand may fall at my side, ten-thousand at my right hand, but it will not come near me…"

You can't wait to read your Bible and pray when you get home.  You can't wait to get to church for the next meeting and drink in all God has for you.  You can't wait to see how God will come through for you in the days to come!

In a matter of days, you have a hunger and thirst for the things of God.  You can't wait to listen to the audio Bible as you drive in to work, to the audios of the pastor's sermons online.  Every break you get, you are pulling up the Bible on your phone, and even when you don't have anything specific to pray for, you just want to talk to God as your friend - your Father.

Out of the blue, you get a promotion, over others with more seniority.  And without thinking, you react in such a spiritual, confident and humble way that no one in the office feels threatened.  You are moved to an office far away from the gossips and busybodies - and you didn't even ask for this!

Throughout the rest of your fast, Satan tries to throw problems at you.  A relative is suddenly ill - the family pressures you to leave town (which means leaving church and work) to stay by their bedside… Or so you thought.  Your mind is in tune with God and you hear Him direct you.  No, your prayers of faith and healing are what this relative needs.  Others can sit by his side, but you need to stay focused and not allow your spiritual journey to be interrupted, and you obey.

Two days later, your relative is miraculously out of the hospital and just fine.  And it doesn't surprise you at all.

Before you know it, the 40 days are over.  You love this new bond you have formed with God, you love the way you can hear His subtle urgings to pray, to care for someone, to say no to useless requests, to discern what is a trap of the devil.  It almost feels like you are going to have to put an end to a beautiful new relationship, and you don't want to do anything to jeopardize what you've just built.

You look at that big black screen in your living room and wonder why anyone would want to turn that thing on!  One thing you still haven't received - the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  But you feel so close, so sure, so firm in your faith.  You've started down a new and exciting path that you've never been down before.  Why stop now?

As far as you're concerned the fast isn't over until you receive the complete infilling of His Spirit.  You can taste it, you can smell it, and nothing will get in your way to finding it.

Without a doubt, God is pleased to grant you this amazing gift.

The smallest decisions can take on huge effects.  All you do in the spiritual world impacts every aspect of your life.  Even things that seem completely unrelated, are always related to God, the source of everything. Everything is connected to everything.  Isn't it worth it to say yes to God?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Everything is connected to everything

When we see the world through spiritual eyes, it's like seeing the intricate inner workings of a beautiful Swiss watch.  That's just a metaphor, and of course it's far greater and deeper than that.  It takes faith to even begin to understand how it all works, and I imagine that once we are in heaven, face to face with God, will still be learning and discovering all the intricacies of the spiritual world.  But even the little that we can grasp here through faith and through the promises God gives us, is that everything connects.

And that means the 40 Day Fast connects with everything too,  Here are some examples:

You have chosen to be a part of a church that has presented a challenge to fast from secular media and distractions for 40 Days.  This is optional, but you know that it's from God.

Since it's from God, choosing not to join in would mean saying no to something from Him.  Is it a sin to say no?  No.  Is it a good thing to say yes?  Absolutely.  So you have to choose between either merely not sinning, or doing a very good thing from God.

You choose the former, and opt out of the fast for no specific reason, other than you just don't feel like it. You know that you aren't outright rejecting God, since you still pray, attend church, and try to live an honest God-fearing life.  But in the back of your mind, you know that you have said no to His suggestion and have chosen comfort over trust. Doubt creeps in.

Sometime along the 40 day period, the devil attacks as he always does with one thing or another.  Your child gets sick, or your boss flips out on you, or your car gets into an accident and your stuck with a huge repair bill.  You pray and try to do the right thing, but you don't feel that conviction in your heart that your prayers will be heard.  You don't feel worthy.  Doubts start to turn into condemnation.

Your prayers are more angry rants than prayers of faith, and the problems evade resolution. You feel far from God, and voices pop into your head when you go to church that everyone else is doing better than you, and that they look down on you for being so unspiritual.  You suspect that everyone knows that you aren't doing the fast and everyone is talking about you behind your back.

You feel self-righteous and angry at these hypocrites, and decide that you "need a break" from church for a while because you can't handle all this confusion.

You disappear from church, you stop praying, and you have no idea why God has turned His back on you.


Read tomorrow's blog to see the other side of the story!

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