Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Just Talk with Jesus: Protection

...You have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. (Psalm 63:7)


Now may the God of peace Himself
sanctify you completely.
And may your spirit, soul, and body 
be kept sound and blameless 
for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, 
who also will do it.
Brothers, pray for us also.
(I Thessalonians 5:23-24 HCSB Read it in context here)

I use a prayer of St. Patrick to remind me of the Apostle Paul's prayers for himself and his friends. Today I'm looking at prayers for protection. In these verses from I Thessalonians, Paul prayed that his converts would be separated from evil (sanctified), and kept safe and holy physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Patrick prayed "Christ as a shield, overshadow me." Let's think about being in Christ's shadow for a few moments.: to be in the shadow of someone or something, I must be relatively close to it. If a child is walking close enough to a parent to be in their shadow, they are close enough to be cared for and protected.

In human terms, the word "overshadow" carries negative connotations of being less than the person whose shadow I am under. But as I think of being "overshadowed" by Jesus, this becomes a comforting truth, because I want to put my trust in something greater than I.

A shadow can also be a place of shade, a respite from the burning sun, and a place to be comfortable and refreshed. What a perfect description of being near to Jesus!

...We have run to God for safety. Now His promises should greatly encourage us to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us. This hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls...
(Hebrews 6:19-19 CEV)

O Lord my Shield,
You overshadow me with your peace,
covering me with your love and grace.
You are my refuge and my fortress;
I trust in your faithfulness.

_______
I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." Today's post is adapted from my book Sacred Signposts. I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase from a scripture portion to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is "shield."




photo credit: Doonagore Castle, clear skies via photopin (license)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: Pray Like a Gourmet

I am not a gourmet cook. I can put together a decent meal that my family enjoys, but it is never anything fantastic. My husband, however, is a gourmet cook. I look forward to every meal all summer long, because Mark is home and he cooks. He takes the simplest ingredients and makes something delectable.

I thought about this as I read Pray Like a Gourmet. I want to look forward to prayer. I don’t want prayer to be a monotonous dull duty. I want to enjoy it, to taste its different flavors and treasure my time with the Lord. Prayer is communication with the Creator. Prayer can be creative!

Is there something in your spirit that keeps telling you it should be different: more interesting, more engaging, more creative, more profound? Does your prayer life feel like you’re eating the same food over and over every day—mixing the same ingredients but hoping for a new, more enticing dish? (page 7)

Author David Brazzeal seeks to expand our prayer palettes. He describes different kinds of prayer:
Adoration or praise
Confession
Thanksgiving
Supplication or asking
Observation
Intercession
Meditation
Contemplation
Blessing
Lamenting
Joining

As the author explores each type of prayer, he shares exercises and examples to put them into practice right away. I really appreciate his approach. He does not describe the different types with the goal of checking off every box every day. It’s more like a menu: these are available, what do you and God need to talk about today? And how can you enter into that prayer with creativity and expectation?

The book is beautiful—full of colors and sketches. There are ideas for praying alone and praying in a group. This paragraph caught my attention:

There really is a natural interplay between my spirituality and my creativity. When I enter into a spirit of prayer, I can cultivate a receptive space and actually ask God for creative ideas that will enhance my praying. Then, these creative practices allow me to enter into the spiritual space even more quickly and deeply. The result is a spiraling effect leading to ever-expanding dimensions, encompassing both deeper spirituality and heightened creativity. (page 23)

This is a nourishing book for my own prayer time, but it would be a fun and thought-provoking book to discuss in a group, especially over a great meal.

…Prayer, like the grace of God, is new every morning. The way we pray can morph itself to our emotions. It adapts itself to our agenda [and, I would add, to God’s agenda!]. It flows into our real-world, here-and-now realities. It blows through shut windows, locked doors, and closed countries…It nourishes our souls like nothing else. (page 174)

The author sent me a copy of Pray Like a Gourmet and asked me to review it. This simple review today is just the beginning as I dive into this book over the summer. I will be looking at each type of prayer in more detail. This book deserves more than just a read-through--although it is certainly an enjoyable read. I'm going to savor a chapter a week. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Just talk with Jesus: Light

Make your ways known to me, Lord, teach me Your paths. (Psalm 25:4)



St. Patrick prayed, “Christ, as a light, illumine and guide me.” This reminds me of Paul’s prayer for enlightenment:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be may be enlightened…(Ephesians 1:17-18)

Read Ephesians 1 here.

The Greek word Paul used for revelation in Ephesians 1:18 means “uncovering” or “revealing God;” knowledge is “exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition.” Think for a moment about carrying a flashlight on a dark night: it allows you to discern dangers on your path as well as to recognize the familiar faces of friends. It uncovers truth and increases your knowledge about your surroundings. Jesus is your Light on dark or uncertain days.

Here are three more prayers from Paul, asking for guidance and knowledge:

And I pray this, that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ. 
(Philippians 1:10 HCSB)
…We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9 HCSB)
…That they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. 
(Colossians 2:2-3 HCSB)

These are really beautiful requests to make for friends, for children or for people in ministry. If you read this blog regularly, you might remember that I blogged about Jesus, the Light recently. This is one of my favorite prayer words and topics. Talk to the Light, and ask for light. Tell him you trust him to be your light today.

_____

I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." Today's post is adapted from my book Sacred Signposts. I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is "treasure."


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Just talk with Jesus

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)




"Prayer is just talking to Jesus." I've heard this all my life. But several years ago, I felt stuck in my prayer habits. I had a prayer list I dutifully read most days. I talked to God now and then throughout my day, but I was a very tired mom of three young daughters, and I seemed to be asking for the same things over and over. Sleep. Energy. Quiet. 

I asked God for a more meaningful prayer life, and He answered by bringing an ancient prayer to my attention. At first I saw it as an intriguing poem, but when I learned it was a modern translation of a prayer by St. Patrick, I was fascinated! (I am interested in all things Irish.)

Christ as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek,
yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.

I hummed this prayer when I did not have my own words to pray. It expressed everything I wanted to say. I felt a new peace, as I realized that Jesus Christ really does surround me as this prayer states.

One Sunday, on a vacation in Portland, Oregon, I heard a sermon on a prayer of the Apostle Paul. His requests sounded familiar to me. I began to study Paul’s prayers. They are scattered throughout the New Testament. I realized that Patrick’s prayer could be used to summarize nine of Paul’s prayer topics. (Want to know more about St. Patrick?)

I am going to visit these nine topics over the next nine days, choosing one word each day as my prayer word.

I like to begin my prayer time with a few verses from Psalms. Join me in Psalm 63:1-8.

Lord, you know my longing for a deeper prayer life.
You know I want to speak with you, not just demand your help
Or read my prayer list.
I ask for a new dedication to prayer
And a new devotion to you.

_____

I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." Today's post is adapted from my book Sacred Signposts. I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is "devoted."

photo credit: Cottage Window via photopin (license)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just BE with Jesus; the Alpha and Omega


He restores my soul...(Psalm 23:3)


Read Revelation 1:1-8

Jesus used the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet when he called himself "the Alpha and Omega."

He is all we need.
He is the Bread,
the Light,
the Way,
and the Door.

He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead. (Colossians 1:17-18 NLT)
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth 
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:7-8)
And my God will supply every need of yours 
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. 
Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20)

So much glorious truth, Lord.
All I can say is
"Amen."


_______
I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is “all."

photo credit: DSC01505 via photopin (license)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Just BE with Jesus: "I am Jesus"

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)



Read Acts 9:1-22

I've been reading the "I am" statements in the gospel of John, and as I came to the last one, I thought of a time Jesus said "I am" in the book of Acts. He spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus--Saul the terrible persecutor of Christians--and said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

Jesus reached out to Saul and revealed his greatness to him (that bright light from heaven) and identified himself with the Christians. Jesus didn't say, "You are persecuting my followers." He said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

What an encouraging statement to any who are treated harshly because of their Christian faith. Jesus suffers with you. He feels your pain and heartache.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows...(Isaiah 53:4)
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
 and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9)

Jesus' words to Saul are also encouraging to any who are feeling far away from Jesus. You couldn't get much further away than Saul was at that moment! Yet Jesus was there with him, speaking to him and calling his name.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off 
have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
...Believe in the Lord Jesus,
and you will be saved...(Acts 16:31)

Thank you
Lord Jesus
that you are near
you see every detail of my life
and you care.


_______
I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is “near."

photo credit: sky via photopin (license)






Thursday, June 18, 2015

Just BE with Jesus: the Vine

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)



Read John 15:1-17

I think the Vine is one of the most beautiful "I Am" statements. The Vine gives the branches nourishment. The Vine enables the fruit-bearing that gives the branches a purpose. The Vine gives the branches support. I like to think of the Vine encouraging me to just hang in there!

What does it mean to bear fruit, anyway? If Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches, what is fruit? In Romans, Paul speaks of longing for a "fruitful ministry," using the word "fruit" to mean converts who are growing spiritually:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. (Romans 1:13 HCSB)

Look at these other kinds of fruit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...(Galatians 5:22-23)
...Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:5)

Look back at the prayer from the book of Jude that began this post. He is able. When we are weak, the Vine is strong. When we are helpless, He is our help. Apart from him, we can do nothing.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Lord Jesus, I find such peace
in trusting you to be the Vine.
You strengthen me,
you give me a purpose,
and you provide everything I need.

______
This blogpost is based on my book, You Are Here. I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is “abide."

photo credit: Napa Valley via photopin (license)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Just BE with Jesus: the Way, the Truth and the Life

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; 
for you I wait all the day  long. (Psalm 25:5)



Read John 14:1-30.

I am so grateful that Jesus saves us from our sin and promises us a home in heaven, and he doesn't leave us to just wander aimlessly around on earth in the meantime. He guides us every day, opening his truth to us and infusing us with his life.

Yesterday I told you about my dark tunnel year. The darkness ended in great joy when our daughter was born. I settled into the routine of stay at home motherhood, and I loved it. A few months later, my husband lost his job. He found a new job very quickly, but it involved a move from Oregon's lush Willamette Valley to the dusty desert of Vegas. I missed my friends and evergreen trees and mountains with snow on them year 'round. I read a lot of books that first year in the desert, and I found a new love for my Bible. As I look back at that time, I see the Lord being my Way, Truth and Life.

This is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever. (Psalm 48:14)
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Psalm 78:24)
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
(Psalm 86:11)

Lord Jesus,
help me to grasp ever more firmly
the purpose for which you chose me.
I trust that you will guide my every step.

______
This blogpost is based on my book, You Are Here. I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is “guide."

photo credit: Coastal Path via photopin (license)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just BE with Jesus: the Resurrection and the Life

You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (Psalm 18:35)




Read John 11:17-44

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26a)
Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. (Hebrews 7:25 Amplified)

Keri Wyatt Kent’s excellent book Deeper into the Word: New Testament taught me that the Greek word translated “resurrection” (“anastasis”) means “to cause to stand up on one’s feet again.”

The Lord was my Resurrection and Life (continually putting me back on my feet) in a special way during a dark time fifteen years ago. After longing to have a child for several years, I miscarried twice, just a few months apart. Depression and grief hit me hard, and the dark tunnel of hopelessness seemed never-ending. A third pregnancy added the daily fear of a new loss. The book of Psalms was my companion during this time. There was a light of hope in that book! As I read the ancient biblical prayers of praise, joy, sorrow, anger, and every other emotion, I learned to pour my heart out to the Lord, and to seek his strength.

Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually! (Psalm 105:4)
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure. (Psalm 40:2)

Lord, I noticed that you spoke these words
--the Resurrection and the Life--
to Martha alone.
This was your personal message
of comfort to her.
Thank you for the times you
have given comfort to me.
Open my ears to hear you
more often.

______
This blogpost is based on my book, You Are Here. I am revisiting the themes of several of my books as I seek to “just be with Jesus." I am putting aside lengthy readings for a season, and instead looking for one word or phrase to carry through the day. Today’s word, for me, is “strength."

photo credit: An autumn sun rise in rural Saskatchewan via photopin (license)