FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


Leave a comment

A Better Dance Partner

I am not a dancer.

My sister revoked my “Black” card a long time ago.  She said that I had absolutely NO rhythm.  I could not argue, but that is not why I am not a dancer.  Not really. 

It’s because I tend to lead.

In many types of partner dance, lead and follow are designations that need to be respected and adhered to.  Traditionally, the male leads and the female follows.  The lead guides and initiates changes and transitions.  The lead also chooses the steps and the direction.  When the follower matches the lead, the dance is smooth, coordinated, enjoyable to participate in and beautiful to behold.

But when the follower tries to lead?  Oh, that is a different story.

The troubled church in the book of James provides both an example and a lesson for us.  In this text we find a church out of sync – unresolved issues of who will lead and who will follow.  Specifically, James writes, “[Y]our passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4: 1-4 ESV)

The church, the people, want to lead.  When we read verses 7 and 8 we learn the real problem – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  They want to have things their way rather than yield to God. They want to choose the steps and determine the direction.  They want to lead while God follows. 

It doesn’t work that way in dancing.  It doesn’t work that way in life. 

In dancing, the follower must respect, trust and give into the lead going wherever he leads.  The dance manuals tell us that “partner dancing requires awareness and clear communication; the follower must maintain a centered readiness to the leader watching for and ready to obey visual and physical cues; the leader will give clear direction.”  Additionally, the manuals say, “Physical contact is the most effective means of communication between the lead and the follower.  While the lead’s steps differ from the follower’s, the follower need only mirror the lead’s footwork.  The partners must work together to create synchronized movements.”

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Suzie Eller says, “[T]here’s a gift found when you let God take the lead. You start to understand His rhythm in your life and in your thoughts. Your will begins to align with His.” 

How do we draw near to God?  Just as the dance manuals tell us  Be are aware of Him and His communication.  Study to know His Word and His ways.    Maintain a centered readiness watching for and ready to obey His cues.  Listen and expect to hear Him speak to you.  Physical contact is the most effective means.  Meet with Him in Prayer.  

THIS WEEK determine to become a better dance partner.   Begin by knowing your Lead, your Heavenly Father.  Trust His lead (James 4:6) and develop a centered readiness for His cues (James 4:7) watching and being ready to obey (Luke 11:28, 1 Peter 1:14, Deuteronomy 11:1, 2 Corinthians 10:5, John 14:15, Romans 2:6-8). Then let Him lead, and enjoy the dance!


Leave a comment

A Million and One Things

A million (at least) and one things called to me today as I was about to pray.

I had guest but they were rising and leaving early, so I felt I should send them off with breakfast.  It’s early.  I’ll just scramble up a couple of eggs, brown some sausage, send them on their way and then pray.

Well, I’d might as well snatch those sheets off the bed and toss them in the laundry while I’m thinking about it.  While they are spinning, I can pray.

Oh!  I forgot; I have an appointment.  I’d better jump in the shower and dress then, if I am running late, I’ll at least be already dressed.

Can you believe what that woman said?  Let me sit down and catch this little snippet of Dr. Phil.  There’s only about 10 more minutes in this episode, then I’ll pray.

Whew, finally!

I sat down on the sofa to journal my prayers.  The sun’s rays poured through the blinds.  Look at that dust!  I’d better grab that Swiffer right now!

Dust.  Seriously?  Dust is going to keep me from praying?  I don’t even like dusting.  As a matter of fact, I hate dusting.  It falls in line right after scrubbing toilets as far as I’m concerned, but I’m going to dust instead of pray?  Really?

No!

Enough already.  I recognize these tricks of Satan!

And so I journaled.

Look at that handwriting.  I hope you never intend to look back at these prayers, and surely you won’t let anyone else see this journal.  Even God might be challenged to read this scribble scrabble.

Are you kidding me, Satan?  You will try anything to distract me, any ploy to disrupt time with God.

THIS WEEK “Be self-controlled, sober-minded, temperate, vigilant, alert.  Your enemy, adversary, great accuser, opponent (and chief distractor) the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” ( 1 Peter 5:8). He finds especially tasty those who love the Lord and who desire to spend time alone in prayer to Him.  Schedule a time to spend alone with God, and meet that appointment just as you would one with your physician’s office or your employer.  My rheumatologist charges you if you miss the appointment.  God will not charge you, but you will miss a great blessing, a gift that He has just for you!


Leave a comment

Lord, Hear Our Cry

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  So, as presidents have formally done every year since 1952, President Obama on today, Thursday, May 7, will issue a proclamation urging our country to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

No one can seriously question whether our country – our world –  needs prayer.  We are troubled and in trouble.  Just read the headlines or watch a little television as I did earlier today.  Within an hour I heard stories about teens committing suicide because of cyber bullying, women swindling money from unsuspecting men by purchasing fake pregnancy tests, celebrities posing in the nude, men scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior women desperate for love, Syria continuing to use chemical weaponry and families searching for lost loved ones in Nepal.

But I have mixed feelings about this day.  I am not sure we need a National Day of Prayer any more than we need a Black History Month or a Veteran’s Day.  Some things, some people, some history as well as some practices, like praying, need to be a part of every day.  They need to be habit.   I am also skeptical in 2015 of the government’s involvement in prayer.  Yes, the day is part of our country’s heritage born from the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation to the call to prayer by President Lincoln when he proclaimed of a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863.  Those days, those times and those prayers seemed different to me.  It seems there was a time when our country was led by those who truly believed in God, who consistently sought His guidance and faithfully asked Him for wisdom and direction.  Such was the case not just for our national leaders but also the leaders of our cities, towns, communities, schools and churches.  These days?  Not so much.

But according to the National Day of Prayer website, this day “has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.”  This statement is how I have made peace with the day.  And the spirit of this statement is what I pray everyone will embrace – but not just for a day, for always and every day.

The web has been inundated with “model” and “sample” prayers shared for this special day.  These actually might be the first misstep.  Rather than recite a prayer scripted by someone else, I encourage you to embrace the theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer – “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”  Cry out before the Lord sharing what is in your heart.  Don’t worry about the “right” words, embrace the right attitudes – humility and gratitude.  Don’t fret about the “right” posture, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you – standing, sitting, opened eyes, closed eyes, prostrate on the floor.  The theme is not, ‘Lord, Look at Me,’ but rather, “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”

Matthew 6:7 (ESV) reminds us, ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”  On this National Day of Prayer, pray freely.  Pray openly.  Pray passionately.  Pray from the heart, and know that “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, ESV).


Leave a comment

Wet Feet

Just as the Israelites were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, God commanded the priests to step into the water.  Hmm?  Not exactly what you might expect, but no big deal, right?  Wrong!  The Jordan River was at flood stage!  We’re talking wet feet and probably a few other wet things here.

Now surely God knew the Jordan River was there, and He knew that it was at flood stage when He told the Israelites to cross over to their Promised Land. Still He gave the command to Joshua: “. . . Arise, GO OVER THIS JORDAN, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them. . .” (Joshua 1:2).

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like getting my feet wet – especially when I have my shoes on!  Ladies, you know the deal!  Confession – yes, I take certain shoes off in the rain – even if I am wearing hose.  The way I see it, I can buy another pair of Hanes for a WHOLE lot less money than I can a pair of shoes!  I learned the hard way, but it only took one pair of spotty leather pumps for me to learn to save the shoes!

Anyway, back to the Israelites and the Jordan River.

Now, if we didn’t know before, we certainly knew after the Red Sea episode that God could part the waters.  In Exodus 4:21 Moses stretched his hand out over the waters, and the Scriptures tell us that the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.  We know, too, that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:24), so what’s up with the wet feet?  He parted the Sea for Moses.  Why not part the river for the priests?

I think it’s less about the wet feet and more about our desire for God to go first.  That way, we don’t mess up our shoes. We don’t have to work as hard.  We don’t have to wonder how things are going to go.  We don’t get wet feet.

It’s that hesitancy to get wet feet that can keep us camped out on the wrong side of the Jordan River.  It’s that waiting for God to go first that can keep us from our miracle.  Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Several examples in the Scriptures – the Red Sea and the Jordan River encounters being two of them – teach us that we are always to exercise faith in God.  Sometimes that faith requires us to be still and wait patiently (think Joseph in Potiphar’s prison), but at other times, it calls us to step up (think Nehemiah), step out (think Naomi and Ruth) and step into the waters (the Israelite priests).

Contrary to our belief, there can be just as much faith involved in taking personal initiative as there is in waiting passively for the Lord to provide.

Pray hard. Listen hard.  Swallow hard.  And go first!  Step out in faith knowing that our God sees, hears and is faithful!

THIS WEEK seek God’s desire for you – patience or a step of faith.  What would the latter look like?  What’s holding you back? Are you being obedient in patience or fearful in waiting?  Seek God’s direction for you and your life.  He will give you peace about what YOU are to do!


Leave a comment

Television 8; Prayer 1

Yesterday I watched 8 hours of television.  I watched until the cable box automatically shut down to go into power save mode  Even the cable company couldn’t believe someone would be actually watching television that long!

Yesterday I prayed 1 hour.

The Daily News says, “The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day.  More if you’re African American. Quite a bit more. Less if you’re Hispanic or Asian American, but not that much less.  For all ethnic groups, TV viewing time increases steadily as we get older, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company.  Once we pass 65, we watch more than seven hours a day.”

The American Time Use Survey says that Americans spend on average 2 to 17 minutes each day on “religious activity.”  In my home state, North Carolina, the average is 11 minutes per day.

I guess I could tell myself that I am “above average,” for a North Carolinian and for a Southerner.  The Survey notes, “Southerners are more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than people from any other region, so it’s no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities.”

But I cannot make peace with these numbers.

Why don’t we pray?

The most popular excuse is time.  We don’t have time.  Well, I watched 8 hours of television.  Trust me, it was not life-altering, mind-enriching, world-changing television.  And I’ll wager that what you watch is not either.  Mine was more of the home decorating, new cooking techniques, travel to an exotic land variety with a sprinkling of good health and diet suggestions.  The truth of the matter, we have time.

The second most popular excuse is that it’s really not necessary.  Really?  Think of the many examples in the Scriptures when victory came through prayer – and when defeat came because of a lack of prayer.  Two contrasting examples – (1) Elijah praying that it would not rain (and it did not for 3 1/2 years) and then his prayer for rain (and the sky poured causing the earth to produce fruit) and (2) the defeat of the Israelite army when they fought against the city of Ai.  Confident in themselves, they did not pray or consult the Lord before going into battle.  They were bold.  They were self-centered.  They were defeated.  (See 1 Kings 17-19 and Joshua 7.)

We know, too,  that while He was on earth, Jesus was faithful in spending vital time in prayer with the Father. Just as He sought time alone to talk with His Father, shouldn’t we?  Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him. The truth of the matter, we need to pray as Jesus prayed.

The third most popular excuse is that prayer does not make a difference.  Sure, if we think prayer is magic, it doesn’t make a difference.  Or if we think prayer is about presenting our shopping list or Christmas list to Santa God, it doesn’t make a difference.  If we think prayer is about us and our sole benefit, it doesn’t make a difference.  Finally, if we think prayer is about showing off – using fancy, 50-cent words and parading our theology before people, it doesn’t make a difference.

When we get that prayer is about a relationship with God, it makes a HUGE difference.  Prayer is talking with, spending time with, loving and worshipping our Holy Father.  Yes, we share our hearts and may make requests, but we also confess our faults, thank God for His love, praise Him for who He is, intercede for others and more.  And prayer is knowing that God hears us, loves us and will answer us.  The truth of the matter, prayer makes a difference. The difference is the relationship.  The difference is the peace.  The difference is the love.

Contrast this with television.

When I think about it, I don’t have time to watch that much television!  There are too many people hurting and too many people lost; I need to intercede.  There are too many shortcomings in my life; I need to confess.  There are too many blessings in my life; I need to worship and adore my God.

When I think about it, television is not that necessary.  Much of what I watch is pure entertainment.  Now, I am all for laughing.  I like learning new recipes and seeing new decorating ideas.  I like escaping to other worlds.  But none of that is essential to my survival, my success or my salvation.

When I think about it, television does not make a difference in my life.  Yes, I learn a little because, more often than not, I choose programs that will teach, but can I compare those to time spent with my Lord?  Think about your much-loved spouse, child or friend – would you rather spend time watching television or with them?  Now, I have some colleagues that regularly toss their spouses aside for episodes of Scandal or Monday Night Football, but I am confident that when the end comes, they will not be wishing for more time with television, that they had not missed that touchdown or that one episode.  They will be wishing they’d spent more time with the ones they loved and the ones that loved them.  And no one loves you more than the Father.

Am I planning to give up television?  That would be a, “No!”  But I am rethinking what I watch and how much time I spend watching.  I am also rethinking my prayer time.  My focus won’t be how many minutes and hours I can spend praying so that I can hold them up before the Lord and say, “See, Lord, television 2 hours; prayer 3.”  My focus will be about spending quality time engaged in necessary prayer talking to the One who loves me and who makes all the difference in my life!

THIS WEEK, evaluate how you are spending your time.  You may want to look at the American Time Use Survey Maps found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/20/ten-maps-that-show-how-much-time-americans-spend-grooming-eating-thinking-and-praying/.  Do you need to revisit your prayer time?  Craft a plan.  Understand that plans are as unique as the individuals that create them.  You may find one example at http://thecripplegate.com/a-sample-prayer-plan/.


Leave a comment

Didn’t You Hear Me, Lord?

For weeks I have been partnering with a dear friend, several fellow church members and a hurting mother in prayer for her son.  I don’t know the details just that he became suddenly ill and was airlifted to a hospital far away.  Regularly mom has texted updates; occasionally we have spoken by telephone, continually we have prayed.

We have prayed fervently.  We have prayed specifically. We have prayed the promises of the Scriptures.  We have prayed in our hearts and aloud; standing, sitting and on bended knee.  We have prayed believing.

This evening mom texted an update that was not good.  And for a brief flash of a moment, I questioned all that praying and all those prayers.  Doesn’t God see us?  Didn’t God hear us?  Why this response?

Likely you know instances where prayers for healing were offered and you did not witness healing.  Sometimes it even appears that the opposite happens – the condition worsens.  Perhaps you’ve had your own questions.  If you’ve experienced this, I suspect one of your questions might have been “Why?” followed by “Why bother?  Why bother to pray for healing?”

We pray for healing because our Heavenly Father wants us to be whole – in mind, spirit and body.  Whenever and wherever there is sickness, there is an opportunity for God to display His glory.  He will heal.  The struggle comes for us because God does not always move in our timing or in ways that we have imagined.  Whatever the illness, we have an image in our minds of what the healing will look like.  We also have an idea about when the healing should occur with our thoughts typically being, “No time like right now, God!”  We believe that if we believe, we pray and there should be an immediate response and that response should look like just what we asked for.  Instead of “Thy will be done,” we are, in truth, thinking more along the lines of “My will be done!”

Sometimes we fault ourselves when prayer appears to go unanswered.  The Scriptures instruct us,  “Ask, and it will be given unto you” (Matthew 7:7).  If we do not receive what we expect, we sometimes assume we have asked incorrectly.  Perhaps we did not pray long enough or hard enough or using the right words.  Surely we ought always to examine our hearts for doubt and unbelief any time God answers “No” to our prayers. We should ask Him to search our hearts and to reveal any areas of sin or any doubt that we might harbor – knowingly or unknowingly – and to help us deal appropriately with it; then we should continue to pray because not only is praying for healing a privilege, we are instructed to do so (Acts 20:28, James 5:13-20).  We are to pray with fervor and boldness.  We are to pray believing (John 14:14, Mark 9:23, Jeremiah 33:3, 1 John 5:14-15).  Sometimes we worry that if God doesn’t respond just as we have requested, it will appear as failure on our part.  But our job as believers is to take a hurting person’s needs to the Lord, to intercede on their behalf and to trust God. He will choose when and how to respond.

The truth that I know for sure is that some of the blessings Jesus purchased through His suffering on the cross will not be fully realized until we are in His presence one day.  Sometimes this includes healing.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Those who come to God must believe that God is.”  That means that we not only believe that He can and will answer our prayers, we also trust His timing and that His response is the right response.  Always He will heal.  The healing may be immediate; it may be gradual or it may be ultimate – when we see Him face-to-face.

What, then, are we to do?  Take a cue from Luke 18:1 (CEB) – “[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up).”

Didn’t God hear us?  Yes.  And He will answer.  He will heal.

Healer (Hillsong):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7M6nTV1tFs

By His Stripes We Are Healed (Esther Mui):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga3dVzhIzio

Who I Am? (Casting Crowns):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU_rTX23V7Q&list=PLB7455A80B9FBC9BF&index=74


Leave a comment

Testing, Testing

It’s a balmy 68 degrees outside!  What a wonderful mid-February surprise and treat.  The forecast for the end of the week announces more February-like temperatures like a Thursday high of 36 degrees.  But right now at 4:30 in the afternoon, it’s 68 glorious degrees.

And I am in the house!  Stuck creating a test that my students have to take Tuesday.  I need to get it posted on Blackboard, so today is the day to create that test.

With it being 68 degrees outside and the sun shining through the window and me on my laptop with notes spread around me as I create a test, you can best believe my mind has REALLY been tossing about the question of why test?  Not just my students and not other school students, but us.  Why does God test our faith?

God tested the faith of the ancient Israelites by allowing them to experience hard times in the wilderness, “in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).  And He likewise tests us.

We think we know what is in our heart.  We think we know how strong we are.  We think we have a steadfast, immovable, abounding faith.  But it is only in times of testing that we move beyond just thinking and come to KNOW.  God does not test us because HE doesn’t know; He tests us because we don’t know.

David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

Now, my students surely did not ask for Tuesday’s test.  As a matter of fact, they have an option to complete another assignment and NOT take the test.  A few have informed me that they are choosing this option.  Like them, we would sometimes like to opt out of the test, to have a choice to maybe complete another assignment.  But like the Psalmist, we should cry out to God asking Him to test us and to show us now – in the good times, in the calm times, in the easy times what is in our hearts – our places of weakness.

When I score my students’ tests, I spend even more time writing feedback so that they know and understand exactly why they received the grade they did.  I want them to understand any shortcomings in their responses.  THAT is how they learn and how they grow, especially on the interim assessments because THE test is coming – the Final Exam.

We have a Final Exam coming too!  My students can look at the Course Syllabus and see the exact date and time of their exam, but we do not know when the end will come.  My students have a window of time in which to study and prepare.  They may not study every day, but they understand the finite calendar before them.

We do not know how long we have to prepare, so TODAY is the best time for us to prepare.  TODAY is the day for us to seek God and to petition His testing so that we will know, understand and grow.

THIS WEEK cry out to God.

(1)  Ask Him to search you, to know your heart, to test you and to show you your weaknesses.  Be open to and welcome the knowledge of any shortcomings He shows you. (James 1:2, 4).  Then ask Him to help you grow in your trust and faith in Him.

(2)  If you are in the midst of testing – whether it is from God or testing that He has permitted, do not seek another assignment, but ask Him for what is needed for you to go through.  Do not spend time asking Him “why” but rather ask “what.”  What would He have you to know and learn from this testing?  Identify and recruit prayer partners who will commit to praying with and for you during this season.