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Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Mulling

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
…and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4: 8-9b NIV

When I first decorate my home for Christmas everything looks so beautiful! Even though it is a lot of work I still say things like “I just love Christmas!” or “Christmas is my favorite time of year.”

And then it’s over. The candles have burned down to a nub and there is wax on my favorite tablecloth. My pretty holly dinner dishes are clean but stacked on the counter waiting to be packed away for another year. The cute cookie tins that were full of cookies just a few days ago now contain only a few stale crumbs. Our once beautiful tree now looks wilted and the bottom of the tree looks naked without the gifts skirting the base. As my eyes cruise the room I see stacks of unwrapped gifts everywhere that are waiting to find their new home. Piled up at the back door are several large garbage bags full of crumpled wrapping paper and crushed bows that are waiting to make their way to the curb for tomorrow’s trash pick up. I am finding it hard to believe that jut a few days ago everything was picture perfect.

This scenario reminds me that the glitter of life always leave us feeling let down and unfulfilled. No matter how beautiful and appealing the things of life are they are only temporary. The aftermath of a holiday, or a party, or a nice vacation can leave us feeling disappointed, lonely, and depressed. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing in this life that can satisfy our inner soul but Jesus and doing the work that he has given us to do.

I love my family and I cherish the time we have together but when Christmas is over and there is nothing left but hugging everyone good-bye and cleaning up the mess I must admit that I get a little depressed. I have even been known to shed a few tears. I think that this year I would be wise to guard my heart and move on in a positive way. I think that first on my agenda will be sitting in my favorite chair and sipping a hot cup of cranberry-orange cider as I mull over some of the very wonderful events of the holiday. Yes, reflection is exactly what I need.

What will I mull over? I think that I will try to think about the things that can’t be purchased and things that are true and noble. I want to think about things that are right and pure. I will choose to think about lovely and admirable things. I will mull over things that are excellent and praiseworthy.

To start with I will close my eyes and inhale the refreshing aroma of my Frasier Fir. Even after the ornaments have been removed the fragrance will still remain. Our Christmas tree will serve as a reminder that Jesus died on a tree and because of that I am forgiven.

I will also think of our delicious Christmas dinner. I love to sit a pretty table and prepare delicious food. Even though only a few leftovers remain I can still remember the good meal and the fellowship as we sat around the table. God’s provision is always something to give thanks for. Now this memory triggers my mind to think about how God continues to provide for me in unique and amazing ways every day. I am blessed and privileged to be under his Almighty wing of protection.

Another memory would be the twinkle in my grandchildren’s eyes on Christmas morning. The innocence of childhood and the faith of little children is something to imitate. Jesus has said that we need to come to him with the simple faith of little children.

Moving on I begin thinking about the music of Christmas. My all time favorite is “Mary Did You Know?” and perhaps for the last time this year I will hum that tune and play those lyrics over again in my mind.

The tree lights are still twinkling and as they twinkle I know that Jesus is my hope. He is the light in a very dark world. This year I am thankful for all of the gifts that I received, but at this moment I want to think about all of the rich gifts that God so generously gives me over and over again. They are his priceless gifts of love, peace, joy, and hope.

Still looking around the room I see splashes of red everywhere and this too, serves as a beautiful reminder to me of Jesus’ shed blood. It was his own precious blood that he shed for my salvation.

I must say that now my spirit is refreshed, but I think that my body is in need of a much needed nap. So what’s one more day? I believe that tomorrow I can clean up the Christmas mess with a smile on my face as I look forward to January and the start of a new year.

I believe that this year I have discovered a four step program for phasing out of a busy but beautiful Christmas.

Step 1 – Reflect on meaningful moments
Step 2 – Rejoice in the birth of Christ
Step 3 – Rest
Step 4 – Resolve to move ahead

This year my plan for moving ahead is to read all four of the gospels. Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but I now want to walk through the thirty-three short years that he walked on this earth. The winter months will be a perfect time for doing this.


How does Christmas leave you feeling?

What are your favorite Christmas memories?

Do you think that the four step program of Reflect, Rejoice, Rest and Resolve might be of benefit to you?


Dear Jesus,

Thank you for the joy that I have experienced this Christmas season. Thank you for the music of Christmas that has carried me to heavenly heights. Thank you for my family that gathered together. Thank you Jesus, that you are the reason for this Christmas season. Thank you for the delicious sweet treats that I have enjoyed that remind me that your name is indeed the sweetest name on earth. Lord, I am tired so please give me your peace and rest. I know that you too rested after your work. Jesus I ask that you give me your direction and purpose for the days ahead. I pray that you would create within my heart a deep longing and desire to know you more as I seek to have your thoughts become my thoughts.

Now Lord, I pray for those who may not have had a wonderful Christmas. Jesus please wrap your arms of love around the poor, the needy, the sick, the lonely, the solider, and the one who is grieving. Father, please grant peace to each hurting life and give them a double portion of your love. Send hope into their heart. Comfort them and provide for them in the days ahead. Please help them to look to you for the grace they need to get through this difficult time in their life.

In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas In the Garden

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

Even on a day when there is so much to do I feel I must spend time in the garden. The garden is especially beautiful this time of year. Freshly fallen snow and holly bushes bearing the brightest red berries that I have ever seen, welcome me to the garden. Poinsettias provide a blanket of red on a nearby hill. The air is crisp and dozens of red cardinals fly first here and then there. They are incredibly beautiful birds! God’s color combinations are always perfect. Dark tree bark provides outstanding contrast against the pure white snow. Evergreens and holly bushes add a stately background of green that allows the vibrant accents of the red cardinals, the holly, and Nandina berries all project their beauty. This winter scene is a breathtaking vision of splendor. My garden parades beautiful Poinsettias and amaryllis up and down every pathway. Yes, I know that Poinsettias and amaryllis bulbs freeze in a cold environment but in the garden of my heart I can have it all!

During my time of personal prayer and reflection the Master Gardener seems to sense that I am cold. Even though I am appropriately dressed I cannot deny the chill. He smiles and says come with me. The Gardener invites me to come and sit by the fire that he has built in one corner of the garden. I reach down in my bag and pull out a thermos of hot chocolate and two mugs. At the last minute I add a peppermint candy cane. He smiles and says, “You remembered.” Yes, the cane is the shape of an upside down “J” that stands for Jesus. The pure white peppermint serves as a reminder that Jesus takes away our sin and makes my heart as white as snow. The three stripes of red that twist around the candy cane stand for the three wounds of Jesus and I am reminded that it is by his bloody stripes that am I healed. Yes Lord, I remember. How could I forget? You are so precious to me.

Never mind that I have much to do, I must continue to stay in the garden. The day has now turned to night. The heavenly stars twinkle and the full moon is perfect. All day long I have been with Jesus and it has been a wonderful day. Before leaving the garden Jesus takes me back to a place long ago. In my mind I see a lowly stable. I see Mary gazing into the eyes of her child and her Savior. I see Joseph standing guard over Jesus and realizing that someday he would grow to depend upon this now helpless baby. The stable is quiet except for an occasional sound from the animals. The moon and the stars above the stable provide all of the light that they need. But even if the stars should dim the Christ child would shine because he is the light of the world. And now the guests begin to arrive. They are lowly shepherds coming with their sheep. The shepherds bow at the manger in worship. They have come not to worship a child but to bow before the King.

As I leave the garden I feel abundantly blessed and lavishly loved. I am truly amazed that God would choose to leave the splendor and glory of heaven and come to earth for me and for you. He was rich, yet he became poor. What kind of love is this?


Have you taken time this season to focus on Jesus and his entry into our sinful world?

What do you think those who witnessed that Holy night thought about Jesus?

What was the rest of the world doing?


Dear Jesus,

Thank you so much for leaving the splendor and glory of heaven. How very different this world must have been for you. As you grew older were you homesick for heaven and for your Heavenly Father? While you lived on earth did you feel the love of Mary and Joseph? Did you mind being poor? How often did you remember how rich you used to be? Jesus, your birth was only the beginning. Jesus I am humbled when I remember that it was for the moment of the cross that you came to this world. Doing the will of your Father was your only focus. God’s will was your death. Your death was the plan for my forgiveness. Lord Jesus, help me to fall so deeply in love with you that I will be willing to do your will each and every day without question. This Christmas I want to rejoice in your perfect gift to me, my salvation. Jesus thank you for all you have done for me.

In Your name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wrapping It Up!

“For the wages of sin is death,

but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23 NIV

Today my mind is racing in a million different directions. This morning I am finding it difficult to stay focused and to move forward with a peaceful heart. While drinking my morning coffee I began to review everything that is on my “to do” list for this power day! If you are a list maker you will understand, if not I’m afraid I can’t help you. The fact is I make lists of my lists. Isn’t that sad?

I’m now going to brace up and prepare for the surge of power and control that comes over me when I realize the projects that I have already accomplished. And oh the joy that comes from checking each item off my list! Now with pen in hand I begin the energizing ritual. Tree up – check. House decorated – check. Shopping finished – check. Cards mailed – check. Cookies baked – check.

Yes! I feel an uncontrollable smile forming on my face as I realize that today is the day for my favorite Christmas project, wrapping gifts. I always save the best for last. I love wrapping gifts because that is how I savor something of my holiday preparations just for my own enjoyment. Wrapping gifts signifies to me that I am just about to wrap it all up! In a few minutes I will gather my gift wrapping supplies, turn on the tree lights, and crank up the Christmas music. It is in this atmosphere that I am in my element.

I love wrapping each and every gift that has been selected in love. I love to give a gift that says I know what you need and I want to give it to you. I love giving a gift that expresses to the one that will open it the fact that I know them and I know what they like. As I wrap each gift I also pray for the one who will receive the gift.

Gift wrapping is the project that allows my creative juices to flow. I nestle each gift inside colorful tissue paper, and then wrap each box in an appropriately selected paper. Creating the perfect bow is the icing on the cake. Last but not least I choose a gift tag for the package. I love recycling the beautiful Christmas cards received the previous year for this purpose. I trim each card with decorative scissors and then place the appropriate card on each of my packages. I will choose a little shepherd boy for my grandson, Joshua. I will find a sweet angel for my granddaughter, Abigail. I will select a polar bear with a red bow around its neck for my hubby, who loves polar bears. And I will search for a drummer boy for my son, David, who is a musician. As I dig down into the pile of Christmas cards I find a perfect card for my daughter, Amy. It is a picture of a cozy room decorated for Christmas. This scene reminds me of my daughter because she knows how to make her home so beautiful for the Christmas holiday. Then perhaps I can find a card with lots of Christmas goodies for my son-in-law, Todd, who never wants to miss out on sweets! I also use religious cards that tell of the birth of the Christ Child for additional packages. Each of these gift cards serve as a reminder of God’s perfect gift to all of us.

When the last gift is wrapped I lovingly place all of them under the tree. The tree was beautiful before but now it is exquisite! What is it about all of the beautiful gifts that make the tree so lovely? This will be the night that I will make hot chocolate, turn down the room lights and bask in the twinkling lights of our tree with my hubby.

Wrapping gifts always reminds me of God’s gift to all humanity. He carefully selected the perfect gift. God knew we needed a Savior and he was delighted to give him to us. God sent his son, gift wrapped him in simple swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. God hoped humanity would love his son as much as he did.

I am reminded that I place my gifts UNDER the tree but God placed his gift ON the tree. Jesus Christ became the sin sacrifice for your sin and for my sin. This was God’s way of wrapping it up!

If you have never realized that Jesus Christ died on the cross to remove sin from your heart I hope you will consider that fact today.
As you consider that fact I pray that you will choose to believe that it is true. Jesus is God’s free gift to you. Remember a gift never really belongs to you until you reach out and take it. So this Christmas season, reach out in simple faith and receive the gift that God’s has for you. Open your mind to the reality that God loves you and wants you back with him where you belong. Receive God’s precious gift of salvation and eternal life today.


What is your favorite Christmas project?

Can you think of a way to bring Jesus into that project?

Have you ever asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life?

When did Jesus become real to you?

When did the reality of his personal sacrifice and free gift of salvation take root in your heart?

How has accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior made a difference in your life?


Dear God,

At times it seems I can’t comprehend all of the events that led up to the birth of your Son. I lack understanding so therefore I need faith. Some people do not want to be a fool for believing in Jesus Christ, but I don’t want to be a fool for not believing. Today I want to set aside my intellect and simply open my heart. God if you are real reveal that truth to me right now. I am told your Holy Bible says if anyone will seek you they will find you. So today God, here I am seeking you. I reach out in simple faith and take the gift of your salvation for my life. I realize I have been born into the sin of humanity and the only way I can be cleansed and set free of sin is to accept Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death for me. I am beginning to understand this is the only way I can be free of my sinful condition. Today I am going to choose to believe in your Son for the forgiveness of my sin. I thank you God for my very special Christmas gift of salvation.

In Your Son’s name I pray. Amen.

If you have recently trusted in Jesus Christ and his forgiveness for your life I would love to hear from you. I would love to pray for you and encourage you in your new life. If you would like to share this decision with me you may send me a confidential e-mail at:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Treasured Things Worth Pondering

"But Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Luke 2:19 NIV

Christmas traditions are very special but in our family I had a desire to create a Christmas tradition that would also leave a spiritual legacy. For the past few years on Christmas morning I have given each member of our family a special Christmas card and inside the card I place a laminated scripture card. I select a new verse each year and as a family we adopt that verse as our family verse for the coming year.

The young children have a simplified version of the verse to place in their room. The adults can place their verse on their desk, in their Bible, or any other place that provides a daily reminder. This special gift to each family member is designed to unite our family in our faith and in our love for one another as we pray for each other throughout the coming new year.

When our children were young, we also had another tradition. Every Christmas Eve all of the cousins in the family would take part in a homespun Christmas pageant. The little boys would don their bathrobes, bath towels for the headdress, and walking canes for shepherd staffs. The little girls would sprout angel wings and one lucky girl would get to be Mary. After the pageant we lit candles and sang “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night.” After that we brought in a special birthday cake for Jesus’ birthday and all the children sang happy birthday to Jesus and blew out the candles.

For me these are priceless memories to be forever treasured in my heart. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about because you have your own memories. If you do not have any special holiday memories I would encourage you to make some family memories that you will treasure in your heart for the years to come.

Mary had her own set of Christmas memories. Even on the very first Christmas, Mary reflected on the events leading up to Jesus’ birth. I imagine that she thought about the loving care of Joseph. Perhaps she remembered the long trip to Bethlehem and the actual birth of Jesus. No doubt she was amazed that her child was the Son of God. Perhaps she might have even been flabbergasted that God would choose an animal stable for the birth place of his Son. Mary may have thought about the star, the shepherds, and the angels. Scripture tells us for certain that Mary treasured, stored and pondered the memories in her heart.

Mary must have been very humbled to have been used by God in such a privileged way. I see Mary just as an ordinary woman who was nothing more than an available, obedient servant willing to be used by God. It is also my privilege to care for my family. I too am amazed that God would entrust me with the awesome job of being a mother and now a grandmother. It is my desire to make memories that are worth storing and pondering in my heart. I am just an ordinary woman who wants to be available and obedient to God.


What are the things in your heart that you treasure and ponder?

Are you inspired by the example of Mary, an ordinary woman, who simply wanted to be obedient and used by God? Read: Luke 1:38, 46-49

Do you, like Mary, count it a privilege that God also wants to use you?

If you are a male reading this please pray for the women in your life who in the past have made Christmas meaningful for you. If you are married pray for your wife who works hard to make Christmas a special holiday for the family. Trust me is a labor of love.


Dear Lord,

I know that you do not use every person in the same way. Some people are mothers amd fathers and some are grandmothers and grandfathers. Others wish with all their heart that they could be, but as yet it has not happened. Today I pray for all of those individuals. Some men and women are single and in many ways feel alone, yet you are able to show them traditions that they can share with others who may be in the very same place in their life. Lord this day I pray that all these people would embrace who they are in Christ Jesus. Every person gifted in his or her own special way. Lord I pray that we would all be men and women who are available and obedient to serve you in any way that you choose for us to serve.

In Your Name I pray. Amen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Ornaments

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.”
I Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Yesterday was a Christmas shopping day. I cannot believe the hundreds of ornaments that are for sale. Some are silver and others are gold. Some are shiny and colorful while others are covered with glitter and glitz! Some ornaments are cute and some look like sweet treats. Others remind us of snow. There are bangles of all sorts that depict Santa, reindeer, elves and snowmen. Very few Christmas ornaments are religious.

I personally am greatly disturbed by ornaments that look like penguins, mice, campers, fishermen, professional people, sports enthusiasts and Disneyland! If you happen to like those ornaments please accept my apology. It was not my intent to offend you. I’m sure your tree is lovely!

When I was a child I was given a very special Christmas ornament. It was a small burgundy horn. This little trumpet was placed on our tree every year. When I started a home of my own, my mother graciously gave me my precious ornament. This horn would now hang from my Christmas tree. When my two children were little they loved blowing long and loud blasts before hanging the horn on the tree. I might add that they enjoyed hanging it within their reach so that it would be handy for future concerts. As the Christmas season progressed my endurance for their questionable music diminished to zero and at that point I would take the horn and place it on a very high branch of the tree. It was my good fortune that they never turned the tree over trying to reach the heirloom horn. Now as you might have guessed, my grandchildren love the horn and when they are around it becomes their favorite ornament.

Our ornaments carry with them memories of Christmases past. Some are beautiful and others are handmade by our children. Some remind us of the person who gave the ornament to us. As we hang each ornament on our tree we relive the emotional sentiment attached to each one.

This year as I hang ornaments on my tree I want to remember that my life displays its own set of ornaments. Those ornaments hang there everyday for everyone to see. Long after I am gone others will remember the ornaments that have exemplified my life. I wonder if there will be shiny superficial ornaments of pride and self-centeredness. Will there be dark, unattractive ornaments of fear and anger? Will my ornaments reflect un-forgiveness, greed, and control? Will the star that sits atop my life’s tree be self centered or will it be God centered. Will the ornaments of my life shine for Jesus?

Jesus Christ came to this earth so that we might not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus came to change lives, not only through salvation but through the process of sanctification. Jesus came to smash to death those ornaments of destruction that hang on the branches of our heart. In their place Jesus desires to give us his ornaments of grace that will carry us through this life and on into eternity. Three of those most precious ornaments are faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love!


When was the last time that you pulled out the box that contained your life’s ornaments and examined them?

What did you find?

Among the beautiful ornaments that Jesus has placed in your box which do you treasure the most?

Do you see any ugly ornaments that need to be smashed and replaced with an ornament that reflects God’s beauty?


Dear Lord,

Help me to use this Christmas season to draw closer to you. As I decorate my home and our Christmas tree please show me if there are any ugly ornaments in my life that need to be replaced. Search me God and see if there is any wicked way in me, cleanse me from every sin and set me free. Demolish the ornaments of destruction that are lying in my heart. Lord, during the next few days I have much to do but as I go about my Christmas preparations I pray that I will seek you. Restore to me the joy of Christmas. Please hang your ornaments of grace on the branches of my life.

In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Upside-down Thanksgiving

"O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34 AKJV

Every Thanksgiving we have a delicious meal of turkey and stuffing with all the trimmings. I then invite our guests to make their way to the dessert buffet. I’m always accused by someone of saving the best for the last.

I wonder what would happen if we started with the dessert buffet? I know for a fact it would make my grandchildren happy and many of the adults as well! It’s not that they don’t enjoy the main meal it is just that they would like to have what pleases them the most first.

If you are like me you live each day in a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. However, on Thanksgiving Day most of us will pause, at least a few moments to think about what it is that we are thankful for. Hopefully that thanks will be directed toward God because it is God who provides all things.

When you ask a child what they are thankful for they usually say, their toys, or their electronic games. Sometimes they are thankful for mommy and daddy. Their list is usually very short and self-centered. I am appalled when I realize that far too often I fall into that same pattern of thanksgiving.

Why is it that when someone asks me what I am thankful for my mind goes immediately to things that are self-centered and right in front of my face. High on my list of thankfulness is my family, my home, my job, my health, my food, my friends, my church, my, my, my, everything. This is not wrong because we should be thankful for all that God has so richly provided for us. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that God is not amazed by my responses because he knows that I am human. The Bible tells me that I think on things below rather than things above. My thoughts are without a doubt upside - down thinking.

Sooner or later I finally do get around to being thankful for my salvation and for all the many blessing that come my way because of my faith. I am thankful for peace and joy. I am thankful for wisdom and understanding. I am thankful for God’s amazing love and faithfulness. I am thankful for the hope I have in heaven. I am thankful for God’s guidance in my life. I am thankful for God’s grace, his compassion and mercy towards me. His marvelous mercy that says, Paula, I know you are dust. I understand that your thinking is upside down. I love you regardless of the order in which you give thanks. I know your heart says things that your mouth does not speak. I love you unconditionally with a love that never ends.

Yes Lord, I am privileged, blessed and thankful! I’m glad that you understand that I save the best for last even though it is the sweetest of all!


Have you ever experienced upside-down thankfulness?

What are you most thankful for?

Are you thankful for God’s love and mercy that endures forever?


Dear God,

Thank you that you are a God of never ending love and mercy towards all those who love you. Forgive me Lord when I express self centered thanksgiving. Help me God to be more conscious of my intangible blessings. Today I want to express my thanks for those blessings first of all. In addition, thank you for all the things that you give me to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, love, and personally enjoy. God, from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for all of my temporal blessings. God you are amazing! Thank you for your merciful love that understands and covers all my upside-down thinking.

In Your Son’s Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Incrediable Joy In A Long Awaited Answer!

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
John 11:40 NIV

I have found that there is incredible joy in a long awaited answer to prayer! I believe that the longer the wait for an answer to prayer, the greater the joy when God finally delivers the answer. Although I desire a quick answer to my prayer there are many reasons that God may choose to delay his answer.

God may choose to delay an answer to prayer simply because all things are not ready. For instance you may be praying for a job but the job that God has in mind for you is not available yet. Or if you are married and your prayer request involves both you and your mate, you may have to wait until you are both ready for God to work. Maybe God is trying to accomplish something different in each of your lives that will require two different types of obedience. It is possible that maybe your mate is ready and you are still lacking. In another instance you may be praying for someone to accept the Lord, but you must wait until that person is willing. Other times God delays an immediate answer to our prayer because he has a much greater blessing in mind.

The manner in which we choose to wait for an answer can either bring God glory or it can show our lack of trust in God. I guess we could say that our waiting is a bit of a test. It is during the times of waiting that I must choose to be faithful and believe God no matter how long it takes for the answer to come. Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40 NIV

The above scripture was spoken to those that witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead. After Jesus had learned of Lazarus’ death he waited four days before he showed up at Lazarus’ home in Bethany. He was greeted by Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha. Both of the women expressed to Jesus that if he had gotten there earlier Lazarus would not have died. Now these women were friends of Jesus. They had witnessed him healing many people. I’m sure they were a bit put out because now when they needed Jesus, he was nowhere to be found! The point was that Jesus did not rush on the scene and heal Lazarus because he had chosen the death of Lazarus as an opportunity to perform a greater miracle. It would be a miracle that would bring greater glory to God. I can only imagine that when Jesus said “Lazarus come forth!” and Lazarus came out of the tomb throwing off his grave clothes, the people set up and took great notice because God was at that moment being glorified in an amazing way. You see, Jesus’ delay was a delay of love. It was for the greater good that he waited.

I prayed eleven years that my husband, who traveled weekly, would get a local job. I had friends and family all over the country joining me in that prayer. I believed with all my heart that God was more than able to answer my prayer, yet I did not know if God would choose to do so. I made up my mind that no matter what the outcome of my prayer I would remain faithful to my husband and my God.

Finally, from a heavenly perspective, all things were ready and God answered my prayer. Not only did God provide Joe with a local job in North Carolina, he gave him a home office and now he is home 24/7!

I cannot tell you the incredible joy that I experienced when this long awaited answer to prayer came! I was thrilled! God had not forgotten us; he knew our names and our address. It really did seem to my spirit that there was glory all around! It has been a few years now, but remembering this surprising answer to prayer still sends shivers up and down my arms!

When Joe gave me God’s good news, I immediately began making phone calls and sending e-mails to all the people who had been faithful in praying for us for eleven long years. You see, God could most likely have blessed us by finding my husband a local job sooner, but God did one better, a greater blessing indeed. Yes, there is great joy and a glorious witness as we shared the news of a long awaited answer to prayer. I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on the marvelous experience of what great joy feels like in a long awaited answer to prayer. I can only tell you it was and still is awesome!

This morning as I am leaving the garden my secret thoughts reveal that I wish that learning to wait on God was a one time experience. But I am finding that each situation walks me through yet another process of waiting. Today I want to remember that prayer is indeed a privilege and as I wait on God I will be prone to frustration. I don’t ever want to forget that the required sacrifice of submission is never easy but it is God’s plan for my peace. God commands me to keep praying and to not grow weary in doing the good work of prayer. With God’s help I also want to make good choices as I wait for his answers. I want to choose to wait in a spirit of peace rather than a spirit of impatience and frustration. Above all, I want to live in anticipation of the great joy that I will experience when my long awaited answer to prayer is delivered. I know that the answer will be a loving answer straight from the heart of God. Even if the answer is a heartbreaking no, I want to still choose to rejoice in the eternal value of God’s Divine answer, even if the value is veiled to me.


Have you been praying for something for a long time?

Are you discouraged because God has not yet answered your prayer?

Can you now think differently about why God may be taking his time in answering your prayer?

Have you ever experienced great joy in a long awaited answer to prayer? If so try to recall the events of how God showed up and answered that prayer.


Dear God,

Thank you for reminding me that there could be so many reasons why my prayers continue to go unanswered. I just want to take time now to tell you that I trust you as you make all things ready regarding my prayer request. I know that you desire to bless me and those around me when your glory is revealed in the answer to my prayer. I am choosing this day to be faithful as I wait on you. Help me to bring glory to you in the way that I wait for your answer. Help me to wait peacefully rather than impatiently. I take enormous joy in knowing that your answer was released in heaven even before I finished praying that first day I brought my request to you. I know that you will know when all things are ready.

In Your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Joy As We Wait

“Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks,
and send some to those who have nothing prepared.
This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve,
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

Today I decided to have lunch in the garden. The sun was high in the sky and the huge fluffy clouds reminded me of the white filling that is used for stuffing soft pillows. The autumn air had a chilling nip that caused me to zip up my jacket. Nonetheless, today the flowers were exceptionally beautiful! The wonderful thing that I love about the garden of my heart is that all species of flowers bloom every single day for my enjoyment. As I sat down on the garden bench and began to eat my sandwich I seemed to sense a tug on my heart to move closer to an area of the garden where the peace lilies bloomed profusely. I immediately got up and started walking toward the peace lilies. These pure white lilies seemed to be stretching their long slender necks toward heaven in joyful praise to their creator. I especially loved looking at the peace lilies today because my heart seemed to be at peace and joy seemed to be bubbling inside my spirit. Yes, today was a “no worry” day.

Satan tried his best to spoil my mood by reminding me that I still had many unanswered prayers. He also reminded me that I hate waiting. I didn’t like those thoughts so I shouted, “Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ, be gone!” He left.

After Satan left I felt the presence of the Master Gardner but he seemed to be staying out of my sight. That was not a major concern because I again began to feel joy bubbling up inside of me. I was amazed that I was so happy when I still had so many unanswered prayers sitting on God’s desk.

The truth is that I am waiting for God to answer many prayers. I am praying for my friends who are in need of jobs. There are prayers for successful surgeries and for good medical test reports. There are prayers for the healing. There are unanswered prayers regarding my family. There are at least a hundred unanswered prayers for people who do not know the Lord and seemingly don’t want to know him. There are many prayers for people who are walking away from God instead of walking with God. There are specific prayers for provision, reconciliation, and emotional healing. There are so many seemingly unanswered prayers and yet I am still experiencing the joy of Jesus. Even with the burdens I carry I am experiencing peace and the joy of the Lord and that is where I find my strength.

Waiting for God’s answers is hard. I have found that when I focus on the waiting I become discouraged. Today in the garden I begin to read God’s Word. I am reading and rereading the words of Nehemiah and I am finding them especially meaningful. Nehemiah had some very good advice regarding how I can make the most of every day I live, even if it is a day of waiting or rejoicing. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy some choice food and sweet drinks.” Now I don’t know about where you live, but here in North Carolina that means barbecue and sweet tea! Then Nehemiah said, “Send some to those who have nothing prepared.” I have yet to knock on someone’s door with muffins or a casserole and have them send me away. No, it’s just the opposite. Folks respond in joy when someone brings them food that they don’t have to cook themselves. When I experience their delight then before I know it I’m smiling too! Sharing is always something that breeds joy. Nehemiah also said, “This is a sacred day to our Lord.” No doubt this was a very special day for Nehemiah because he was reading the law to the Israelites. The law had not been read to them for the many years that they were in exile. For them it was a day for rejoicing. As for me this event is also a reminder to me that all my days are sacred in God’s sight. I am lavishly loved by my Father. This is a reason for incredible joy.

Nehemiah now waves the red flag of caution and tells the people DO NOT grieve. God was with them. If I remember that I have an unanswered prayer it is not because it is in the trash basket or because it has been lost. No way! I can be certain that God has my prayer in his “in box” and that some day he is going to move my request over to his “out box.” Wow! That is one more reason for joy. Nehemiah’s words also remind me that the joy of the Lord is my strength. It is good for me to remember that grief is common after loss, but prayers in process do not qualify as loss.

Without a doubt, Satan will try to be a joy buster! But how I wait for an answer to prayer is my choice. I can wait in frustration and fear or I can choose to wait patiently and in peace. But I must believe that God is completely able to accomplish what I have asked him to do. If God’s final answer is “no” then I must believe that God will be my strength and that his grace will be sufficient.

So today I am in the garden dancing the dance of joy! My delight sends me twirling around in circles until I fall into a cluster of bright golden lantana. What a coincidence, the flowers that I have landed in remind me of a “basket containing gold.” It has been my experience that when I joyfully wait for an answer to prayer and when that answer is finely delivered it is like receiving a basket of gold! This blessing is so incredible that it shines in golden radiance because it has God’s name written all over the answer. Usually, God even throws in a bonus surprise making the answer even more precious. God loves to make his answer so exceptionally unique that he often goes above and beyond what I have requested. God does this so that there is absolutely no way that I could ever doubt that the answer came from any source other than my heavenly Father. It is also God’s way of being glorified!


What prayers do you have sitting in God’s “in box”?

Are you experiencing joy or frustration as you wait for answers?

How do you feel about Nehemiah’s antidote for waiting?


Dear God,

I pray that you will teach me to wait joyfully. Thank you that you do not want me to waste my days sitting around in fear or pacing back and forth in impatience. What great ideas Nehemiah had for celebrating as I wait for your answers. God you want me to eat and drink and to continue living my days in a spirit of joy. You want me to share with others from my resources. You caution me not to grieve for grief is the salve for loss. I am comforted to know that my prayers are not lost but rather they are a work in progress. God, I thank you that all of my days are precious to you and that not a single hair on my head goes unaccounted for. God this day I pray that you will give me a fresh anointing of your oil of joy as I wait. Protect me from Satan discouragement and help me to remember that he is a “joy buster”. May I never forget that your joy is my strength as I wait for your perfect answers.

In Your Son’s Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Do Not Grow Weary in Doing Good

Photo of impatiens...not to be confused with impatience

...but always a gentle reminder not to be impatient.

“Let us not become weary in doing good
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:9 NIV

Today I’m at my breaking point! Frankly, I’ve had it!! As I stomp out to the garden I realize that I am in such a tizzy that I have forgotten my coffee! Oh well, too late now. Today is the day that the Master Gardener and I are going to have it out about a few things. You may remember, I am a list maker and in my opinion lists are made so that finished projects can be crossed off. Today I am clutching in my hand a very well worn, crumpled up, tear stained prayer list. Needless to say many entries on this list are NOT crossed off. Frankly, I’m tired and weary of hauling this list around in my pocket. I want some answers and I want them now!

As I enter the garden, Jesus is almost laughing at my ridiculous, self-centered approach. I speak a gruff good morning as I plop myself down in the middle of a beautiful flower bed, hoping that somehow the beauty of these flowers will rub off on me. Jesus reaches down and takes me by my hand and pulls me up. Jesus’ tone of voice is calm and loving but his message is clear. “Paula, I don’t think you will be sitting here today. Today the “impatience” garden is far more suitable.”

And so the complaining begins, “Jesus, I am tired of praying for the same things over and over again. Are you even listening? Do you care? Are my prayers not worthy of your answers? Why is this taking so long? Don’t I have enough faith? If that’s the problem then exactly how much faith do I need and how much am I still lacking? Frankly Jesus, I’ve got to tell you that I’m frustrated. You tell me that it is good to pray but I am growing very weary. Lord I’m in desperate need of understanding prayer because I am next to giving up.”

Jesus looks into my eyes with the love and understanding that only he could possess and he begins teaching and I listen. Jesus begins by saying, “do not become weary in doing good,” Galatians 6:9 NIV After spending a good bit of time in the garden I start my walk back to the demands of life, but I will take away some wonderful words spoken by Jesus this morning.

“…I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 16:23b NIV I’m now starting to process the fact that perhaps I have been asking for my will not Jesus’ will. It is possible that they could already be the same, but according to this scripture I am compelled to search my heart with regards to my request. Have I been seeking God’s will or my will? Have I left the outcome up to him? It is very much like presenting a requisition list for supplies to the CEO of a company. The question is will my request for supplies be approved? Will Jesus be able to sign his name to my prayer request? Will Jesus read the list and know that what I have asked for is not really what I need? Will God’s eternal plan for my life override my personal desires? No doubt, there are times when my request is not in my best interest or in the best interest of the one for whom I am praying. Tears of sorrow and fear often cloud my vision with regard to God’s eternal answers.

“Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder.” Genesis 24:15 NIV Today I learned something new. The answer to a prayer prayed according to God’s will begins to be accomplished even before I stop praying. In this case Rebekah came out immediately, but I must also realize that even though the answer to my prayer begins the moment I pray it may not be fully released at that time. As a result, my prayer now should be thank you God that the answer is on the way and a future prayer will hold the thanksgiving of the completed answer.

“Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” John 11: 40 NIV This type of thinking will present me with the challenge of exhibiting faith and trust as I wait for God’s answers to my prayers. This exercise in believing God is already at work will also be a time when I must learn the lesson of waiting on God. I must not assume that a delayed answer to prayer is a “no” but rather see it as simply a sign that God is on the job but all things are not ready. Very simply put I must “hang in there!” I must also learn to accept the fact that some of my prayers may never be answered in my lifetime, but that fact does not make those prayers any less important.

So a few final thoughts, today I am treasuring the prayers that my deceased parents have prayed for me. They did not live to see the person I have become or am becoming in Christ Jesus. I love knowing that even though my mother only knew our children briefly her prayers for them are stored in heaven. My two grandchildren are blessed because of the prayers that their great grandmothers and great grandfathers have prayed for them even before they were born. And so I too will continue to pray for the faces of loved ones that I may never know. God has promised me that he is carving out blessings for a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Exodus 20:6) I do not want to grow weary in doing the good work of prayer. Long after I am gone, God will continue to call the souls of those that do not know him to himself. God will continue to call his children who are not making their walk with God a priority. The prayers that I have prayed for those people will never go unnoticed by God. He will continue to draw those individuals to himself because caring people have prayed. The events in life may not fall into place until I have left this world, but still I will continue to persevere in prayer.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV


What have you prayed for that you think will never be answered?

Are you growing weary in doing the good work of prayer?

Are you comforted in knowing that even when you grow weary in doing good, God does not grow weary?

In the future how will you view your answered prayers that have not yet become sight?

How does it make you feel to realize that your prayers will out live you?


Dear God,

Thank your for today’s lessons learned in the garden. It is very clear that this day I have been in need of an attitude check. Forgive me God for my impatience. God, I am amazed to know that even before I finish praying that you have placed my prayer in a pile marked “To Be Accomplished!” Today God, I release to you my time table and I embrace your promise that you will answer me according to your perfect will. God I am counting on you. I am waiting in anticipation for the day that you will show up with the answer in your hand. I accept the fact that I may never see the answer to my prayer but I will continue to completley trust you and believe that my prayers are stored in heaven and will out live me.

So it is…
In Your Son’s Name (according to your perfect will) that I bring all my requests. Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sacrifice of Submission

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do;
no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.
What a wretched man I am!
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Romans 7:18-19, 24-25 NIV

Today I have come to the garden with a struggling heart. I know what I should do but I don’t want to obey. I am overcome with anger because of my situation. I want to be the one in control, not God. It’s my life, why don’t I get to call the shots? Why do things keep happening to me that I have to struggle with and work through? It seems at times that God is setting up there in his beautiful heaven while I am here on earth making all of the sacrifices. So today with more than my fair share of anger bubbling up within me I come to the garden and go directly to my cooling down spot. I love this precious little waterfall that trickles down the rocks and splashes into the pond. Here I am surrounded by the soft gentle ferns and the striking hosta that is displaying many beautiful shades of green. I have been to this cooling down spot many times before. Believe me, this place is very familiar! There are no surprises here; I know exactly what is coming next. Two words immediately flood my mind. Those hard to swallow words are sacrifice and submission.

When I think of sacrifices I immediately remember the Old Testament sacrifices and Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation. As believers we are also told to offer up to our God and King sacrifices of praise and worship. But today I am faced with yet another sacrifice; it is the sacrifice of submission. God’s will for my life, not my will.

For me the sacrifice of submission is very difficult because it involves the personal relinquishment of the very thing that my heart and my will tenaciously cling to like moss on a tree. It is the people, the relationships, and the circumstances in life that in my own strength I am unable to surrender to God. Satan battles with me on an extremely high level regarding those issues that I must surrender to God in order to live victoriously. Satan fills my mind with lies, he fills my heart with fear, and he straps burdens on my back that I must carry all day and even as I sleep!

It is true that I will never be perfect in this life, but it is also true that God wants me to experience victorious living on every level while I am alive. This victory comes to me when I am able to relinquish my will to God’s great power and authority.

You may be terminally ill, or you may live in constant pain. You may now be putting your life on hold in order to be a caregiver for someone you love. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one. Your finances may be a matter of deep concern. Perhaps you have lost your job and are at your wits end looking for another one. You may have a difficult child or an adult child that is a prodigal. Perhaps war has separated you from a loved one. You may be someone who has experienced a broken relationship or maybe you are involved in a marriage that has gone south. Perhaps you have been separated from a loved one due to false accusations. Maybe you have suffered abuse. You may be uneducated, unemployed, unmarried, childless or unfulfilled. You may feel that you are alone in your circumstances but trust me, God is there!

The truth is that we are surrounded by trouble on every side. BUT GOD… has overcome the world and he gives that same power to each of us who belong to him. Jesus has opened the throne room of God and given us direct access to the Heavenly Father. Through prayer we petition the Father, Jesus also intercedes for us, and when we pray, God’s power is released to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. With God’s help, becoming a person who overcomes the adversity and the heartache that is found in life is a very real possibility.

I am here in the garden today because this is to be a day of letting go! I want to do what is right but I struggle to do it because I am a slave to my sin nature. Poor wretched woman I am, who will sit me free? Jesus Christ will set me free one day at a time. No matter what I have been through, or what I am going through, or what I will go through in the future, God wants the sacrifice of my submission. God wants me to hand him the “what if” the “what is” and the “what will be”. God wants my faith response to be, God, I trust you completely with my life and with the lives of those I love.

I am so grateful that my righteousness is not based upon my immediate obedience to submission. When life knocks me off my feet I must spend time in the garden. I must either return to the garden or stay in the garden until I am able to relinquish my will to God’s will. I am not any different than Jesus. The struggle of the flesh vs. the spirit takes place in my garden of Gethsemane just as it did for Jesus. It is my faith and trust in Jesus that is accounted to me as righteousness in God’s sight. It is having faith that believes that God is able to work in my behalf and that he will work in my best interest no matter what the results in this life may look like. In this present world God chooses many times to bless us, but eternity is always his priority! Our eternal good always overrides this present life. Because of God’s great love for me, today I choose to let go.


Is there anything in your life that you need to let go of and give to God?

Are you experiencing a struggle of your flesh vs. the spirit?

Are you feeling anger or fear regarding your situation?

Are you afraid to let go?

Do you want to experience God’s peace and victory in this struggle?


Dear Heavenly Father,

I come before you today and readily admit that I am angry and I am afraid! But the fact is there is no where I am safe from this torment except in your arms. Why is it so hard for me to trust you? I know you love me. I know you love those I love more than I do. Yet, I am so afraid! God I need your power and your strength to fill me so that I will have the courage to trust you. God, I know that you are looking out for my eternal good. I have been told that hard times and brokenness are used in my life to make me into your likeness. Oh to be like you Lord, pure and sinless as you are. Today Lord, I am going to take a leap of faith. I know full well it could go either way. I could gain or I could loose. But this day I will choose to let go and say, “…the LORD gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Lord I also know that the sacrifice of submission is necessary for my peace. I also realize that sometimes I must “let go” before I can “have”. Either way Lord, today I release my tight grip to you as I choose to let go of _________________.

In You Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Winds of Adversity

“Awake, north wind,

and come south wind!

Blow on my garden,

that its fragrance

may spread abroad.”

Song of Songs 4:16 NIV

Do I welcome adversity? Absolutely not! In fact I dread adversity. Do I dread the process and fear the outcome? Yes, in fact adversity sends my heart immediately straight to worse case scenario. But I do believe that Jesus understands those feelings. The Bible records that Jesus dreaded the cross but he also choose to say, "not my will but thy will be done." Fear seems to be so natural. It usually is my first response. Yet God has provided an antidote for fear. God’s antidote is his wonderful peace.

Some days when I am in the garden I feel that all of the flowers have faded except for the bleeding hearts that surround my feet. If I continue to look downward at my bleeding heart I may succumb to fear, worry, and even depression. Many times in life I have experienced deep sorrow that has caused me extreme grief. Grief is the emotional mechanism that God uses to cleanse our sorrow. However, grief is meant to last only for a season and then God gently moves us ahead. Refusing to move on with God is dangerous.

Sometimes the winds of adversity carry the destruction of a tornado but God says, take my hand. I must admit that there have been times that I did not feel that I could even reach up to God let alone take his hand. But God doesn’t require much, he only requires faith the size of a mustard seed. When we take a chance on God he rewards even the smallest mustard seed of faith. Because sin has entered our world I can be sure that the winds of life will blow and that trouble will find its way into my life. It will be the kind of trouble that will cause me to dig deep into my soul and look to God for his help and strength. Without a doubt, God will be there waiting to take may hand.

Today I am sitting in the garden reading from the Song of Songs. I am surprised to discover that Solomon is actually asking for both the north and the south winds to blow on his garden. Why? Solomon understood that the strong winds of adversity were sure to be followed by God’s pleasant and temperate breezes of peace for those who trust in the Father. Solomon knew that he would never know the blessing of God’s peace in his life if his life was always without trials, nor would he ever experience the sweet fragrance that emits as the Holy Sprit blows is sweet peace into our heart if we never experience need. Solomon prayed for both the northern cold winds of adversity and the balmy southern breezes of peace. He prayed that the fragrance of that peace would be spread abroad so that God would be glorified.

As I consider that thought I reach down and pluck a dandelion that has been spent. Nothing but the frail fluffies remains. I take a deep breath and blow all of the white feathery particles into the air. This weed-flower that was once brilliant with golden yellow petals is now blowing abroad. I’m not really sure where they go or where they will land. But one thing for sure is that this one dandelion will multiply.

I am captivated by the thought, blow wind blow over my garden so that its sweet fragrance may multiply. I begin to realize that my life is just like that of a dandelion. Frankly, if I remember correctly dandelions don’t smell very sweet. But without Jesus in my life neither do I. Oh sometimes sweetness comes easy especially when things are going my way and when I am surrounded by like minded people, a nice paycheck, good health and wonderful kids. But in adversity my sweetness starts to fade. I need the sweet breath of Jesus to blow on my garden his peace into my heart, because only then will the winds blow Jesus’ sweet fragrance abroad.

So it is in being crushed by adversity that God offers me an opportunity to release his fragrance to others. It is by needing forgiveness that I learn the sweet fragrance of forgiving. It is in needing provision that I learn to give to others. It is in experiencing sorrow that I learn to comfort. When I am feeling backed into a corner it is then that I learn how to be merciful. It is when others judge me wrongly that I learn not to judge. It is when I am sick and suffering that I learn how to show loving compassion to others who are sick and suffering.

Awake north wind and come south wind! Blow on my garden. I pray, change me Lord so that when you allow adversity into my life I will not become bitter but rather better. My heart’s garden belongs to you. Blow on my garden according to your will so that its fragrance my spread your love abroad through me.

Frankly the thought of adversity still scares me to death! But God has promised me that his grace will be sufficient for me and that he will never leave me or forsake me. It has been my experience that God always gives me exactly what I need the very moment I need it and not a single minute before. So I will continue to pray for God’s grace in my life in all circumstances.

Before I leave the garden I will pick some dandelions to carry back into the house with me. I will place this small nosegay on my breakfast table and later I will carry it into my office. Tonight I will place it on my night stand and I will sleep in peace knowing that when the winds of adversity blows on my garden God has a purpose and a plan to make something beautiful come from my pain and brokenness. I believe with all my heart that God is able to take the stench of the dandelions and in good time blow the fluffies of his love and grace abroad and miraculously change the stench into a sweet fragrance that only comes from knowing and trusting Jesus.


When was the last time you found yourself in the middle of a situation that made your heart pound with fear? Are you there now?

When adversity comes into your life is your first response to try and fix the situation yourself?

How long is it before you pray?

How does the thought of welcoming adversity strike you?

Can you see that trusting God in all things is a response that will spread his sweet fragrance to others?


Dear God,

I do not welcome adversity. In fact, I hate it! Thank you for not expecting me to embrace the hard times in life. However God, I do desire to embrace you as I deal with my adversity. I ask that your Holy Spirit give me daily strength and grace as I walk through life’s difficulties. God I pray that through your mysterious ways you will shape my character and help me to become a person who depends on you as I endeavor to overcome life’s adversities. God I don’t know about the future but I know you and you are the one who holds the future. Father, give me your grace to trust you today and tomorrow. Awake, north wind, and come south wind! Blow on my garden that your fragrance may spread abroad.

In Your Son’s Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Frustration of Unanswered Prayer

“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:24 NIV

I love to make lists and then cross things off of my lists as I accomplish each task. In my organized and impatient brain prayer is no exception. I want to put each prayer request on my prayer list, pray about it, get an answer, and then you guessed it, cross it off my list. Because of my impatience I have experienced frustration in unanswered prayer. Today’s verse puzzled me because I prayed for things that I didn’t get. At times I have refused to pray because I didn’t think God was much interested in answering my little prayers. I thought God was pretty busy with the “big stuff” in life, and didn’t have time for me. Then God began to teach me about prayer. I hope you are a faster learner than I am! The fact is unanswered prayer can be frustrating.

I have learned that it is important for me to understand what it is that hinders prayer. For sure sin and un-forgiveness in our life hinders our prayers. It is always a good idea to allow God to search our heart and cleanse us before we begin asking him for favors. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25 NIV

Praying with doubt also hinders our prayers. Believing that God can accomplish what we ask for is very important. We should believe that God is able to deliver the goods even for the things that we believe to be impossible. We may wonder how God will answer our prayer or even if he will choose to answer our prayer as we have requested, but we must never doubt that he is able, because with God all things are possible. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1: 6-8 NIV

Asking with wrong motives hinders our prayers. At times we will ask God to heal someone we love simply because we love them and are not ready to let them go. Other times we may ask God for provision because we want to be responsible and provide for our family. I believe we can ask God for anything. I just try to be honest before God as to why I am asking. You see, God knows my heart and he knows I am human. God knows the difference in greed and need and he always recognizes love.

I am quite certain that the primary purpose of prayer is for me to open my heart up to God. Without prayer my heart remains closed. Prayer is not always to receive answers but it is always to receive him. God uses prayer to change me. God wants to reverse any upside down thinking that I may have about him or about others. God uses prayer to teach me about who he is. He wants me to see his attributes, his love, his power, and his glory. When I am able to wrap my mind around those things I am able to believe God for his answers to my prayers. Without trust and confidence in God’s ability to answer my prayers I do become frustrated with what seems to me to be unanswered prayer.

God answers prayer in many ways. “YES” prayers are my favorite! Some are answered immediately, other times God’s answer comes to me as a feeling of peace. Other times I have experienced a yes answer that is confirmed to me through a scripture or God gives me a promise to claim as I wait for his perfect timing. To some of my prayers God says “WAIT” because all things are not ready. Even when I am pacing the floor and wringing my hands, God is busy preparing an opportunity or changing a heart. Sometimes it is necessary for God to change my heart or my circumstance because I’m not ready for the answer. God also says “NO” because my request may not be in my best interest. Sometimes I ask God for good when he in fact has something much better. I have seen that some of God’s delays are his delays of love. Many times God’s delays are simply setting the stage for God’s glory to be revealed later in an amazing way.

I have been guilty of becoming impatient in the wait. Sorry to say I haven't always understood God’s intentions. In frustration I have labeled my request as a no, or I feared that my prayer was either not heard or discarded. Other times I have believed Satan’s lie that told me that I did not have enough faith to get my prayer answered. I am so glad that God does not expect me to drum up large containers of faith. No. God simply says, come, seek, call, ask, and I will hear and answer.

As I walk the “waiting” path in my garden, I will gather baskets of forget-me-nots to lay at the feet of Jesus when I pray. What a comfort it is to know that God does not mind me reminding him that I am waiting for his answers. My heart’s cry is simply Jesus forget-me-not. Then he reminds me that he has promised that he will never leave me or forsake me and that his grace will be sufficient for me as I wait. My response is simply thank you Jesus that your answer is on the way.


Have you ever been frustrated by unanswered prayer?

Is there anything in your heart that would be a hindrance to answered prayer?

Which is more important – knowing how to pray perfectly or believing that God is able to answer your simple prayer of need that is wrapped in trust?

Do you find comfort in knowing that as you wait upon the Lord the answer is already on the way?


Dear God,

I thank your for the privilege of prayer. I am especially thankful that you are a God that hears my prayers. Even in the times that I do not hear, see, or feel an answer to my prayer help me to remain confident that you have heard me. Protect me from becoming frustrated with prayer. With all my heart God, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are able to answer any prayer that I pray. Help me to relax as I wait for your answers. Forgive me when I demand immediate answers to my prayers. Help me to trust you that all of my requests are going to be answered from a heavenly perspective in a manner that is in my best interest. Give me a trusting heart even if your answer is no. Even when the result of prayer is no and ends in personal pain and sorrow, give me the faith to know that you will still make this situation work for my eternal good.

In Your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Privilege of Prayer

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
I John 5:14 NIV

This morning I am entering the garden for the specific purpose of talking to the Master Gardner. Still, I am feeling a bit uncomfortable, a little intimidated, and most definitely deficient in my communication skills as I attempt to express my deepest needs. One thing I am certain of is that whatever I say, God will hear me. I believe that praying to the God of the universe is nothing short of a miraculous privilege. I will never understand how this is possible but because God has met my needs in the past I know that this is true. My God is a god who is not made of stone or imagination, but rather he is a God who hears even my faintest whisper, knows my every thought, and provides answers to all my prayers.

I admit that sometimes my heart is so heavy that I don’t know where to begin. Often I don’t even know what to say, so I say nothing. But still I come. I know that by merely coming to God I am admitting my need and that may be the most eloquent prayer that I have ever prayed or ever will pray. Sometimes it is the only prayer I have.

As I lean up against the strong trunk of my favorite old oak tree I look across the path and see a beautiful fluffy white patch of delicate baby’s breath. The simplicity of this sweet flower causes me to smile as I remember my childhood when life was innocent and free of obligations and heartache. I hear a rustle in the bushes and as I look up I see the Master Gardner approaching. When he reaches me he says, “Paula, I saw you when you headed for the garden. I saw your face and I sensed your need.” With tears in my eyes, I answer, “Yes Lord, I am in need.” Jesus points across the pathway and says, “Take a lesson from the baby’s breath and allow prayer to be the breath that exhales from your mouth and receive my peace as the very air you breathe into your spirit. Just like this simple flower, come to me in simple prayer and you will find peace.”

Today I am beginning to realize that prayer is not a complicated obligation. Prayer is a privilege. My Creator has an open door policy. God may be invisible to my eyes but let me assure you that he is an up close and personal God! I have become so accustomed to the impersonal interaction that is exhibited in this world of technology that I barely remember personal service. I still become frustrated when I hear “press one for English, press two for a technical assistance, press three to make a reservation, press four to cancel or change a reservation, press five for all other assistance or stay on the line and maybe, just maybe an agent will assist you!”

Yes, having a person to person, face to face God who hears my prayers is a definite benefit and privilege! God is not impersonal. God is still in the business of cultivating a personal relationship with each one of us and that is done through prayer. God is always available and he knows my name. God hears me when I call and he immediately begins to answer my prayer even before I finish praying. Now that is what I call customer service! God does not speak to me in an audible voice but still he speaks. He speaks through his Word, through the words of other believers, through my thoughts, and through his creation.

Today I still have many questions. How will this problem be resolved? When will this heartache end? How will God meet my need? But I am calm because today I have made a personal connection with God. I have gone to the source of my life and I have asked him for his grace not his answers. So today I am going to choose to trust God to handle my prayer according to his will for my life. I am going to leave the garden knowing that God’s answer is on the way. I am also comforted in knowing that God takes great joy in answering prayers that seem impossible because that is where his glory shines!

As I leave the garden gate and enter back into the responsibilities of life I realize that Jesus has not left me empty handed. Jesus has slipped into the pocket of my heart a small box. As I untie the shear white ribbon and lift the lid on the box I see one simple word written in gold on parchment. It simply says, “Peace” and then I notice a small snip of baby’s breath lying in the box. How simply wonderful it is that Jesus has left me this tender reminder for my heart to treasure as I wait for his answers.

God wants me to ask him for what I need but when my words fail me I must be confident that the Holy Spirit prays for me. When my deep yearnings need expression that is beyond my vocabulary, the groans of the Holy Spirit take my concerns to God. This is a language that my words cannot express. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26 NIV


Have you ever been unable to pray?

How does that make you feel?

Do you receive comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit prays for you in times when you cannot?

What is it about the privilege of prayer that you love the most?

When you pray do you stay in the garden until God tucks his gift of “peace” into your heart’s pocket?


Dear Jesus,

Prayer is so amazing. It is that bridge that connects me to you. Thank you for the privilege of prayer. I praise you that you are approachable and available. I am amazed that you would provide the Holy Spirit to assist me in my prayers and in my inability to express my prayers. Jesus you so want to have a personal relationship with me that you have left nothing to chance or my lack of eloquence. How I love that all you desire is that I come in simple humility of heart seeking you, not your answers. It is…

In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Retirement or Refinement

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Today I am thinking about what a comfort Jeremiah 29:11 is for those of us who are referred to as seniors. We often purchase plaques or cards with this verse written on it to give to young adults who are graduating, and going off to college or starting a new phase of their life. But the gray haired seniors are also in need of these encouraging words from the book of Jeremiah. However, if you are not a senior, please keep reading because today's message has words of encouragement for you as well.

Many people look forward to, yet dread retirement all in the same breath. Sometimes retirement brings disappointments because we are not busy enough or unexpected responsibilities restrict us from doing what we had hoped to do during our retirement. I am finding that as my lifestyle is changing becoming a senior is not such a bad thing. In many circumstances age can actually be my friend. I have found that some of the things that I used to worry about just aren’t that important anymore. An experienced mind is a good thing. A forgetful mind is a problem! For the most part I view this ageing process as just another bridge to cross over. In a way this is my “Autumn Glory!”

Rocking chair retirement is not for me but having a chance to slow down enough for God to begin the work of refinement in my life has been and is astounding! I have experienced that rest and restoration, solitude and simplicity, are fast becoming my new best friends. Letting go of old responsibilities and looking for God’s direction as he leads me toward my next assignment has been both joyful and amazing.

Moving to North Carolina provided a lot of joy but the first five years were full of hard personal lessons as well! Looking back, I see that God’s purpose for me during those difficult days was and continues to be a work of refinement for my spiritual growth and development. I am learning that refinement cleanses me, it teaches me hard lessons, it provides opportunity for me to trust God, and calls me to pray and study God’s Word more than ever before. Refinement has also given me an opportunity to forgive, to relinquish my pain, and to move on. During this time of refinement I have also discovered the opportunity of learning the very difficult skill of waiting on God. The words “remain faithful” continue to challenge my thoughts regularly. Refinement has also brought other challenges. At one point God asked me to set aside my agenda for someone else’s project. God also asked me to step out of my comfort zone and do something new and different. God continues to ask me to leap out in simple obedience holding on to nothing but faith.

During this season of my life the discovery of God’s many blessings to me has become more visible. I think I am more aware of my blessings because I have more time for reflection. My longevity gives me countless opportunities to look back and see God’s faithfulness. God’s perfect record of provision allows me to trust him for my future as well. As my prayers go up it seems to me that I am now more aware of God’s unique way of answering my prayers. I am also observing God’s abundant answers to prayer, and I am witnessing those answers falling fresh and new every day. Yes indeed, this is “Autumn Glory!”

So then, does graying give us permission to throw in the towel, become a couch potato, or to curl up and wait to die? Most certainly not! Does it give us permission to selfishly pursue only the things that make us happy? Again, most certainly not! Retirement or semi-retirement gives us the opportunity to first of all be refreshed in God’s love. Secondly, we have the opportunity to experience God’s refinement as he prepares us for the next phase of our life. Thirdly, if we have been blessed spiritually then it is our duty to pass that on to others. For however many days each of us have left on this earth, this is our time to shine for Jesus.

If you are a young person reading these words, simply put them on the back shelf of your mind for future use, God willing. Another option would be to pass this on to someone who is retired or facing retirement. Remember, encouragement is needed at all ages. Young or old we all need to know that God has a plan for our life, plans that will not harm us but rather give us a hope and a future. Even in the most difficult of situations we all need to be reminded, God goes before us and he will be our all sufficient God. I would also encourage you to look forward to each new phase of your life as part of God’s amazing plan for you. Don’t let the milestones of 30, 40, 50, or 65 discourage or depress you. Be thankful for life; embrace the work that you have been given for this time of your life. Look forward to the new privileges and blessings that accompany every decade. And every year that you live always raise the bar in your own relationship with Jesus Christ. Keep growing in his marvelous love and grace. Never become satisfied. Always know that God has more for you!


Are you bothered by your age?

Do you see the aging process as an opportunity?

What are your plans for retirement?

Have you considered that God’s also has plans for your retirement?

Have you ever experienced God’s refinement in your life?

What is it that God is doing in your life right now?


Dear God,

I’m wondering if age is even important to you. Do you laugh at the word retirement? God help me to see my life as you do. God, help me to welcome your refinement in my life. I know that you understand that in my humanness I am prone to dread and fear regarding the future. Yet you constantly remind me that I am not to worry and that I should trust you completely. Down deep in my heart I really do know that you can be trusted. I am fully aware that sickness and dying are a natural part of life, and that I will experience trouble and hardships. In fact you have said to expect it! So God please refine my fear and everything else that needs the divine touch of your hand. God, you have also promised to be all that I will ever need. You have promised to be with me in my darkest hour and in my deepest need. You have promised all of us who love you a happy ending. Eternity with you forever! Yes indeed, the best is yet to be!

In Your Son’s Name I Pray. Amen.