In a Time of Need

11374766_417075665144516_1072785693_nIt was on this day one year ago that I rushed back from vacation because of a family emergency. Before that phone call, I had enjoyed several days in the mountains, often relaxing by the fire and reading and journalling through Scriptures. On the plane, I opened my Bible to the bookmark among the sleek pages, and I continued reading, reflecting, and claiming God’s promises, jotting notes in the margin. Among the chaos and uncertainty, I found the familiar peace of God’s presence.

I find it as no coincidence that I am revisiting those same pages one year later, perhaps a reminder of God’s peace and presence. In that year, everything has not worked out “my way.” Yet I trust God more and know Him better.

And I thank Him for the reminder of the following verses I highlighted that night on the plane:

Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of trouble. Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call. (Psalm 102:1-2)

I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him; I will rejoice in the Lord. (Psalm 104:33-34)

My heart is confident, God; I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being.(Psalm 108:1)

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate. (Psalm 116:5)

I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in a spacious place. The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is my helper, (Psalm 118:5-7b)

Teach me good judgment and discernment, for I rely on Your commands. (Psalm 119:66)

Let my cry reach You, Lord; give me understanding according to Your word. (Psalm 119:169)

Prayer Flares

“Hey, God, I need some help here!”

“Please, God, if you do this, I promise…”

“I can’t do this on my own. Help me get all this done!”

God wants to hear from us no matter what is going on in our lives, but we need to pay attention to the patterns of communication we set. We lead such busy lives that we don’t always think we have the time we need to foster the prayer lives we truly want. But we reach out to God when we’re overwhelmed and desperate. We need His help to accomplish and manage all that we’ve scheduled and determined, especially when anything extra tries to squeeze its way in as an interruption.

Often, we send up prayer flares–calls for help–but we want help in accomplishing what we want, not paying attention much to what God wants for and from us. We send up prayer flares not to change our pace but to maintain it. It’s more about our pace and priorities than God’s.

Prayer flares aren’t bad. But God doesn’t just want us calling out to Him in emergency situations, especially when we’re not really asking Him to rescue and provide for us in His way. We want Him to meet us where we are but we’re not as willing to go where He then wants to take us. We want His assistance in living our lives instead of wanting to live the lives He purposes for us.

Give Me More!

moreWhat do you want more of?

Money? Time? Opportunities? Guidance? Healing? Provision?

How about God?

After all, he takes care of all of those areas. But we often go to him telling him what we want or need most, based on what we’re assessing our needs and wants are. We’re actually asking him to give us what we’re certain we want or need when, in reality, he knows what we need more than we do. Our asks are distorted.

When we ask for more of God, when we yield to him, when we let his wants determine our wants, we get what we need. We get God.

When we let our own analysis of a situation or a relationship determine our asks, we’re assuming our insight trumps God’s. But when we ask for more of God, when we ask him to reveal himself to us, we get to know his character. We’re content in his presence. We find his peace in our chaos.

What about praying what’s on our hearts and adding “if it be your will” at the end of each prayer to make sure God knows we want him to filter everything through his will. We don’t want what he doesn’t want. We’re giving it all to him. However, when we’re passionately praying for specifics and simply tacking on an escape clause on the end, we need to realize God knows our hearts. He knows what (and who) we’re seeking. He knows our motivation.

If you want God to filter everything through his will, seek to know God more than you’re seeking anything or anyone else. Filter everything through his will as you get to know him through his Word. Ask him questions and watch for the answers. Look for the creative ways he teaches you. Notice him pouring into you when you’re looking…and when you’re not.

That box you have God in? Open it up and collapse it. Put it in the recycling bin. You’re not going to need it anymore.

Organized Chaos

During the Summer, Tracie and I meet at her house instead of a local restaurant. School is out, and her living room has been filled with a myriad of toys, strewn throughout the room. To the casual observer it might appear to be a chaotic mess, but to the mother who knows her children’s patterns of play and storytelling…it’s a masterpiece, carefully designed and monitored.

When we moved into our current house, our young daughters shared a bedroom, and we used an extra room as their play room. I would often peek in or listen for several minutes and marvel at their intensely focused imaginations. Sure, there were times I also ranted about the “mess.” Sometimes I had to intervene to separate the opposing imagination super powers. Sometimes I’d sit in the room and read such series as Chronicles of Narnia or Little House on the Prairie for hours. I imposed order into their chaos at times, and I didn’t always understand the order of the chaos, but I often appreciated it.

The girls would pull out their favorite stuffed animals (and they had lots of favorites!) and dress them with anything they could find in the dress up tub or elsewhere in the room. They’d be placed throughout the room in clusters…on the floor, in rooms designed with cardboard bricks, on the play kitchen, and in doll beds. Accessories were added: dishes, plastic food and tools, jewelry, and miscellaneous plastic toys.

It all made sense to the girls. They knew each animal’s name and had a story for each one. As they got a little older, they’d take photos, which are now tucked away in their memory boxes to laugh about and share in years to come. The photos captured not only a moment in time, but memories of the process of play. Serious play.

As I stood in Tracie’s living room, I noticed the telltale signs of organization:  clusters of blocks and figurines and patterns of floor space left for maneuvering. Tracie apologized, but I smiled. It brought back memories.

And it made me stop to think of how chaotic our lives often look and feel but how God knows just how it all fits together. We sometimes make a mess of things. Okay, we often make a mess of things. God knows the consequences. We step on a misplaced block or hear the crash of a poorly constructed building. We’re bruised by the conflict of another’s expression of creativity. But our creativity reflects the creativity of God – even when we don’t acknowledge him. He’s a creative God. He’s THE Creator. We were created in God’s image, so we’re creative, too. Ours might be misguided at times, and we distort God’s image, but the source is still God.

God understands the order of our chaos. He knows just where you are, who you are, and what you need. Seek him, trust him, obey him. He can take all the miscellaneous toys in your playroom and create something beyond your wildest imagination!

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11 (The Message)