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Reflections

How to Know When You’ve Prayed Long Enough

Have you ever wondered how to know when you’ve prayed for something long enough? I do this emotional dance where I feel burdened about something and I want to just keep talking to God about it. But I know that if I were God, I’d be getting tired of hearing it. I don’t want to nag God. Can you relate with me on this?

Granted, I’ve heard sermons about how God is our loving Father and He delights in us, and of course He wants to hear what is on our minds. And I’ve believed it, but still. My mind has always asked the question, “If God knows what I’m thinking, does He really want me to continue to verbalize it? Shouldn’t I just say it once and trust Him with it?”

Lets be honest – I relate to God out of my experience. I do not appreciate when my children ask for something over and over and over again. My thought is always “I heard you the first time and I’m thinking about it. I will be much more likely to form an answer if you be quiet and let me think.” So, my instinct with God is to bite my tongue and let Him work.

This has been something I’ve dealt with for many, many years. You can imagine my relief when God finally spoke to me about it. He said,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6, 7

Did you catch that? He wants me – you – us to pray about everything. Let Him know all our requests. And His incomprehensible peace, will guard, surround, protect our hearts and minds. Friends, this is how to know when we’ve prayed about something long enough – Jesus will give us peace.

When we feel anxious and like we need to keep talking to God, our Father, about whatever it is, He wants us to do it. He wants us to talk until our anxiety gives way to peace.

The words "Pray until the peace presses in!" against a sunset sky.
Peace lets you know you’ve prayed long enough!

If you’re not there yet, friend, keep talking. Keep praying. The peace will come. And that is how you will know you’ve prayed long enough.

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Reflections

God is not Afraid to Leave His House

I’m in quarantine because of a close exposure to COVID-19. I couldn’t go to church last weekend. I won’t make it next week either.

But you know who isn’t in quarantine? God. He is always free to leave His house. And He comes to meet me right where I am.

My friend, are you housebound? Are you confined by illness or fear or something else? Don’t despair! You are not alone.

God is not afraid to leave His house. He sees you and knows your needs. He is ready to visit. Will you invite Him in?

God meets us where we are: God is not Afraid to Leave His House
God is not afraid to leave His house to meet us in our need.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Revelation 3:20
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Recommendations Reflections

Slow Living – 7 Ways To Elevate Focus Over Frenzy

Happy day, my friends! How are you? I hear the birds chirping outside and I am feeling their excitement. I have found some new inspiration and it fits like an old glove. Are you familiar with slow living? It is a counter trend – counterintuitive, counterproductive, and countercultural.

All my life I have been romanced by busyness. Haven’t we all? And it has been a tease. Enough is never enough. It is time to turn and embrace slow living. I can’t wait to see what God shows me about elevating focus over frenzy. I have already identified 7 things I need to change. Does any of this resonate with you?

What is slow living and how can it elevate focus over frenzy?

In case you’re not familiar with the trend called slow living, let me introduce you to the concept. It is a movement which challenges the idea that busy equals successful or important. It elevates the ability to enjoy focused free time. It protests the frenzied lifestyle, and offers the stressed and depressed masses a healthier, more fulfilling way to live.

“Slow living refers to a lifestyle that encourages a slower approach to aspects of everyday life. It has been defined as movement or action at a relaxed or leisurely pace… However, slow living does not prevent the adoption of certain technologies such as mobile phones, Internet, and access to goods and services.”

Wikipedia

I have spent decades at lightening pace. Am I better for it? Are my husband, kids, or grandkids? I have done many things, worn many hats, and spun many plates, but have I done any of it really well?

Related post: How Many Hats Can You Fit on One Head Without Dropping Any?

I am drawn by this idea of slow living. It’s back-to-basics approach, utilizing the technology we have to free us instead of entangle us, makes sense to me. And I’ve always admired people who are naturally inclined this way.

Electronic calendar displayed on a tablet: Slow Living - 7 Ways to Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
Slow living makes use of technology

Here are 7 endeavors I expect to improve with slow living.

Quiet time

Frenzy says just get it done. Multitask if possible. Busyness is next to godliness, right?

Focus says worship God. Get somewhere and get still. Learn from Him.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Psalm 46:10

My quiet time has been in dire need of an overhaul. This year, I’m giving it a slow living makeover. I ordered a new Bible, adopted a fresh system of recording praises and prayer requests, and committed to blocking the necessary time to go deep in communication with Jesus. He is my best friend, and I miss Him when I simply go through the motions and fail to really connect.

Related post: Why Would We Pray for Courage Over Comfort?

Meals

Frenzy says fast food! Drive through, take out, grab and go, eat on the run.

Focus says gather ’round. Plan, pick, purchase, and prepare whole foods. Nourish yourself and those around you.

To bring a slow living mentality to my mealtimes, I am going to sit down. I will converse with people or with God while I eat. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, understated pleasures are often the best.

I read some advice that has worked well for me in the past. It was to think about each bite and visualize what was required to get it on the fork. What did God have to do? Sunshine and rain? What else? What did the farmers, ranchers, or truckers contribute? I want to be more mindful, thankful, and satisfied with even the simplest of meals.

People gathered around a table: Slow Living - 7 Ways To Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
A longer linger to savor flavor and connection

Commuting

Frenzy says take the freeway! Honk and hurry, gotta scurry. It’s all about the destination.

Focus says slow down. Leave early and don’t worry. Enjoy the ride!

Slow living while I commute, means more scenic routes with more open windows and open roads. I want to give away the right-of-way and notice flowers in the median. I’d like to enjoy meaningful conversation, a good audio book, or uplifting music while I drive. The journey should be at least half the fun of going somewhere. I must plan accordingly!

Calendar

Frenzy says fill it up! Schedule to the minute. Keep movin’ and groovin’, makin’ and shakin’.

Focus says guard your time. Give God room. Be choosy, be discerning, and keep your calendar with care.

I want my slow living calendar to have wide berths. I’m tired of one unexpected task making me late for everything else all day. Much of my schedule is dictated by my job, but my free time is up to me. I am going to keep open time, in pen, on my calendar. I will use it to do things I want to do, to catch up on things I need to do, and to be available for what God asks me to do.

Workouts

Frenzy says I’m just too busy. Does running late burn calories?

Focus says your health is a priority. Raise your heartrate, lower your cortisol. Strive for balance – mind, muscle, and mission.

To attain slow living with my workouts, I must be intentional. I will not be cramming exercise into tiny open slots on my calendar. I want to strive for purposeful exercise using full range of motion. I will take time to breathe deeply and to stretch. I need to listen to my body. How many workouts have I hurriedly completed with no time left for a cool down? I feel those catching up with me already!

Mother and daughter stretching in the living room: Slow Living - 7 Ways To Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
Temple maintenance!
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19a

Spoken Words

Frenzy says talk fast. Be heard. Say what’s on your mind.

Focus says listen. Repeat what is said to be sure you understand. Pray about how to respond.

I can practice slow living all day long when it comes to my words because opportunities abound. I believe there is grace and wisdom in being the last to speak, and I want to embrace it. I have been convicted to speak fewer opinionated words and more truthful ones. I need to slow down and discern the difference.

My feelings are like a volcano. When they are triggered, words erupt. I need to keep my emotions in check and hold my tongue.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

James 1:19

Decisions

Frenzy says decide now. Go out on a limb, no time to waste. Grab the deal, make the trade, accept the offer.

Focus says take a deep breath. Don’t be pressured to make a quick decision.

I want to be characterized by slow living in my decision making. When I am faced with a decision, I want to sleep on it, pray about it, and seek wise counsel. I would rather miss an opportunity about which I was unsure, than to be stuck with one I despise because I made it in haste. The decisions I make affect everyone around me. I owe it to myself, and them, to take time to make careful and prayerful decisions.

Related post: Buy Buttons: How Understanding Them will Make and Save You Money

Time pieces of all kinds: Slow Living - 7 Ways to Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Well, there they are – 7 ways to embrace slow living and elevate focus over frenzy – in print and already making me feel accountable. Slow living mandates that space be built into each activity to ensure time to embrace, enjoy, and accomplish it well.

There will be a learning curve. I’m certain there will be days when nothing goes as planned. Some days will still be busy. And that is ok. Slow living is a practice, something to pursue.

I believe I can serve God better with this mindset, but I also give Him full editing priviledged over my schedule. My prayer is that He will make me more effective at loving Him, magnifying Him, and lovingly encouraging His people.

What do you think about slow living? Do you feel frenzied or focused in the lifestyle you lead? Are there obvious things in your schedule that you’d like to elevate above the others? Would you care to join me as I settle into slow living?

“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17
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Reflections

Why Would We Pray for Courage Over Comfort?

What have you asked of God today? Would you like trials and tests or are you hoping for smooth sailing? Does that seem like a dumb question? Why would we pray for courage over comfort?

One morning I asked my kids for some of their favorite Bible stories. They answered, “David and Goliath, Moses, and Esther”, among others. We discussed what made the lives of these people exciting and worth reading over and over again.

We noticed that these were regular human beings like us, but they were brave enough to face difficult tasks. And God showed up mightily every time. They did not cower from situations which invited the miraculous intervention of the ultimate hero.

Then we wondered why we so often pray for a ‘good day’, and for things to be ‘quick and easy’. Shouldn’t we pray instead for the courage to do hard things with Jesus? For what has He saved us? To spend smooth days in comfort, or to stand up and display His strength and power for the benefit of our faith and everyone else’s?

A person on the highest peak: Why would we pray for courage over comfort?
Photo by Roman Pohorecki on Pexels.com
Soli Deo Gloria – All for God’s Glory!

Are we spectators – fans of God’s glorious work? Or are we in the game – leaving it all on the field for His glory? What would be different if David, Moses, and Esther did not embrace their trials and tests, but pursued smooth and simple things instead?

How will we pray differently this year? Will it be the same ole’ “God bless me”, or will it be “God use me?” Will we ask for epic, or plead for easy? Why wouldn’t we pray for courage over comfort?

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

1 Peter 1:6, 7
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Reflections

My New Year’s Handle Verse is One to Hold On To for 2022

It was before dawn, Friday morning, New Year’s Eve. All was quiet around me, but not inside me. I sat in the dark, thinking about what has transpired in 2021 and feeling off balance, heading into 2022.

My habit is to consume a bottle of water first thing in the morning, and I often browse WordPress Reader while I drink it. I follow Cindy Dawson’s blog, on which she posts a ‘verse of the day’. That day, December 31, it was as if God had her share one just for me. The words sunk deep into my soul and the tears flowed as I felt my equilibrium return.

The text of Luke 1:45 against the background of trees and the ocean.
My handle verse:
one to hold on to for 2022

I have been holding tight to some specific promises God made. I have been repeating them and defending them and believing them, even though they seem further from being fulfilled now than they did when God made them. I think I was growing weary. I was yearning for the moment when I would see the reward of my fervent belief. And this verse clearly states that I am already blessed, simply because I believe.

I know the Bible is full of verses to ‘mankind’ which apply to women equally. But when I come across one that uses female pronouns, it really hits home. I clicked over to my Bible app and looked up the verse in context. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist was talking to her cousin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus.

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’”

Luke 1:40b-45

I read it twice and I ‘heard’ a voice in my spirit say, “This is your handle verse”. “My handle verse? What does that mean?”, I challenged. The answer came immediately, “It is one to hold on to.”

I don’t know what 2022 will bring but God does. I don’t know if He will answer my questions or resolve my concerns. But I do know He wants me to rest in the knowledge that I am blessed for simply believing that He will do what He has said He will do. With that, I can be at peace.

I made a new lock screen photo for my phone. In case anyone else feels like this is a handle verse they want to hold on to for 2022, here it is in the format that works with my device. Maybe it will fit for yours too.

My New Years handle verse - one to hold on to for 2022
Handle verse for phone wallpaper

Do you have a handle verse? If not, I encourage you to pray for one. Of course, the entire Word of God is of utmost value, and I hope you will find yourself deeply immersed in it this year.

God was faithful to give me a New Year’s handle verse – one I will hold on to for 2022. Nothing which has happened or is happening, in my life or in the world, changes what God said. He knew all of it when He made the promises He did. There is blessing in simply taking Him at His Word!

“Standing on the promises I cannot fall,

listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,

resting in my Savior as my all in all,

standing on the promises of God.”

A stanza from the hymn “Standing on the Promises”, written by Russell Kelso Carter in 1886.

I own the photos in this post. I give you permission to use them, if you like, and would appreciate a link back if you do. Also, please visit Cindy Dawson’s Real Christian Women blog and follow her, if you don’t already. I think you’ll be glad you did, I know I certainly am!

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Reflections

I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas

Oh my goodness, guys – I lost baby Jesus! I am sharing the story because I made it a goal to be authentic about how Christmas really goes in my house. This is a paragraph I wrote earlier this season:

“I want to refrain from chasing idyllic moments this year. I resolve to enjoy real ones – moments of joyful imperfection, and to encourage you to feel better about yours.”

Mama Lava in An Illusion of Joy or an Infusion of Joy? Part 1

If you read last week’s post containing the 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas, you know how important it is, in my house, that Jesus not show up in the Nativity set until Christmas morning.

It was my oldest daughter who exclaimed to my grandkids, “Oh, I bet baby Jesus was born last night! Should we go look by Joseph and Mary?” I half-heard the commotion, but I was busy in the kitchen. I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening until they all came in and my daughter asked, “Mima (pronounced Mee-Maw), do you know when baby Jesus might be appearing in the nativity set?” Her eyes said “uh-oh” as her lips silently formed the words “I’m sorry” from behind the kids.

Nativity sans baby Jesus: 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
Baby Jesus and His manger should have shown up in our Nativity set on Christmas morning!

I said something hastily about how we’d have to check back in there later, and I scanned my brain for the memory of where I’d put baby Jesus. I began to panic because I had no idea. I began to hunt in the most likely places. Then I frantically looked in the unlikely places. All the while I played nonchalant for the kids, but I couldn’t find Him!

On top of our bookshelf, we have a plaque of the letters in the word “PRAY”. I looked for baby Jesus behind the sign and knocked it over. The Y is loose and came off. When I tried to catch it, an exposed screw pierced deeply under one of my fingernails. It hurt so much, and I was already very frustrated with myself.

A plaque made of the letters PRAY: I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas
The PRAY sign on top of our bookshelf.

Not only had I lost baby Jesus, but I was about to ‘lose my Jesus’. This is an expression we use in my house when we lose our cool. If you haven’t read the post entitled How to be More Certain I Won’t Egotistically ‘Lose my Jesus’, it fits perfectly right here. I needed to re-read it in this moment.

Instead, I ran upstairs under the guise of ‘getting a bandage’ to have a good cry. How could I lose baby Jesus when He was supposed to be the star of the show? I found myself apologizing profusely to the grown, sacrificed, and risen Jesus.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:15, 16

And you know what? He answered me. He reassured me that He knew I’d lose his baby likeness and He had worked it into His plan. He wanted me to be authentic about it. He didn’t want the kids to think He showed up in some mystical way when they weren’t looking. He wanted me to tell them the story of His birth and explain the reason why I had kept Him out of the nativity set in the first place.

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

1 John 3:19, 20

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

Deuteronomy 4:9

So, with bandage in place, emotions calmed, and resolve reset, I returned downstairs. I was authentic with my grandkids. They all followed as I returned to my search. I opened an upper cabinet and there it was, the ceramic manger with baby Jesus inside. “I found Him!”, I exclaimed!

Baby Jesus was found by the emergency candles: I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas
There was baby Jesus, the Light of the World, with the emergency candles. All seemed to be waiting together for their chance to shine!

And then, out of the mouth of my 5-year-old granddaughter, came the words that were dubbed the quote-of-the-day. “Hey, who put Jesus in the cabinet?” I did. That was me.

What an unfortunate quote to remember from Christmas 2021. Or is it? It certainly makes me think. Have I, do I, put Jesus in the cabinet? Are there times when I ‘put Him away until later’ in my day-to-day routine? And then, do I ever forget Him there, out of sight, out of mind?

If / when I do, I want to be as appalled as I felt when I lost Him on Christmas morning. I hope I never allow so many distractions that I forget where I left Him. But I know that if I ever do, all it takes is for me to change the posture of my heart. If I turn towards Him, He will come toward me too.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

James 4:8a, 10
Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph in the Nativity: I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas
Baby Jesus, found and reunited with Mary and Joseph

As if to punctuate the point of His preciousness to me, my punctured finger throbbed painfully all day and reminded me that Jesus was born to die a torturous death, of which a punctured hand was just a part. He did that for me.

Our Christmas was truly wonderful, but the authentic account includes flaws. I lost baby Jesus, among other things. But thankfully, Jesus does not require perfection. He often is most poignant in our failures. How did your celebration go? Do you have any lesson-learned moments you’d like to share? I’d sure love to hear them!