Preparing for Prayer

Here are a few things you can do today to prepare for the next 12 days, and as you go through this list, I hope these steps build your excitement and inspire your creativity.

  • prepare a special place to pray (choose a room or closet, a quiet corner, a chair…)
  • find a journal to record your thoughts for these next 12 days  (You could uses a 3 ring binder, a spiral notebook, an art tablet, or put together some scrapbook or pretty paper with several sheets of lined paper to make a one-of-a kind prayer booklet.)
  • gather pens, colored pencils, highlighter, charcoal pencils, watercolors,… what ever you’d like to use in your notebook during your time with the Lord
  • choose your Bible (be it your favorite translation or a favorite worn copy)

If you have extra time, consider how you can make your place of prayer more inviting:

  • place your tools (journal, Bible) in a cute basket or decorated “prayer box”
  • put your pens in a mason jar, vase, empty flower pot, or pretty mug
  • choose a scented candle
  • put together a small basket with teas
  • choose a favorite quilt or cozy blanket
  • maybe hang a few Christmas lights

EVENING MEDITATION:
Sometime this evening before bed, come to your quiet place and be still.  Rest in the Lord’s presence.  Ask Him to speak to you over the next few days, and spend a few minutes listening to what He would say to you.

Clean

Everyday I wash away the grime…

I shed layers that cover and hide,
and stand before God as I came into this world.

Naked I came from my mothers womb, naked I will return…” (Job 1:21)

no hair-ties, ear-rings, or wedding-ring…

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”  (1 Timothy 6:7)

I take everything off as I recite…

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  (Hebrews 4:13)

 I step into the shower as into His presence.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24)

Head to toe, I ask the Lord to examine me and cleanse me, inside and out. 

“REVIVAL” – couldn’t resist trying this shampoo and cnditioner

A bed-time routine began many years ago when my grandma gave me a face cleanser called, “Daily Revival”Washing my face, I’d pray, “Lord, lifter of my countenance, I need ‘revival’, fill me with Your abundant life!  May others see Your glory shining through me and know that I have met with You and have been changed.”

It wasn’t long before I added a prayer as I brushed my teeth, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.  (Psalm 141:3)  Forgive me for the harsh words (lying, exaggerations, gossip, angry and bitter words, etc) I have spoken.  Use my mouth to bless.  May my tongue only praise you and encourage others.”

Quickly this evolved into a shower routine:

Washing my hair:  “Lord, renew my mind.  Forgive me for anxious, wandering thoughts.  Fix my mind on You, and inspire me with greater understanding of who You are.”

As I wash my arms, “Lord, forgive me for the selfish way I keep people at arms reach or push them aside.  Help me to have open arms for my family and those that You bring into my life that need to be held and served.”

I love to use an apricot scrub when I wash my hands and feet and pray about tenderly serving others and going where the Lord would lead me.

I confess my sins and pray for a pure heart as I suds up my body; smelly arm pits are a great reminder to confess stinky sins that hinder intimate fellowship with others.

You get the idea…

It is a wonderful thing to see the sudsy water swirling down the drain and remember that confessed sins are gone, long gone“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  (Psalm 103:12)  I could not get them back if I wanted to.  I am forgiven.

I love to sing in the shower, starting my worship-set with:
“Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole… wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”
and
“Purify my heart… Your holiness is my desire.”

As I dry off, I usually end with,
“Clean before my Lord I stand, and in me, not one blemish does He see…”

This verse once hung in the bathroom:
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”  (1 Peter 1:22) 

A reminder that,
“Now you are clean through the word…” (John 15:3)
changes the way I live! 

TIPTry laminating a copy of your favorite chapter of the Bible.  With a bit of water, the plastic will stick to the shower walls.  I memorize a verse while I shave my legs. Then while the conditioner soaks, I close my eyes, let the hot water beat down on my back, and meditate on what I have been reading.

 FYI – I have an entirely different tub routine focused less on confession and more on relaxing in His presence, praying for creative inspiration, and asking for a greater ability to soak in and understand the scripture.

Use these ideas as a spring board to make your Tub-Time a spiritually cleansing experience.

"things too difficult for me"

the twins and their mother died in delivery

and I sat on the floor of a closet of “double” outfits and shoes…

 grieving for baby girls

I was mourning, and who could understand?

I had never held them; yet I lost them.

searching, waiting, getting the adoption referral…
hoping, praying, shopping,…
the bumpy wave of emotion had crashed, again

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  

after too many closing doors,
this final disappointment was too much

I must have been wrong.
God had not lead us here.
It wasn’t “meant to be”.

Questioning, second guessing…

Was God in this?
How did I misunderstand?
Where is He now?
Why is He silent?

And then, this Psalm…

O LORD, my heart is not proud, 
nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD 
From this time forth and forever.

Brief Psalm of Ascent … 3 verses.

Had it always been there?
tucked away,
blurred into the other psalms,
until
August 8th
when tears washed my eyes to see…

at the end of myself,
 not understanding this… or God,
“great matters”, “too difficult”
cried all my tears, now quiet, spent
without strength or thought, I rest in the Lord.
who is old enough to know You?
still a child, I come as a child
with a whisper, “O LORD, You know.”
yet, even now, and always 
“I will hope in the LORD.”

He is my hope,
my only hope.

Desperately seeking, I find…
because He is leading, …drawing me.

A partial view.  I did not know what God was doing.  I still do not know… “why?”
But, even in the moment of my emptiness and deepest grief, my future was still pregnant with hope.

As I was aching over death, a new life was waiting to be brought forth.

What if we had given up?  … Our greatest joy was still yet to be.

Even after time had passed and we had our daughter’s referral, my heart ached, my mind flooded with questions of:
“Why did you put us through that?”,
“Did their lives matter?”,
“Why were they even conceived if you weren’t going to let them live?”,
“Why do I still ache for those babies?”,
and “God, what were You thinking?”… 

Questions that could only be drained away with, “Yet, I will hope in the LORD.”  The “too difficult”, “great matters” were too deep; no one had answers… just
“I’m sorry.”
and “That’s too bad.”

In that lonely window of waiting, the Lord sent one friend to comfort me with merciful understanding words, not answers, but… her story.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God… through Christ our comfort overflows… our hope for you is firm, …share in our comfort.”  (see 1 Corinthians 1:3-7)

“Eternity is set in our hearts.”
Every life, beginning to end, long or brief, is too short.
We are made for more.

No one can compare grief … for a husband, a brother, a parent, a friend, a child?
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy”…except God.  He knows.

If you are facing “things too difficult”,
“hope in the LORD”.
He is still good.
He still has a plan.
He has never stopped loving you.
Rest against Him.
Let Him comfort you.
He will.

This was the first Psalm of Ascent that I set to tune, a mournful Jewish lullaby for myself:

Choose Your Addiction

One tiny, beautifully captured droplet of transcendent cocoa-bliss,
and like an addict, I’m craving more, More!, MORE!!!!!

rich, creamy
bitter, sweet
oh-so-smooth
velvety delicious

I love it all!

Yet, sadly, I have significant health-motivated reason to use moderation…
or rather, avoid it altogether.

*sigh*

While living in Europe, land of the world’s most famous chocolatiers, I tasted some of THE BEST CHOCOLATE EVER MADE!!!

On the first day of ninth grade my English teacher did not begin with “Hello, my name is Mr. Miller.”, but with chocolate!  (tiny shavings of  gourmet chocolate!)

When the sliver of divinely blended cocoa and sugar melted on my tongue, he had me.  I wanted more, and I hung on his every word:

a healthy addiction

Reading is a drug,
with a habit forming addiction you can freely indulge in for a life time.  It will take you on trips beyond your wildest imagination.  This year we’re going to sample the ‘good stuff’, and as you acquire a taste for the great literature, you’ll never be completely satisfied by anything less.”

John Keats

I didn’t know about craving books. Till then, I hated reading!  But, by the end of the year,  I was hooked.  Mr. Miller became my favorite teacher and Literature my favorite subject.  From U2 lyrics, to Wilfred Owen, to Shakespeare, I learned to appreciate the best of poetry and prose.

Some how, this girl, who once teased her sister for spending her allowance on books, transformed into a woman who annually spends more on books than clothing for the entire family.  As bizarre as it sounds, I genuinely enjoy “the classics” and have a serious weakness for poetry anthologies,

La Belle Dame Sans Merci – Frank Dicksee (public domain)
(FYI – art is my other healthy addiction) 

 but if fiction is the milk chocolate of literature and poetry, white chocolate, my absolute favorite is the richest dark chocolate, non-fiction.

and NOTHING is richer
than MY GREATEST LITERARY ADDICTION:
“SCRIPTURE”

 

In secret every morning, every night, and in stolen moments throughout each day, I indulge on words that are sweeter than honey.  The more I feast, the more insatiable my hunger.

Knowing that in many places this healing drug is illegal, I treasure every word and stash away bits and pieces in the hidden places of my heart.   

Even if you hate reading, taste a little of the “great-est stuff”.   
Try just a sliver, savor, meditate on one verse.
Bet you’ll be coming back for another, then a chapter, then a book…

Better yet, why not read the best selling, most addictive literature of all time from cover to cover? 
“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Ps. 34:8

Check out The Listener’s Bible, an audio book, only
77 hours for the New International Version
75 hours for the English Standard Version
and 80 hours for the King James Version
You can read along or just listen!

The Reality of Comparison

I tried my hand at mini-pecan-tarts today… and they did not look like these…

These are the tarts that a friend made the other night, and they tasted every bit as good as they look.

aaah, culinary perfection, … perfect mini tarts pulled from a toasty-warm oven

and

mine were

just as delicious,
after I chiseled them out of the baking tin.

It was a “Simple Recipe”.
They looked so easy to make!
 And, they were…

They just weren’t easy to take out of the pan.

“Oooooh, where did I go wrong????” sob, sob. 

Actually, all was not lost, 11 of the 24 came out sort of nice, and since 13 weren’t suitable to give away, we had even more yummy-ugly treats to eat.  (We had to get rid of  the embarrassing evidence that we are not professional bakers.)  

Have you ever peeked into someone’s world, compared, and found yourself  “lacking”?  — I have.

WE ALWAYS
SET OURSELVES UP FOR FAILURE
WHEN WE COMPARE.

It might be possible that someone has looked at this blog and thought, “wow, she sure has it all together”… haha, well, not if they’ve read too many posts, but you will never know which photos I conveniently cropped to remove school books, dirty dishes, over flowing laundry baskets, etc.  And, you won’t find me posting “feeling-fat-pictures” or “bad-hair-day-photos”… well, not unless that’s what the blog is about… hmmm, maybe I’ll do that once just to make you feel better and to “keep it real”.

My dad told me too many times for me ever to forget, “You will always be able to find someone who seems to be better off and someone who seems to be worse off than you.”  (“seems” is the key word, We need to be careful in judging; because we only see a cropped-glimpse from our limited perspective.)

There will always be people richer and poorer,
more athletic and less coordinated,
more beautiful/handsome and less attractive than you…

(continue with any area of pride or insecurity:   
better/worse dressed
more/less popular,
neater/more cluttered house
healthier/unhealthier, etc.)

And you can always find someone more “saintly”, whether genuinely righteous or just self-righteous, and someone more “pagan”, whether totally immoral or just less legalistic, than you.

So who will you compare yourself to?
One will make you feel great about yourself and the other will make you feel like a failure, but both will leave you self-deceived.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone except Christ.  He alone is perfect.  We are all sinners.  We all need forgiveness.  We all need a Savior.  None of us measure up to God’s standard, until Christ gives us His righteousness.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Cor. 5:21.  Jesus is the only standard, and He is most gracious and humble to encourage us where we are.

One last thing…  
When you see someone doing something well, rather than comparing, just ask them how they did it.

I asked my friend, “WHERE DID I GO WRONG?” She said, …make sure that the filling stays IN the little cup of dough.  If you drip or it oozes between the crust & the pan it’s a disaster.  Also, make sure you remove them right away or the filling becomes like a glue. “And, now I know why I had an oozing, gluey disaster!  Live and Learn.
Stay humble, and keep seeking.