Wednesday, September 29

How the Other Half Lives

Today, I bring you one of my favorite storytellers, Billy Coffey. Be sure to visit his site
How the Other Half Lives

“Do not set your mind on high things,
but associate with the humble.”
(Rom. 16b NKJV)

 Let me tell you about Danny, the richest person I know.

His father owned a construction business that through hard work and entrepreneurial skill grew from one crew of five to ten crews of twelve. Migrants, mostly. Of questionable legality. But this was the sixties, and such things weren’t the issue they are now.

Danny was groomed from a young age to take over the business. At twelve, he began working alongside his father’s employees during summer vacation. It was backbreaking work, sweaty and dirty, but his father was adamant. Work your way up, he told Danny. That’s the best way.

The thinking behind that was simple. If Danny had a working knowledge of how to build, the business side of building would come easier. That was true. But also true was that Danny got to see how the other half lived. The people he worked with—the ones who hammered the nails and laid the brick—didn’t go home to big houses or dine in fancy restaurants. They were the ones who scraped by on what little Danny’s father paid them.

And it was little. Not even minimum wage. No benefits, no insurance, no vacation time. That’s about the time Danny pieced together why his father preferred the migrants. They weren’t in much of a position to complain.

His father rationalized his actions in the way we all sometimes rationalize ours—he spoke of the greater good. He talked of the good life he provided for his family and the successful business Danny would inherit. “That’s just the way the world works,” he told Danny one day. “People like us will always be more important than people like them.”

Fast forward forty years.

The construction company Danny owns no longer consists of ten crews of twelve men. It’s now thirty crews of fifteen. They are still mostly migrants, though he makes sure none have any legal question marks. Most days you can catch him at home with his wife and two children, along with however many of his employees stop by for dinner—always a few, most times many, and all are welcome.

Danny’s company has grown far beyond anything his father thought possible. He still builds houses, but now also strip malls and apartment buildings. He even pitched in on the new hospital just down the road. He always makes time for churches (Danny charges only for expenses on those and never takes a dime for himself) and has a fondness for charities like Habitat for Humanity.

If you’d see him passing you on the road in his old truck and his dirty work shirt, you’d never imagine he’s a millionaire.

That’s the way Danny likes it.

Ask him why, and he’ll tell you it’s because he knows how to run a business. He’s worked his way up, you see. He’s seen the other side. He’ll tell you without blinking that his thoughts aren’t on getting more but giving more.

And he’ll tell you that in the end, it’s his father’s workers and not his father who’s made him who he is.


Friday, September 24

Be of the Same Mind

Today, we are back to our series. And I bring you another dear cyber-friend, JoAnne Bennett. If you get a chance, please visit her site Stories by JoAnne Bennett.

This time, we are on verse 16a of Romans 12, “Be of the same mind toward one another.” (NKJV)

Here’s JoAnne’s post…

Sounding a bit put off by my simple request for used children's clothes, my friend asked, “How do you know this mother is for real? You must be careful,” she scolded me as if all human beings pleading for help were supposed to be scammers.

I could understand my friend’s legitimate concern for my safety, but to me her response sounded more like a lame, selfish excuse not to give.

Ironically, I had been searching through Craigslist for a family in need of some kid’s clothes that had been passed on to me when the words in a single mother’s post grabbed at my heart, “Fled out of state from a bad situation with my five children and only the clothes on our backs. Please can you help us, my three daughters and one son need clothes to start school soon?”

From my own personal life story, I never doubted for a second that this young woman’s story was true. I couldn’t just walk away from her plight, without trying to lend a helping hand.

From our brief, e-mail correspondence, I learned that this mother’s abuser was facing a hard prison sentence this time for his offenses. Several days after being brutally attacked in front of their children, a daring friend intervened by calling the police and an ambulance for her severe injuries that required hospitalization.

Nightmares, bed wetting, living in constant fear seemed to make her more determined to run as far away as possible. Hurrying to put their belongings in storage, she packed the car with what was most precious—her children and the family dog as they headed off to make a fresh start.

Never did I expect to get such an amazing response from friends, neighbors, word of mouth and ads in newspapers. I picked up items for the family from some of the nicest individuals. We literally arranged to meet on street corners, parking lots, shopping malls and in parks. One of the most unforgettable experiences came from a woman who admirably wouldn’t allow her loving spirit to be broken.

Two of her family members had been murdered by gang violence, not too long before she answered my ad. As she explained, “I wanted to return the gift of kindness that came from even strangers during such a difficult time.”

Thanks to my many new-caring contacts, we replaced the kids’ hot-weather flip flops with school shoes and provided winter coats for each child in their favorite colors. And, although the mother repeatedly stressed that she wasn’t worried about herself, a number of generous individuals dropped off the start of a beautiful wardrobe for her as well.

As I was almost finished washing, packing by sizes, and labeling over 24 boxes of clothes with each of their names, to add a personal touch, my cautious friend asked me if there was anything else this family needed.

Thinking out loud, I answered, “The little boy is going to have much less than all his sisters.” Right away I went back to what I was doing and never gave her question much thought until she arrived with a large shopping bag of brand-new boy’s clothes.

Obviously, she had a change of heart and decided that this family was for real.

When I went to deliver all the boxes to the single mother, I felt like Santa Claus hanging out with my elf, a guy friend, who came along to be sure I was safe. Waiting in a grocery store parking lot, a tall young woman with high-heeled shoes and short-shorts climbed out of a van with a crew of adorable children in tow. Quite honestly, at first glance, I thought oh, my, what did I get myself into. She looked like a hooker.

After a few introductions, I could still see a child’s gentle innocence under the years of abuse in the mother's scared and battered face. While trying to help her find room for her kids as well as the many boxes, I watched her eyeing a box that had her name on it.

Before leaving, the young woman went back and opened her trunk again. Seeming to search for “her box, she grabbed out a pair of woman’s shoes.

Graciously thanking me again and saying she could never repay me for my kindness, she sat sideways in the driver’s seat of her van as she unfastened her stilettos. “Oh, that feels much better,” she smiled in relief while putting on her new loafers.

Lord, with your help, I accomplished what I set out to do as I remembered the words in her poignant post, “Fled with only the clothes on our backs.”

I believe that we all need angels at one time or another in our lives to help us through the tough stuff.

Sarah, you have such sweet, beautiful kids; what blessings! I was looking at your son and thinking that I was his same age when the police came to my house and took my alcoholic adoptive father away for domestic violence. And tragically, I never saw him again. Even at such a young age, I have never forgotten all the scary details. But I now know when I look into the eyes of a child or a hurting, young mother, what can help to make the painful experiences eventually subside. Take care!

Love, JoAnne

“Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” Romans 12:16 NKJV


Thursday, September 23

Blog tour for Francine Rivers' Her Daughter's Dream

Today, I thought you might be interested in Francine Rivers’ new book Her Daughter’s Dream. So, I bring you her book blog tour. If you would like to be in the drawing for the book give-away, just leave a comment at the end of this post.

About the book…

Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers (Tyndale House Publishers, September 2010)

In the dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best seller Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers delivers a rich and deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart and the grace and forgiveness that can heal even the deepest wounds.

Spanning from the 1950s to present day, Her Daughter's Dream, is the emotional final chapter of an unforgettable family saga about the sacrifices every mother makes for her daughter—and the very nature of unconditional love.

An interview with Francine…

*How has exploring the relationship between your mother and grandmother helped you understand yourself?

This is a question I would love readers to ask themselves at the end of Her Mother’s Hope. I realized early in the story that I have many of my grandmother’s and mother’s character traits, both good and bad. They both had tempers. So do I. They both had low self-esteem. I’m always striving to “measure up.”

They both chose spouses who respected them. So did I. Both women had strong faith and servants’ hearts, something they encouraged in me. My mother extended grace to others -- a trait I want to cultivate to the end of my days.

By holding onto her anger, Grandma lacked the peace and joy she could have had in her last years. I tend to relive past hurts. Writing about Marta made me decide to let go, forgive and move on. For whatever reason, Grandma couldn’t and missed out on so much joy in her last years.

Sometimes people deeply hurt as children take offense where none was intended. Holding a grudge causes suffering, especially for the one who won’t let go. Jesus said to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. Forgiveness frees us, even if the other person refuses to join in the process of reconciliation.

As I examine my own life, I see how much I’ve been forgiven. How can I not extend God’s grace to others? The best way to experience the fullness of God’s presence in my life is to surrender it to Him. And in that surrender, we are made more complete and joy-filled.

*Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated and fraught with emotional land mines. What was your approach to exploring the complexity of those relationships in a fictional setting?

Questions, lots of questions! Every time I told someone I was working on a book about mother-daughter relationships, people wanted to share their family stories. As I wrote Her Mother’s Hope, I wanted readers to see through each woman’s eyes, and understand how the past shaped each in the way she responded to her mother.

Hildemara doesn’t believe her mother loves her, but it is out of Marta’s pain and loss that tough-love techniques were forged. Marta wants to strengthen her daughter for whatever lies ahead. Sometimes what we view as rejection can actually be an act of sacrificial love. We seldom know the experiences that shaped our mothers, the deep hurts, traumatic events, broken relationships. I hope women who read this book will want to share those things with one another.

*After readers finish this series what do you want them to remember? What questions and feelings do you want it to provoke on a spiritual and emotional level?

I hope and pray readers who have had difficult relationships with their mothers or daughters will let go of the pain and anger and allow God to work in their lives. God can work all things together for good for those who trust and love Him. Following Jesus’ example changes the way we see people. It changes the way we relate to one another.

Even when the chasm is too deep to cross, we can decide to forgive. Some people wear grievances like a dirty coat. With God’s strength, we can strip it off and be free. When people finish reading Her Daughter’s Dream, I hope they will want to extend God’s grace and forgiveness. I hope they will tear down their walls and use their life experiences to begin building a bridge.

*Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of Her Daughter’s Dream?

I would love for you to visit my web site at, browse through the various events and other resources available, as well as sign up for my mailing list. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at for more information about blog tour management services.


Monday, September 20

Rejoicing and Weeping

Today, it gives me great pleasure to bring you another dear cyber friend, whom I just met in person. I was so excited that I got to meet her and several other cyber-writer friends at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference.

This piece in our Behave Like a Christian series is written by Linda Yezak. I urge you to hop on over to her site 777 Peppermint Place and the site where she contributes the rest of her time AuthorCulture.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”(Rom. 12:15)

Our preacher, Brother Paul, climbed the stairs to the pulpit this morning and talked about his dad. We’d heard stories of Mr. Sevar before, his humor, wit, and quips, so we geared up to laugh at another one of his antics. Bro. Paul smiled with a love he reserves for speaking about his elderly dad, and said, “When I was brought into this world, my dad held me. Yesterday, I got to hold him when he left it.”

As he told us about his father’s death, Bro. Paul continued to smile, and I went through three Kleenexes. I was weeping while he rejoiced over his father’s entry into heaven, but inwardly, I rejoiced with him, just as he was probably weeping inwardly.

How odd that Saint Paul would have to tell the Christians of Rome to rejoice and weep with their family in Christ. You’d think that would come naturally. For me, the weeping part is no problem whatsoever. Truvy in Steel Magnolias said it for me: “I have a strict policy that no one cries alone in my presence.” I cry easily and at the silliest things, so you can imagine how I was blubbering at Bro. Paul's announcement.

The entire passage Lynn chose for her guest post extravaganza is a lesson on how to behave as a Christian. This verse in particular teaches us how to love our family in Christ—which is all rejoicing and weeping are, showing our brothers and sisters that we love them and care about their lives. This shouldn’t have to be taught—or should it?

Have we become so self-absorbed that we don’t notice those of our members who are hurt, going through a rough time, or lost? When a member of our family asks for prayers on Sunday, do we pray for them during the week? Not everyone steps to the front of the church for prayers when the invitation is offered. Do we look at those around us, read expressions, notice those who are in silent pain?

Do we let petty jealousies prevent us from celebrating with those who have reason to rejoice? Do we mock those whose accomplishments seem petty? Do we consider people who dare to mention their achievements arrogant? Do we consider it our responsibility to “knock them down a peg or two”?

I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t always notice those who may need a kind word, and I do tend to feel jealous when someone has achieved something that I long for. I’ve become far more self-absorbed as my daily life increases in busyness.

People are so precious to the Lord, so valuable that He bought them with the price of His Son’s blood. This isn’t a bartered price, it’s not a red-tag clearance sale. It’s exactly the price God believes we are worth, and He paid it. “There is no greater love than this,” Jesus said, “that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

He’s not requiring us to lay down our lives. He just wants us to love each other, celebrate with each other, have sympathy for each other. This requires interaction on our part, and it requires us to put someone else’s needs higher than our own.

Boiled down to their simplest forms, the tenets of our faith are to believe in Christ, love God, love everyone else. By loving everyone else, we’re showing we are Christians and we’re showing God our love for Him.

How easy it should be: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.


Thursday, September 16

Blessing Your Enemy

The next verse in our Romans 12 series is verse 14, entitled Bless Your Enemies and written by another cyber friend Teresa Criswell. Be sure to visit Teresa’s blog, Triumphant Victorious Reminders.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
~ Romans 12:14 ~

My shift was over. Getting ready to leave, I went into the office area to retrieve my check. As I approached the glass window of the door, I began to knock but stopped suddenly, when I realized that my manager was on the phone. She turned around to give me a look that revealed frustration and yelled, “What do you want?!”

Taken back by her reaction from her body language, face, and words, I stumbled over my words, as the ‘jab’ of her words took me by surprise. I finally said, “I apologize, I didn’t realize you were on the phone. I wanted to pick up my check.”

Suddenly, with great power this petite, thin woman violently opened the heavy door, which then ricocheted off the wall, slammed, and opened again. Frustrated, she had her phone resting between her shoulder and face, as she held the door open with her foot, picking up the pile of checks and, one at a time with extreme motion, shuffling through each one as she threw each one on the desk until she finally found mine.

As she finally found it, she jerked her arm towards me, extending my check towards me and finally said, “Here!” I turned around walking away when I heard an associate say, “Teresa, can you let her know that she has a phone call on line 2.”

I said, with a stunned chuckle, “This probably isn’t a great time to do that.”

Tempted to scream at the top of lungs, I walked outside, looked up at the sky, and through violently gritted teeth, I yelled, “GOD BLESS HER!”

I fought with the agony of wanting to leave. The ‘runner’ in me tried to talk to myself and say, “Get out of there!”

To make matters easier to leave, I worked at a particular restaurant chain in which this store was known to have the highest turnover rate in the whole state. The turnover was mainly due to her lack of ability to manage and coach people. It was quite overwhelming as this woman was someone you didn’t want on your bad side.

That moment, as I released a blessing over her, I had peace, even through the frustration. Within three hours, I realized I had a missed call and a message on my voicemail. Upon checking my voicemail, it was none other than her!

This woman, never known to apologize, was calling me to apologize for the way she acted and pled with me not to leave, explaining to me the events that led to her exploding. At that moment, I realized that the blessing of God that was released over her was also released over me.

I got to see God’s hand of favor and provision work on my behalf as His Word manifested making a way, getting through the uncomfortable situation. To hear her apology made me realize her need of wanting to be understood even through her embarrassing outburst.

I came back that same evening to work my double shift when I was able to hug her, watching God’s love be poured out upon an unlovable person.

Now, I realize this doesn’t happen often, but for me, through this situation, we became close friends and people that I worked with saw another side of this woman that none of us knew existed. It was amazing to see God utilize me to cultivate and experience the way God saw her as His loving embrace began to squeeze His life out of her.

There have been other scenarios in my life where I decided to bless my enemies, and I can confidently say, every time I had peace. I must say, most of the time, I was literally amazed watching the power of God move on my behalf, influencing the heart of the one who was considered my ‘enemy.’

The other times I didn’t see anything on their part change towards me; however, and most importantly, I saw change in my heart as compassion for that person came forth from the Holy Spirit of God.

The power of blessing our enemy is not because we decided to bless someone. It is because we have decided to become obedient to God and His Divine Nature who is The Blesser. We have been equipped to utilize God’s power of blessing over another person as we are able to sow righteous seed, seeing the righteous harvest of life from Almighty God, revealing His glory upon the earth!

I am reminded yet again, that to curse an enemy is to curse oneself; however, to bless an enemy is to bless oneself.


Monday, September 13

Given to Hospitality

Today, I’m happy to bring you my cyber-friend Susan Panzica again with the next installment of scripture from our series on Romans 12:9-16. If you haven’t done so, stop by and visit Susan’s blog Eternity Café.

“…given to hospitality.” Romans 12:13b NKJV

Three large tables were set as I walked into the women’s meeting:

* The first table was Martha Stewart perfect with fine china, starched linens, gleaming glassware, sparkling silverware.
* The second was comfy casual with paper plates and plastic utensils.
* The third table merely had a large paper grocery sack with a bag of chips in it.

As the women filed into the room, they filled up the paper sack table first. The paper plate table ended up half-filled. Not one woman sat at the Martha Stewart table.

Such was the speaker’s intention. Her topic that day was hospitality. And it was wildly apparent that comfort trumped perfection.

For a long time, I was disobedient to God’s call to hospitality. I wouldn’t welcome friends to my home unless it was straightened up, perfectly decorated, a showplace. But I’ve since learned that people feel much more comfortable when a home appears lived-in.

As much as I love to learn new recipes and crafts, I believe Martha Stewart has done a grave disservice to women everywhere.

Hospitality isn’t about the home. It’s about the people in it.

Perhaps the Scripture passage most often used to discuss hospitality is the familiar story of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42)

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, often hosted Jesus and His followers when they were in Bethany. I’m sure the arrival of these frequent guests, though welcome, required much work for their hosts.

Mary is usually pictured sitting at Jesus’ feet, but Martha said that Mary “left me to serve alone.” That tells me that Mary was serving before she sat down to listen to His words. Both sisters were serving when Martha and Mary each made a choice. Mary chose the “good part.” She stopped serving to pay attention to her Guest; Martha continued “distracted…, worried and troubled.”

I don’t believe the main issue here is busyness vs. resting as is often suggested. I believe it is hospitality.

While we shouldn’t be distracted, worried or troubled about it, we do need to be busy serving. Jesus came as a servant and declared that He was the example to follow (John 13:13-15). His mission statement was that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).

Later, at another dinner in Jesus’ honor, the day before His triumphal entry to Jerusalem, we see Martha busy serving again, yet this time without complaint (John 12:2). This time her sister anointed Jesus for His burial. This time Martha understood hospitality. Her focus was on her Guest.

I am not “given to hospitality” if I am fluttering around the kitchen, if I am distracted by my preparations, if I am more concerned with how my home looks or my food tastes than with how my comfortable my guests feel. I am “given to hospitality” if I pay attention to my guests and what they have to say.

Hospitality is about esteeming your guest, not putting on a presentation. The only presentation we are asked to give is to present our “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1)

And hospitality isn’t limited to guests in our homes. It’s about our lives. We practice hospitality whenever we take a genuine interest in the people around us - friends, family, acquaintances, strangers; people in church, at our jobs, the supermarket, the mall, or the park; people on the phone, online, or in person.

The NIV and NLT translations of Romans 12:13b state, “Practice hospitality.” And we all know, “practice makes perfect.”


Friday, September 10

Distributing to the Needs of the Saints

Today’s series serving of scripture is from Romans 12:13a and is written by another cyber-friend Susan Panzica. Be sure to drop by and visit Susan’s blog Eternity Café.

“…distributing to the needs of the saints…”
Rom. 12:13a NKJV

My 2 children have traveled the world on various short term mission trips for the last nine years. This year’s trips have had perhaps the most profound impact of all their trips.

Since their trips, I have found myself “accidentally meditating.” A lyric from a favorite worship song “Hosanna” is just stuck in my head. “Break my heart for what breaks Yours…”

Over 60 years ago, Dr. Bob Pierce prayed similar words: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” In 1947, as a war correspondent and evangelist, he traveled to China with Youth for Christ, and his heart was broken by the needs of one little girl. Pledging a monthly sponsorship for her, Dr. Bob Pierce began World Vision to help children orphaned in the Korean War.

In the decades that followed, World Vision has fulfilled the calling of Romans 12:13a, “share with God’s people who are in need,” by providing global relief using clean water as an entry point into communities, following with other activities that create change and ultimately bring transformation through the gospel.

Last Christmas, our family participated in the Advent Conspiracy and substituted gifts for each other with the purchase clean water, sewing machines, a stocked fishing pond, and a flock of sheep for those in need overseas. And closer to home, we take part in our church’s homeless ministry that meets the needs of men from a local Christian shelter.

All these ministries seek to meet the needs of those in need. But there are many NON-Christians who also care for the poor, who sacrifice life and limb to live in impoverished nations, who serve in the Peace Corps, the military, the inner cities, Indian reservations, homeless shelters, safe houses for abused…

As my meditation continued on what breaks God’s heart, I began to realize some other things, some personal things that break His heart. I silently but loudly heard His question to me: You can love people around the world, but can you love the person sitting next to you?

What breaks God’s heart? Not just children dying in Africa. I realized that it breaks God’s heart when my attitudes and actions represent the enemy more than they represent Him. While we need to care for the “least of these,” we ought not to do it out of obligation and then have Him say, “I never knew you.” (Matt.25)

It grieves God when His people act like they don’t know Him. He’s not as grieved by sinners who act like sinners as He is by Christians who act like sinners. If we meet the physical needs of the poor, but are judgmental, critical, envious, prideful, angry, or filled with false Pharisee holiness, we are not obeying His call to holy living.

If we truly want to love our neighbor as ourselves, that includes loving the unlovely. “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Any sinner does that. … In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matt. 5:48 MSG)

As Christians, we must “share with God’s people who are in need.” And we must do so with the assurance that as we do, we are ministering to Jesus Himself. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’” (Matt. 25:35-40 NLT)

My prayer today is found in the surrounding lyrics of “Hosanna”:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours

Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I go from nothing to

May it be your prayer, too!


Tuesday, September 7

Continuing-and Failing-in Prayer

Today, we are back to our series in Romans. I hope you are enjoying the different flavors that all my sweet cyber-friends have added to the wonderful broth of these scriptures.

Today’s verse is Romans 12:12c…“continuing steadfastly in prayer.” (NKJV) Or as The Message states it, “Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.” This one is written by K. M. (Katie) Weiland. If you enjoy Katie’s contribution, hop on over to her site Wordplay.

Continuing—and Failing—in Prayer

Romans 12:12c encourages us to continue steadfastly in prayer, but “steadfast” is something we most decidedly are not. We pray when we feel like it, we pray when we want something, we pray when we’re in trouble.

The rest of the time, we’re lucky if we remember to give the Lord a nod and wink as we rise from our beds to face another morning. What we often fail to realize is that in neglecting prayer, we not only neglect our Lord, we also turn our backs on the blessings He wants to share with us.

I don’t like winter. The Midwestern cold gets in my bones and the gray days weigh down my spirits. So, I wait with longing for the cold months to end and the spring sun to warm my body and soul. Every morning in March and April, I sit in bed, my Bible in my lap, and listen for the golden voice of the first meadowlark, that sure harbinger of a Nebraska spring.

This year, the meadowlark was a harbinger of more than just warm weather; it was a reminder of the blessings of steadfast prayer. One morning, I was sitting in bed, mumbling my way around a prayer. The day before, I had fallen into an old pit of sin, one I’d repented of and sworn off many times before. That morning, I felt full of shame as I faced the realization of my failure.

I couldn’t go on like this. Willfully sinning, repenting, sinning. How could God forgive me—again? Would He blot out my sin, even though I had rebelliously thrown it in His face once again? Or would He now cast me aside? Would He bring the thunder and lightning and the punishment I so rightly deserved? All the little blessings I didn’t deserve—not to mention the larger ones—would the God of justice not take them from me now?

As I pondered my weakness—my complete lack of steadfastness—my prayer grew. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Make me steadfast in prayer that I might be steadfast in life.

I didn’t expect an answer. I was content to know that He had heard me and that He would work His will in my life, even if that will meant the punishments I undoubtedly deserved. But then, I heard it.

Outside my window, for the first time that spring, a meadowlark trilled.

Was not this one of those little blessings I craved but couldn’t deserve because of my lack of steadfastness? Was not this the voice of the God of mercy, assuring me of His love and His grace and forgiveness? I’m unworthy of even one song from a meadowlark. But, in His infinite love, God gives me not only that, but life and life again. And again. And again. And again.

He tells us to be steadfast, but He knows we’ll falter. And every time we stray, every time our faith weakens, and our prayers trickle into flippancy and impatience, He brings us back to a solid foothold in His mercy and His forgiveness.

And every time He does, He gives us the opportunity to grow in Him and to take one more step up the ladder in learning how to address Him in the kind of steadfast prayer He deserves from us.


Monday, September 6


photo courtesy of Michael Toy @flickr

Hope…sometimes stuck in our finite brains as wishful thinking, as a “pie in the sky” kind of thing, but…

…hope is not wishful thinking!

What others say about hope…

*Love floods us with hope. ~Jareb Teague
*Hope is grief’s best music. ~Author Unknown
*Hope is the physician of each misery. ~Irish Proverb
*Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. ~Christopher Reeve
*Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier. ~Author Unknown
*You’ve gotta have hope. Without hope life is meaningless. Without hope life is meaning less and less. ~Author Unknown
*Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. ~Dale Carnegie
*When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you’re slamming the door in the face of God. ~Charles L. Allen

So, if hope is not wishful thinking, what is it? It is active participation in trust!

Scripture says, “And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.” (Rom. 5:4 TLB)

How does the dictionary define the word hope?

Whether as a noun or a verb, it describes hope as the feeling or desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment, as that which is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best, a person or thing in which expectations are centered, to expect with confidence, to believe, trust, or rely, or to cherish a desire with anticipation.

How does the New Testament define ‘hope’? Two words are used…

*The first word is a noun, elpis, which means expectation whether of good or of ill, rarely in a bad sense, fear; in a good sense: expectation of good, hope; and in the Christian sense, joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation. It is always translated (in the KJ) as hope.

*The other NT word is a verb, elpizo, which comes from elpis, meaning to expect, confide, or trust. Many times in the KJ, it is translated as trust.

Of all the usages of the word hope in scripture, most are expressed by Paul. He sprinkled his letters and speeches with phrases of hope, such as:

* “the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8)
* “in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2)
* “the hope of your calling” (Eph 4:4)
* “the hope of righteousness” (Gal. 5:5)
* “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:5)
* “the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)

“The God of hope” (Rom. 15:13) has authored our hope. And Jesus, as Paul said, is the one “on whom we have set our hope” (2 Cor. 1:10), “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Many are suffering great challenges right now, extreme health issues, deep financial troubles, devastating grief or loss, and the list goes on.

During dark times of adversity, hope keeps us spiritually alive. It brightens our paths and heightens our awareness of the Lord’s presence.

Have you misplaced your hope, instead placing it in your finances, job, family, possessions, or spouse? Or have you lost it altogether?

We cannot live without hope. Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12 NKJV)

We need to fortify the hope that God has placed within us. David tells us to “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Ps. 31:24 NKJV) Paul also encourages us, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5 NKJV)

No matter what may transpire in my life, I will say as David said to the Lord, “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more,” (Ps. 71:14 NKJV) and pray as he did, “Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Ps. 119:116 NKJV)

Will you be filled with hope, no matter what?

Father, I ask that You will touch the lives of those reading this and that You will bring renewed hope to reside in their hearts, giving them trust and strength to cling to You whatever may cross their paths. Fill their lives with health, peace, protection, prosperity, success, comfort, joy, love, and their hearts’ desires. In Jesus’ name I ask this…amen! So be it!

***This is part of Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. Check it out to see the other submissions.


Thursday, September 2

Patient in Tribulation

Today is the next segment in our series. I’m happy to bring you the post of another cyber-friend, Sandra Heska King. Be sure hop over and visit her site,

Patient in Tribulation

“. . . patient in tribulation . . .” Romans 12:12b (NKJV)

My apologies to the men in the audience, but as I studied and meditated on these three words, my mind returned again and again to this example, flawed as it may be.

Many women of a certain age go bravely each year into a place where men dare not go. Where we willingly place a portion of our body on an ice cold altar to be pressed and crushed between two plates.

At some point, the vise releases, only to readjust and squeeze again. We are asked to grab a support and lean into it, and we remain in place, abide the stress, because we know that “this, too, shall pass.”

We have hope that we will pass the test and prove clean. Or that the films will expose bumps and lumps that the doctor can remove before they cause extensive damage.

Okay, so maybe it’s not a perfect illustration. In the scheme of things, really, a mammogram is just a minor discomfort, an inconvenience.

The tribulation Paul talks about is thlipsis, and literally means a pressing together. It carries the idea of stomping grapes to make wine or even mashing potatoes to create something delicious.

It’s big-time life stuff. Affliction. Crushing circumstances. Things that test our character and our faith. Things that tempt us to run from the only One Who supports us. Things allowed by the One Who wants us to shine like diamonds.

And what about patience? That’s hupomone and means to abide, stay, and remain under. To bear calmly and with courage. It’s also translated as perseverance and endurance. We don’t resign ourselves to a bad situation, but we face it knowing that God will ultimately turn it into something good.

It’s hanging in and hanging on. It’s the starch in our spines that bears us up. It’s discipline and a perspective that allows us to see sorrow tinged with glory.

It’s Beethoven’s resolve when he faced his deafness and stated in a letter that he would “seize Fate by the throat; it shall not bend or crush me completely.”

It’s Derek Redmondwho leaned on his father and hobbled across the finish line in excruciating pain to complete his race.

Amy Carmichael wrote in Candles in the Dark that “the best training is to learn to accept everything as it comes, as from Him whom our soul loves. The tests are always unexpected things, not great things that can be written up, but the common little rubs of life, silly little nothings, things you are ashamed of minding one scrap. Yet they can knock a strong man over and lay him very low.”

And anyway, it’s not like we shouldn’t expect tribulation. Jesus said we’d face it.

“These things I have spoken to you, that you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)

But we can rejoice in and through the hard times because we have hope.

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18 Msg)