Are You Too Busy to Pray?

“How are you?”

Traditionally, we’ve answered, “fine.” But more commonly, the new answer is — “BUSY!  I’ve been crazy busy. Not sure what I’m even doing.”

Fine implied a sense of well-being. Busy suggests our time is occupied. But how we are doing has a lot to do with what and Whom is occupying our lives.

IMG_3079I long for peace, stillness, quiet — but I feel busy, distracted, overwhelmed and scattered much of the time. I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing. Which begs the question — what do I WANT to be doing? What really matters?

We frequently talk about our goals and priorities. But we can’t truthfully have priorities unless we are willing to STOP doing one thing in order to do the better thing. So many of us constantly ADD to our schedules… saying yes to the next thing without ever subtracting anything! All of us are stewards of the same 24 hour day. Which of your priorities is getting squeezed out due to your chronic busyness?

IMG_4110For many Christians, Jesus (seeking His face) gets lost in our fast paced busyness. We profess that prayer, worship, praise, petitioning God, and reading our Bibles is foundational to our Christian walk. Of utmost importance to us. But some days we barely squeeze in a minute at bedtime to sigh… “Lord please forgive me, bless me and those I love, and please — could I sleep through the night, just this once? I’m so tired.”

We believe these few moments are all we can afford to give Him. Recently I had a 16-month period worthy of a country song.  Three weddings, my father’s death, my first grand daughter’s birth, a fire, and a move. Complete with their own caprice, all were squeezed into my already crazy busy life.

I wish I could say it was my priority on maintaining a rich and constant prayer life that got me through this overwhelming season. In truth,  my prayer life shifted to one of abiding prayer (I was with God: thankful and aware of Him), but my time devoted solely to being in His presence was inconsistent at best. I believed I was just too busy for daily, deep, relational prayer time.

IMG_4032I want to change that moving forward… because “normal” only exists as a setting on my dryer! “Normal” days won’t magically follow this “season.” Maybe I will have a little reprieve, but not for long. Life keeps coming. I’m responsible to choose how I will be.

I needed union with God through all the craziness. I don’t need to take another step without the Holy Spirit’s hand. I’ve missed out on blessings these last months by letting distraction and busyness curb my prayer life — why?

Even when we say we say we WANT to make prayer a priority, we’re neglectful. Following are two simple reasons:

  • We believe the lie that we don’t have time.
  • We don’t believe the Truth that prayer will really make a difference in our lives — that it’s necessary.

First — you and I both have time. How much time do you spend watching TV? (average is 5 hours a day) On social networks? (average is over 2 hours/ day) — you get my drift. Screen addiction is real! As are the idols of worshipping our children, work, hobbies, etc. Whatever it is you are doing, we all make time for what we want to do. For Who we love.

We know the right answers. Maybe we need compelling reasons to believe in and obey God’s command to pray.

Prayer — stepping away for quiet, devoted time with His Father — was necessary even for Jesus, who was God! He knew his time on earth was short, yet in the midst of His demanding, important ministry of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, saving the world form destruction and teaching about God — He frequently slipped away to a solitary place. Left all the many miracles He could do… to be with His Father (Mark 1).

IMG_4685If anyone could have justified busyness it was Jesus. One with God. Always successful. Always good. Infinitely able — but He consistently left demands and to-do lists undone to be alone with God the Father in prayer. It was His priority. And he knew it was necessary and fruitful. How much more so for us — no matter what all we have on our plates?

Jesus said not to even try doing life without ample time spent seeking Him. It would amount to nothing!  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

While He was on earth Jesus himself was dependent on spending vital time in prayer with the Father. How much more so should we? Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord.  Jesus knew prayer to the Father was necessary on this earth.

IMG_4300In John 5:19 Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

And we try to rationalize that we are too busy, important, overwhelmed… to pray?

God made us to do good works… the opposite of busyness isn’t laziness. But when our prayer life falters, we easily land in a sloth of distracted activities (maybe seemingly productive), but it’s just fruitless busyness without God at the center. How much better all our efforts would be (even if we had less time to give to service and work), if we refused to squeeze out God. Do we really believe that? Do we believe His Word?

It’s a matter of the heart. Am I a people pleaser, proud of my accomplishments, relying on my own strengths and ability to perform? Do I have something to prove? Am I over achieving? A martyr? Seeking comfort and ease? How am I making life about me? The list is endless.

Why am I doing “this” (fill in with our current excuse) and claiming it leaves me little time for prayer? We are finite. Time is finite. We need to embrace our inabilities and believe that God is the One who accomplishes all things. The Bible doesn’t tell us we’ll be held accountable for outcomes. We will, however, answer for disobedience and how well we KNOW Him.

IMG_4080We are too busy (like Martha, reprimanded for doing what did indeed need to get done), if we cannot sit listening at the feet of Jesus when it’s appropriate. Mary was commended for doing the better thing in Luke 10:38-42 . When I am too involved, overwhelmed, pressed, etc. for unhurried time in prayer, the Word, and the Presence of God — I am too busy. No excuses. Just repentance.

God and time with Him must be my undisputed priority. With God at #1 all the worthy and wonderful second things can fall into place. If I make ANY second things first, nothing can work well — not even a country song.  God demands the worship that is rightly His (Exodus 20:5).

How’s your prayer life?  Today is the day to make God and prayer our undisputed top priority.

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)IMG_3650

 

 

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On the 13th Anniversary of my 40th Birthday

I read an article a few days ago assuring 40-somethings that increased life expectancies and healthier lifestyles have pushed the official midlife age from 41 to 53! How wonderful… for THEM! My Granny Mabel lived to 107 (giving me 6 more months to the half way point) — but no matter how I slice it, dice it or determine to define it — “midlife” is in the house.IMG_5052

Reading on, that scholarly article said, “You are seen as middle-aged if you enjoy afternoon naps, choose comfort over style and groan when you bend down.” Busted.

I take comfort in the fact that when I ran into my similarly-aged doctor at the tennis courts last week, he said, “At our age, if you aren’t hurting, you aren’t moving enough!”

I’ve written about midlife several times in the last few years. It’s definitely been a journey. But lately there have been BIG things to process. And everything points in the same direction — sort of a changing of the guard. After a lifetime of my focus being primarily mom and homemaker, this new season is not just an age.

Recent mid life changes bring with them a lot a heightened perspective as I celebrate – yes, CELEBRATE – that I am 53! So, what’s been happening?

ONE –All three of my children will be married within 15 months — two down, one to go. As they start new families (I’m grateful to be blessed with two beautiful daughter-in-laws and a wonderful soon to be son-in-law), I am full of joy. It’s an answer to many years of prayer for their some day spouses. We are close and see each other pretty often, but by definition, I have become their “family of origin” as they create distinctively new family units.

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Webster’s Definition of Family

  1. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
  2. all the descendants of a common ancestor  —  I have moved to definition number two in reference to my children — still important! but secondary — HOWEVER, I have a chance to make up for lost time with ROB who now shares my #1 family definition with no one (except two adorable Springer Spaniels!). Despite appearances, the picture below is from a Wedding Luau Celebration and NOT an old folks cruise. We can still hang til midnight with the 20-somethings — listening to “our” 70s and 80s music that they claim as theirs! IMG_4777

The many emotional changes and challenges involved in my growing and aging family really mean that things are are as they should be. And I am certain God has an abundant, new plan for us all moving forward. He will use everything for our good. All is well.

And lest we think of “slowing down,” Rob’s given me two more adult children in the pipeline to keep us busy and active!

TWO — Full circle, I’m going back to the name of my earliest years: Easie. I will be a grandmother soon! A beautiful baby girl is on her way, and I’m already smitten. Tears fill my eyes as I type about her. I’m so excited to love her, meet her, hold her and watch her parents raise her.  I’m certain they will be amazing parents.

I am so proud, but a grandmother?!?  I’ve looked forward to this… but in my dreams it was always in the distant future. Grannies are plump, grey-haired, smiling, available, loving… could it be I’m becoming one? I’ve been getting a jumpstart lately on that “crown of splendor.” Again, all is well and as it should be, and God is on the move.

IMG_3041THREE — And I am moving. Not much more about that here, but Rob and I will soon be residents of Georgia. Know anyone who wants a great family home in Tallahassee?

Either God has a great plan for us in a new place, or we have misunderstood. 😉 Either way we are in His loving care and desire to follow Him, and that’s always a safe and adventurous place.

But it’s not easy. Home maker is a big part of who I’ve been. I’m beginning to emotionally divorce myself from this home I love. A home God provided to offer me peace, beauty, rest, and close proximity to my parents, just when all were most needed. I’m going through the many bins (5 children’s worth) of keepsakes and memory albums. Letters to Santa, poems, cards written with crayons. Handprints and endless artistic treasures.

Christmas morning photos… some of the sweetest memories.  And some of the hardest to let go of. Am I really finished raising children? Am I really the grandparent generation? I am, and it’s part of the passing years of time.

But God (the promise and hope in those two words will be the title of a post to come)… But God is a God of the present. His work in us is always redemptive. He has plans for all my family moving forward. Different than it has been, but Glorious just the same.

FOUR — My dad recently passed away. Tears of a different flavor flow as I type this.IMG_4685

It’s still too soon to write much about Daddy. Of course, God is my ultimate Protector, Provider, Advisor, and Father. But He gave me my Dad (and more recently, Rob) to put some skin on Who He is. To show me a Father’s love. I feel a vulnerability with Dad’s passing.

I am forever changed because of the part of me Daddy took with him. Nothing prepared me for losing my father. I’ve been distracted, unproductive and sad. I tear up at all sorts of reminders that all is now different in my world. I’ve learned that grieving can’t be rushed and must be felt.

If you’re over 45 you’ll get this: I feel like the same “me” on the inside as I was at 30. In the same vane, my vision of “family” exists in a world where I have parents, grandparents, siblings, children and grandchildren —  all the generations I have ever known and loved — together in one life, just as they are in my heart. The reality of my vision only exists in heaven. But OH WHAT A PROMISE!

I woke up on my birthday waxing philosophical and wanting to write after a long dry spell. Looking back at my life I am sure of one thing in the midst of overwhelming changes. God has been, is and will be faithful.

IMG_4300Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

Psalms 119:90  “Your  faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.”

And I will place my full faith in God who loves me completely and has never let me down.

Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I am so grateful for the promise God gives us that all His children will be reunited one day in Heaven — from every generation and time. It motivates me to live differently here today.

I want to talk to everyone about Jesus. About how we can be assured of God’s love and our heavenly home for eternity. It’s what really matters. After 53 years I have so many wonderful examples of what God has done in my life — stories of His redemptive work, His faithfulness and His love.

And God-willing, I have half a life left to share HIM with anyone who will listen! The rest is in His hands. Hallelujah!

Anybody can know God and know you have eternal salvation through Jesus. Just pray something like this with all your heart —

God, I know I’ve sinned.  I need your forgiveness,  I believe you sent Jesus, your Son, to earth to live and die and to be raised from the dead. His blood was shed to pay for my sins, so I can be forgiven. I believe Jesus offers a free gift as an answer for my eternal life and for this life.  I receive this gift of eternal life. I want a personal relationship with you, God. Not a religious relationship only, but one where I know You love me, I love You, and You live in me and through me — to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. I love you God, and thank you for loving me. Amen.

 

 

Is Your Best Really Enough? Or Could it be the Root of Your Problem?

I asked a simple question during my morning prayers yesterday. “What is true about me, Jesus?”

IMG_4324Why am I struggling with things that should be simple? Why am I stressed? Sad? Confused? Tired? Romans 8:27 says, “He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.” He can tell me what’s true about myself with more clarity, accuracy and purity than I can possibly muster.

I know John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” I’m not referring to these “normal” trials and problems — though they certainly happen — and can sometimes be consequences of my heart’s condition.

IMG_3094I’m talking about subtleties.  The tears that were present just behind my eyes all day yesterday; yet I couldn’t quite put a name them. The tension in my neck and shoulders. The confusion about my future and today’s big decisions. Even with my limited understanding, I was pretty sure that a large part of my problems and these feelings… began within me.

When I asked, “What is true about me, Jesus?” the following words came to me in my prayer journaling — I believe at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

IMG_3089“You try to run in your own strength without returning to me to receive my resurrection power. What you receive from your time with me is quickly “used up,” but often you don’t sense your spiritual depletion. Being spiritually dry feels “normal” because so much of your life has been lived performing outside of my abundance. You begin in surrender with a heart focused on me, but quickly shift to dependence on your natural gifts and abilities instead of me. Learn to see your negative emotions as indicators of your desperate need to seek my face frequently and regularly.”

The thought isn’t new, but the words ring true. I am humbled and saddened at the thought that I can forget Him so easily, and go at it on my own — even with good intentions. I know that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) I also know that John 15:4-5 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Scripture backs up my journaling, as it always must. When I push forward in my own strength — I find myself tired. Confused. Overwhelmed. Sad.

IMG_2414As I was writing this post, I was reminded that the verse from John I quoted above is the answer to a question. I looked back for context — planning to transition to today’s devotion from My Utmost for His Highest (below). I hadn’t realized before, but I was looking at the same verse — different translations!

Here is the expanded context I looked up from John 16:30-33 in The Message.

His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

When God repeats Himself, I’ve learned to listen.  Below is today’s Utmost for HIs Highest devotional that underscored my prayer time message (words in parenthesis are my commentary).

IMG_3054“Now we believe….”  (I’ve been telling Jesus, I Believe! I want to live trusting and surrendered to YOU!) But Jesus asks, “Do you…? Indeed the hour is coming…that you…will leave Me alone” John 16:31-32.  Many Christian workers have left Jesus Christ alone and yet tried to serve Him out of a sense of duty, or because they sense a need as a result of their own discernment. (That’s been me at times… and it seems harmless, even “good” and fruitful). The reason for this is actually the absence of the resurrection life of Jesus. Our soul has gotten out of intimate contact with God by leaning on our own religious understanding. See Proverbs 3:5-6.  This is not deliberate sin and there is no punishment attached to it. But once a person realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and caused uncertainties, sorrows, and difficulties for himself, it is with shame and remorse that he has to return. (Here I am Lord! I believe; help my unbelief!)

IMG_0573We need to rely on the resurrection life of Jesus on a much deeper level than we do now. (Amen!) We should get in the habit of continually seeking His counsel on everything, (I’m planning to really expand on what seeking His counsel on EVERYTHING looks like for me) instead of making our own commonsense decisions and then asking Him to bless them. (This one has gotten me into trouble more than once! He always forgives… but there are consequences.) He cannot bless them; it is not in His realm to do so, and those decisions are severed from reality. If we do something simply out of a sense of duty, we are trying to live up to a standard that competes with Jesus Christ. We become a prideful, arrogant person, thinking we know what to do in every situation. (OUCH! Thank you for your forgiveness.)  We have put our sense of duty on the throne of our life, instead of enthroning the resurrection life of Jesus. We are not told to “walk in the light” of our conscience or in the light of a sense of duty, but to “walk in the light as He is in the light…” 1 John 1:7. When we do something out of a sense of duty (or relying on our own common sense, talents and even spiritual gifts), it is easy to explain the reasons for our actions to others. But when we do something out of obedience to the Lord, there can be no other explanation— just obedience. That is why a saint can be so easily ridiculed and misunderstood. (I have felt this kind of “misunderstood” by man and it’s NOT comfortable… but oh how sweet it is knowing I’m right where Jesus asked me to be.)

(http://utmost.org/do-you-now-believe/)

IMG_3041Can you relate? In my journaling, He went on to say…

  • Overeating? Seek me.
  • Tired? Rest in Me.
  • Stressed? Give it to me.
  • Confused? Ask me.

“Not just in your journal and “prayer time,” but all day. And when you speak to Me, don’t just shoot a missile you hope lands in my earshot. Stop. Turn your attention to Me. Speak. Silence. Wait. Expect My answer. You can accomplish this even as your body continues moving if necessary… but wait for Me to answer, because you believe I will.”

James 1:5-7 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.…”

Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Thank you, Jesus, for your answer that’s as simple as my question. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! Amen.