Prayer

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5‬:‭16-18‬ NIV)

Can you remember when you first started praying? My first prayer was simple, and slightly terrifying.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

If I should DIE?!!! NOW???! I pray my SOUL to TAKE?

This prayer did not encourage me. It gave me nightmares. And just to see if I was overreacting, I showed the prayer to my 10-year-old, Cooper – who said, “That’s creepy.”

These are the humble beginnings of my prayer life. So clearly I’m no prayer expert. If you go to the Amazon.com bookstore to look up books on how to pray, more than TWO THOUSAND results come up. I’ve read only two of them, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian. Both are really great, inspirational resources, and I loved them. But I think the one book that has helped me pray the most is Anne Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

Ann’s book guides us to begin always with gratitude. “Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle,” she says. My pastor, Steven Furtick has preached on this many times as well, particularly in a Thanksgiving 2010 staff teaching I will never forget – one of his points was – “Gratitude sustains joy and blessings.”

Those teachings guided me to begin my prayers always with a thank you. Now please don’t misunderstand – I don’t always FEEL grateful. I choose to SPEAK gratitude over my situations. And don’t get the wrong idea about my prayer life, either. When I hear people talking about “quiet time” or if they ask me “How often are you getting quiet time with God?” I chuckle – because I have two boys, and the only time it’s quiet in my house is between the hours of 10pm and 7am. So unless I make it a high priority to spend time in God’s word before 7am or after 10, it doesn’t happen. And, often when I pray in my head – I fall asleep… or my mind wanders… or I start thinking of things that aren’t prayers like what I’m going to make for dinner this weekend. So I like praying out loud – with friends, with my children, in my car, and with my husband.

Most of my prayers during the day are as simple as “Thank you, Jesus.” Or “Help me, Jesus.”

I wasn’t always like this. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to do everything on my own. I knew Jesus. I loved him. I invited him to be my savior and lead my life when I was in college. But without a community to believers around you to encourage you, guide you, and challenge you, you can fall farther and farther from God.

Living in Charlotte, being a part of what God is doing through Elevation Church and hearing great preaching every single week – I’ve grown closer to God, and I’ve learned to lean on Him when I feel like the world is crashing in on me. And this is give or take, about 15 times a day.

During a particularly challenging time in our marriage, I felt like God was telling me to “Talk less, and Pray more.” I went through another period of time where I felt like God was prompting me to pray some specific things for my husband for 30 days. And now, I’m in the middle of praying Psalm 91 for 91 days along with my friends in Young Life Africa.

I pray because I know I need Jesus. I pray because I know I can’t do anything that means anything without him. I pray because WITH HIM, I know I CAN do anything he’s called me to do. I pray because I know I am in control of so little. I pray because I want the God of the universe who made me and loves me and wants good things for me to know I’m grateful. I pray because being quiet and grateful and seeking God’s wisdom gives me clarity, and courage to take on whatever lies ahead.

I don’t feel like a prayer superhero. And maybe that’s the great thing about calling on prayer as a superpower. For me, choosing to pray when I feel weak, ungrateful, fearful, or angry means that I can release those negative thoughts and feelings – and accept the promises God has spoken over my life instead. Pastor Steven’s book Crash the Chatterbox is all about learning how to do this – and I highly recommend it.

At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭20‬ AMP)

Thank you to my sister, Tris who asked me to share my thoughts on prayer. She’s been writing a 31-day series of blogs called “Celebrating your superpowers.” They’re beautiful. You can check them all out, here.

Because He Said So…

Screenshot 2014-09-26 11.09.18My dad isn’t a big words guy. He doesn’t use a whole lot of them. But the ones he does use certainly stuck with me growing up. He always told me he loved me – and he often used the phrase “Because I said so.” This Five Minute Friday post is dedicated to my dad. I shared this story this week with students at my boys’ school… It’s cut and pasted here with a few minor edits to get it out there in five minutes. Because it’s Sabbath Friday in my house – and I’d better get back to resting.

Because He Said So.

Psalm 30:2 says “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”

Have you ever had a pain that just wouldn’t go away? Maybe it was a pain on your body – Maybe it was a pain in your heart. Maybe it was both. For me it certainly was both.

My sons Cooper and Asher have two older sisters – One is Ciara, the other is Kira. Ciara is my daughter who just finished college in Washington State.

There was pain in that relationship because I didn’t get to see her as much as I wanted to because of some of the choices I’d made. I had gotten a divorce – It’s a decision that breaks God’s heart and he tells us not to do it. But I did it anyway.

I had pain in my heart because of the choices I’d made and because of the circumstances those choices created. I had pain in my body, too. For several years I had a condition called TMJ – temporomandibular joint disorder. That’s a very big word for very bad pain in your jaw.

I lived with this pain for several years – I’d gone to the dentist to get a fancy bite device and I tried many other things on my own when one day, a miracle happened.

It started out as a terrible, no good, very bad day. I was upset about several things – about my daughter Ciara – I was missing her so much – about my job – about so many circumstances in my life I felt like were out of my control. I was driving down the road this day feeling very sorry for myself and I had this very strong feeling (I believe it was God) who told me to stop that. Not a whole lot of other words like please, not a lot of discussion about why or how I was hurting myself – just simply – Stop That.

Stop feeling sorry for myself and praise Him. Though I didn’t really WANT to do that in that moment, it seemed like God was telling me to.  So I did – I turned up Elevation Worship CD very loud in my car, and I started singing out loud. And as I was praising God and singing and saying thankful, grateful things about Him – HE did something amazing.

Why? Because He Said So. God’s word says when we call to him for help, he will heal us.

God healed me. He took the pain in my jaw away. For the first time in years I felt no pain – God healed the pain in my heart and in my jaw. I praised Him. And I continue to praise Him and give him glory for the healing he brought me in that moment.

God promises he will heal us. I believe he calls us to participate in that healing. I didn’t sit around waiting for him to heal me. I praised him – even when I didn’t feel like it – at a time in fact when I ESPECIALLY didn’t feel like it… I praised Him and he healed me.

My dad’s “Because I said So” was not very comforting or fulfilling at the time. But today it is.

Jesus, thank you for your word and your promises. Thank you for keeping your promises to us even when we make mistakes. Help us remember your promises, father and cling to them. Today I pray for friends who are hurting and need healing in their hearts and in their bodies. Believing in healing and hope today for each and every one of them. Amen.

Ready.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 10.19.04When does it begin?

That feeling we’re never quite ready.

That feeling that screams we’re never quite _____ enough.

Not smart enough. Not experienced enough. Not organized enough.

In one of my all-time favorite sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick, called “Cancel the Audition” we are reminded that if we are followers of Christ – Jesus has already chosen us. We are ready for whatever he has called us to do. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” “But I am too young…” says the voice of insecurity in Jeremiah. And the Lord says, “Do not say I’m too young. Go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Paraphrased from Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Pastor Steven preached that to us in 2012 – and I’m still fighting back those feelings of not being quite ready. I AM ready. Just saying it out loud gives me courage.

This day – let’s choose together to be ready. Not ready with a question mark. But ready with a period. It’s crazy how much difference the punctuation can make.

Say it with me, brave friends. “I am ready.”

(This post is inspired by an inspired group of blogging ladies my lovely left coast sister helped me connect to. Find out more about Five Minute Friday here.)

I made a mistake…

Powerful words, aren’t they?

“I made a mistake.”

“You may be right.”

“I’m sorry.”

I’m so grateful God is patient with me. One of my favorite verses is 1 Timothy 1:16 – “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

And that may sound strange. Because by the world’s standards, I’m doing a pretty decent job. No felonies. No firings. So how can I consider myself the “worst of sinners” like Paul did when he was talking to his young disciple? But when in your life you keep doing things or thinking things that you know are not God’s best for you – judging, grumbling, griping, choosing to remain detached when I know I should engage.. when you keep doing these things and you know he still loves you… when you keep failing and he’s still there for you… you sense God’s mercy in a whole new way.

Yesterday, a woman burst through the doors of our church breathlessly seeking assistance with an empty gas tank. From experience, I know the thing we ask for is not necessarily the thing we need. And 99.9% of the time, someone else would have handled the question following the outreach guidelines I helped set up as we partner with agencies but offer no cash or other direct emergency services.

But this day, the lobby was full of other people with needs. And this woman was looking right at me. And I must have panicked or something because the first thing I did was meet the need she said she had. We stopped others who overheard from giving her cash – because we don’t want to create a security risk for our friends at the front desk. But she said she was in a hurry, late to pick up her daughter from school in a nearby town. So I prayed with the woman. I invited her to church. And I gave her a Walmart gift card.

Isn’t it funny how when we’re faced with someone’s immediate need we want to help? But then sometimes even when we do we’re left not with a feeling of joy, but somehow a feeling of sadness and discomfort? Oswald Chambers scolds us for this behavior calling us “amateur providences.”

I made a mistake. This woman didn’t need cash. She needed a relationship. And I don’t even remember her name. I’m grateful that Jesus does know her name. And I’ll continue lifting her up to him. Because I know he’s the only one who can supply her real needs.

And in case you’re wondering what happened next?

The woman (who I hope comes back so I can ask her to church again) must have alerted her entire family and friends to be a part of free Walmart gift card day. Two more people came. And then a fourth. All with similar stories.

We shut down the drive-through. We want to be about relationships. Not handouts. If you have an immediate physical need, we have friends who can help – Crisis Assistance Ministry, Matthews Help Center, Second Harvest Food Bank, and more. And if you want a relationship with Jesus – who is the only one who can ever supply all your needs – our doors are always open.

Thank you, Jesus for your patience with me. I know the truth, and I still mess up all the time. Thank you for daily lifting me out of the pit I’ve created for myself and calling me blessed, loved, and adored. Help me to be more like you today. Help me to BE the kind of grace you daily give to me. Amen.

“The Best Yes”

Crazy excited for my friend Lysa TerKeurst’s new book release TODAY. It’s called “THE BEST YES” and I know it’s going to bless so many. Plus, when you purchase the book, not only are you getting amazing content, you’re blessing children in a beautiful way. Check out the video, and then head over to “The Best Yes” for more. You can also join us tonight (if tickets are still available) at Lysa’s webcast at Elevation Blakeney, or online from the comfort of your own couch. See you there!

Screenshot 2014-08-12 05.49.59

The Best Yes – Thank You from Proverbs 31 Ministries on Vimeo.

Crustless Mini Quiches

Tonia Bendickson:

Following the blessings of LOVE Week, the Elevation Worship LIVE Recording and Student Takeover, we’re trying to get back to some healthier food in our house. (too much takeout for the past few weeks) Here’s a favorite in our home. Thanks to Melissa at smellslikebrownies.com

Originally posted on Smells Like Brownies:

I’ve been a bit discombobulated lately. I’ve been cooking and baking and taking all these pictures—but my own dinky camera was out of commission and my laptop was out of commission, and let’s just say that when my routines are disturbed sometimes I become a bit befuddled.

But! Today is Secret Recipe Club reveal day! So I’m gathering my wits to share a super simple and healthy breakfast recipe with you: crustless mini quiches. (If quiche is crustless, does actually that mean it’s a frittata or an omelet? No idea.)

This month my assigned blogger was Laura Rees. While her tastes and mine diverge pretty significantly (er…I am a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fruit…so I do kind of fall into a specific niche of eaters), her take on mini quiche struck me as interesting. I set out to make a vegetarian version that I could bring to brunches with…

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You are so brave.

Our church has this beautiful song I love called “Mighty Warrior.”

It reminds us that our God is fighting for us. That he is victorious. That HIS name is power.

I want to remind you today that you are so brave. That in Christ, you too are a mighty warrior.

Today, I’m reminding myself I’m brave. Because a friend of mine needs our help.

Last February, when a small team of us from Elevation went to visit East Africa to document the impact we’re making together through the generosity of our church – we met a young man named Francis Kome. He was born in the Nuba mountains region of Sudan. His people are being terrorized by a dictator who is criminal wanted by the UN for the genocide in Darfur. Today I’m asking you to consider helping my friend Francis and his people.

Francis faces real fear every day. Not just the fear of failure, or the fear that I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, or not good enough. Those are my fears. His are that his family and everyone he knows will die. At any moment. And that is a daily threat. Yet he has such a strong faith, and he inspires me. And it is my brave wish today that we will stand in the gap for my friend Francis. That we will give what we can to help him go to university in Nairobi so he can bring hope and practical help to the people of Nuba.

You can read more of his story here on a You Caring site we’ve created for him.

When you give today, we’ll send you a gift from the people of the new nation of South Sudan.

Please pray for Francis and his people. For peace. For provision. For freedom. For continued bravery and strength in the face of fear. Pray that they are reminded today that our God is a mighty warrior who is always fighting for them.

Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker at lisa-jobaker.com provides a prompt for 5-Minute Friday. She explains it here. The idea is for anyone to write for five minutes on a word that Lisa-Jo posts at 1 minutes past midnight (Eastern Standard Time) every Friday. No preparation, no editing, no perfectionism. And then you post it on your blog, the only rule being that you visit the blog of the person who posted before you. Today I dedicate my five-minute Friday to everyone who’s ever let fear hold them back. The word is mighty.

Lisa-Jo has a beautiful new book coming out this Tuesday. It’s called Surprised by Motherhood. My friend @LysaTerKeurst says “Lisa-Jo inspires me to look for God in every moment of my own beautiful but imperfect motherhood journey.” – See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/surprised-by-motherhood/#sthash.cS0u5CnD.dpuf