Devotional: Free to Ask

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Screenshot- PDF Cover of Heart Mag Spring Issue

I recently wrote 7 days of devotions for Heart Magazine and I wanted to share them on my blog for the next seven week days.

A few months ago through Twitter and my Facebook writing page, I’d asked readers to share their favorite Bible verse. Not only was it so encouraging but there were so many great verses that I based all the devotions off of the verses shared.

If you were able to participate maybe you will see yours!

If you’d like a print form of these devotions and the entire Spring Issue of Heart Magazine, let me know in the comments. The editor is awesome and will send you the issue for free.

Day 1

Free to Ask

Ephesians 3:20-21

My four-year-old son is never shy to ask for the things he desires: a new train, a visit to the park, a play date with his best friend, or help getting dressed. I’m doubtful that he ever thinks, Will Mommy really give me what I need and want?

Yet, as a child of God, I’m quick to think this way toward God. Is it true God that you can do above and beyond what I think, ask or imagine? Will you really give me the desires of my heart?

The truth is that the incredible work that God is willing to do in our lives is not for the sake of our own doing or glory. In His love, He cares about our wants and desires but the end goal in those desires is His glory and fame in this world. It is about His power at work within us.

The apostle Paul encourages us that through our faith in Christ, we can approach God with freedom and confidence knowing He will answer according to his will. We don’t have to be afraid of his answers or wonder if he has our best interest at heart. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And even if his will means suffering, God’s love is present and we can anticipate great things just like a little child.

So go ahead. Ask him anything. He is listening.

On Loving People for Who They Are: Meet Danny

Danny bags groceries at the Kroger we shop at every week. He’s in his 30s and has a disability where he speaks and walks slowly. A few months ago I decided that I wanted to help show my two-year-old John that people like Danny are to be acknowledged and treated just like anyone else, no matter if they look or act differently.

So, I would whisper into John’s little ear: “Can you say hi to Danny, John?”

“Hi, Danny!” he would say and Danny would smile.

One day we had two carts of groceries to haul out and John told me he wanted Danny to push the cart he was sitting in. Not Momma. It was precious. Danny took the cart and John was absolutely delighted.

Yesterday, as soon as we got to Kroger, John asked where Danny was and I thought to myself:

John gets it

I realize the innocence in John’s heart. He sees the world in a lens that my tainted eyes do not see. He is a child and doesn’t fully understand the differences in people, but I believe he comprehends more than I think. He has a unique sensitivity towards Danny that is convicting.

The truth is that “Danny’s” are everywhere. God has been really impressing upon my heart to be intentional about loving people who are different than me and who I wouldn’t naturally start up a conversation with or even hang out with. He is teaching me about compassion and mercy.

People, no matter their race, differences, or disabilities deserve to be loved because they are created in the image of God. And as a Christian, I’ve been called to love all people, especially the unlovable.

I have to admit that I struggle at times with elevating myself or judging someone based on external appearances. And I know that it’s not only shallow, but it’s sinful. I’ve been moved by the verse:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:42

This verse has not only challenged me when it comes to watching my judgmental thoughts towards people, but it has shown me that I have my own set of issues, habits, quirks, inconsistencies, disabilities and more. They might not be so obvious, but they still exist. Most of all, I’m learning about my own brokenness and God’s perfection.

Through a process, and I mean process, God is helping me to get the big, fat plank out of my own eye. Did I mention it’s big? He’s continuing to use people like Danny to teach me some big truths about the meaning of love.

The innocence and purity I get to see in John’s heart is what I need desperately and I’m willing to let God really mess with me so that I’ll truly love people for who they are. Plain and simple.

Has anyone stumbled upon your path that you need to love unconditionally? Do you have a “Danny” story?

* Name changed to Danny to protect privacy

Yes, free indeed: Overcoming Our Deepest Fears

“Get dressed. We’re going to the lake,” my husband Jeremiah says on the other end of the line as he’s driving home from work on Monday. I was already dressed in my workout clothes and I was loving his spontaneity because it had been a hard day at home and I needed some fresh air.

We arrived at the lake an hour before sun set. My toddler John ran through the leaves and down the hills. I pushed Rebekah in the stroller and inhaled the cool breeze. We then walked on the paved trail that led to a long bridge where ducks swam underneath. We parked ourselves there for a while and watched our son in such delight. It was like the world stood still and all that existed was our little family.

Then out of nowhere… a cyclist comes riding across the bridge and before we could even think to hold his hand, John darts out in front of him. I scream: “John!” and the cyclist screams “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!” and slams on his breaks in a panic, coming to a screeching stop. Not quite understanding, John hurried back to our side and the cyclist rode off.

On our way home, I started crying. Jeremiah was still in shock too. That experience showed me that I have a whole new set of fears I didn’t know I had. God has told us in His Word that He’s not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. But now what? What does that mean? What does it mean to live by faith, this faith I’ve been called to?

Being responsible…When I was crying, the fears flooding through my mind made God’s word seem stale. Could I trust God to protect John in the future…and me and my family? I mean, shouldn’t I help God out and do what is responsible? My heart wrestled. What seems most responsible is to not return to the lake. It is too dangerous! My insides were being seized by fear, and I was doing everything that I could to muster up some sort of faith that would set me free. I felt compelled to act, but if I did, would I even know what was best? I needed to be free.

Yes, free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Monday taught me that nothing will deflate our spirit faster than fear. Faith in God’s promises gives us the confidence and courage to experience the freedom and joy of the fullness of life. We were created to go to the lake with our family. I was made to watch John sprint down the grassy knoll, laughing with joy as he kicked up the leaves in the air.

Yes, I want that joy that comes with such faith- the faith of a child. John’s life became to me a vivid picture of faith. He lives by faith. Questions about how his needs will be met don’t go through his head. He doesn’t wonder if he will be safe. John’s faith allows him to be free.  John had such delight because he ran freely without inhibitions and fears that would keep him from running. John’s faith doesn’t know such fear. That is why he could laugh and smile when he shuffled his feet through the leaves.

Today, God is helping me to run again. Monday’s experience was tough, but I’m looking forward to going back to the lake again with my family. I haven’t figured it all out, but I know that I’m a weak vessel and I must trust God. There is an “abundance of life” that we were created to enjoy. In fact, I’m learning to enjoy it in a whole new way that I did not know before. Jesus said, “If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.” Our faith in Christ is our very freedom. I am free. Yes, I am free, indeed.

* This article was a team effort. Thank you, Jeremiah, for helping me write and edit the story.

why your broken prayers are enough

Since having children, my prayer life has changed a lot. I used to have a more designated time for prayer, but now my prayers are more unscheduled, short and spontaneous. And lately the prayer I feel I offer most to God is Help!

I’ve also had times when the only words I could offer were tears.

And 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.

I’ve been reading this 30-day devotional treasury book on 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 how sometimes our prayers to God are more like groans and longings and how 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.

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: Pride, stubbornness, my inability to trust Him with everything, my failure to see that he loves me, and much more.

But 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 just 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

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