The Power of Prayer

In the wake of a shooting in Texas church a few months ago, the quote above was being passed around social media. The only thing I find more disturbing than the quote itself is the fact that I’ve seen it shared on the pages of Christians.
First, why would anyone assume that because they were in church that they were automatically faithful Christians who prayed often? How many of us know people who show up at church on Sunday but aren’t faithful or prayerful and don’t live the principles of the Gospel? Church membership doesn’t always mean someone is living a Christian life.
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Christ-Centered Marriage

WeddingBandsMarriage isn’t for the faint of heart.  Life really isn’t either.  At least not a life well-lived.  Both require us to have a strong foundation in Faith.  In a recent installment Ignatian Spirituality entitled The Depth’s of God’s Love, Becky Eldredge wrote

Even as my love for my husband developed, I awakened to the fact that even our relationship was not the firmest foundation in my life. God’s love was the unshakeable foundation, and it was upon this rock that our marriage was built. It was out of God’s love for us that we could love each other.

For me, this eloquently sums up why so many marriages that started out so beautifully fail.  People place their spouses or their marriages in the place meant for Christ, expecting the love of a spouse to live up to the expectations we have for the divine love of God.  We all want to love as God loves, but we’re imperfect.  We just can’t do it like God does.
When we place that much weight on our spouses, there just isn’t any way for them to live up to that.  We set ourselves up for failure.  When we’re continuously disappointed, the disappointment leads to resentment, and before we know it, there’s no love left.  We’re no longer grateful for the wonderful people we once married.  Instead, we feel weighted down by people who can’t be what we want and who often are feeling the same way towards us.

When we make our relationship with Christ the foundation of our lives and God’s love the rock on which our marriages our built, we still have bad days, but we learn to forgive and to be grateful.  We don’t allow resentments to be built.  We allow God to continually heal us and our marriages.  When we have bad days, we lean on God together to help us through to the other side.
I know a man who gave up his faith for his spouse.  He did a complete 180 in his spiritual beliefs in order to take on her faith and please her.  As an Anglican, I don’t believe any denomination is wrong.  I believe God gave us a variety of Christian faiths to be able to reach more of us.  That being said, if we walk away from our faith for another person, what does that say about our relationship with God?  Perhaps we never really believed?  Or perhaps we’re putting the other person in God’s place?
I made the same mistake once and ended up giving up the most important thing in my life for someone who didn’t respect the person I was, who would have never given up his faith for me.  In the end, I didn’t like or respect the person I became, so how could I expect him to honor, cherish, and respect me?  All true love begins in God.  Without it, we have no real basis for a life together.  With it, we can know a love and an intimacy that brings us closer to God.
How does your relationship with Christ strengthen your love for your spouse?

Losing Faith

I’ve fought depression and anxiety most of my adult life. I’ve battled feelings of unworthiness and loneliness. Seven years of Alanon meetings reminded me that my Christian faith, my roots in the Episcopal Church can provide more solace and love than any other thing in my life. Just as 12 step programs teach you to put your sobriety, sanity, etc. first, the Gospels teach us to put God first, because when we do, we find a serenity and peace that nothing else can offer. We become connected vessels of love rather an islands of loneliness.
I have to confess… The last few months I have failed to live up to that standard. It started with a heartbreaking phone call and a week of worry and stress. Someone I love dearly hurt, and there was nothing I could do but give it to God. From there, the realities of spending a winter in a travel trailer set in. Buying propane every 3 days. Having nowhere to keep winter clothes and wet boots. Muddy paw prints everywhere.
It culminated in a weekend of unusually low temps, during which our pipes froze. We spent the weekend trying to make sure the animals had enough water to get through, sometimes lugging water from the creek and sometimes using the gallon jugs of spring water in the basement. The roads were a mess, but we had to brave them to get to town and get supplies to insulate the hoses.
As it turns out, a four season trailer only has insulated tanks; the hoses are not insulated. We had insulated the hoses from the water to the trailer but had no idea we needed to insulate the hoses under the trailer. My poor husband spent most of the weekend crawling under the trailer trying desperately to get the water going, so I could shower and head to the office on Monday morning.
We spent most of what we had budgeted for groceries and miscellaneous spending.  I didn’t know how we would make it until the next paycheck without dipping into funds intended to work on the farm or dipping into our savings.  My frustration exceeded my faith, and I gave into feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and despair.
In Knowing God by Name, Sharon Jaynes, Gwen Smith, and Mary Southerland write

You and I run out of energy. We grow weary. We lose heart. God never does. The Everlasting God does not faint or grow weary and when we call out to Him, He renews our strength and revives our hope.

That’s where I was.  I was out of energy, but I was also out of faith.  Sadly, I was those things by choice, because God was always with me.  Only when I finally broke down and allowed myself to feel God’s awesome presence, only when I allowed the tears to flow and allowed myself to be humble before God did the situation resolve itself.  After two days of fighting the trailer, the cold, and each other, we found comfort in each other and comfort in God’s plan.
In a recent Girlfriends in God devotional, Mary Southerland wrote

Faith is the quiet certainty that God keeps His promises. If you are like me, you don’t like to wait on God with “quiet certainty.” We see a need, and instead of seeking God’s wisdom and timing, we make a plan we think will meet that need and then, with earthly resources, make sure the plan is executed. As a result, we often settle for so much less than God had in mind.

Sound familiar?  We spent a weekend lacking faith and paid the price.  Only when we relinquished control and found that quiet certainty did God reveal his plan, which was so much more that we could have hoped for.

I want to share with you the prayer included in that newsletter:

Father, I come to You, desperately needing Your power and Your strength. Help me learn to recognize Your work in my daily life. I celebrate the fact that You are able and willing to perform miracles when I step out in faith and trust You.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

That is my continued prayer for me and for you.  When we rely on God’s strength instead of our own, all things are possible.  When we take back that trust and rely on our own power, we are remind just how difficult and lonely life can be, but all we have to do is give it back to God to be restored.  The Monday after that miserable weekend, we experienced a miracle, the details of which I will share at a later date! 😀  God has plans for us and for our farm.  We will have to work for it, but God will guide us and provide for us just as he sent manna from Heaven to feed the Israelites.  We must have faith.
God has personally blessed me with a job I love at a company doing good work in the world, a faithful and loving husband, a daughter who loves and supports me through everything, a strong faith community, two of the sweetest and most loving big dogs I’ve ever met, two of the best horses a woman could ask for, and some of the kindest friends you could ever meet.  My cup runneth over.  How has God blessed you?

The World Will Not Change Me

I have often been accused of being too idealistic, of being too hopeful.  I can think of worse things.  I choose to be hopeful and happy, because life is more enjoyable when I put my faith in a gracious God who loves me.
I honestly believe that the most powerful forces in the world are hope and love.  When I look at history, I see that all major change has started with one person seeing a better way and refusing to accept anything less.  That hopeful vision spreads and becomes a force no one can stand against.
In my own life, the people who have had the greatest impact on my development as a person–on the course of my life–have been people who work in difficult situations enacting as much positive change in the world as they can.  They give little thought to accumulating wealth, and they measure success not in their own achievements but in the achievements of those they help.  Being in their presence reminds you that God is alive and at work in the world.
In a recent Girlfriends in God email, Kelly Balarie wrote,

What if I really believed? What if I truly believed God wants to pour out His powerful hope onto others with transformational impact? What if I believed people might really see Christ through me? What if I believed I could change the world, in profound ways, like Jesus Christ changed the world?

What powerful questions.  I want to live to serve God through Christ.  I want live to love others as Christ loves me.  I do what I do not to change the world but to change me through my relationship with Christ.  God willing, that opens the door for others to love and to experience radical transformation through Christ.
I want to share with you the lyrics from one of my favorite songs The Change as performed by Garth Brooks, which embodies the reason I refuse to be less idealistic or less hopeful in my actions or my attitude:

One hand reaches out and pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for, and they say,
“What good have you done by saving just this one”
It’s like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying, “You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do, it’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me

This heart still believes that love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage, and so many say
“That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
“It’s like trying to stop a fire with the moisture from a kiss”

And I hear them saying, “You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do, it’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

And I hear them saying, “You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do, it’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world we know never changes me

What I do is so, this world will know
That it will not change me

What do you do that helps you stay true to your Christian faith?  What do you do to be in the world but not of the world?

You're Here for a Reason

It’s very easy in today’s world to forget that we each have a purpose.  Not some of us, but all of us.  I save reminders of this to my phone and my computer.  I jot reminders of this down in my journal.  One of those reminders is a post on Ignatian Spirituality by Vinita Hampton Wright:

Your life makes a difference in the universe, whether or not you embrace your God-given power.

Take a minute to soak that in.  You make a difference.  I make a difference.  The only question is what kind of difference do you want to make?  What kind of difference would God like you to make in the world?
Another of those reminders is the Ashes Remain song Here for a Reason.  Take a minute to watch the lyric video and really soak in its message.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb9Y_3O2tlQ]
When you’re having a bad day and it feels like nothing is going right…  When you look at your Facebook feed and it’s full of hate and fear and ignorance…  When you’re surrounded by unhappiness and everything is going to fast…  Slow down.  Remember.  God calls you his own.  You were made for more.  God knows you, loves you, and wants you to live abundantly in love, peace, and understanding.
Why this message on this day?  Because sometimes I need to hear it as much as you do.  Because I am a mere mortal who has bad days and forgets.  Because I too push God away and try to live in isolation.  Because on my worst days I am NOT alone and neither are you.  😀

Be Still and Know

This week, I’m feeling a bit uninspired and a bit unmotivated.  It’s not that I am less passionate or discouraged.  Instead, I’m feeling the need to be still and listen.  I’m still knocking out my to-do list every day, but I’m keeping my lists focused on what must be done rather than my usual Gung-ho list worthy of Wonder Woman.
I have several important decisions coming in the next few weeks, and I feel compelled to spend some time in prayer and meditation to discern God’s plan for me.  Since I’m not feeling compelled to work on other things, I thought I would share with you the tools I’m using for that prayer and mediation.
I happily admit that I too have been sucked into the adult coloring craze.  Art has always been a great outlet for me to express myself.  I sometime paint (badly!) or draw.  I find that artistic tasks calm and focus me.  I thoroughly suck at them, but I also find them fulfilling.  Coloring helps me relax. When I’m facing major life decisions, it’s easy to stress and to freak out. Coloring helps quell that anxiety and leaves me feeling more open to hear God’s call.
In addition, music has always been a big part of my life.  Thankfully, one I don’t suck at!  My husband and I have spent many hours over the last 15 years making music together or sharing music.  Music is also a primary way we both worship.  For me, music can help me pray, meditate, or praise, depending on the song and my mood.  The two songs below have been helping me work through the decisions I’m facing, which are interrelated and will affect not only the path of my life but my family as well. The first reminds me to be still and quiet, so I can hear God.  The second reminds me that my prayers should only be to help me discern God’s will and not to beg God to make my will happen.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmUMyz66zFY]
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsjZ94K7UQs]
I am most certainly at a crossroads.  I have faith that if I am able to discern and to submit to God’s will for me, I will live abundantly.  I know God plans for my happiness and renewal through his son my Savior Jesus Christ.  I pray that I can be still and know.
What struggles are you facing?  What tools do you use to keep the faith?

Merry Christmas

Yes, you read that correctly…  I said Merry Christmas, because us Episcopalians are still celebrating Christmas.  We have 12 days of Christmas, ending on Epiphany (January 6).
In our home on Christmas morning, there was no tree, no unwrapped gifts, and no big plans.  My husband was under the weather and napping.  I had a sinus headache from the wonky, stormy weather we’re having in Middle Tennessee.  BUT…  I couldn’t have been happier or more grateful.
We live a very blessed life, and the only thing that could make that first day of Christmas more perfect would be some sunshine.
Here are just a few of the reasons this is one of the best Christmases of my life:

  1. We’ve been married for 7 years and have never been more in love or more devoted to our marriage.
  2. Our children and grandchildren are healthy and happy.  In fact, there is another grandchild on the way!
  3. We have three of the most wonderful dogs you could have; they make us laugh, cuddle with us when we’re sick or sad, and love us unconditionally.
  4. We have three awesome horses that keep Mom happy.  (Happy wife, happy life, right?  😉 )
  5. We have two cats…  We think they love us.  They’re cats, so we’re not sure.
  6. I have a great job working with good people doing good things in the world.
  7. We want for nothing; we have a roof, 4 walls, food, clothes, and tons of love.
  8. I’m an Episcopalian, so we have a loving, welcoming church family that extends beyond our church through out the Diocese of Tennessee and even into a few other states.
  9. We each have a purpose, a calling to drive us and to get us up every morning.
  10. I have friends that are kind, generous, beautiful people; they make others lives better by really connecting with and doing for others.

Bear
There are so many people in the world that don’t have simple things like a home or food or a closet full of clothes.  There are so many more who are lonely or unhappy, dealing with illness or abuse, or just lost.  We are none of those things.  Our life isn’t perfect.  No one’s is.  We have ups and downs and bumps in the road just like everyone else.  BUT…  We have everything we need to face any challenge that comes our way and more love than either of us could have ever imagined or wished for.  How could we be more blessed?
The saddest part about the commercialization of Christmas has been the focus on what we don’t have.  I don’t have an expensive car, and he definitely didn’t go to Jared’s!  I don’t have a fancy home fit for big holiday parties.  I don’t have the best truck and horse trailer.  I don’t wear expensive clothes.
At the end of the day, who cares?  None of those things will make me happier or more fulfilled.  The things that give me the greatest joy are already present in my life, and knowing that is what make life good.
The secret to real happiness?  An attitude of gratitude.  An acknowledgement that you are blessed and have everything you could ever need.
What are you grateful for this Christmas?  What has brought joy into your life?