Is Prayer Your Last Resort or First Response?

Since there’s nothing I can do about it, I guess I’ll just pray. 

Ever find yourself uttering these words?

I’ve been guilty of this many times.

Maybe I won’t say those words aloud, but my attitude shouts it.

Why do we often turn to prayer as a last resort? Why is it not our first response?

I’ll confess that because I’m human, I think I must DO something to fix a situation, or another person.

I want to see immediate action…like right now! I want to control the outcome of circumstances that are falling apart.

Ever been there?

When life pulls the rug out from underneath and you come crashing to the floor.

When something unexpectedly shakes you up, threatening to paralyze you with fear.

When that person you love so deeply crushes your heart, leaving you in a pit of despair.

I’ve been here before. Many times.

The older I get, I’ve come to realize in these moments that prayer is the first thing I should embrace.

I’ve had to learn this the hard way. After trying to fix things in my own strength, I see that my strength fails.

After trying to analyze and figure things out, I see that the mess just doesn’t make sense in my finite mind.

After spending countless hours in a fit of worry, my soul feels weary and worn out.

PRAY

Yes. That is what I’m called to do in all situations.

PRAY

This should be my first response in a moment of crisis. My first instinct when life starts spinning out of control.

PRAY

This is where the power is. It’s not in me. It’s not in my plan. It’s not in another person.

It’s in God!

He knows the circumstances better than I do. He sees the whole picture where I can only see a little piece.

He knows every nook and cranny of the person’s heart I’m concerned about.

He sees it all and knows it all.

PRAY

I think we get caught up in the lie that unless we are doing something, then nothing is going to be accomplished. We want to see results. We want to have something to measure. We want something tangible to hold on to.

But this is so far from the truth when it comes to prayer!

When we pray, power is unleashed from heaven in ways we just can’t fathom.

When we pray about things we don’t have control over, we turn them over to the one who is in control. 

Prayer helps us trust God with the unseen things that we are longing to see. 

And genuine prayer truly utters, “I can’t. But you can.”

PRAYER is something the enemy does not want us to engage in. If he can keep us tangled up in our futile efforts of trying to fix things on our own, then he has accomplished his mission.

I’ve heard a lot of powerful statements about prayer. One of my favorites is this:

“Are you using prayer like a spare tire or the steering wheel?”

I’ve often pulled out my spare tire of prayer when life gets messy and my soul is punctured from running ragged.

But if I’m in continual conversation with God throughout the moments of every day, then it lets Him steer me on the right path. It centers me in the middle of life’s road and keeps me balanced, no matter what comes my way.

PRAY

Yes. There is power in prayer. It connects us to the Father. It calms our chaos. It empowers us with His strength.

So what about you? What is overwhelming you today? Have you taken it to God in prayer? Are you looking at prayer as a last resort or will you dare to embrace it as your lifeline?

(Philippians 4:6-7) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Blessings to you,

  Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race.

 

When the Clutter Piles Up

The kitchen island gets a lot of traffic in my home.

Piles of mail.

Car keys.

My husband’s wallet.

Dirty coffee cups.

My daughter’s latest craft supplies.

School papers.

It doesn’t bother me if just one of the above items gets plopped down. But usually it’s a combination of these items together that drives me bonkers!!

After coming and going in different directions, things begin to pile up. And finally it gets to where I just can’t take anymore!

In that moment I am on a mission. (And anyone who is in the room is strongly encouraged to help me in this mission.)

It’s time to clean up the clutter. Time to put things away in their rightful place.

The wallet and keys need to go somewhere else, but not here. The dirty cups need to go in the sink. Pieces of scrap paper need to be trashed.

And junk mail? That’s a no-brainer…in the trash!

Once that’s accomplished, I feel better and can function again.

Just maybe this is a powerful picture of what we do with the clutter of LIFE.

Things slowly begin to pile up.

First it’s one thing. And then another.

One emergency to throw us off. An unexpected episode that sets you in a tail spin. A forgotten commitment. Someone asking you to do something else. People and projects pulling you in opposite directions.

Just one of these things might not be so bad by itself. But when they start to pile up, you can feel it coming. When you go from full to empty with no time to fill up. And before you know it, your life is full of clutter.

I can’t take this anymore!

And one by one, we can start to tackle the things that clutter us up. Not a clutter we can see. But the clutter on the inside. The clutter of our negative thoughts. The clutter of our distorted perspective.

The clutter of our soul.

Some things just need to be put in a different place. (Do I need to delegate something to someone else? Do I need to say no to a request of my time?)

Some things we need to get rid of. (The feelings of hopelessness. The toxic thinking that spirals out of control.)

And some things we just need to accept. (That person we want to change is out of our control. The season of life we must go through to get to the other side.)

And once we start to clean up the clutter, we can breathe again. We receive clarity.

We feel hope.

We can even invite others around us to help. People to hold us accountable. Friends to walk alongside us.

To help us sort through the messes of life.

I will probably continue to lose the ongoing battle of keeping my kitchen island cleared of clutter.

But I can most certainly win the war that stirs in my soul.

It’s a constant battle.                       Day after day.                                 Moment by moment.

But when I surrender to God and reach out for help, the clutter of life gets put in place. Not an overnight fix. But a gradual victory over time, through each season of life.

I think it’s okay to want an uncluttered kitchen. But I most certainly need to be more aware of the clutter of my soul.

What about you? Are things piling up in your world? Feeling overwhelmed with the clutter?

Let’s reach out and call on the One who can help us sort through it all. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is waiting for us to ask Him to clean up our clutter.

The less clutter there is, the more room He has to give us PEACE.

Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. ~Psalm 25:4-5

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race

 

Brighter Than a Solar Eclipse?

There’s a lot of hype going on with the upcoming solar eclipse! This once in a lifetime experience has people excited with great anticipation.

As exciting as it is, there’s also much caution being emphasized.

People are scrambling around to make sure they have “certified” glasses to view the eclipse safely.

Without the proper glasses, the brightness of the sun can damage your eyes, and maybe even lead to blindness!!

All this has me thinking about how fascinating it is. That the rays of the sun are SO bright and THAT powerful.

But there’s actually something brighter than the sun. Hard to wrap your head around that??

Here’s what Isaiah 60:19 has to say about the sun in Messianic times, when God will openly rule the whole world:

No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

Did you catch that? We won’t even NEED the sun. God Himself will be enough. His glory brighter than the sun itself.

Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say in Acts 26:13 to King Agrippa about the sun when telling his story of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus:

“At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.”

This was in the middle of the day, yet Paul says the light from heaven was brighter than the sun. It was SO bright that it temporarily blinded him. (I think it would have STILL blinded him even if he had certified safety glasses!)

When time is done away with and we are living in eternity, here’s what Revelation 21:23 has to say about the sun as we know it:

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

No need of the sun OR moon? Hard to fathom, but it’s true. The glory of God will illuminate everything!

I’m excited about the upcoming solar eclipse and I’m prepared with my certified viewing glasses.

But more importantly, I’m beyond excited about the coming of God’s SON, Jesus Christ.  And I can humbly say I am prepared for that day. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of His righteousness that certifies me to be His child. 

Blessings to you!

Lisa

For more encouragement, check out my devotional book Embracing The Race.

Going Through and Not Around

John 4:4 “He had to go through Samaria on the way…”

The encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is a story I’ve heard multiple times over the years. But I recently heard a message from Albert Tate that fleshed out this story in a fresh, radical way. It touched me so much I feel compelled to share it. I hope it impacts you as well.

When Jesus made the decision to go through Samaria, it was a huge ordeal. He was intentionally choosing to venture into a place that was hostile towards Jews. Samaritans and Jews clashed. Jews simply did NOT associate with Samaritans. At all!

And to get to where he needed to go, he did NOT have to go through this area. It was inconvenient. Out of the way.

But scripture says “had to go”?

Not for the sake of convenience, but for the sake of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is for everyone.

Even the Samaritans.

In his recent message, Albert Tate put it like this:

“When you follow Jesus you don’t go around Samaria, you go through Samaria. You don’t go around people, you engage people. People that don’t look like you, people that don’t vote like you. All people. Ministry is waiting on the other side of your discomfort.”

This really stirred up my heart.

I don’t want to be guilty of limiting my love to only those I feel comfortable with.

Or only to those who will love me back.

Am I truly letting the love of Jesus flow through me to everyone I encounter?

Do I ever avoid situations because certain people will be there?

In other words, do I purposely go around certain people instead of going straight through to them?

I’m honestly asking God to search my heart and show me where I don’t get this right. To show me those places, people and situations where He wants me to go through.

It’s easy to say that I’m being obedient to God’s call in ministry when I’m with people I can relate to.

I’m confident and comfortable pouring into single moms because I truly understand the path they are on. I have no problem running straight through to them!

I’m comfortable talking to women who struggle with depression and anxiety. I truly understand their hurting hearts. I’ve been there frequently! I’m fine with going through to where they are. I’ll even pull up a chair and savor coffee with them.

But what about someone who I have NOTHING in common with? What about women who don’t believe the same way I do? What about women from a different culture? Different political views? Different world view?

If I were sitting across from someone like this in a coffee shop, face-to-face, how would I respond?

Would I have the words to carry on a conversation? Would it feel awkward? Would I be uncomfortable? Would I feel like going around them even though I know I’m supposed to be right there with them?

I’m asking God to do a work in me so that no matter who I come in contact with, that He can use me.

To spread His love. Share His grace.

I don’t want to be known as a woman who avoids the uncomfortable, but chooses to share the comfort of Jesus.

I don’t want to be known as a woman who only loves the lovable, but shows grace to the unlovable.

Yes, I want to be a woman who engages all people, no matter what.

Lord help me not go around those you’ve put in my path, but to go straight through with the love and grace you’ve given to me.

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race.

 

 

 

Threads of GRACE

After collecting an excessive amount of running tee-shirts from years of races, I finally put some of them to good use!

Sorting through my unique collection, I chose some that stood out to me  and had them turned into a beautiful tee-shirt quilt.

It turned out better than I expected!

Each piece of fabric brought back memories from a particular race. Some had happy memories attached to them while others emitted feelings of misery and disgust.

This shirt represents my first 5K. The race I thought was on flat pavement turned out to be a difficult trail run through the woods. I really felt like quitting! 

This one was a half-marathon through pouring rain the entire time. The kind of rain where you’re literally soaked to the bone and you can hardly see in front of you through the water gushing down your face.

This race was actually an obstacle course–A TOUGH MUDDER– I vowed years before I would NEVER do. After some prompting from my brother, I decided to do it anyway. Muddy from head to toe, I truly did not recognize myself in pictures from this insane mud run.

But other shirts on this same quilt have happier, more positive feelings attached to them.

This was my first half marathon! I can still conjure up those feelings of elation from crossing the finish line.

This race was a fun 5K my family did together. No pressure. Just a fun race where lots of unexpected prizes were given out at the finish line party.

Ah yes! This one represents the best time I ever had for a half marathon. Perfect conditions. Best pace ever. (And no injuries!)

I looked at each shirt, traveling back in time to relive each of these races. The good, the bad and the ugly. But then I stepped back and looked at the quilt as a whole.

Yes, when all these shirts were weaved together, it symbolized my entire running journey. It was beautiful!

But as I continued looking at the quilt, I saw something much more powerful….

This quilt is a beautiful picture of what God does with US!

Hang with me here, and please don’t miss this!

God is a master at weaving the seasons of our lives together–the good, the bad and the ugly–and He knits them together with threads of grace. And over time, He takes these individual moments of our lives and turns them into a beautiful tapestry of glory!

The 5K I ran where I wanted to quit? That’s like the seasons of life when we are ready to give up because we’re disappointed or our expectations weren’t met.

Running a race in pouring rain? It paints a picture of those times we’re trying to survive the storms of life.

Ha! And the Tough Mudder where I was a crazy-muddy-mess? Don’t we all have seasons like that? Where we are such an absolute mess we don’t even recognize ourselves. Life knocks us to the ground and we wonder how we’ll ever get up to keep going.

But we also have those seasons of happiness. The times we are living in our sweet spot, using our gifts and talents for God’s glory.

And we have those moments when life is just good. Our families are thriving. We have unexpected blessings heaped upon us when we least expect it.

And I’ll bet you can think back to moments in your life when you felt so successful. You accomplished something you’d dreamed about. Something you worked really hard for.

So just like this quilt represents the good and not-so-good moments of my running journey, in the same way,

God is continually weaving the moments of your life together for a greater purpose of displaying His glory.

So we have to be patient and we have to trust Him. Maybe you feel stuck in a season of wanting to quit and you can’t see beyond the difficulties.

Maybe you’re stuck in a muddy mess and you don’t see a way out. But I can assure you there is a clear path up ahead if you’ll just hang on. Because God is already taking the fragile threads you’re grasping on and is weaving them into something strong and beautiful.

It’s easy to get hung up on the current set of circumstances we’re in if that’s all we’re focusing on.

But when we take a step back and look at the big picture, we can see how God is weaving everything together for our good and His glory.

Which seasons of your life stand out to you–the good, bad and even the ugly–where God held you together with His threads of grace?

Blessings to you today!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, EMBRACING THE RACE

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Side

When  my family took a trip to Israel a few months ago, one of the many highlights for me was taking a boat out on the Sea of Galilee. So many significant events took place here!

Jesus called his disciples from this area.

He walked on water.

The miraculous catch of fish.

But my favorite is when Jesus calmed the storm.

 

I’ve heard this story taught multiple times. But it’s what happened before and after this miracle that makes it even more powerful to me now that I know the whole context.

Let me lay the foundation of what was going on before Jesus gets in the boat with his disciples. They were all gathered in Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus’s ministry. The people were flocking to him, bringing their sick to be healed. The crowd was getting a bit out of control and Jesus decides it’s time to move to another  location.

But not just any location.

He intentionally says to his disciples, “Let us go to the other side.”

When he says “the other side” he means the other side of the lake.

But the other side of the lake was pagan territory. They didn’t follow the ways of God. They were known for indulging in all kinds of sin. The Jewish people weren’t embraced there. And they couldn’t stay for very long because of restrictions with food and social requirements.

Jesus knew exactly where they were going. It wasn’t just a random decision.

They headed to the Decapolis region for a divine appointment with a demon-possessed man.

Everyone in Capernaum would’ve been able to hear this man screaming from across the lake.  He wandered aimlessly in the tombs by the shore because nobody could contain him. He was out of control.

Jesus is making a very bold move to take his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

So this is what happens right before an unexpected storm threatens to drown his disciples. Waves of panic rushed through seasoned fishermen as they watched literal waves crash over their ready-to-sink boat.

But Jesus awakens from his sleep (asleep–really??) and calms the storm before their very eyes. The storm didn’t take him by surprise. He was on a mission to get to the other side.

Nothing was going to stop him.

At this point, I wouldn’t have blamed the disciples one bit if they’d turned that boat around and headed back home to Capernaum, to familiar territory.

But Jesus wasn’t finished yet! Someone was waiting for him. Desperately waiting on the other side.

Approaching the shore, the demon possessed man doesn’t skip a beat. He’s waiting for Jesus. He must have heard the buzz spreading about this supernatural man who could heal the sick. This was his only hope. He was at his wit’s end.

Jesus takes control of the situation and casts the demons out of this man. And he not only casts them out, but he ushers them into a herd of pigs, driving them over a cliff into the sea.

The man is immediately set free!

He begs Jesus to let him climb aboard the boat with his disciples. (Wouldn’t that be anyone’s first response?!)

But Jesus firmly and lovingly tells him to stay. To go and tell his own people what Jesus did for him.

This is huge.  A demon possessed man—bound up in a prison of despair—is now set free to proclaim the good news. He’s a missionary in the pagan region of Decapolis!

A region on the other side.

Here’s some powerful insights to take away from this and apply to our lives today:

Sometimes Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone and asks us to go to the other side.

While it’s comfortable with the crowd, we are sometimes called to take a risky move.

A move that will feel very uncomfortable. A move that will tempt us to panic.

And yes, a move that might even drive us to feel as if a storm is threatening to drown us.

But instead of getting focused on the storm, maybe we need to shift our focus on the other side.

 

Who or what is waiting on the other side? 

The neighbor across the street.

The co-worker everybody avoids.

That estranged family member who causes conflict.

Or it might be a place Jesus wants you to embrace.

Your child’s school.

A new ministry that needs volunteers.

Whatever the other side is for you, take that leap of faith and go forward. But be prepared for the enemy to attack. Because anytime we make a move toward pointing others to Jesus, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop us.

You might get opposition from others. You might be criticized. Your whole world could be shaken up.

But just like Jesus, may we keep our eyes fixed on the other side. When the waves of doubt and panic threaten to drown us, may we trust Jesus to calm the chaos.

Just like the demon possessed man was changed forever, there are souls who are desperately waiting for the love of Jesus to impact their lives. Waiting for hope. Waiting for good news. Waiting for someone to reach out.

But that isn’t going to happen unless we resolve to go to the other side.

Pray today for God to show you what the other side is for you!

Blessings to you,

Lisa

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul 

Part of my proceeds are donated to WaterStep, a ministry that puts clean water in developing countries.