Prayer prompts for the week of Jan. 31

I was just about to upload next week’s posts when I realized that I missed all of last week! :/  Here ya go …


Journey or Destination?

In your opinion, which is better: the journey or the destination? I can think of occasions when both answers were true in my life. On a cruise, the ports of call are lovely, but the journey is also a lot of fun. On a road trip, the drive can be exhausting, yet some of my favorite memories were made on the highway, so I guess that one kinda depends. On a flight, the arrival tends to be more enjoyable to me than the getting there part.


What about your life, in general? Are you focused on the day-to-day, or do you have your sights set on eternity? Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of wonderful things to experience in life. My question, though, is whether that should be our focus. Check out what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-21. He referred to the Christian life as striving toward a goal, using the imagery of a race with a heavenly prize at the finish line.


We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we only thought about the finish line and neglected the steps we need to take along the way. However, I think more often than not, we take side trips, detours, or stop to take a nap (spiritually speaking) and distract our minds from the ultimate destination of spending eternity with the Lord. In Philippians 3:20 (NLT), Paul explained, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” We don’t belong here; we’re just visiting.


King Solomon put this idea in different words in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. He described how futile it is to chase after pleasure, because such things don’t last. As a man who had everything his heart could desire, he still experienced much emptiness. Here was a man who had more wealth, fame, possessions, relationships, and accolades than any of us could ever dream, but at the end of the day, he considered it all meaningless.


Life is fleeting (Psalm 39:4, Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 Peter 1:24). I would encourage you to keep your eye on the prize, yet still live for Christ in the here and now. This life is our opportunity to share the love and hope of Jesus with others, and we ought to be making the most of our time here.


(Sunday) James 4:14 describes our life like the morning fog: here only temporarily. What will you do today that matters for eternity?


(Monday) My yard is dead/dormant for winter. Isaiah 40:6-8 describes our lives like grass that withers away, but the word of God lasts forever.


(Tuesday) Job 14:5 tells us that God knows the exact length of our lives. Commit each day like a marathon trainer, with a heavenly prize awaiting you.


(Wednesday) In Psalm 39:4, King David asks God to remind him how brief life is. Too easily, we can get ensnared by the world and lose our eternal focus.


(Thursday) We read in Genesis that God breathed life into Adam. Psalm 39:5 reminds us that our lives are a breath – a mere moment compared to eternity.


(Friday) We who are in Christ have our names are written in the Book of Life, and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20, Rev. 3:5). Praise God!


(Saturday) Job 14:2 describes life as a passing shadow. May we keep our eyes on the Son and reflect his light to the world around us.


Impending Death … and Hope (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 15, 2015)

I received some devastating news this week about an old mentor and kind friend. As things stand now, it looks like she has advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. I am terribly sad, and yet I feel a strong sense of peace for her. She loves the Lord, she adores her family, and she cares about her fellow man. She is passionate about justice, and not just the kind that penalizes criminals for wrongdoings, but the kind that rights the wrongs in the world. She is an advocate, a brilliant thinker, and a confidante.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless Jesus returns to take us home before then, there is a 100% chance that you will die. How does that make you feel? Does the notion of dying fill you with dread or joy? Like it or not, as James 4:14 and Psalm 103:15-16 point out, our lives are like a mist puffed into the air or a dandelion blowing in the wind – only temporary.


While imprisoned for the gospel, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had a very matter-of-fact view about death: if he lived, then he had more opportunity to serve the Lord. If he died, then he got to be with Jesus. Win-win!


For a long while after my brother died, I had peculiar feelings that could only be described as jealousy. I hesitated to share it, because I didn’t want anyone mistakenly thinking that I was suicidal. It’s just that the more I thought about him being in the very presence of God in heaven, it felt like I got the short end of the stick. I/we were left behind to grieve and cope, to continue living in this broken world of sin and despair and problems, while he was free from such entanglements. How I long to be with Christ!


Easter is just around the corner, and it is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, I love the festivities of Christmas, and I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving, but wow – Easter! Easter is a reminder that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). Easter is about the resurrection, newness, eternal life, victory, and HOPE.


It is with this everlasting hope in my heart that I can say to my sweet friend: Go in peace. Go to Jesus, relish in his presence, and enjoy the reward for your labors. I will always cherish having the opportunity to know you and call you my friend.

The grief I don’t discuss

I had an email exchange with an old friend last night that started me thinking. (Not that *we* are old, but we’ve been friends since middle school, lost touch somewhere between her move to another state and our lives after high school, then reconnected a few years ago thanks to the marvels of Facebook.) She has a unique perspective on health and fitness that begins not only with nutrition and exercise, but also with a healthier understanding of self-worth. I strongly encourage you to watch her recent conference presentation about her own journey.

According to the Holmes & Rahe stress scale, which measures life stressors such as changes in work & family, illnesses and finances, I scored 282 points in the past year. A score of 300+ puts you at risk of stress-related illness. (“Moderate risk” is 150-299.) To take it a step further, I scored 734 points over the past five years. So, yeah, life has been a wee bit stressful. Interestingly, even some of the really wonderful things — like finishing school — are counted on the stress scale. It makes sense, though, because it is a significant shift in how I spend my time and manage my day-to-day life.

The thing is, I have talked/vented/cried/blogged at length about my brother’s death five-plus years ago. In fact, aside from this post, I reckon that nearly all of the entries in this Grief category have to do with him, in some regard. Yet, there are other sources of stress and grief that I have experienced that I don’t talk much about, and the elephant in the room is my divorce.

Talking about my brother’s death and my grief journey feels like the right thing to do. I want others to be encouraged in their own grieving scenarios, and it also helps me to talk about it. My hope is that God receives glory through the whole process. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in talking about losing him; no one can blame me for my brother’s death.

Talking about my divorce, on the other hand, feels … different. There is a very real sense of shame — perhaps largely self-imposed, but it’s still there. Self-worth and shame go hand-in-hand. Twenty-year-old Me would have told Thirty-something-Me that she was giving up, throwing in the towel, disobeying the Lord, breaking a promise. Twenty-year-old Me had a fenced-in view of the world and believed that a marriage between two Christians would be healthy and stable, by definition. Twenty-year-old Me would have been adamant that the only two acceptable reasons for divorce are abuse and infidelity, and anything other than those extreme situations means that you should just put on your big girl panties and work through it. Oh, Twenty-year-old Me … you were so very naive.

Part of the reason I don’t talk about it much — in fact, I still run into acquaintances around town who I’ve known for years and realize they don’t even know that I’m no longer married — is because sharing my pain/hurt/frustrations feels a lot like gossiping or berating another individual. Besides that, even trying to verbalize the 1,001 things that were wrong with my marriage would probably sound like a trite list of petty crimes. In the grand scheme of things, did it really matter that he seldom cleared his plate from the dinner table, mowed the yard without being asked for three weeks, or suggested going on a date without me having to plan it? Probably not, but when combined with 998 other things, those seemingly minor issues became major indicators of a relationship severely lacking in care, responsibility, attention, initiative and love.

During our separation, he told me, “I said that I would never leave you. You are the one doing this.” Guilt trip much? But it was true. I did initiate it, and he was correct that he didn’t walk out on me. Yet, what he failed to realize is that he had already left me in every way other than physically walking out the door. He had disconnected, disengaged, and withdrawn into himself years before we actually got divorced. Ours wasn’t a healthy marriage; we were roommates who raised kids [somewhat] together.

I was a solo parent long before I became a single parent. In fact, “only” having five kids to raise actually feels a little easier than having six people in the house to tend to. He was a nearly invisible presence in our home that the kids would literally walk straight past in order to ask me something. Sometimes you could ask him a question, and he’d just look at you and never respond.

Our visitation arrangements are more flexible than the decree states, mainly due to his work schedule and living arrangements. What that means is that I have not had a full day and night to myself since the last time I went out of town. Even on days off when he says that he’ll take all of the kids for the day, he might show up around noon to get them, and then come back in a couple of hours because so-and-so and so-and-so were bickering, so he brought them home. WTH?!? I’d like to drop off so-and-so and so-and-so at his house one day and say, “Oh, they were arguing, so here you go — you deal with it. Bye!”

See what I mean? It’s hard to talk about without complaining, and I don’t want to complain. It doesn’t change anything, and I don’t want to sound like the nag he always accused me of being. I don’t see how talking about my divorce is helpful to anyone, except perhaps just to know that you’re not alone. If there is some good to come of it, then I’d like to know. I’d like to find a way to redeem the circumstance, but for now, I just deal with it like everything else that life has thrown in the mix. When it comes down to it, my sense of self-worth is negatively impacted, and it’s something that I’m going to have to work to overcome.

Deliver Us (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 23, 2014)

A friend confided in me recently that she is angry with God because he has not yet delivered a loved one from the noose of alcoholism, despite her years of prayer. I struggled with how to respond, because even though I may think I understand a few things, God’s reasons and his thoughts are far beyond mine. For the record, I believe whole-heartedly that he is fully capable of delivering us from addictions, healing us of diseases and injuries, and intervening on our behalf in ways that we’ll never understand. And yet, I also believe that he allows us to make choices that are harmful because we are his beloved, not his puppets.

We could run in circles asking “Why God?” questions. Why didn’t you fix my marriage? Why didn’t you take away the cancer? Why didn’t you miraculously keep that accident from happening?

The short, honest answer is I don’t know. The four gospels are chock-full of stories of Jesus healing people, and yet he hints in John 9 that sometimes there are deeper meanings to our sufferings. Some of the stories are vague, like Matthew 4:23 (NIV), where it simply states that he healed “every disease and sickness among the people.”

In many instances, the healing is accompanied by praise and/or renewed purpose, like Matthew 8:14, where Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is healed from a raging fever, and she begins waiting on him. When Jesus healed the paralyzed man in Mark 2, the man took his mat and left; he didn’t sit back down and continue being crippled.

Think about all the times (and there were lots!) in the Old Testament when the Israelites cried out to God: “Deliver us!” … and he did. Then, they went back to their old ways, disobeying the Lord till they got sick of themselves and cried out again: “Deliver us!” … and he did. Round and round they went. How often do we get upset about problems in our lives that were self-inflicted?

God’s deliverance may end up looking like something completely different from what we were asking or expecting. Hold onto hope, even when it is hard to understand.