It’s my last “prayer day” of the year, an extra-special one for me. Like the prayer day that precedes my birthday, I reflect, plan, and listen…
“I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants– but let them not turn to folly.” Ps. 85:8
(and then listen again).
I have learned (and had to relearn too many times, and am still learning) that when I mix the order, I will later find myself reflecting with regret and begging God for mercy to bless what I have done of my own initiative, what I have planned in my own wisdom and limited understanding rather than in His leading, His provision, and His power.
I’ve made a deal with God, praying the same prayer countless times since I first prayed it in 1991, to remind myself and to restate my surrender for Him (He never really needs reminding, but I think He likes to hear me say it)…
“What ever the question, LORD, my answer is ‘yes’!”
…and a P.S. I added in college (after getting myself in way over my head with an overcommitted schedule of “good” things, not the “best” He had called me to)…
“As long as you make it clear to me what You want me to do, and let me know for certain that it is You asking me, I’ll do anything You ask.”
Once you hear and know what He is telling you to do, GET TO IT and STAY AT IT.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves… the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25
Some of the best counsel I have heard was given by a friend who, coming to the end of himself and his limited resources, was told these words by a godly counselor,
“What was the last thing you remember God clearly told you to do?”
“Do that until He tells you otherwise.”
Start there. Be faithful, and wait on the LORD. He will guide you!
So, can you remember the last clear instruction/command He gave you? — No? — Then when was the last time you were on your face seeking Him?
If it’s been a while and you feel at a loss for where to begin, grab your Bible, a pen, a notebook. Just start talking to the LORD, read a bit of His word, let Him talk to you, and then reply. Ask Him a question, then wait for Him to answer. Keep reading, listening, and talking to your Father.
It’s like a re-set button, a back to the basics “teach me to pray” guide that jump starts my prayer life with simple reminders. It was designed for Christmas; so now, before the start of another year, is the perfect time to cultivate a habit of prayer.
This will give you a taste of the type of things I do on my monthly prayer days. Only no two prayer days are exactly alike; so meet with the Lover of Your Soul, seek Him, and whatever tool you decide to use, make it your own, never getting away from the simplicity of
reflecting (praying and talking through your struggles, concerns, sins that need confessing, whatever is on your heart…)
listening (quieting your spirit, reading the Scriptures, being still in the LORD’s presence, waiting until You’ve heard from Him…)
planning (resolving in your heart a plan of action, a decisive step of obedience, even dreaming in the LORD’s presence of “impossible possibilities”…)
and listening again (asking “LORD, did I hear you clearly? Are my plans in line with Yours? Is there anything else You want to say to me <<< I get my best stuff in reply to that last question; so linger in His presence!!!!!)
You have time.
If you don’t, it sounds like you need to do a little more praying and listening before you do your planning. Like the wise old proverb says: “If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy.”
Enjoy His company today! Seek Him, and you will find Him.
a people under a spell: trapped in time, needing a Savior, …
a child of faith: knowing the truth, confronting a lie while clinging to the truth that the story book is not “just stories” but history…
and it all began, “once upon a time…”
It’s not just a TV show; it’s any show, every movie, every book, every story, every conversation heard in the company of Truth whispering revelations in parables.
I have an Ever-Present-Guide overwhelming me with glimpses of Perfection, of the Infinite, of ultimate Reality, Life, Hope, of Truth. It’s only a blink, and for a moment I see perfectly, clearly, vividly. Then the colors dim and a duller version of reality, a spell-bound, cursed illusion of reality, settles back over the world. Yet, something remains: insight.
I know the truth.
And I wonder, am I alone, awake in this dream, awake in this land of sleep-walkers who have forgotten who they are and where they come from?
I connect the dots, retrace the interweaving threads that have providentially lead me to this moment. — I am speechless. — I’m in a head-on collision with Providence. I had no idea that all “my ideas” were not my own. All along, I was walking down a path marked out of “works prepared in advanced for me to do”. And days slip by as I wrap my mind around the conclusion of the matter, another day, and I still am editing this same post…
Are these thoughts just for me, something to forever remain in the ever-growing catalogue of drafts to “treasure and ponder in my heart”? I set it aside, but I still wrestle.
(If you ever read this, I’ve surrendered this draft of jumble back into the hands of Sovereignty with the prayer, “LORD, translate my awe of You and how You speak to me into something that causes someone else to seek You.”)
… I feel like a child again, tangled-up in my inability to communicate.
Oh, to write of things unspeakable! I feel so inadequate.
How many stories have you heard already this week? Dozens to be sure. Were you entertained, distracted? Did you escape for a moment, veg-out? Or were you, a Seeker, walking so close to your Guide that you couldn’t help but hear the whisper of a revelation, the secret of a Parable?
In them (parables) is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” Mt. 13:14, Is. 6:9
I’m preparing for a Storybook (Kingdom Seeking) Spring Retreat that is all about stories: royal stories, princess stories, the stories of kings (particularly the kings of Israel and Judah), and our story; so in my free time, I’ve been reading fairytales, watching movies, and at the recommendation of a young friend, watching episode after episode of “Once Upon a Time”.
And as our family comes to the book of Revelation to wrap up our evening readings of the Bible this year, it is as if a series of hidden doors and secret passages are opening and from far away a cool breeze is blowing, stirring the stale, musty air of uninspired thoughts, rousing the nodding head and bleary mind, startling this drowsy-learner, alerting the senses to make connections in…
…stories. My story. Every story. His story.
It is the Spirit, sanctifying the ordinary, making the secular sacred, spinning and redeeming every tale, and touching my nerves so all my senses are aware of insights hidden in plain sight.
Without excuse, I am cognizant of the spiritual: the first of all the unseen dimensions, invisible qualities, eternal power, and divine attributes. Indeed, all History is His, all creation sings, the heavens declare. Oh, that I would not be mute to a blind and deaf world! I want to contribute my verse.
All around us, a Matrix of lessons woven into the fabric of our world goes unseen by the lazy heart, the preoccupied mind. Yet the Seeker, with her mind set on the Spirit, is led by the Spirit that, bearing witness with her spirit, guides her into all truth. She can learn from the ant, the fool, the wise and learned, from the good and the bad example. The Seeker learns from life, and life is stories: history, written and being written.
“Whoever has ears let him hear.” Mt. 13:9
Yet without a discerning heart, a listening ear, and a teachable spirit, stories are just stories, more of the same, a white noise of distraction that allow us to unwind and tune out the point. We are entertained but manipulated. We ride the train of thought fed to us and come to the clever conclusion intended by a script writer as our final destination.
We unwittingly find ourselves rooting for the handsome and charming, be he a lonely soul leaving his spouse to find true love. We’re willing to overlook the means for the immediate happily-ever-after, that cannot last, with no thought given to the age old tale that every use of dark “magic”, every sin, comes at great cost. — I want to yell at my computer screen as I watch back episodes, “Don’t do it! Won’t you learn? Don’t you see? Sin will cost you more than you know! Don’t make the deal! You’ll regret it in the end.”
The question is asked, “Can good win?” When we don’t cheat, when we don’t lie, when we don’t steal or make the compromising deal, when we don’t manipulate, when we play by the rules, can Love conquer all? Is Love the deep magic, the greatest power of all? Is there a Savior?
Jesus’s disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable…” Mt. 13:39
My college roommate came for a visit and gave me a Christmas book, a Once Upon a Time book of true stories. Had an angel appeared and handed me the volume, I would not be any more convinced of the timing being divinely inspired.
But, it is not just Ann Voskamp’s count down to Christmas, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. (Oh, what an introduction she writes! “In the beginning – that’s is when this story begins…”) Every story, fiction and non, that tells of love, good vs evil, happily-ever-after, character development; every children’s story or biography, contains an element that can resonate with man because it is either the history of man or the writings that expose the darkest heart or the deepest dreams of man.
Even when the plot turns sour or we are left wanting because of a poorly written, unresolved conflict, when we feel the Fall, we know there must be something more. It is there that the Holy Spirit speaks to us, if we will listen.
On a Lighter (more Christmassy) Note, since it is almost Christmas
I want to encourage you this week,
whether you’re watching Elf (the story of an ambassador who was out-of-place in this world),
Home Alone (the story of sin being pleasant for a season but ending in regret, loneliness, and separation / and the lengths that Love will go to bring reconciliation),
White Christmas (a story of love and relationships nearly destroyed by gossip and the importance of going to your brother first when you hear rumors of sin),
Christmas in Connecticut (a story of the inescapable mess that comes from one lie leading to another and the importance of telling the truth from the start),
The Grinch that Stole Christmas (an illustration of how easy it is to get wrapped up in holiday marketing and miss the message of Christ-mas entirely, how the acceptance and love of one humble person <or the hateful word and rejection of one insecure, proud, and selfish person> can impact the life of another),
It’s a Wonderful Life (another story of how one life touches so many others and how real wealth has little to do with material things),
or a Christmas Carol (a story of greed, repentance, second chances, and generously loving your fellow man), …
see if you can go a little deeper and find a “parable” (a spiritual truth or moral lesson hidden in a simple tale) in the stories you hear this week.
Don’t force it or make something up (as I did for the purpose of illustration with a couple of the movies above); rather, meet God in the morning, talk with Him throughout the day, and ask Him to speak to you. Then, when you hear a friend recount events of yesterday, listen to your child read aloud for school, or watch a movie with the family, tune in. Keep your spiritual ears open and see what hidden insight the Spirit will bring into plain view.
And remember, your life is a story! You are an epistle: “You yourselves are a letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone… you are a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Cor. 3:2
Your story was written by God (“and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Ps. 139:16); so you know it’s gonna’ be good!
God is Love! His is the deepest “magic”, the most powerful of all. He conquers all. There is a happily-ever-after that is pure and will last forever.
As the main character in your own story, and a major or a minor character in the story of every person you meet, be a hero, not a villain. Align yourself with God and the story He has written for your life. Make it beautiful, your favorite story, part of a grander story, with every day a parable for someone to read of some spiritual truth that God is weaving into who you are!
You have a story to share. Live it. Share it!
Before you know it, this part of your story will be over and a story, a never ending story, will begin. Then we will learn what “happily-ever-after” really means.