Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - Part 5 - The Last Installment

Day Two in Ocean City began early.  I woke up a little after 6am and looked out the back door in time to see the sun beginning to rise out of the ocean at the horizon.  A tiny ball of yellow with hues of blue, rose and orange surrounding it.  I opened my devotional and the words jumped off the page.

If you've followed this journey, you may remember that just the day before I had been praying "...for His forgiveness for my pride, my critical spirit, and my judgmental attitude."  I had come to the conclusion that "My job was to make sure that MY heart was right before God.  That I was seeking and doing His will.  I could pray for others, that they too were seeking God's face in decisions they were making, but beyond that, I needed to hang up my robe and set down the gavel."  Well, apparently I was right on the money about what I'd been doing because THIS is what the devotional said that morning..."Come to me and rest.  Give your mind a break from its habitual judging.  You form judgments about this situation, that situation, this person, that person, yourself, even the weather - as if judging were your main function in life.  But I created you first and foremost to know me and to live in rich communication with Me.  When you become preoccupied with passing judgment, you usurp My role."

I actually stopped reading and said out loud "but God...I came to that realization yesterday!"  He knows me well enough to know I need a reminder.  In fact, just a week after I returned home this was once again put to the test.  I wish I could say I passed with flying colors, not judging things at all, but I can say that where I might have dwelt on the situation and let it gnaw at me, I was able to recognize what was going on in my heart and mind and pray about it immediately to give it over to God.  Progress.

In keeping with my routine, after my quite time, I went down to the beach for a long walk, then grabbed my things and settled in to read.  The book I opened first was "Too Busy NOT To Pray", by Bill Hybels.  This book has been out for years - in fact, I had the "20th anniversary edition" which was published in 2008.  Apparently I'd been really busy, because I'd not heard of it before!  I lead a monthly prayer group for women and I'd been looking for a good resource from which to extract devotionals before we shared requests and got down to the business of praying.  My friend Teri, who is also the leader of our Women's Ministries Team had offered up this book and another as suggestions.  I'm so glad she did!

As I've also said in previous posts, I thought I had the prayer part of my walk down pretty well.  Thought I was pretty faithful.  But the truth is, there is ALWAYS room to grow in our relationship with God.  And as imperfect human beings, we need to remember that we've never got anything 'down pat' this side of heaven.  In fact, it reminds me of a joke I heard once.  After a service, a pastor was shaking hands with attendees.  One man said, "Pastor, I just want to tell you, I've worked very hard at keeping all the commandments this week...I haven't broken one!"  To which the pastor replied "well, now, you must be very proud of that."  The man nodded in the affirmative, not even aware of his sin of pride.  We can't and won't ever get it all right all the time.  If we could do that on our own, we'd have no need of a Savior.

Back to the book...of course it's broken into chapters, but in addition, each few chapters have an overall theme...God calls us into His presence, God invites us to talk with Him, God breaks down the barriers between us, God speaks to our hearts and God prompts us to action.  Many concepts in this book weren't necessarily new to me, but they brought me back to the basics in such a manner that I saw things in a fresh way.  There was a chapter called "mountain-moving prayer" that I especially connected with.

Bill Hybels begins the chapter by quoting Matthew 21:21-22..."Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt...you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'"  Then Bill says "Jesus, of course, was not in the excavation business.  He had little interest in relocating piles of rocks to the ocean's depths.  He was using the term 'mountain' figuratively, in hopes of conveying to all believers that we can be confident that our prayers carry great power."  He then goes on to cite two principles he'd learned over the years...1) Faith comes by looking at God, not at the mountain and  2) God gives us faith as we walk by His side.

I had been looking at the mountain so long it had paralyzed me with fear and filled me with frustration.  It had kept me from seeking the Mountain Mover.  When I failed to walk by His side daily, my faith weakened.  I didn't doubt God, but I wasn't trusting Him for everything and in everything either.

Later that afternoon as the tide went out, I took another walk down the shoreline looking at all the shells left behind.  I found a small conch shell and picked it up.  When I turned it over, I saw that it was broken.  I was disappointed because I thought it was complete until I saw the underside.  As I went to toss it into the waves, I stopped, because I felt God was speaking to my heart... "you're like this shell, Toni.  Even though it's been tossed by the sea and broken in places, I created it with an intricate beauty that remains.  In fact, those seeming imperfections are what make it unique, different from all the others"  I realized that God would never toss me away because I was broken.  I rinsed off the sand and brought it back to the house.  It now sits on my desk, a daily reminder that there is beauty in our brokenness when we let go of the despair, and receive healing through prayer.

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