Angels Come in Assorted Packages

I was sitting in a dark house- alone- no desire to switch on the lights even on my tiny tree. I was shell-shocked with worry and fear. It was a few days before Christmas 2009. My granddaughter was in the Intensive Care Unit at Primary Children’s Hospital. She had just come into the world one month before her due date and was smaller than the size of my son’s hand. She was on oxygen and struggling with other serious health complications as well. Also, shortly after she arrived, it was confirmed that this little bundle from Heaven had Down’s Syndrome.

Because my arm was in a cast, I was not allowed to go into her room and hold her. Though her dedicated parents were there morning, noon, and night and this tiny little girl did not need me to be in there with her- standing outside her room looking in at her tiny struggling body through thick glass and not being able to get closer was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.

It was in this frustrated, helpless and terrified state I found myself on this winter’s night. The doorbell rang. I did not answer the door, but sat quietly in the darkness, hoping whoever it was would go away quickly. Suddenly, I heard a harmonious trickle come from my porch through the door, a soothing sweet-sounding, “Silent Night.” I opened the door. There stood a lovely group of carolers- one family- some pre-teen some grown, two of them former fourth grade students of mine. They had gone out of their way- left the warmth of their home on this chilly December night to get in their car and drive over to my home to sing at my front door. They were making the most beautiful “joyful noise unto the Lord” I had ever heard. As they sang carol after carol, I felt the hurt of my heart crumble in a envelope of “safe”. I felt a “comfort” and a “peace” that transcended fear and seared my soul. I was reminded from “where my hope comes from”. Tears soaked my hardened face softening the lines there with the sounds of their kindness.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I Corinthians 1:3,4

It is hard to describe what that night meant to me. I get teary every time I think of it. What is even more amazing to me is the loving commitment this family has made to bring this gift. Not just that year when their melodious voices delivered such solace, but every year since…for ten years, this special singing family has shown up on my porch at Christmas and made me cry with their heavenly harmony. They have come in freezing weather. They have come sick. One year dead-tired from an all day drive from Arizona without rest, they appeared at my door. They had not even gone home to unpack. Just came. Some years the entire family comes and sometimes (because one or more are out of town) there are just a few, but they have always come. As their family has grown added son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws (one couple-two wonderful former fourth grade students- best friends then- married now) they all come- piling in several cars to be there and minister in song. Over the years talented young singers have been born into this compassionate choir. As I gaze upon the future generations of this kind family singing their little hearts out on my front porch, I am touched, blessed. I am forever grateful to the Lord for sending this family to me on a cold and lonely December night and their commitment to use music as an instrument of encouragement ever since. Thank you, Lord

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:19

By the way, today is my granddaughter’s tenth birthday. She is a healthy happy strong little powerhouse princess. She learned to be strong from her powerhouse parents who nurture her and daily teach her how beautiful and amazing she is. And she is. …”fearfully and wonderfully made”. She is a blessing of joy and happiness to our family. We are so grateful for this angel in our lives. Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Thank you, Lord.

You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Dear Readers, Never underestimate the gentle nudge by that “still small voice” to reach out. It could bring the comfort at the perfect time to someone who needs it desperately. So thankful for each one of you. Prayers for a wonderful Christmas and a blessed 2020. In His Amazing Love, Kristy

The Reason

During my adolescence and early adulthood, (for a variety of reasons) I was not a huge fan of Christmas. Then at the age of 25, a stranger told me about the love of Jesus and the new life I could have by trusting and believing in Him. All of a sudden, the story became real, the music made sense, and Christmas touched me in a powerful way it never had before. The hope, the joy, the peace, the promise.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.Luke 2:11-14

At Christmas time, I display two mini-candle holders given to me as a gift. I have put them out for over 30 years. They lived with me in a log cabin where we could not decorate with Christmas lights or twinkling tree. We did not have electricity. These little candles provided some sparkle to our holiday. They also traveled with me to various cities where I resided after my mountain life, including San Diego, and several cities in Salt Lake and Utah counties. Each year wherever they sit during the Christmas season they speak silently of a grown-used-to cliche. Jesus is the reason for the season, Nevertheless, a true reminder. The reason… for this season… for Christmas… is Jesus.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas filled with His joy and Peace! Much Love, Kristy

Coloring the Gray Days

            Do you ever feel like you are walking through a landscape of gray days? Do you wake up to lusterless? Go through your day through a sheen of blah? Ever think about how you color your world?  What does the palette of your past look like? the hues of your future? The painting of your present? 

Shortly after I retired, I went back to the elementary school where I was taught for 14 years and I was nervous. I was afraid I would be melancholy and regret my difficult decision to leave. When I walked out the door on that last day (after a week of kind sentiments from beloved parents and students, and the incredible people I worked with) I painted my 26 year long teaching experience with rosy colors- shades of purples and pinks. 

Six months later, I attended a birthday lunch at the school in honor of my amazing principal and as I walked in, the rosy picture became splattered with the challenging browns and stressful fire reds of real elementary school. As co-workers told the adventures of the day (there is never a dull moment in elementary school) I remembered.  The colors morphed and deepened.  Then I walked down the old familiar halls to visit my previous students. Amidst the hugs, the tears, the joy of seeing them the grays muted. A vibrant rainbow- a kaleidoscope burst forth- a “whole picture” active and alive with glorious hue. By the time I climbed into my car to leave, I took with me an authentic portrait of my school career painted with all the colors of joy and struggles and I knew that (at least for now) it was time for new experiences in a different field.  As I drove away, I was so thankful to have worked so many years at a job of many colors.

            For a long time, I looked at my childhood through one monochromatic lens.  It was coal black. a picture of worthlessness, hurt, and anger.  Then one day I learned about a Savior who had forgiven me and I made the decision to pick up the brush and apply some forgiveness to the canvas of my own past.  The black page became animated with streaks of tangerine orange and pear green. Wow! It was a silent shout- a different perspective- a more authentic depiction. I added lemon yellow gratitude, and candy red lessons-learned and the past became a new likeness-the black was still there but now infused with pigments that were simply beautiful.

I applied the same strokes of forgiveness, gratitude, and lessons-learned to my past failed relationships-deeply etched with “victim gray”.  It worked! The swirling distortion of the picture of my past began to unbend and untwist into a true and rich landscape. Yes, there are hurts, even devastating betrayals, but there is much more. A whole healing picture!

            To the blank canvas of my future I add a different color scheme. To the ashen gray of worry, “what ifs”, or fear, I try to roll on those incredible colors of purple: lavender and lilac, plum and pomegranate and all those royal shades in between.  It is a mix of red and blue.  It is hope.  Adding hope to what the future might look like turns a dim sketch into a mural of possibilities.

           I have a choice about how to color my day today. I can let the leaden charcoal of discouragement, worry, fear, anger, etc. (and believe me sometimes I do) color my present or I can primer my daily canvas with an openness to a “whole picture” perspective. Then add a background of forgiveness (sometimes in spurts all day), gratitude, and lessons-learned. I can then splash my picture with hope (even dot the whole thing with apple-red adventure) and finally, seal it with a protective sheen of faith. I am not always good at this.  In fact, somedays are a combination of gray and/or black-an accumulation of all colors but lacks the Light to allow them to show. Once in a while even picking up the brush is a struggle, but if I try, I am often rewarded with a rainbow of richness- all part of this illustration of my life.

  • Forgiveness: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Mark 11:25 
  • Gratitude: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
  • Lessons-Learned: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:25
  • Hope: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
  • Faith: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Dear Readers: To join a direct link to this blog and more, please email me at sonflowersandsoul@gmail.com. I would love to directly communicate with you. As always, thank you so much for your support! With love in Jesus, Kristy

The Trust Trek

Trust is easy to give away when skipping along and echoing back on a smoothed path.. but add hurdles, jagged rocks of challenge and the elevated way of heart-jumping hurt-then trust screams to remain silent, hidden among the safety of control.

When I lived in the cabin, I often called my husband “The mighty mountain man of faith”. He had what seemed to me to be a superhuman gift to trust (Corinthians 12:7) He was a carpet-layer and a handyman by trade, but did not believe in advertising or seeking work in any traditional way. “God will bring it” he would say and He did. He just believed God would provide. He would take care of us. No matter what happened, we would be okay. This belief, this trust, went against everything my young life had taught me. For a woman who had experienced too many broken promises-who believed for so long that she ultimately could rely on one person- herself- this was a faith too simple in concept and too difficult to grasp. Where I saw every trial as a need to worry myself into controlling the pitfalls of the uphill climb, Gordon saw it as an opportunity to watch what God could do.

He had very strong opinions about not “pleading poverty” (telling anyone of our financial woes) even though there were times we did not know what was going to be on the table for dinner the next day. “The Lord will take care of us” was his mantra.

One morning, Gordon announced that after breakfast he would be visiting his friend Matt who worked at the county dump. Earlier that same morning we had discussed the need to figure out a way to get him some new boots. His old boots were worn almost clear through…he possessed an almost obsessive desire to not waste things (especially food) and to utilize things until they were useless). That afternoon he walked through the cabin door with a crumpled box in his hands and a redwood size smile on his face. When he opened the box, there were nestled two perfectly good (slightly scruffy) size 12 Tony Llamas- a treasure he found during his visit to the dump. I was amazed. “Look what God gave me today”. A joy that comes from a faith fulfilled displaying itself all over his countenance.

Another summer day we were rocking and ricocheting down the dirt road towards our small town church. I was biting the inside of my cheek and rubbing each thumb in anxious concern about how to bring up to him the fact that we did not have milk or bread or food for dinner or money to buy what we needed. I was hesitant to plead our poverty even among those who it affected directly- us. I kept my fears silent as we parked our old truck in front of the church. Suddenly, Charlotte (a woman who had little to give) walked directly up to Gordon’s window and handed him an envelope. She said that she had been given an unexpected gift and God lay it on her heart to give a portion of it to us. I will never forget the impact of that gesture- the way it grew my desire to learn to trust- not because it helped alleviate my worry for that day, but because it was a gift no-one knew we needed…no-one but God. Maybe He really would take care of us.

Hiking that mountain of trust has never been easy for me. I’ve suffered from a lifetime of trust issues that cause my feet to stumble and my head to forget to “look up”. Over the years, I kept an accounting in my gratitude journal of many of the “faith miracles” we experienced. With each incident where God took care of us and our needs, my trust muscles became stronger. Still, I had not built up the stamina to trustingly climb to a place of peace. What if one of us got seriously ill? Could I really just trust God when we had no health insurance? What if there our cabin caught fire? We would be totally wiped out. What if the work quit coming or Gordon got hurt? What if? What if? What if?

Slowly, I began the practice of handing these worries over to the Lord. Sometimes I did it the moment I started to let anxiety block my path and other times it took me days of staring at it, kicking dust at its feet, before I could allow God to move it aside. Nevertheless, I noticed that with every time I found my way to saying, “This is yours, Lord, and not mine.” a habit was forming and I was maneuvering the steep roads breathing better.

I discovered that I could speak scriptures to situations. Scriptures like: God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV when jobs did not come as fast as I wanted them or the snowmobile broke down two miles from home in below 0 temperatures or an interesting character moved into a nearby cabin loaded with a variety of guns and a sign outside that said, “Be warned. You are now entering Saigon.”

I found there is a formula for living life without anxiety. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace that passes understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 I applied it when my boys were screaming around the mountain roads on their dirt bikes or during mountain storms when the thunder was deafening and lightening was striking right outside out cabin windows.

While I was making progress on how to live a life of faith on a mountain, I discovered another area of my trust trek that seemed like a completely divergent path than the one where I was learning to overcome my tendency to choose anxiety and control over trust. This avenue was more about placing a naive confidence in the faulty lanes along the way.

For example, my ability to trust other people was a dangerous walk. I carried (and still do) this unrealistic view that everyone I met was great, honest, and filled with integrity. Then when their humanness eventually showed and something hurt me, I was crushed. I processed even the smallest betrayal as a validation that I was not good enough to be treated fairly. I was not worth it. This core belief put a lot of pressure on those around me and a trust trap that would hold my feet back and tear at my soul for years. My response (until I finally learned better) was to reach deep for the internal on/off switch…the one I developed as a child to survive rough experiences… and switch it to “off”. Once this happened, I found it very difficult to see the other person as someone I could be close to again. I refused to trust. I gave no room for flaws or forgiveness, and yet, I was also blind to my own acts of betrayal- no matter how big or small- always able to justify . These misguided tenets on trust- this dichotomy of “You are great until you hurt me.” and “I am justified even if I am wrong.” had previously led to my second failed marriage and as hard as it is to admit- would continue to allow me to transfer that naive “impossible-to-live-up-to” trust to a man rather than God. More on this in upcoming blogs called, “The Power of Stay” and “The Woman at the Well”.

I am still climbing the mountain of trust. I am not a “mighty woman of faith” gifted with a supreme ability to trust- no matter what- but I am making headway. Though it sometimes takes longer than I wish it did, I am turning more quickly from fear to faith. I don’t always succeed in trusting the Lord at the first attempt, in fact I often need to hand my worries and concerns back to Him several times, but I am advancing along this pathway too. I am finally making huge progress towards placing my ultimate all-encompassing trust in God while allowing others in my life and myself to be human. I am thankful I learned to trust God to take care of our family during those mountain years. He did not always do it the way I thought it should be done or when I wanted Him to do it, but He did take care of us in His way- the Godly way- and He still does. I am thankful to know that while trust is a steep and rocky trek, it is one well-worth the climb.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He shall make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

As I do every week, I thank the Lord for each one of you who choose to spend time reading my story. It truly means so much to me. I pray that if you are struggling with a trust trek today, the Lord would give you encouragement. I ask the Lord to bless each of you this week with His peace and joy. In Love, Kristy

Turning on the Fountain of Faith

I was completely without hope, an empty structure filled only with shadows. A skinny chain-smoking old lady at the age of 25, exhausted really, not due to my physically challenging work running a restaurant or the mentally tiring job of trying to be a good mother during the 36 minutes a night I had with my kids after working all day. I was worn out by life. At 25, I had seen a lot, felt a lot, and experienced a lot that had beat me down. Growing up with abuse, neglect, and alcoholism had left scars that pulled at me like too-tight stitches, reminding me of their presence even while I fought to cover them up and get on with what I needed to do to survive. It was the push and pull that exhausted me and then someone close to me died, someone I felt I had failed, not been there for, when he needed me, and the wounds of not being good enough, of hurt and failure broke open. I was losing the battle on all fronts and I became a walking zombie, dried up, going through the motions with an ache piercing and deep, I just wanted to lie down and go into a sleep where I could not feel. I was completely without hope and too tired to care. Not everyone needs to be in such a place of darkness to find the light. This is just my story.

This was the futile place I was existing in on the day a tall man wearing a brown fringed jacket walked into the cafe and stood near the door waiting for me to help him. I was swamped with customers and our other waitress had not shown up yet. I had just received a call that the dishwasher had called in sick, and unprofessionally hollered this fact back to the kitchen where my partner was frantically cooking. It was one of those days. “I will be right with you.” I spoke to the man in a whirl as I carried plates of food to the family seated near the window. I stopped on my way back to take an order from three ladies out for their weekly lunch and when I headed back to sit the guy at the door, he was gone. Darn! I thought. Just lost a customer!

I walked back towards the opening that led to the kitchen and was shocked to see this stranger at the cafe’s kitchen sink. He had his arms covered in suds and was intently scrubbing and loading dishes. What? “What are you doing?” I asked. He looked up from his task. “I heard you say your dishwasher called in sick so I thought I would help.” What? I thanked him and told him I would buy him lunch for helping us. “I didn’t really come in here to buy anything or to eat. I am hitchhiking into Salt Lake City (common practice back then-not anymore and for good reason) and just wanted to know if I could park my truck in your parking lot for a few days until I get back.” I glanced out the front window to where he was pointing at an old rusted-out gold-brown ’52 Ford pickup.

“Of course you can.” I looked at him again ‘He certainly put off a harmless vibe. “But, hey, since it has slowed down and the other waitress is here now. How about if I give you a ride halfway?” Again, this is not a safe idea, but it is the truth of what happened so I am telling it.

As we drove for the hour it took to get to Provo, I rattled on about my present life in an attempt to not allow any uncomfortable silence. I think back on it now and can’t believe what I was telling him. I poured out anger, frustration, bitterness about things that were happening around me with very few drops of my own accountability. I was mad at the world and it showed. He, on the other hand, said very few words. I kept expecting him to flirt with me a little bit (remember the murky mirror? Yep-still there) or tell me something about himself, but he just listened and nodded every so often, until we pulled up to where I was letting him off.

As he reached for the door handle to get out, he looked me square in the eye and spoke authoritatively, “You know what you need- you need Jesus in your life.” Who? What? He said it without judgement. He said it without disdain or drama. It was not an eloquent statement or backed with scripture. It was just stated with such absolute assurance that I was taken aback. He thanked me for the ride and started walking towards the freeway entrance to continue his journey.

I had an hour drive back the other direction to think about what he said. What? He must be crazy! He must be a religious fanatic! He must not like girls! He must think I have real problems! Somewhere along that hour drive by myself, my thoughts changed from “he” to “me” and I started thinking again of how much I had failed in my short long life. I went back to work, but could not get his words out of my head. I got home late that night after everyone was asleep.

I went into my bedroom and knelt next to my bed- the whole time telling myself this was nuts. “Okay, Jesus, if you are really there, if there really is a God, I need you now. I have made such a mess out of my life and really don’t have anywhere to turn, but to You. So, if you are real, I need you in my life.” Surprisingly, I climbed into bed and went to sleep.

As strange as this might seem, I woke up feeling lighter. I truly did. That is the best way to describe it-lighter- without as heavy a burden weighing me down. A few days later, the stranger came back to get his truck and walked in and handed me some reading material on the Gospel of Jesus and inviting Him into my life.

I have reminisced much over the years about the miracle that happened to me. I have heard stories of similar transformations and stories of quiet faith growing over time. I have wondered if, for me, the darkness to light was so dramatic because I had never given Jesus much (if any) thought before this day. I did not grow up hearing of Him in my home. I did not travel in circles where He was talked about. Again, I had just never thought about Him before.

I believe the other factor was my starting point of complete hopelessness- an empty vessel unable to even imagine that things in my life could get better. All of a sudden I had an “expectation of hope”. For me, this was life-changing glorious.

I fell in love with Jesus. In addition to hope, I started to learn about His grace, His unconditional love, His guidance. I learned that not everything I was doing was a failure. I was being so hard on myself. I learned that everyone falls short-not just me- but that His forgiveness (with trust and repentance) is all encompassing- makes me clean again- whiter than snow. I heard with new ears (I remember specifically listening to common Christmas songs that December with a joyous first-time understanding of what they meant); I saw with new eyes. I wanted to know more.

The truth of this miracle was that some parts of me were healed instantly. I was given hope, a new life, the unconditional love of a Savior. Some things took years: self-forgiveness, understanding grace, learning the many aspects of the nature God. Some of my most broken parts, including my self-worth and people pleasing tendencies, He is still healing bit by bit-washing them slowly with rivulets of mercy.

Jesus is called, “the Living Water” that fills our souls in such a way that we will never thirst again. There are many places in the Bible related to water flowing, cleansing, miracles. I am so grateful that turning my “Failure Faucet” life over to the “Fountain of Faith which is Jesus Christ- my Lord and Savior- has created a cascade of forgiveness, growth, peace, and joy. Oh, I have still made plenty of mistakes (big ones) and have had some huge challenges and tragedies along this journey of healing, but never again have I felt that complete emptiness, complete hopelessness, complete darkness. Not for all these years. It is a miracle. Thank you, Lord.

Thank you so much for joining me. Next week, I will take you with me to a mountain cabin with no electricity and no running water where I lived for close to nine years. If you want to read the password protected chapter “Turning Off the Failure Faucet” please message me or text me your email address or comment on a post and provide your email on contact area. I am so grateful for your understanding, grace, and support!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

If interested, check out the companion mini-study to this blog. “Turning on the Fountain of Faith- Study”

Turning On the Fountain of Faith-Study

Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4: 13-14 KJV

 Jesus also said, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John7:37-38 NIV

Wow! That is beautiful imagery! I love the picture of rivers of living water flowing from the heart of a believer.

When I learned that no-one lives up to God’s standards, I was convicted and comforted.

And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NIV

I could not imagine ever feeling clean, ever looking into that murky mirror and seeing myself washed of the soul stains I had worn for so long. Learning that Jesus would forgive my sins if I confess them was huge for me.

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7 NIV

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV

These were not just words I took lightly, but a promise that made me so grateful I did not ever want to disappoint Him again, but I would, and I will. I will never be perfect, but I was and remain changed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am inspired and have hope to do better because of God’s never-ending forgiveness, His unconditional love, and the work He is doing in me.

Philippians 1:6 says: “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I am so grateful to a stranger who walked into my cafe and life one day and told me that I needed Jesus. One of the first verses I learned was John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Dear Lord, Thank you for each and every one of the readers of this blog. I pray you bless them and watch over them. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen

The Powerful Present from Perceptive People-Study

            Do you ever feel like your prayers are just another thing on your “to do” list?  Okay, did it. Now move on to the myriad of tasks calling your name.  Or perhaps you have been meaning to get around to praying more and it just hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes I think we just forget or don’t notice how powerful prayer is, especially if our lives are going along without major hassles or hurts.  However, Jesus told his disciples to be watchful and pray.  Why?

1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Wow! This is a strong promise.  We will be heard! Just the idea that I will be heard when talking to God excites me.  Jesus also tells us to pray for other reasons.

James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. NIV

We are made righteous by trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, accepting His grace to forgive our sins. According to James this makes our prayers both ____________________ and ____________________ .

We came to know Jesus through prayer, asking Him into our lives and accepting his Lordship to forgive our sins and give us a new life in Him.

If our prayers are according to God’s will, powerful and effective, because he hears us, what should we pray about?­

Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” NIV We should pray about ___________________________________________

 We can go to our Creator-Father about all our problems, doubts, fears, insecurities, worries, etc. We can give them to Him in an act of faith to solve in His perfect way.

Jesus also asks us to confess in prayer when we fall short- when we sin- and ask for forgiveness.

 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. NIV

This may be a good time to ask God to search your heart for anything you might need to ask His forgiveness and to bring to Him. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jesus asks us not to just focus on ourselves in prayer, but also for others.  Please read the following scriptures and list who they describe we should lift up in prayer.

   
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13  
1 Timothy 2:1-2  
Luke 6:27-28  
Matthew 9:37-38  

These are just a few examples of people Jesus tells us to pray for.  Read what Jesus says about strangers and summarize.

 Hebrews 13:2, Matthew 25:32 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

­To me, praying for strangers would be a sacrificial act of love.  In my blog, “The Powerful Present from Perceptive People” a couple of strangers took the time prayed for me. This was many many years ago and to this day I believe this was a powerful and effective conduit to my salvation story.

It encourages me to try to be sensitive and on the lookout for when to pray for others.

We have just touched on the power of prayer.  There is much more Jesus and his disciples wrote or spoke on the subject, but for today remembering to pray about our needs and to also pray for others, including strangers, is an awesome beginning. 

Colossians 2:7 “Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Please take a minute now to thank the Lord for at least three blessings you have recently experienced. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jesus, Thank you for this humbling experience of talking with others about our amazing opportunity to speak to you in prayer.  Thank you for teaching us and encouraging us to pray.  I now pray for each and every person who reads this Bible study that they will be blessed as they commune with you in prayer.  Thank you, Jesus. In Your precious name, Amen.

The Picture of My Father

I got married when I was 14 years old (more on this in a future blog). I did not “have to” and the proposal was not romantic. It went something like this, “We need to get you out of that house. Let’s get married.” I made such a monumental decision at such a tender age because I was desperate to escape a house where on my way home from school I would start planning how to get safely from my front door to my bedroom without my stepfather seeing me. My picture of the word “father” was that of an angry man in a sleeveless white t-shirt sitting on a green plastic kitchen chair waiting for me to enter and say or do anything that would give him a reason to unleash. I carried this picture of fatherhood for a very long time, even in my dreams at night, even after he died.

Before I tell you this part of my story, I would like to clarify my intentions. It is not my desire to vilify anyone. I don’t know the hurtful or damaging experiences that may have impacted the father figures in my childhood. As for me, I decided a long time ago to forgive them and make peace with this portion of my history. Nevertheless, in order to tell my story with truth and authenticity and to give you a perspective of what the word “father” meant to me during this time, I need to briefly describe my father experiences.

My parents were divorced around the time I was in kindergarten. I don’t remember my dad before this time and after we moved away, only one word truly encapsulates our father-daughter relationship…absent. I can’t pretend to understand all the reasons he was not there. I just know he was gone and it was my mom, my brother, and I migrating from apartment to apartment for several years after that. The only visit I remember was on my eighth birthday. He showed up with a brand new red Schwinn bicycle with a white woven basket on the front. I don’t really recall being much interested in the man standing on the porch talking with my mother. What I do remember was how excited I was about this bike and the newfound freedom it represented. I jumped on and took off, trailing the streets as far away as I dared to ride. When I returned some time later, the man on the porch, my dad, was gone.

My second father experience was more painful at the time, though very short-lived. After a few years of being single and struggling, mom remarried. I was so excited to have a dad, live in a house, be a traditional family, have a new life. My expectations for happiness were high and dashed quickly as I discovered that this man’s hopes and desires centered around my gorgeous mother and the two children he already had. My brother and I were irritants, intruders, did not fit in the dream he had for a wonderful life with our mother. My picture of a father went from mostly blank to blots of hurt and rejection and sketches of a small girl never good enough. The marriage lasted just short of a year and we were on our own again.

I have to take a deep breath before drawing for you a picture of father #3. Please don’t give up reading though. I promise it gets better. When I was 12, my mother began experiencing a variety of health challenges at the same time she met a man who seemed like an answer to an easier way for us. He was much older that my mother. He had a small house, a decent job and a strong desire to marry her, so she did. This time, however, was different for me. I was not going to go into this relationship with high hopes or open arms. I showed up closed and defensive. I was angry and sought out trouble at home and school.

It is hard for me to tell if this stance saved me in those days or could have been made better if I had been different. I can only relay that this man was the kindest man you would hope to meet when he was sober, but finding him sober was limited to a few choice hours in the early morning. After that, he was drunk. The alcohol held a strong and vicious hold on him that would plague me from the day we moved into his home. These were days and then years that were filled with, at first, fear and then resignation, fists and fights, and filthy words and accusations being spoken to my innocent 13 year old girl self. These days included attempting to come to my brother’s aid using a broken whiskey bottle, running away from home for four days , getting caught, and put into a juvenile detention center, and a suicide attempt. One night I called the police and asked them to take me to someplace safe, however, back in those days these requests just weren’t taken seriously. Nothing was done. “Unsafe” “Unprotected” “Dirty” “Beaten” were some of the words that framed the picture I was developing about me and having a father.

When I was 25, I invited and believed Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was introduced to God as my Father (I promise to fill in the blanks in future blogs), I embraced this new world whole-heartedly with all the blessings of having a Savior who forgave me, a Lord who loves me, a Redeemer, Comforter, Shepherd, Friend, Teacher, and much more. What I could not get a hold or be thankful for was God as the Father. Everything I knew about fathers did not cause me to embrace God in this way. In fact, it frightened me.

It was almost a year later, that I went to visit my new in-laws. My husband decided to take a nap and as I walked down the hall to go into the kitchen, I noticed my father-in-law in my husband’s old bedroom. He was tenderly covering his sleeping grown son with a well-worn quilt. I stopped…touched and mesmerized. In the next few years, this same father-in-law would teach me much about a father’s love. For example, one day we were in the mountains chopping wood for our stove and I left the group and walked up an isolated trail. I was grieving the loss of someone close and just needed a moment. Suddenly around the wooded bend came my father-in-law. He was carrying a large cotton jacket. He did not say a word, just put the jacket over my shoulders, and left. The idea that he would search me out to perform this small act of caring and comfort was incredible to me. I was beginning to get the picture. Could this be a taste of what the ultimate Father’s love for me was like? Over many years, this man never stopped being there for me, showing his unconditional love to me and our family, helping, protecting, and teaching me, even after his son and I were divorced, he did not stop loving me. I was so blessed to have this man come into my life and begin to change the picture I held about God the Father.

Now, I realize not every one has the privilege of having a fabulous father-in-law to help fill in those empty shapes where a loving Father should be. This example was very helpful to me towards understanding why God as our Father is such a gift. It helped me to realize His protective, just, all-in, unconditional, compassionate, thoughtful, dedicated, and above all love nature. However, with prayer and the study of His Word, those of you who, like me, did not grow up knowing that special father love, can also grow a heart-picture understanding of who He is. Psalm 68:5 says that God is “Father to the fatherless.” I believe this and am grateful.

In conclusion, I must say I have come to appreciate my childhood history. I would not want to change it. I am now thankful for the lessons I have learned from all of the father figures in my life- lessons of forgiveness, “what not to dos”, and how to have compassion for other children like me in similar situations. I will also forever be grateful to the wonderful fathers I have been surrounded with throughout my adult years, especially the one who helped me to see a clearer picture of my ultimate Father.

Please scroll down to click “The Ultimate Father-Study” as a mini-companion study that accompanies this blog if you are interested. Thank you all for joining me! Next week a lighter subject about “bling”. I love you all.