Thursday, December 21, 2023

Imitate me!

It seems lately that I am really struggling for a focused Bible study time. There are so many interruptions, distractions, interests, and well lack of focus. I find myself praying, "God please let me meet you."

This morning I had to snort when the thing that God used to hit me was this truth.

You know how Paul says, "I urge you, then, be imitators of me" (1 Cor. 4:16). Well, somehow I have never heard or caught that this is embedded in a section where Paul is talking about how God was using him and the apostles as an "exhibition" or "spectacle" for the world, angels, and men. Paul then lists off that they were fools for Christ's sake. They were weak, disreputed, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted, homeless, laboring, reviled, persecuted, slandered, and viewed as refuse! (1 Cor. 4:10-13). Oh and I urge you then be imitators of me!

Oh my! Personally, I do not like that list. When I hear about being an imitator of Paul, I want to focus on writing and speaking the truth with a profound clarity. I don't want to focus on suffering and struggles. Yet, this is the list Paul gave when he said, "Be an imitator of me."

I don't know about you, but I know I sure fall short in my imitation of Paul much less Jesus. 

Paul reminds us that the kingdom does not consist of talk, but it comes in power. See, he did not persevere through these hardships alone. He had Christ in Him and the power of His Resurrection at work. This is what Paul wants us to imitate. No matter what comes our way to surrender ourselves to God and let His power manifest itself in us and through us.

The reality is life is hard. Relationships are a struggle even when we love someone. No one is exempt from suffering. We all suffer. But, how we suffer matters. This is the key distinction. Do I do it with grumbling and complaining or do I do so by the power of Christ in me?

I admit it I don't always get it right. Ugh. Paul says it is required of stewards in the mysteries of God to be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:1). So when you mess up, pick yourself back up. Acknowledge it, bring it to God, and ask Him to help you to walk in His power and not your own.This is how we can join in being the imitators of Christ just like Paul. 

Shalom y’all!

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

The week before Israel was attacked my family went to see the movie Route 60 which is about the Biblical Highway from Bethlehem to Beersheba. While watching the movie God gave me a visual of a painting that I should paint. I literally started crying as I saw the image in my mind. We never really understand why God speaks to us and most of the time it can't be explained. 

God reminded me of my desire to paint the Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall because people go there to pray to God. It is believed to be the holiest place to pray because of location, but also because it is believed the holy presence of God never leaves this place.

I have prayed there on four different occasions. I remember being humbled by people walking backwards when they were done praying so they did not turn their back to the wall out of respect to God. The prayers stuffed in the wall intrigued me. I saw people from many nations honoring the place and space as holy. I knew a wonder and awe that never left me. Mostly because God was teaching me so much about His love for the nations through these trips. 

I started my sketch that weekend based off this photo. I wanted to paint a picture that reminded us to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. How little did I know that war would break out soon in Israel.
I have prayed and worshipped as I painted this painting. I have prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and the protection of the innocent on both sides of the wall. God is for the peace of anyone who is for Him. God hates evil and desires all to know Him. I have cried as I painted this and I have rejoiced in the LORD. 

The little bird is to remind us of peace. This year God has used birds to minister to my soul in a deep way. I pray the bird causes us to want to abide under the Vine. It is in Jesus that we know the Prince of Peace. This is our shelter and where fruit is born. I wanted all the leaves over the bird to symbolize that those who abide in Him know good fruit. Those that don't are like the barren side of the painting.

I hope to paint more scenes as God allows. I am so thankful for the gift of creative worship and prayer.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mary's song teaches us how to magnify the ETERNAL ONE

I was at a loss. My words seemed so inadequate. The more I said, the more it didn't work. I walked away from the conversation wondering. "HOW DO I bring God into this?" I just went back to what I had been studying and God answered my heart question even when I didn't even know it was my question.

How do I magnify the eternal when everything seems so wrong?
I read Mary's song not really feeling like I wanted to listen and learn, but I know that the process would prove fruitful regardless of my feelings. I determined to discover what I could about God in Mary's praise song. 
Mary was in a very difficult situation. She was pregnant without the marriage bed. Who would believe her? She was nothing in the world's economy, but in God's economy she was worthy.

Even in her predicament she found a way to praise God. 

I discovered that after fleeing to her cousin Elizabeth and finding a kindred spirit celebrating her situation, Mary then sang her song of belief and praised God.

Sometimes, I just don't know how to praise, but I have found if I follow the prayers and praises modeled in Scripture I can.
From Mary, I learned that in order to magnify the ETERNAL ONE, I should do these things.

1. Acknowledge His worth.
2. Proclaim His past deeds.
3. Remember His mercy.
4. Honor His character.
5. Celebrate His generational exploits.
6. Sing His praises.

If I just trust the process, I discover my feelings catch up. None of these in the immediate changed the situation. Mary would still know persecution, ridicule, humiliation; well, she would suffer alot. I imagine she would mess up in the process, too. She was human after all. But Mary chose to focus her mind on the One who could help her and based on history, HE did.  Jesus was born and He grew in wisdom and in stature in favor with God and man. Mary made it through it all and now we call her blessed.

The praise changed her. It is where eternal strength enabled. 

Maybe, we should find ways to magnify the ETERNAL ONE in our moments of suffering and give HIM praise!

Thursday, December 14, 2023


Do you know who is always first to show up whenever I put birdseed out?

The sparrow!

Maybe this is one reason God keeps His eyes on the sparrow (Matthew 6:25-27). Yes, it is because they are vulnerable! But maybe it is because they show up. 

They are the ones who are seeking nourishment. They aren't afraid to be vulnerable enough to go check out the seed that is provided and then partake.

I have noticed that they are always first and the bigger birds like bluejay's, cardinals, and woodpeckers do not show up until they have observed the smaller birds eating their full. 

Now, this is where it gets interesting. The sparrows will fight them off. While the bigger birds seem to be more polite. 

The sparrows fight for good seed!

Yeah! I love the sparrow!

The may be scrappy but they know when they have something good and it is worth fighting for!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Do you hear what I hear?

Yesterday as Greg and I drove around loving on some sweet friends because of the Christmas season, we were chatting. He asked me, "What is your favorite Christmas carol?" 

I shared with him that as a little girl in 5th grade, I sang in the choir. They allowed those of us who can't sing to do that back then! Two songs really blessed me. "Do you hear what I hear?" by far has pierced my heart the most through the years. I even used it as a theme for a speaking engagement once.

What most people do not know about this song is that it was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis by a husband and wife duo. Typically, she would write the lyrics and he would write the music. On this one occasion, it was in reverse. He wrote the lyrics and she wrote the music. And as they tell the story in the article below it is almost as if the song came to them both miraculously. 

The song has a dual meaning. It reminds us clearly that the birth of Jesus is where we will find goodness and light. But, it is also a call to prayer against war. The author Noel Regney knew the horrors of war fighting in WW2 and he wanted people everywhere to pray for peace. 

This song is a call for peace everywhere! 

“I am amazed that people can think they know the song and not know it is a prayer for peace, ” Noel Regney once told an interviewer. “But we are so bombarded by sounds and our attention spans are so short. “

Let us hope and pray that, when it is sung in churches worldwide during the Christmas season, this song of peace will remind us that “The Child, The Child sleeping in the night ” came to “bring us goodness and light. “

My favorite rendition is Bing Crosby's which is how the song became so famous. 

Here are the lyrics. Read them thinking about how Jesus brings peace and light, but also read them as a plea for those in charge to pray for peace everywhere! Profound indeed! 

Do you hear what I hear?
Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see?
(Do you see what I see?)

Way up in the sky, little lamb
Do you see what I see?
(Do you see what I see?)

A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
(Do you hear what I hear?)

Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
(Do you hear what I hear?)

A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know? (Do you know what I know?)
In your palace warm, mighty king
Do you know what I know? (Do you know what I know?)

A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!)
Pray for peace, people, everywhere

Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!)
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Noel Regney / Gloria Shayne

Quotes are taken from:

Thursday, December 7, 2023

My journey of learning about the power of praying God's Word over one person every year

While at a mother and daughter conference, my friend Tracy shared that she prayed through the Bible for each of her children and when they were in 8th grade she would give them the Bible. I went home and told Greg about what Tracy did and said we needed to do this for our kids. We bought the Heritage Bible and prayed through it for Mikayla and Grant. Greg took Grant the first year and I took Mikayla. We gave them the Bibles for Christmas and then told them they had to give them back to us so we could pray through them. Our children knew what we were doing. On the year that I was to pray through Grant’s Bible, he asked me to draw pictures in his. So, I added graffiti art and drawings to portray what I was learning or wanted to emphasize.
I have been praying through the Bible for over 18 years now. Developing a legacy of praying through the Word of God starts with one Bible and making the commitment to pray from Genesis to Revelation over someone. It is about the consistent habit of daily committing to reading and praying. The focus should be about what God puts on your heart as you read and pray for that person. If you take time to ask GOD to help you to write prayers on every page and ask Him to show you how to pray through the Scripture over that person, you will be amazed at the truths He will encourage you to pray. I have been humbled over and over as the person will say back to me the very words I prayed over them. 

This can also be done for a specific ministry, organization, or even a people group. You might even consider drawing through the Bible as you go to provide visual reminders of what you are learning or praying. If you want to develop praying through the Bible as a habit, I recommend you choose a different translation each year. It is important to consider the person or ministry when you seek to pray through a Bible that will be relevant to them personally. I like to pick one that I know will have special meaning for them. So, when I prayed through the Bible for my husband, I used the Our Godly Heritage Bible. When I prayed for my children, I used the Legacy Bible. When I prayed for Grace University, I used the Apologetics Bible. When I prayed for my son-in-love, I prayed through the John C. Maxwell, Leadership Bible.
It is a lot of fun to take specific words, principles, commands, or promises and make these your focus for the prayer. I have also found that if I include the study notes as part of my prayer prompt, I will have more ideas for what to pray. I found that I prayed way more when I read the Bible this way and I discovered that my prayers were more powerful because I was given examples of answers to prayers on a regular basis. So, choosing the translation proves to be a significant part of the process. 

For example, I prayed through the Leadership Bible over myself when I worked on my doctorate as I asked God to teach me how to become a leader for His kingdom work. I don’t know if I will ever see the fullness of all God has accomplished because of those prayers, but I can tell you that I am doing things I never would have dreamed of doing for His kingdom work. 

Through the years God has caused me to give two different Bibles away. The first was to one of my girls I had the privilege of serving at camp. It came easily and honestly; I didn’t think much of it. After watching her grow up and share with me how much it meant, I realized that God might ask me again. He did! 

This time I did not want to do it. I had prayed through the Bible from cover to cover over our university and I found that the prayers I was praying were becoming very important to me personally as well. I wanted and needed the reminders I was praying daily.
Our school was about to face a hard transition, and, in my prayers, He was preparing me for what was about to come. I did not know it at the time but looking back I get it now. God put on my heart I was to give my Bible to the new interim President to encourage him. I did not want to. I had spent over 2 ½ years praying through that Bible. I didn’t know if he would appreciate the richness of the prayers that I was handing to him. I knew he knew the importance and value of prayer, but I didn’t know if he would understand the depth of prayer I had invested in that Bible over the university. The prayers were like my faithful companions that encouraged me and I did not want to let go of them. But, I obeyed. I gave it to him hoping that God would use it to strengthen him. I don’t even know if he ever even opened the Bible, but I do know that God heard every single prayer and He was answering in behalf of the university in a very painful transition. I discovered that the beauty of transformation happened in me more than the one or ones that I prayed for as I read the Bible. 

Each year GOD taught me a little more. Well, at times A LOT more! It has been fun to go back and look at the Bibles that I have prayed through. My first Bible I prayed through is not as mature as the one I pray through today. I can see how over time GOD changed me through prayer. Truly, it has been radical and eternal in ways I never even imagined. I discovered when I was praying through a difficult season that God gave me a depth of love and compassion that I did not want to have at times. I discovered that God gave me a forgiving heart when I did not think it possible to forgive. I discovered that He opened doors that I never imagined would open and shut doors I wished He would have allowed me to walk through. It has been an incredible journey to travel.
There are a few practical things to consider as you pick a Bible to pray through. Often my ink bleeds through because the pages are too thin, or I used the wrong kind of pen. I know in some cultures they might not appreciate the mess this creates. But, for me these pages represent the relationship that has been birthed between me and God over the one I prayed. But, in case you are not as sentimental as I am and not one to be so careless, I would recommend that you pick a Bible with thick paper. Keep in mind that the nice leather-bound Bibles often have paper that is thin as onion skin. Paper seems to be thicker in the hardcover Bibles. So, you will have to decide if that is important. Over time, I learned to buy special no bleed pens. It took years before I learned that I could do this! You can buy these in color even. I have also learned to write prayers only in columns, so it doesn’t bleed into the text on the other page. But sometimes I don’t do this and I just celebrate what GOD was doing in me and through me. You will have to determine what you can handle and move on from there. For me the content of the Bible was more important to me so I celebrate what ever the columns and paper quality might be so I can get the content that I find relevant to the person I was praying over. 

Over time, I realized that I need to give some people a challenge when they engaged the Word of God. I recognized that when I understood the character of God, I am better able to understand my own character so I have encouraged my leaders to read the Bible with the intent of writing down every name and character of God they can discover in the columns. I loved watching the revelations that were discovered by my women at Grace university when they took me seriously about this challenge. I loved watching them discover how to pray through the Bible to know HIM and not read a rule book! These moments proved to be profound and I now have the joy of seeing them out serving Him in many places living out the prayers they prayed.
I have also challenged leaders to pray for a people group they are seeking to reach. I now have the privilege of watching one that took this challenge as she serves overseas in a most unreached people group. There have been hard moments, too. Like when one of my women prayed through the Bible for her boyfriend thinking they would marry only to have him break it off after a few months of her praying. Her heart was invested because of the prayers. God knew what was best so the prayers accomplished His will, but I learned to not recommend praying for the opposite sex until there was a final commitment to marriage. I can bear witness to the fact that praying through the Bible over my Greg proved so fruitful on so many levels of deepening my love and respect for him. 

So what do you do with all the leaders you work with that you know you should be praying for, but don’t have the time to pray through the entire Bible for each of them? Probably, the one leadership challenge that has become one of my other core prayers is to choose one leadership word and verse to pray over the person and the entire team. Every year I ask leaders I work with to choose one character trait of God that they want to be known for that year. I then choose a verse and pray that verse the entire year over this leader. I write these in the front of my Bible or in the front of my prayer journal so I can know how to pray for them and to pray consistently. This keeps me accountable in praying for many people on a smaller scale. I will also pray the leadership words for each individual over the team so that we all benefit from the character traits that are important to our team. I have been doing this over ten years now and God has humbled me with so many stories of how He has used that one word to transform the person as both of us focused on praying it into their lives. I have also been blessed by those that have taken up this challenge as a yearly habit for their lives and teams as well.
If you consider reading the whole Bible and praying it for a year, it may seem like a huge and daunting task. May this African proverb encourage you, “A path is made by simply walking.” It is the daily small steps of reading and praying that will build up over time and before you know it you will have been praying through the Bible through many years and God will use that accumulative effort because His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). You will grow and fruit will be born in tge kingdom because of your prayers. So, read and pray. God will use it! He promises!