What Notifications Do To A Prayer Life

When we grow accustomed to instant feedback and notifications, made possible by technology, we struggle to wait to hear from God.  We want instant feedback and answers. We want immediate approval and results. That’s not the way God works. As we get used to the immediacy technology affords, we begin to listen to and look for the constant input into our lives, and those voices begin to crowd out God’s.

We’d rather have something quick and inaccurate than use our patience to hear truth.

God has His own notifications, and they’re not usually instant. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they seem like a blinking light or alarming sound, but most of the time, God is quietly consistent and patient to respond to us. He wants us to be patient as we seek Him.

Praying isn’t about what we get from God; it’s about our relationship with Him. Are we willing to listen, pursue, seek, and wait? Or do we want God to fit into our timetables and schedules? What we see as urgent often isn’t, because what we learn through the process of waiting for and pursuing God is much more important to Him. He sees all of time and knows right now is important but is one moment that adds into many. It all matters, including how we respond to Him, demand of Him, and wait on Him.

Pray well.

Listen well.

Wait well.

 

Simon Says? Follow the Leader? Red Light, Green Light?

chaseWhat are you following?

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)

The Lord says, “Listen to me, those of you who try to live right and follow the Lord. Look at the rock from which you were cut; look at the stone quarry from which you were dug.” (Isaiah 51:1)

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

Following isn’t a Simon-Says kind of following. It’s not like following a lead car, requiring a bit of attention but not having to process of where you’re going and other details. Following in these verses takes on a much richer meaning. As is often the case, our English translation of a Hebrew word or phrase seems insufficient. This word, radaph, means to run after or chase.

Consider the direction of chasing going on in these verses (and there are dozens more I could add). In Psalm 23:6, God with his goodness and mercy is chasing us. In Isaiah 51:1, God is directing us to chase after him. And in Proverbs 21:21, we are chasing God through his righteousness and kindness.

We don’t just mimic God and follow his guidelines. We intently pursue him. Yes, he is with us at all times as we yield to him, but he doesn’t just want our yielding and obedience, he wants our passionate pursuit. He wants our responsive longing. He wants us. He sets the standard by pursuing us. He chases us even when we don’t realize it or ignore him.

If a man has a hundred sheep but one of the sheep gets lost, he will leave the other ninety-nine on the hill and go to look for the lost sheep. (Matthew 18:12)

God pursues us.

Then Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the property.’ So the father divided the property between his two sons. Then the younger son gathered up all that was his and traveled far away to another country. There he wasted his money in foolish living. After he had spent everything, a time came when there was no food anywhere in the country, and the son was poor and hungry. So he got a job with one of the citizens there who sent the son into the fields to feed pigs. The son was so hungry that he wanted to eat the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he realized what he was doing, he thought, ‘All of my father’s servants have plenty of food. But I am here, almost dying with hunger. I will leave and return to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, but let me be like one of your servants.”’ So the son left and went to his father. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him and hugged and kissed him. (Luke 15:11-20, emphasis added)

God chases us. He runs toward us. He runs after us. And he wants us to run toward him, run after him.

We’re all chasing something and someone. Some of us are chasing what the world says is important.

It is better to see what you have than to want more. Wanting more is useless— like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 6:9)

Or you can choose God. You can follow Jesus. Just remember, choosing to follow Jesus isn’t as simple as calling yourself a Christ-follower. It’s about being a Christ-chaser.

Proving God

I started actively searching for God in my early twenties. I had a lot of information about God from my childhood, but I didn’t have a relationship with him. I don’t ever remember considering a close relationship or thinking one was possible. Looking back, I see moments God was drawing me close to him, allowing me glimpses of the possible. God is God, and God is good, even when we don’t acknowledge him.

During the process of trying to figure out who I am and why I’m on this earth, God came up in conversation and showed up all over the place. I didn’t always acknowledge it was him. In fact, I was a bit antagonistic and skeptical. I wanted proof that he existed and was everything that people said he was before I would step into this faith thing. I was not about to look foolish.

In reality, it didn’t matter how foolish I looked. It mattered how foolish I was being, and relying on my own understanding was—and still is—foolish. I was stubborn, believing I could sort through all the details of what people for centuries before me had sorted and ultimately come up with the right answer. I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. I was smart.

At least I was smart about one thing: I sought absolute truth. When I began, I didn’t know if it actually existed, but I was willing to set aside a lot of assumptions and seek. That step of openly seeking was just the crack in my tough intellectual exterior that was needed for God to show up and for me to be open enough to consider who he is.

Even when I began to believe God exists, I didn’t necessarily believe he is who everyone says he is, and you know what? He’s not! He’s not who everyone says he is; God is who HE says he is! But I hadn’t yet accepted him for who he is. I wanted him to prove himself to me.

As I look back on the process, I recognize how self-centered I was. Who was I to ask God to prove himself? Why does God ever have to prove himself? Why do we expect him to justify who he is? He just is. Period.

I don’t have to prove myself a mom. I am a mom. Period. Even if my daughters would disclaim me, I would be a mom. Even if something happened to them, I would be a mom. No one can take away my motherhood from me. If someone said I’m not a mom because they’ve never seen me with my daughters, so they have no proof I am who I say I am, I am still a mom. No proof required. It is who I am.

God is God. No proof required. No matter what you believe, God is God. No matter what you say, God is God. No matter what I deny, God is God. Proof or no proof, God is God.

I don’t just think God is God. I don’t just believe God is God. I know God is God.

And I know God personally. I’m glad I sought him. I’m glad he passionately pursued me—and still is.

Fit Faith: Effort: Level of Play

I went for a walk today and nearly blew away. At least it felt that way. I leaned so heavily into the wind when facing it that I knew I’d fall flat to my face if the wind suddenly stopped. It wasn’t even refreshing to walk with my back to the wind, because I had to lean back slightly and keep my feet firmly in from of me to keep from being pushed into a jog.

Different conditions make activity harder or easier. For this central Illinois girl, hiking in the Rocky Mountains requires an adjustment. I start drinking water as soon as I land in the higher altitudes and monitor my breathing more closely, particularly as I hike into the mountains. Oxygen is less concentrated, so I have to adjust in order to avoid quick fatigue.

On the other hand, “swimming” in the Dead Sea in Israel took nearly no effort at all. Leaning back into the water to float with no effort is something I knew was supposed to happen, but I thought I’d likely have to do something besides sit back and relax. No. It truly was as easy as people had made it sound.

A variety of factors impact the effort it takes to accomplish something. When have you experienced “uphill, thin air” faith? When have you experienced “sit back and relax” faith?

I hope you’ve experienced a taste of both!

Sit-back-and-relax faith moments might seem few and far between, but consider the moments in which you’ve had peace where you are even if there is uncertainty and chaos around you. There have been times when I’ve travelled and been in the middle of what seemed like chaos. There have been throngs of people, many who don’t speak my language at times, trying to get in a variety of directions, perhaps even complaining or making demands. There have been security concerns as I jostled among people. There have been raised voices and reddening faces. While I continued to be mindful of what was going on around me, even planning for a variety of options of leaving the situation, I’ve had peace that there was no need to panic.

I’ve been in situations in hospitals when the unknown or inconceivable is pressing in around a family I’m trying to help. There’s chaos in disagreements mixed with elevated emotions. Voices are raised. Tension increases. Yet there can be peace. I can see it in some people’s faces. They may be upset, but they proceed with a foundation of assurance.

Other situations are the uphill, thin air experiences that seem to take every effort to make it one more step. The hope of beautiful views can help with motivation but the labored breath and effort can quickly create fatigue. I’ve been in situations in which I collapse because I just can’t catch my breath well enough to take one more step. I have to regain some strength before moving on. At the time, I might not even believe it’s possible to move on. Even after a rest, the climb must continue. It seems to never end. I can’t see the top of the mountain through the crowd of the trees. While I try to believe there is a view worth pursuing, I begin to question if I’m even on the right path. Perhaps I should go back. Perhaps I’m not cut out to accomplish this. I might as well just quit. The climb can overwhelm me to the point of exhaustion or surrender. Or, I might experience the sense of accomplishment as I push ahead.

Why do we let our circumstances dictate our attitudes and plans? Yes, our efforts are affected, but they’re not determined by our circumstances.

“Make every effort to give yourself to God as the kind of person he will approve. Be a worker who is not ashamed and who uses the true teaching in the right way.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

We can’t dictate our circumstances. However, we can persevere whether the wind is at our backs or faces. Our responsibility is responding in obedience.

Consider how you’re allowing your circumstances determine your effort. What effort are you intentionally and unconditionally putting into your relationship with God?