From the Archives: A Prayer for Thankfulness in Times of Pain

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Today I wanted to repost a prayer I wrote last year. The original post can be found here.

Father God,

We acknowledge that you are the giver of all good things. We live and breathe because of you. From your hands, You supply all that we need and so much more. But we confess that sometimes we are:

ungrateful…

unthankful…

selfish…

sinful…

hurting people…

I confess that at times I don’t see all the gifts you have given, are giving, and continue to give in my life. I confess that my ungratefulness at times has left me angry, bitter, and wanting. My unthankfulness has made me blind to all that I have. I know my heart needs radical change.

Some of us are unthankful because we’ve experienced a great amount of pain and suffering this year. We’ve lost loved ones and unborn children. Our marriages and relationships are broken. We’re dealing with sickness, injustice, and depression. We’re struggling financially and need a miracle. Circumstances don’t seem to be in our favor. Ever. Some of us wonder why in the world you work the way that you do.

I confess that at times I have caused my own pain and have projected that hurt onto other people.

God, help us to lean into your grace when we’re weak and feel like giving up. Because Lord we are so frail apart from you. Help us to give you thanks because when we choose not to we know that our wounds and pain only grow deeper.

Will you teach us and show us that you are good regardless of the pain and hurt we may feel in this life? You are worthy to be praised in the valley and on the mountaintop. Remind us that you still:

turn ashes into beauty.

instill life into dead bones.

give the oil of joy for mourning.

soften the hardest of hearts.

change sinners into saints.

transform brokenness into wholeness.

wash our sins and make them white as snow.

redeem and restore the years the enemy has stolen.

And let us remember that you have already endured the ultimate shame and suffering on the cross for your glory and our good. Help us to persevere to the end until we see you face to face.

In the meantime, may today, this week and the rest of the year give us a renewed sense of genuine Thanksgiving in each of our hearts regardless of our circumstances. We love you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

A Prayer for Thankfulness in Times of Pain

Father God,

We acknowledge that you are the giver of all good things. We live and breathe because of you. From your hands, You supply all that we need and so much more. But we confess that sometimes we are:

ungrateful…

unthankful…

selfish…

sinful…

hurting people…

I confess that at times I don’t see all the gifts you have given, are giving, and continue to give in my life. I confess that my ungratefulness at times has left me angry, bitter, and wanting. My unthankfulness has made me blind to all that I have. And even as I approach this Thanksgiving, I know my heart needs radical change.

Some of us are unthankful because we’ve experienced a great amount of pain and suffering this year. We’ve lost loved ones and unborn children. Our marriages and relationships are broken. We’re dealing with sickness, injustice, and depression. We’re struggling financially and need a miracle. Circumstances don’t seem to be in our favor. Ever. Some of us wonder why in the world you work the way that you do.

I confess that at times I have caused my own pain and have projected that hurt onto other people.

God, help us to lean into your grace when we’re weak and feel like giving up. Because Lord we are so frail apart from you. Help us to give you thanks because when we choose not to we know that our wounds and pain only grow deeper.

Will you teach us and show us that you are good regardless of the pain and hurt we may feel in this life? You are worthy to be praised in the valley and on the mountaintop. Remind us that you still:

turn ashes into beauty.

instill life into dead bones.

give the oil of joy for mourning.

soften the hardest of hearts.

change sinners into saints.

transform brokenness into wholeness.

wash our sins and make them white as snow.

redeem and restore the years the enemy has stolen.

And let us remember that you have already endured the ultimate shame and suffering on the cross for your glory and our good. Help us to persevere to the end until we see you face to face.

In the meantime, may today, this week and all of November give us a renewed sense of genuine Thanksgiving in each of our hearts regardless of our circumstances. We love you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

The Necessity to Shine {when this world drives you crazy}

I was reading a friend’s status update a few days ago about one of her neighbors. She was in her alley (most Texas homes have back alleys) and out of nowhere she heard a man screaming at the top of his lungs:

“I hate this world!!!”

She couldn’t believe it and asked her friends to pray for this man. Obviously, bitterness and hatred were brewing in his heart toward someone or something.

I’ve had days where I’ve seen a darkness and insensitivity in this world from people who have no regard for one another. Co-workers who slander and devour each other, nasty people in checkout lines, off-the-wall thinking, critical and judgmental people, all around negativity from people across the board, and more.

I’ve had days where people have really gotten to me and the world seems like a depressing place to live. Sometimes random and unexpected situations have happened that have affected my attitude. I think to myself:

The only hope in this mean and crazy world is Jesus. What do people do who don’t have that hope? I would go crazy without it.

And it’s not too long after that I’m reminded of who I am in Christ and what I’ve been sent on this earth to do as his disciple. He reminds me that indeed, this world can be a dark, cold and lonely place but there is a solution to the darkness.

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matt. 5:14-16

My natural inclination is to run and hide from darkness and not confront it, especially if I have been hurt by someone else’s sin. But how will my light shine if I don’t forgive and genuinely love that person who’s so incredibly unlovable? How will they hear about God’s forgiveness and healing if I don’t tell them?

If “hurting people hurt people” as the saying goes, then there’s got to be a reason behind every offense. How will my light shine if I return evil for evil? It won’t. My light will shine when I choose to love and let God help me overcome the darkness.

When God’s light shines through us, people can’t help but notice something different. They can’t help but want to know what makes us love rather than hate. They want to know what gives us hope. Love is how people will come to know and understand that the Lord is real and active in the world today.

The man who screamed out in the alley is a picture of how many people feel. They harbor pain and they feel hopeless. These are the people God wants us to seek out and shine our light to. There is no plan B.

And no matter how dark the world continues to get, we are still the light of the world.

Do you find it difficult to shine and show love among the darkness? 

The Best News You’ll Hear All Christmas

Reflections from Luke 2:1-20

God became a man and lived on earth…

He came by the most humble means and was laid in a manger- a trough or box used to feed animals- very far from a crib in a royal palace. His father and mother, Joseph and Mary, sought a place for Mary to give birth but there was no room in the inn.

After Mary gave birth to the Savior, an angel of the Lord first appeared to shepherds. Humble, lower class citizens of the day and considered unclean- God chose them to be the first to hear the good news of this Savior.

Then that same angel and the heavenly hosts praised God saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

This baby Jesus would bring peace. The peace that mankind had been waiting for all along. His birth would usher in hope and life in the midst of chaos and brokenness.

Then the shepherds traveled to Bethlehem to actually see this Jesus. They saw him, Mary, and Joseph just as they were told. They spread the news to everyone. And everyone was amazed. But Mary hid and treasured all that was going on in her heart. I can only imagine her feelings and thoughts.

Then the shepherds went back to their fields, praising and glorifying God for all they had seen and heard. Finally, the Messiah had come. Not in the way that many expected, but he was here.

So what did this child’s birth mean for all mankind?

Did it mean good cheer, cozy Christmas songs, presents, Santa, snow, a nice manger display on the mantle, parties, charity, family gatherings, and good will toward men?

Those good things are only the outpouring of what this child’s birth means. His birth means so much more for us today.

His birth means that God stepped into history by sending his only son Jesus to earth. Jesus struggled and faced temptation like we do, yet he was sinless. He healed and saved those far from Him. His purpose in coming was to save us from our sins- all our offenses toward God. And they are numerous.

He would come to redeem, restore, renew…

So he did it just as he promised. He proved his love for us on a cross. He died the most shameful, disgusting and horrific death. He screamed. He cried. He agonized. He bled. He asked his father if there was anyway he could save him. But he knew it was God’s will for him to die because it was the only way to save the world.

So he willingly did.

But his death wasn’t the end. He rose again like he said he would. No man has ever raised himself back to life. Only God.

Over 500 witnesses saw his appearing and when his time on earth was finished, he ascended into heaven to be with his father.

Oh but the Christmas story doesn’t end there. Thank goodness. He is coming back for those who know, love, and have committed their life to him. He will one day, judge the living and the dead. And we need to be ready for his coming. We need to revere him and honor him.

Jesus is our hope this Christmas, no matter if we’re jobless, our spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, or we’ve lost a loved one. No matter what we’re going through, He is still our peace. And He is what our hearts are longing for.

Jesus is why we do all that we do in this joyful season. May our hearts be filled with gratitude for the greatest gift that has already been given to us in a manger many years ago.

What if Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops


Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

I heard the lyrics to this song “Blessings” by Laura Story, writer of the worship hit “Indescribable,” for the first time on my way home the other day and it was as if the world stopped and God spoke straight into my heart.

I often pray for comfort, peace, blessing, and for suffering to cease but as I reflect on my life, it’s been the trials and struggles that have humbled me, shaped who I am today, and drawn me closer to Jesus. When I think of “raindrops” that were blessings in disguise, I think of just a few:

  • Dating relationships that never worked out… the unbelievable blessing in God giving me Jeremiah
  • My dad’s two surgeries on a brain tumor… teaching me reliance on the Lord and how to pray
  • Jeremiah’s job loss 3 months into our marriage… leading us to a better place geographically, emotionally and spiritually as newlyweds
  • Broken sleep, postpartum symptoms, and the daily sacrifices as a mother… so I can learn to die to myself and help other moms who also struggle
  • Dealing and wrestling through my hurts, habits, and hangups… so that God can continue to heal the sinful parts in me so I can best glorify him as a wife and mother
  • The excruciating pain, tears and suffering in having two natural births… and the reward of staring into the eyes and holding my precious children

The difficulties in life have also taught me and will continue to teach me how to serve and have compassion on other people because you never fully understand the shoes of another person. Above all, they have taught me to continue to hope for something more.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ]

Read the story behind the song

Take Heart (He has overcome the world)

My heart has been heavy since hearing about the death of 28-year-old pastor, Clint Dobson, who was killed in his church office last week. It happened about 30 min. away from where I live. Yesterday while I was walking my kids around campus of the seminary my husband attends, I kept thinking about Clint and the brevity of life.

As a believer in Christ living in a fallen world, I’m not guaranteed that good things will happen or that I will live to see the next day. This truth has humbled me and last night I was encouraged by Jesus’ words in John:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

Jesus’ body was about to be broken and his blood would be poured out for all the world to see, but he would soon defeat sin and death once and for all. He prepares the disciples ahead of time to take heart. His death and resurrection would change the world so much that they would have to scatter because their very lives would be in danger as followers of Christ.

John MacArthur says, “Through His impending death, He rendered the world’s opposition null and void. While the world continues to attack His people, such attacks fall harmlessly, for Christ’s victory has already accomplished a smashing defeat of the whole evil rebellious system.”

Trials, tribulation, pain and suffering would surely come the disciples’ way, but it would be okay because God had already won. Even though they would be scattered from persecution and other forms of evil, Jesus would be with them. Their hope was that they could persevere and endure until the end.

And this is our same hope today.

Although I wish we could, we can’t escape trouble in our lives and in this world. But we can trust that God has already overcome the world and will continue to overcome it. He isn’t sitting idle on his throne. He will bring justice in his perfect timing.

While my heart still breaks for Clint Dobson and his wife Laura and his family, I have found a peace knowing that he died faithfully serving the Lord and he’s finally where he was created to be, where pain and suffering does not exist.

Heaven isn’t what you think

Growing up, I heard that in heaven I would worship God all the time, throughout eternity, f-o-r-e-v-e-r… I pictured harps, angels, clouds and the ability to fly. I always wanted to fly as a little girl (still do).

My mom taught me that God was going to build a new city, a new Jerusalem for us here on earth one day. And I especially liked the part about there being streets of gold.

But I also know that there is so much more that my mind has never conceived about what heaven will be like. All throughout the Old and New Testament, God talks about a kingdom that he is building on earth. And I’m just now starting to grasp that he is, as we speak, preparing a real place for you and I- his people, his church- the bride of Christ.

There will be no need for the sun or moon to shine on this city because the glory of God gives it light. His glory will consume the new city and we will see it fully. We will finally be with the One we’ve been waiting for. He will wipe away our tears. There will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. The former things will pass away and all things will be made new (see Revelation 21). The greatest sins we struggle with will be no more. We will partake in the ultimate wedding feast as sons and daughters of the King.

Hell too is a real place that is so awful, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:36-42) because God’s presence will not be there. Those who reject his Son will be outside the gates of the holy city- unable to join in on the celebration. And to not be with God is the worst punishment anyone could ever receive. That’s why he desires that everyone would turn to him for life and salvation.

As believers, we have lots to look forward to in the future. No matter what frustration, hurt, or sorrow we face in daily life, we know that in the end, we will be with God in the new city- one that will be unlike anything we’ve ever tasted, touched, seen, heard, or read. Even our greatest imaginations of what we think heaven will be like, won’t even come close to its splendor.

I can’t wait for that city!

God’s Constant Pursuit

I interviewed an extraordinary guy last night for a potential story in a project we’re doing with Max Lucado. Chris Skinner and his wife Suzie sat down with me for two hours sharing about God’s grace on Chris’ life. In college, after a night of partying with his frat brothers, Chris got in a severe car accident that left him with a broken neck, spinal chord injury, and in a coma for 13 days. He would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

There is no way to do justice to his story in this post, but I left last night amazed at God’s continuous pursuit of Chris. Chris grew up in a Baptist church, God had put several Christians in his path throughout the years, but he never really knew Jesus. Eventually one evening at church through hearing God’s word, he came to the end of himself. He felt a deep remorse for his sin and he repented. He surrendered his life to Christ.

He told his buddies he gave up drinking. One of his roommates, so infuriated, poured vodka down his head. They forsook him, but in the midst of the persecution and pain, he pressed on and followed after God. He started speaking all over the country and sharing his story to help other people. He even got married to a godly woman. Now, in and out of speaking, he’s at Dallas Theological Seminary studying God’s word and raising twins.

As I sat on their couch, I couldn’t help but think of the times in my life when I was in rebellion and sin, but God kept pursuing me. I would willfully disobey God’s word in the evening, and then in the morning I would “do my devotions.” I struggled to love God through obedience and not just words. But eventually, I too, came to the end of myself and surrendered everything to Christ. My struggles didn’t disappear, but I chose to make choices that would help me love God better.

Fast forward to today, and sometimes I take for granted his constant pursuit. While the sins I struggle with are different than what they were 10 years ago, I’m amazed that He has always been there, loving me as his child. Patient in my disobedience. I sense his love today greater than ever before and I just can’t escape it.

To be able to sit down with Chris and Suzie gave me a whole different perspective in how God works in the lives of other people. How he is always on the move to redeem and save what has been lost. My time with them has strengthened my faith and has given me a greater trust in the Lord.

I think when we experience times when our relationship with God is stagnant and we just don’t see him working in our own lives, he gives us the body of Christ to wake us up and to see that God is doing so much more than we could ever imagine.

In what ways do you feel God’s pursuit in your life? Has he used anyone lately to remind you of his love and faithfulness?

Why Haiti hasn’t escaped my mind


I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one feeling this certain tension.

Since the day we were awakened by the tragic news of Haiti, my heart has been burdened by its devastating horror, the countless babies, children, and people in distress, what our nation needs to offer in terms of aid, and what my family and friends can do to help. But it’s also been filled with something else.

If “Haiti”- all hell breaking loose, suffering, pain, and the deepest agonies ever imaginable, were to enter my life here in America, would I still trust God?

I have never known suffering like the Haitian people are experiencing at this moment. I want to trust that God is good all the time, but sometimes I just really fear suffering. I’d rather put my security in comfort.

Oh, but is that really all there is?

There is T E N S I O N because I know that as a follower of Christ, it won’t always be an easy road. I’m figuring that out as the hands on the clock get faster. I think we have to come to the point in our relationship with Christ that we will love him, trust him, serve him, and surrender to him regardless if we experience his blessings or not.

I don’t know if I can say that I’m there right now, but I want to be. And while I question God and wonder what in the world He’s doing at times (especially right now), I have to lean in on the truth that He is a good God and is worthy of my life in times of suffering and in times of joy.

He’s got the whole world in his hands, even Haiti.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10

the best kept secret

2785596455_848c54e8beIt’s been cloudy and raining here in Dallas for four days now. By now, I’ve heard plenty of comments about the weather and I too, wish the sun would come out again.

Contentment. I’m learning a lot about its meaning lately. God is doing a lot in our life as a family. We’ll be moving in less than two weeks from our 1200 sq. ft. apartment to a 780 sq. ft. apartment! We are ending our 2 year commitment as a CARES Team serving the residents in our apartment community through meals and events. We’ll be entering a new season of living on campus at Jeremiah’s seminary, Dallas Theological. It’s really going to be a good move for our family and there will be lots of young families to interact with who are all pursuing full-time ministry.

A lot of change is happening really soon and the temptation can be to worry and not be present in the moment. But I really want to be content. To not compare myself to others with what they’re doing or where they’re at, to not wish I had more money or more things, to not wonder how great it would be to be somewhere else, or to not wish John was older or I was younger.

The apostle Paul said,

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11-13.)

Paul was no different than us. A lot of people put him on this huge pedestal, but he was simply a normal, imperfect man touched by a divine, perfect God. He allowed God to infuse his life.

So what exactly is Paul’s secret to contentment? He learned it. It didn’t happen in his sleep or in a few short days. God put circumstances in his life to teach him to trust and to depend on God. So whether he was rich or poor, well-fed or hungry, he gave glory to God because his joy and happiness didn’t depend on life’s happenings.

This gives me great hope today- that I can learn to be content too as God works in my heart.

Well on my way to work sitting at a stop sign, a car behind me laid on their horn for 10 whole seconds!  I was waiting for the right time to turn and I guess that wasn’t good enough. Maybe the rain and clouds were getting to that guy too. I couldn’t believe it.

Oh well. He probably needs to learn contentment too.

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