When God Interrupts Your Story

image: DevotionalDiva.com

God interrupted my story the summer after I graduated from college.

I interned at a Christian publishing company in Nashville. I loved my work and what music city had to offer. I wanted to plant roots there but two weeks before my internship ended, I felt God leading me to pursue seminary.

The funny thing is that seminary was never in my thoughts…

Today, I’m excited to be guest posting for author and speaker Renee Johnson on DevotionalDiva.com.

Read the rest here and join the conversation.

Why Your Broken Prayers Are Enough

This article (originally a blog post) was published in my column “Faith in Real Life” for Dallas Seminary’s Student Journal- Spring 2012 Issue 2. You can view the PDF here on pg. 5. 

It’s interesting how the word “prayer” conjures up many emotions and feelings for people. You might view your prayer life as a delight, a duty, or both. Maybe it just depends on what kind of day you’re having.

The demands of seminary, working, raising children, serving in ministry, and making our marriage a priority often leaves my husband and me with no choice but to fall on our knees before God. Our prayer lives have been forced to grow as our responsibilities have increased over the years, and I admit that much of my strength has come from confessing my absolute brokenness.

The Sweet Word Abba

When I was single, I had a more designated time for prayer, but now my prayers are more unscheduled, short, and spontaneous. And lately the prayer I offer most to God is help! I’ve also had times when the only words I could offer were tears. And of course the most pivotal prayer of all was when I asked Jesus to save me.

But most of the time I still feel this pressure to offer drawn-out, formal prayers to God, and if I don’t do that, I’m not spiritual. But it’s interesting to note that in Romans, Paul says that in our spirit we cry out, “Abba, Father” in our adoption as His children. And that’s a short prayer if I’ve seen one.

Being Natural with God

I’ve been reading the 30-day devotional book called Prayer by Charles Spurgeon, and in it he says, “I think this sweet word Abba was chosen to show us that we are to be very natural with God, not stilted and formal.” Spurgeon goes on to say that sometimes our prayers to God are more like groans and longings, and that when we cry Abba, “The cry in our hearts is not only childlike, but the tone and manner of utterance are equally so.”

I can just picture the tone and manner of the word “D-a-d-d-y” when a child is in great danger or in need of help, and how when we cry “A-b-b-a” to our Heavenly Father, it is the same.

Embracing a Child-like Faith

Spurgeon’s words have reminded me that it’s okay to offer such a short, broken prayer when that’s all I can do. They’ve also reminded me that lots of things keep me from being natural and real with God, among them pride, stubbornness, fear, my inability to trust Him with everything, and my failure to believe that He loves me.

But when I come to God as my Abba, tell him all that He already knows, and be real with Him, I’m amazed at how He shows Himself and works in my heart. My heart is overwhelmed with joy because I learn more about His grace and patience toward me. It’s as if He’s saying, “I love being your Abba.”

My true desire is to be more open with God and to not hide so much. In child-like faith, I want to crawl up in His lap and be in His presence. And in the coming days where I’m sure I’ll have to offer up one-worded prayers again, I can be honest and trust that He is listening—because I am His child and He is my Abba.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15

From the Archives: Give Me Prudence

Jeremiah and I are facing some pretty important decisions that could impact us financially, relationally, spiritually, and our overall sanity. We were encouraged this morning to hear a leadership podcast from Andy Stanley on decisions and being men and women who are prudent.

We were reflecting on the last three years of marriage and the choices we’ve made that have gotten us where we are today. Some good and some bad. Now, we’ve reached a point where we see potential dangers.

These “dangers” might not necessarily be what you’d think as serious but in the long run, they could very well be. They have to do with allowing margin into our life, making wise financial decisions, putting family time as priority, and choosing to deal with some of our hurts, habits, and hangups that could eventually snowball in the future.

Andy makes the point that many people say, “Oh yeah I need to do that or I should do that.” But when it comes to action, stepping out of the boat never happens.

So 10 years later, they can’t believe how they got to where they are. This could involve not getting into God’s word, an unhealthy relationship, a negative habit/pattern, an affair, addiction, our health and well being, entertaining sinful thoughts. The list goes on.

Well, back to this word PRUDENCE. Proverbs, the book in the Bible drenched with wisdom and brutal honesty, says: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it (Prov. 22:3). 

Prudence is exercising sound judgment in practical affairs. It’s the ability to have wisdom looking into the future so you can make a good choice for today. It can also involve caution and not taking too huge of a risk.

I love the word refuge– it’s an umbrella of protection. Someone, however, who is “simple” and makes rash decisions without counting the cost, could end up in a bed of suffering without even realizing it. And the consequences could be overwhelming. That’s why God has given us prudence to protect us… and because he loves us.

I really want to become a woman who’s prudent. Sometimes it’s so difficult when I’m in the midst of a situation to see the future implications. I often wait for a sign or prodding from God, which could definitely happen, but more often that not God gives me principles to help me make a wise decision. And it’s often that I forget that wisdom is in my pocket, waiting for me to dig her out.

Well, hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be able to say that we counted the cost and will have made a choice we won’t regret!

How has prudence played a significant part in your life?

– Written July 2009. View the original post here along with reader comments

When the Christian Life is Easier Said Than Done

photo: fancyfleamarket.typepad.com

Yesterday I went over to a friend’s place to visit. What I’ve always appreciated about this friend is her authenticity when it comes to her struggles in raising three children.

Her husband walked in the door as I was attempting to round up my kids. The three of us got into a good, unexpected conversation about hearing vs. actually doing God’s Word.

“We were inspired by our pastor’s sermon on Sunday. We were encouraged to do God’s will. We were convicted in areas that need change…” my friend said.

“Then we got home,” she sighed.

“The kids were horrible. Things felt chaotic. We exploded a lot and were so discouraged because just a few minutes ago we were so on fire to live for the Lord. It’s as if we forgot everything we’d just heard…”

I continued to listen to her story and couldn’t help but think how she was articulating exactly how I’d felt so many times. Especially on Sundays!

Just the other morning I got up early to read my Bible and journal while my husband did his quiet time. It had been well over a week or more since I had been in the Word. The kids weren’t up and I was savoring the alone time. I thought for sure it would be a good day but within the hour it was as if the house erupted. Or shall I say, Momma erupted.

If you took a peep into my window you wouldn’t have found a gentle, godly woman who had just been with Jesus. Anger exploded out of me toward my kids and I felt overwhelmed by all the change that’s happening with our move, graduation, and new baby. Sadly, I’d forgotten all that I had read.

Shortly after, I was reminded of the verses in James:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it- they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:23-25

That evening before bed, I prayed and begged God to help me in the areas of my life where I not only fail but fail big time. In that time of soul searching, He showed me how much I need His grace and that this Christian life is a process- a process of sanctification that doesn’t come over night.

And that “doing” the Christian life is pretty much impossible apart from His truth and guidance. Doing good-outward-acts can’t be mistaken for a heart that’s truly been changed by Christ.

His Word has been given to me as a gift so that I would know how to live, but I can’t be changed if I’m not “looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom.”

I’m thankful that regardless of my imperfections and weaknesses, God is still at work in me. He’s always pursuing me to come back to Him for the healing I need so badly. He knows I’m a work in progress.

And I think more times than not, I need to celebrate and remember the times where He has allowed me to be victorious in the struggles against sin, rather than focusing so much on failures and falling short.

His divine power has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)- even in the challenging times of raising little ones. So as for today, it’s time to shake the dust off, confess & repent of sin, accept His forgiveness & love, and continue living by faith in his son.

Learning to Say “No”: How Routines Help Protect Your Marriage

When my husband Jeremiah and I were dating and just on the verge of engagement, I noticed a difference in the time we spent together as we grew more serious in our relationship.

I started to see that how I spent my time and energy would be much different as a married woman. My priorities would change from a schedule revolving pretty much around me to now considering my husband and what worked best for the both of us.

Those last few months before our wedding day, we went through an extremely helpful pre-marital book that a mentor had given us called Preparing for Marriage. After reading a chapter that dealt with expectations, we agreed that one of our expectations in marriage would be to go to bed together every night as much as we could help it.

One particular night…

Continue Reading over on StartMarriageRight.com

Life & Love With Little Children

Jeremiah and I never used to frequent cafeterias until we had kids. At the cafeteria we ate at a few nights ago, balloons strung from the wooden highchairs, the food selection and presentation was outstanding, and an old lady played the piano in the background.

When we got settled into our table, John and Rebekah were fidgety. When they got their food, it took a while for them to really crave it. But with much prodding, they eventually started to eat. Within ten minutes, Rebekah was screaming to get out of her highchair and she fussed and fussed and fussed.

The old man eating with his wife at the table behind us kept turning his head around to see our little family. He smiled at us and I imagined that he raised toddlers once too. I tried to quiet my baby girl down and make her happy.

The old man kept smiling so I figured he was okay with the noise. Jeremiah sat with his work scrubs on. He had strokes of white paint all over him from working on our new house. He almost didn’t want to come in because he felt so filthy, but I persuaded him that we had to eat and he needed a break from all our house work.

We gobbled up the rest of our food before any big meltdowns occurred. I held John’s hand out the door- his little finger was wrapped up in the balloon string. Jeremiah put Rebekah on his shoulders and we headed to our van.

This is life as we know it, I thought.

I was with my best friend, lover, and husband of 6 1/2 years along with my 17 month old daughter and 3 1/2 year old son. And in just over 2 months, we would welcome the latest addition to our family.

I thought about how life has changed dramatically since the day we said “I do.” Having children has changed our world in so many ways. Life is busy, chaotic, messy, surprising, beautiful, humorous, joyful, difficult, demanding, exciting, exhausting, rewarding and abundant. Such a paradox.

And well… life has never actually been what it once was. But it’s so good.

God has used our children to change us for the better and to help us see the worse areas that need refining. We realize that there is something bigger we must invest in beyond “just us” and that makes our relationship deeper. We acknowledge that our marriage is the priority and must be cultivated everyday.

“Are we growing old together?” Jeremiah asked while we drove down the road, trying to talk over the two busy bodies giggling in the back seat.

I thought about his question earnestly. My mind raced back to our “single” days- married without kids.

“Yep, we are. We’re living out our dreams, babe,” I smiled.

A beautiful peace and contentment swept over my heart, erasing any doubts, fears, or worries. We were right where God created us to be.

Article: When Life Has You Waiting

This article was published in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Student Journal- Spring 2012. The main audience is seminary students/future ministry leaders. I hope you’ll be encouraged in whatever you’re “waiting” on in life, too. The PDF can be found here on pg. 5

I’m guessing you’ve been asked what your future plans are after seminary. Some students know they want to press on and get their Ph.D. Some want to be pastors, chaplains, missionaries, or serve in some kind of parachurch ministry.

Or you might be in seminary simply because you know you’re supposed to be, and that’s it. Your ministry has yet to be revealed, and you’re waiting.

Waiting is a Form of Suffering

Waiting on God’s perfect timing is a spiritual discipline that requires a great amount of patience and endurance. You may have God- given dreams that burn wildly in your heart. You cry out, plead, beg, and wrestle with God about those desires.

You might face criticism and misunderstanding from loved ones because nothing “significant” has happened in your ministry or career yet. You’ve waited for years and prayed for answers, but you hear nothing in return.

In her book, Faith that Does Not Falter, Elisabeth Elliot says,

Waiting is a form of suffering— the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, flesh and heart failing, soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness. Nevertheless, God is in the darkness.

There’s no greater way to learn patience and contentment than to go through experiences that require it. Before coming to Dallas Seminary, my husband and I already had seminary degrees from a previous school. We both felt strongly about Jeremiah pursuing more training and education in God’s Word.

After applying to DTS, getting accepted, and moving, we served in an apartment ministry for the first two years of his schooling. In those years, Jeremiah desired to have preaching or church-planting experience but the doors never opened. After we moved onto campus and had our second child is when the tide turned.

An Unexpected Internship

In one of his preaching classes, Jeremiah met Craig Schill, a grad assistant and a local church planter. They developed a friendship, and Jeremiah started interning at his church, Lake Cities Community Church in Rowlett. He was given the opportunity to preach and teach several times and spearhead a community outreach event.

Jeremiah always desired affirmation as to whether preaching was his spiritual gift. In no time he was encouraged above and beyond what he imagined from the church body, through both verbal affirmation and emails. I’ll never forget the evening he told me that the sermon he’d just preached was the closest he’d ever felt to the Lord.

Okay, Lord, we’re getting closer to your plan, I thought.

While his internship ended a few months ago, we decided to continue investing at Lake Cities in our final year at DTS. We have fallen in love with the people, and we’re learning so much about servant leadership.

Lessons from Staying Faithful

Four years seems like a long time of waiting on God’s unique gifting for Jeremiah, but it wasn’t too long for God. God taught him so much through his classes and real-life experiences. If we had rushed or manipulated God’s timing, I think we would have missed out on a huge blessing.

As we approach graduation in May, I continue to remind myself that we are, yet again, waiting on the Lord to provide the next step. While it can be fearful at times, I’m trusting that God will continue to lead us where He desires.

As you continue to wait on God in your time at seminary, be encouraged that you don’t have to have it all figured out. He has a perfect plan for your life and ministry and, He is with you even in the darkness.

Heart Renovations {Good Friday Reflections}

our kitchen in progress

We’re in the middle of a major renovating project in the new house we’re set to move into at the end of the month. With the help of very generous friends in our church, my parents, and my husband and his friends, the ugly 60s style carpet in our living and dining room has been ripped out. The kitchen tile has been smashed out and new hardwood floors will be installed soon.

As you can imagine, the downstairs is a wreck. And on this Good Friday while I have just a few minutes to reflect on it, I can’t help but take a look inside the condition of my soul, apart from Jesus.

Apart from Jesus, it’s an absolute disaster. There is nothing good that exists (I wish there was).

I’m a sinful being and my sin is so disgusting and offensive that a price had to be paid to cover it.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid the massive debt I owed. A debt which I could never actually pay on my own accord. On the cross, Jesus said “It is finished.” Wholly. Completely. Not in part- but in full. Because of the pain, suffering, and anguish he endured and the spilling of his blood, I’ve been set free from the chains of sin. And no one else could do it, but Jesus.

Because of his death, grace washes over all our sin. Amazing grace for you and for me. A most precious gift.

But the cross can’t be left by itself, displayed on a church building, or worn around our neck as pretty jewelry. The cross, which showed his great love for us, demands an answer from us. A choice that we must make. Will we accept Jesus’ gift of grace and surrender our lives to Him? Will we turn from our sin and cling to Him? Will we allow him to renovate the ugliest, shameful parts of our heart so we can be restored again?

He is more than willing if we let Him.

The beauty of the cross and his grace is that He removes the junk and debris. He changes us and makes us new. It is all an act of His grace- a profound mystery.

Today, let’s not forget just how awful our sin is and how disgraceful Jesus’ death on the cross was. But let us also not forget…

Sunday’s coming.

Check out this video.

Article: Pondering Pet Peeves

I recently accepted the offer to be a regular contributor for Ungrind Webzine. I absolutely love their mission to encourage 20 and 30 something women in their daily walk with Christ.

This article went live yesterday. It’s on the lighthearted side. Feel free to share what your biggest pet peeve is… over there!

I’d just found a comfy chair to work on a writing deadline I had for an article. I listened to the faint chatter around me and opened my laptop anxious to flesh out some words on the blank screen. Then out of the corner of my eye a man in his 40′s plops down in the leather chair caddy corner from mine.

He opened his laptop and rustled through the notes in his briefcase. He looked at them intensely and took a deep breath. Whatever he was reading must have been really good from all the “oh’s,” “wow’s,” and “hmm’s” flowing unashamedly out of his mouth.

My eyes were glued to this man. I was waiting to see if he would quiet down at all or maybe get a hint. But he didn’t…

Read the rest over on Ungrind

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