I Don’t Have to be Big

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I have lived in the South my whole life.  Down here, we like things BIG!  We like big hair, big trucks, and big meals!  We use expressions such as “Go BIG or go home!”, “BIGGER is better!”, and (a personal fave) “Put on your BIG girl panties and deal with it!”.  We enjoy the oversized, the overstuffed, and the over the top.

As Christians, these words put a lot of pressure on us to be BIG as well.  We feel the need to make the BIGGEST dessert for the church potluck, put the BIGGEST bows in our daughter’s hair for Sunday School, and drive the BIGGEST SUV in the parking lot.  Okay, maybe you don’t feel that kind of pressure.  To be honest, I don’t either.  I’m doing good to just remember there is a church potluck, to remind my daughter to brush her hair, and to have enough gas in my car to get to church!  However, there are times in my life when I do feel like I have to be big.

My daughter has been battling cancer for over three years.  It seems as though every time we get a breath of good news, a breath of hope, we get the rug pulled out from beneath us.  Some days the hits just keep coming.  I feel like I have to be BIG for my daughter, for my husband, for my family, for my friends, for my church, and for God.  I feel like I need to have all the answers and know just what to say.  I feel like I need to slap a smile on my face and tell everyone that we’re fine.  I feel like I have to let others know that we do trust, we do still believe, we do still have faith.  I feel like I have to be more, say more, do more.  I feel like I have to defend God in our circumstances.  I feel like I have to be BIGGER than what we are facing.

It’s exhausting.  It’s tiring.  It’s unnecessary, and sometimes it’s fake…Sometimes I forget the truth of His word.  Sometimes I forget all He tells me I am through Him.  Sometimes it all gets overshadowed by all the BIG stuff I allow to in my heart and mind.

Scripture

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4, NLT 

Did you catch that?  HE is greater.  HE is our victory.  HE is BIGGER!  I don’t have to be BIG and neither do you.  He is BIG enough for all of us and all of the problems that we may face.  Because we belong to Him and because He lives in us, we can simply be.  Not big, not afraid, not fearful, not fake – we can just be who He created us to be.

Prayer

Father God, we love you so.  Thank you for being all that you are to us.  Thank you for being bigger than anything else.  You created it all.  You can control it all.  You are in us, and you are for us.  In you, we are enough.  Thank you for being big for us and for everything we may face.  Forgive us, Father, when we try to be something You never intended us to be.  Help us remember that in You we can find rest, we can find peace, and we can find hope.  We don’t have to feel pressured.  We don’t have to be big.  Fill us with Your wisdom, God.  Help us to see our lives through the truth of Your word.  May we honor You with our actions so that others can see You and Your goodness.  We love you and ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Action

Is there something in your life that is causing you to fear, to doubt, to worry?  Do the pressures of your life make you feel overwhelmed?  Do you feel the constant urge to be BIG?  I know it’s not always easy, but I urge you (and me) to lay it at the feet of our mighty God. He is far greater than anything we may face.  And remember – He is in you!  He has already given you the victory. You have such freedom in this promise.  You have the freedom to just be you – His beloved child.

Have you ever felt the need to be big?  Tell us in the comments.  Let’s share and grow together in Christ. 

He's greater

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Deep Calls to Deep

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My family just returned from a wonderful week at the beach.  The salt, the sun, the sea – it was all just so peaceful and relaxing.  The time to have fellowship with our family and meet new friends was such a blessing.

The small, family friendly beach we visit in Florida was a little more crowded this year.  The traffic from Mobile, Alabama to Florida’s Emerald Coast was also much heavier than in years past.  Naturally, I began to think of all the people around me and what draws them and us to the beach.

These people all around us could have gone to a big city for their vacation or an amusement park or used the money for a big shopping spree at the mall…but, instead, they are choosing to bask in God’s creation.  They are voluntarily selecting things not made by human hands to enjoy, to recharge, and to relax.

For believers, we know He created all things and can see His handiwork all around us.  I, personally, love to see God in nature.  His presence and His majesty is all around us.  It fills us with awe and wonder at His power and His being.

What about unbelievers?  I feel they are drawn for the same reasons only they don’t realize it yet.  We are all born with a need and a desire for God’s presence.  For believers, we know where we can find it.  For unbelievers, they are searching, looking, and seeking for something to fill their hearts.  This is what calls us to experience His creation.

I don’t know how anyone can stand on the beach and look out over endless water and waves and question God’s existence.  He is so real, so present, and loves to delight us with His work.  He speaks to us through the beauty all around us – it reveals His glory to us.

Psalms 95: 5  NIV, “The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”  He made it all – for you and for me.  He wants us to enjoy the earth and all its majesty.  He delights in gifting us beautiful things made by His hands.

Scripture

Psalms 42:7  NIV, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

Prayer

Father God, we love You and we know You love us.  It is evident all around us in the beauty of Your creation.  We may wrestle some days with fleshly stress and worry, but we know Your presence is all around us.  It is calling to us just as “deep calls to deep”.  Help us to slow down and savor Your majesty.  Open our eyes to see Your glory.  Open our hearts to feel your presence.  Let us drink deeply from the beauty You have freely given to us, so that we may experience Your love, Your peace, and Your power.  We give thanks to You for your creation and for giving it to us.  Help us to appreciate it more each day and to see You in every tree, every cloud, and every star.  In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.

Action

The Psalmist asks in 42:2, “When can I go and meet with God?”  We know we can meet with God anywhere, but do you have a special place in nature that you especially feel God’s presence?  For me, it is near the water.  It may be a creek, a river, or the Pacific Ocean.  God’s presence is so real to me near the water.  My parents just returned from a two week road trip to Yellowstone.  The mountains proclaims His majesty too.  His handiwork is visible from the forests to the hills to the plains.  We just have to open our eyes to see it.

What speaks to you?  You don’t have to embark on a road trip to find something.  His presence can be seen in your front yard, alongside the road, or even within the walls of your home.  Let’s share where we see His glory and encourage one another to seek Him.  He’s calling you right now.

Deep Calls to Deep

Deep Calls to Deep

Give Me Words to Speak (Part 2 – What Do I Need to Say When I Pray?)

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Last week, we covered some basics of prayer – posture, location, speech, etc…This week I want us to look at our words.  Does prayer require a specific pattern of words?  Are there certain words we should always use?  Is there a “prayer format” we should follow?  Let’s talk about these questions and discuss the words we offer up to God in prayer.

Prayer is not a “magical” spell or incantation.  Putting the “right” words in the “right” order is not going ensure God will grant your requests.  As I said last week, God is not impressed with our vocabulary.  The words we use in prayer are important, but the condition of our heart when we come to God in prayer is much more important.

I spend the first part of each day reading and studying my Bible and in prayer.  Yes, I sit in my “Jesus chair”.  During this time of prayer, I tend to pray longer, offering up more intercessory prayer and also a good deal of praise.  I always begin by telling God how much I love Him.  I thank Him for not only what He has done for me, but I thank Him for who He is – for His very nature.  Yes, God knows He is sovereign, righteous, full of mercy and grace, our healer, full of compassion, and loving kindness, but don’t you think He likes to hear it?  I think He does.  It also works as a great reminder for me about who God is and that I have access to such glory!

Next, I move on to intercessory prayer for others.  This changes from day to day depending on my prayer list.  Since my daughter has been beating cancer for the past three years, there are always children and families we know from our time at the hospital that top my list.  Of course, I pray over our church prayer list as well as others I may know who need prayer.  I pray for our church and our church workers, I pray for our nation, state, and local governments, I pray for the staff and school where I worked last year.  I just pray over things that I feel led to lift up to God.

I pray hard for my family too.  I cover my husband and our marriage in prayer every day.  I pray for my daughter.  I pray she will always walk in health and wholeness.  I pray for her mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well.  I pray God would surround her with Godly friends who will be positive influences in her life.

Finally, I pray for myself.  I ask God for wisdom.  I ask God for forgiveness.  I ask God to help me become the wife, mother, and woman He designed me to be.  I ask for the Holy Spirit to fill me with the words, thoughts, and actions I need to get through each day.  I pray my family be able to fully embrace and follow God’s will for our lives.

A few years ago, my prayers began to feel routine and a bit repetitive.  I asked God to help me feel alive and renewed in my prayer life.  Soon after, a lady shared with me about using scripture in her prayers.  She told me she would find specific scriptures that related to her requests and pray them to God.  I began doing it also.  Now familiar scriptures flow in and out of my prayers.

Why incorporate scripture?  For me, it totally rejuvenated my prayer life.  It helped me to incorporate my love for God’s word in to my prayer time.  Also, scripture is God’s very word and will, what more perfect words could we offer up to Him than His own?  Yes, He knows what the Bible says; He is the author.  I believe He loves to hear it lifted back up to Him.  His own words coming from a sincere heart has to be pleasing to our God.

Sometimes I open my Bible and read entire chapters aloud over my family or over a situation or a specific need.  It refocuses my mind on His promises and His truths.  It offers up my requests in a way that I just can’t do on my own.  Sometimes I use verses from Psalms to offer up praise and thanksgiving.  The words are so beautiful and precious.  They flood in my soul in a way my own words never would be able to do.

There are many beautiful prayers throughout the Bible that we can use as examples or offer up as our own prayers.  Here’s a link to Five Biblical Prayers you may want to read and incorporate in to your own prayer time http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/05/five-biblical-prayers-that-teach-us-how-to-talk-to-god/

I also offer up many, many prayers throughout each day somewhat “on the fly”.  For instance, last night I accidentally put a DVD in our DVD player without removing the DVD that was already in place.  Whoops!  Needless to say, the DVD player began making a horribly uncomfortable noise.  My sweet hubs tried in vain to open the DVD door to remove the discs.  While he was fixing our issue, I quietly and quickly prayed that the DVD player would spit out the discs and work perfectly….and it did….Did God directly intervene with my ancient DVD player?  I don’t know.  I do know that we were able to watch our movie without any further issues.

Praying in that moment was a first instinct.  Yes, it was something trivial and my prayer was not very distinguished, but I was thankful that it came as naturally as breathing for me.  I utter these types of prayers all day long.  Sometimes I have praise and worship verses or songs playing through my head.  I consider those a form of prayer as well.  They keep my mind focused.  They keep my spirit calm and renewed.  They keep me in tune with God.

Scripture

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:18, NIV

Prayer

Father God, we thank You for the gift and privilege of prayer.  It is such a blessing and an honor to be able to come before You at any time to intercede, offer thanks, and lift our requests.  Thank You for hearing our prayer and for answering them.  Help us to grow in our prayer lives.  Show us how to pray so that we can grow in our faith and our love for You.  We love You and we desire to become closer to You through prayer.  In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.

Action

I challenge each of us to examine our prayer lives.  What can we do to grow?  What can we do to improve?  Are you lacking confidence in your prayers?  Ask God for help.  Do you need resources on prayer?  There are many wonderful books and articles; however, the best book you will ever read on prayer is the Bible.  Do a little research and you will find a wealth of scriptures devoted to prayer.  Do you have a favorite?  I do.  I’m very partial to praying Psalms 91 over my family.  Dig in and find what you need, then offer it up to God.  He’s waiting.

Psalm 91

What Does God Require of Me?

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Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a new place.  An uncertain place.  A place that makes us stop and scratch our heads and ask, “Okay, God, where do I go from here?”  It’s a little scary, a little uncomfortable, but also a little exciting.  This is where I am right now.

My daughter has been in treatment for a recurrent tumor for over three years.  We’ve had a couple of times when we thought the fight was behind us only to be put back in the ring.  THIS time she underwent a stem cell transplant.  She’s all new from the inside out – I think we all are in some ways.  So, for over three years our lives have revolved around appointments, hospital stays, and keeping our daughter happy and healthy.  Now, what?

We aren’t the same people we were three years ago.  We’ve grown and matured.  We’ve changed a lot.  Jumping right back in to the same “old” life doesn’t seem like the right fit.  The square peg in a round hole problem…In addition to the changes, there is some fear as well.  We’ve tried going back to our same jobs and school only to have the rug pulled out from in under us.  Maybe we are supposed to go right back to the same old same old, but it seems a little surreal.  Can we just snap our fingers and go right back to “normal”?  Maybe we can, or maybe we’re supposed to change our course.  I don’t know.

When I am at a loss and not sure what to do, I go to the one source of truth that I know I can trust – God.  He is so faithful and never changes despite our fleeting emotions.  I have been in earnest prayer about our path.  I’ve also consulted His word.  A big truth jumped out at me from the book of Leviticus.  (Yes, another OT book!)

In Leviticus 5, God is outlining the various sins and what sacrifices they require for atonement.  This was typically a bloody, messy business.  It also required a LOT of animals.  What about those who had no animals to sacrifice?  What about those so poor they didn’t even have doves or pigeons to sacrifice?  In verse 11, God says that individual can bring fine flour.  Flour?  Didn’t sacrifice require blood?  Yes, typically, but God doesn’t need the animals.  The cattle on a thousand hills belong to Him.

He just wants us.  He made a way for even the poorest of the children of Israel to come with a repentant heart and be forgiven.  Bring fine flour, bring a pigeon, bring your aching heart. Just bring what you do have and God will do the rest.  Sometimes we feel wrung out, spun out…We feel we have nothing to offer and don’t know what to do or where to go.  God says, “Just bring me what you have.  Yourself.  Sit and rest.  Let me fill you with My Love.  I will show you My Path.”  And He does.

So, we pray.  We ask God to open the doors that are to be opened and close the ones that are to be kept closed.  We ask for His guidance and direction.  We lift up our open hearts and our open hands and we wait…Now, when my mind races ahead of my heart, I think of the children of Israel and their fine flour sacrifices.  I think how God must have smiled upon them.  He saw them bringing all they had – things He didn’t need…but they were making a sacrifice.  They were seeking Him with all they had to offer (just like the widow offering her mites).  Can we do that today?  Can you offer Him your life?  Your heart?  He’s waiting with arms open wide.  He’s waiting to show you the abundant life He has designed for you and your family.

Scripture

“You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.  Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand – you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Then I said, “Look, I have come.  As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”  Psalm 40: 6 – 8 (NLT)

Our Prayer

Father God, we know that our works and sacrifices are no substitute for our obedient hearts and genuine commitment to your will.  Help us seek it.  Help us come to you with what we have and offer it up to You.  No fear, no hesitations, no holding back.  Just open hearts and hands.  We are coming in readiness and are prepared to do what You are calling us to do in Your name.  We love You.  We trust You.  We want to draw nearer to You.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Action

This may seems like a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to give you my favorite way to use “fine flour”.  What does this have to do with God’s will for your life?  Not a whole lot, I know, but as you mix them up, think of those children of Israel.  Pray and ask God to show you your gifts and talents.  What can you bring to the kingdom?  And when you bring these brownies to your family and friends, you will see perhaps a glimpse of what He sees when He sees you – love.

These brownies are a family favorite.  So much better than a box mix – cheaper and healthier too!  I can guarantee you have the ingredients in your cupboard right now.  Take what you have and create something beautiful – and yummy 🙂

G’s Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the oil and cocoa until smooth.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, and cocoa mixture.  Stir in flour and salt.  Fold in nuts if adding.

Pour into a greased 8 X 8 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool and enjoy.

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