How a blanket reminded me that God’s way is always better

We’re getting ready for a new resident at Safe Haven Farm. I haven’t really said too much about it because I wasn’t sure how everything was going to work out, but because of some visa issues, my best friend who has been living in England for 2.5 years is coming back to Kansas. And we’re super excited that she’s going to be moving in here at the farm! But I can’t give her back her old room from the six months she lived here during her last furlough. That room has since been converted into an office and shipping area for my crazy book business, so the only room I’ve got for her is–get ready for it–my old closet.

Now, truth be told, the closets here at the farm are pretty massive. I’ve had a guest room in one for the last few months, and it works just fine. So she’ll have plenty of room. My only concern is the fact that the second floor of the farm still has no heat or air conditioning, and the winter months are coming. It gets freakin’ cold up here. I acclimate really fast, and I’m super hot blooded, so it doesn’t bother me. But I wanted to make sure that my friend wouldn’t freeze to death.

My plan was to buy a little infrared heater and an electric blanket for her room, but there was just a tiny little problem. I don’t have a steady paycheck anymore, and I don’t just have $50 laying around that I can invest in heaters or electric blankets. And, good grief, electric blankets are pricey!

But God’s been teaching me a lot about trusting him over the past 10 months or so. In the past, I would have just rushed out and purchased what I needed, but this time, I wanted to leave it up to Him. So that’s what I did.

Shortly thereafter, I found a cute little electric heater on sale for $10 at Wal-Mart, and it’s perfect. And yesterday as I was cleaning out another closet that my friend can use for storage and clothing, you’ll never guess what I found. That’s right–a practically new twin-size electric blanket. We didn’t even know we had it. It’s just been sitting in a pile of plastic bags in this old closet upstairs for who knows how long.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a miracle of provision to anyone else, and that’s fine. But it’s exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I walked around all day long yesterday just grinning ear to ear because God took care of a need, and I didn’t have to do anything about it. And that, Christians, is exactly how we’re supposed to live.

The second floor guest bedroom (aka my old closet) at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The second floor guest bedroom (aka my old closet) at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:19.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Over and over and over again, the Bible tells us that God will provide for us. Over and over and over again, I experience His blessings on a daily basis, but there’s something in my brain that keeps me from grasping that He isn’t going to stop providing for me. There’s this idea in my head that tells me one day He won’t come through, one day He’ll realize that I’m not worth His time.

I’ve given God every reason to give up on me. He knows my heart. He knows how screwed up I get sometimes. He knows that I struggle to trust Him. And if He hasn’t given up on me yet, He isn’t going to.

But I think we look at God’s provision with a skewed perspective. It’s not wrong to ask God for what we need. It’s not even wrong to ask God for what we want. But where is your heart when you ask Him for something? If you ask God for something and He doesn’t deliver, do you get upset? Do you take it out on Him? Do you walk away from Him because you think He’s a liar or a trickster?

If that’s your response when God doesn’t give you your way, your heart isn’t in the right place about what you’re asking for.

God has promised to provide everything we need, and He always keeps His promises. I needed a heater and an electric blanket, and I decided to sit back and let Him provide them instead of rushing out ahead of Him to get them myself. And He came through. And if He can come through so perfectly on something like this, He’ll absolutely come through on the bigger things. I just have to have the same faith and patience about the big issues in life as I do about the small issues.

What are you asking God for today? Or have you asked Him for something and then turned away from Him because He didn’t give you what you wanted? Don’t walk away because you didn’t get your way. His way is always better.

What do you need to tell God today?

My best friend lives in England. She has been living across the pond for about two years now, and I’m not going to see her face to face again until probably December. The first year she was there, the only technology either of us had was text messaging on Skype chat and an actual Skype conversation when we could make the time. But when she went back again, this time she had a smart phone. And this time, so did I.

Needless to say, we are constantly messaging each other. We text on WhatsApp. We message on Facebook. We email. Sometimes all three at once because we’re just that schizophrenic. So while I don’t know everything that’s going on in her life, I usually have a fairly good idea just because we communicate all the time. But even though we are in constant communication, I still enjoy Skyping with her. I love to see her face and hear her voice.

But that’s how it’s like with friends. Even if you already know everything you need to know about them, you still want to talk to them.

calling_1160x768Today’s verses are Matthew 6:7-8.

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

Similar to doing good deeds for recognition, religious people in Jesus’ day would pray loudly in the streets so that everyone would hear them and understand just how important and godly they were. Well, Jesus put the brakes on that. He said to pray in private.

Jesus treated prayer like a conversation. He didn’t want it to be for show. Prayer is talking to God as though He’s in the room with you. Newsflash: He is!

Some people pray using cute rhymes and songs or prepared lines, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For children, rhymes and songs can be fun, and some of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever read were written in books. But can’t we just have a conversation with God? Aren’t we capable of just telling Him what we want to tell Him?

We don’t have to use special language. We don’t have to impress him with big words and fancy speeches. Just talk to Him.

God already knows what you need, yes, but He wants to hear from you. He loves you. He cares about you and what’s going on in your day. Sure, He already knows it all, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to talk to you. That doesn’t mean He’s not interested.

I used to be afraid to pray out loud because I wasn’t good at it. But when I learned to just talk–and when I understood how much I need God–it wasn’t hard anymore.

If you believe in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. That gives you instant and immediate access to God the Father whenever you want. You can approach His throne (boldly, Hebrews says!). You have an open invitation. You can talk to God at any time.

And don’t just throw requests at Him. It’s fine to let Him know what you need, yes. But come on. Nobody wants to hear you read your to do list. We’re talking about a relationship here. Tell Him about your day. Tell Him about your dreams. Tell Him how wonderful He is and how thankful you are that He’s your Father.

God is listening. So what have you got to tell Him today?

Don’t be afraid to ask God for something impossible

When was the last time you asked God for something impossible? I’m not talking about asking for a million dollars or asking for a dream vacation. I’m talking about something out-of-this-world extraordinary. Something no person on Earth has the capability to achieve. Like the restoration of a broken relationship, the redemption of a lost soul, or the healing of a broken body.

We get so caught up in our material wealth in this country that we lose sight of what is truly impossible. We live buried in debt that we can’t get out of, so our idea of impossible is being independently wealthy. But what about the things that really matter? The people we care about, the lives around us, the hurting hearts?

When was the last time you asked for something truly impossible?

Nothing-is-IMPOSSIBLEToday’s verses are Jeremiah 33:2-3.

This is what the Lord says—the Lord who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the Lord: Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.

Yes, this is God inviting you to ask. Throughout the Bible, God invites His people to talk to Him, to get to know Him, to have a conversation with Him, and in every instance in Scripture when someone gets closer to God, they change from the inside out.

Can you imagine what it’s like to encounter God like Moses did? Or like Joshua? Or even like the prophets Elijah and Jeremiah, who heard God’s voice clearly? After you’ve experienced God like that, how could you ever doubt Him?

Granted, they all had their bad days, when the struggles of life overwhelmed them, and then God had to remind them who He is. And, fortunately for them, they listened.

But what about us? What great God experience do we get? Well, I guess that depends on how closely you’re paying attention. No, we don’t get to see oceans parting and or city walls collapsing, but we do experience divine appointments–those moments that only God could have coordinated. We get to witness Him working in our lives and in other people’s lives. We get to see the miracles of nature that God has created.

Everything is a miracle.

And just because we don’t see crazy ridiculous “miraculous” events here in this country doesn’t mean they aren’t happening elsewhere. There are all sorts of reports of impossible things happening around the world–the dead being raised, impossible prayers being answered, God intervening in ways that are obvious.

Just because it’s not happening in America doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in other countries. Sorry to burst your bubbles, friends, but America isn’t the bastion of hope and light that we used to be.

But that doesn’t mean God won’t do the impossible if we ask. I’ve seen Him do impossible things, just in my own life, and I can think of several impossible things that I’d like to see Him do right now. I bet you can think of some too.

So why don’t we ask? Are we afraid He’ll say no? Are we afraid He’ll tell us that He can’t do it or that He won’t do it?

Don’t be afraid.

You know who God is, right? God is good. Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, God is inherently God. He’s the only one who is. So whatever God does is good.

Maybe it doesn’t seem good to us right now, but that’s because we don’t understand it. That’s where trust comes in. Maybe He’s withholding something that’s good right now in order to provide us with something better later on down the road. You just don’t know.

He won’t strike you down for asking. The Bible is full of examples of people who asked God questions we might think are impertinent, and Jesus never rebuked them. If it were an honest question from a heart genuinely seeking, Jesus never turned anyone away. And God is the same.

What is that impossible thing in your life that you desperately wish would happen? Who is that one person you think will never change? What is that relationship you’re afraid is doomed to fail?

Don’t be afraid to ask for the impossible. God is in the business of the impossible, and there is nothing beyond His reach. That doesn’t mean He’ll always do what you ask Him to do, and there are uncountable reasons why He might say no. But we should always remember that if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, that just means He’s going to answer them in a better way later on.

God never ignores us. Not ever.

So ask already.

I know what I’m asking for. How about you?

A prayer with serious intent can do the impossible

Do you ever get frustrated when God doesn’t answer your prayers? I’ve been there. I’ve asked God for things that He didn’t provide. I’ve asked Him for things I didn’t receive. It’s frustrating, because all throughout the Bible we see that we have not because we ask not. All you need to do is ask, and God will provide. Knock and God will open doors. Seek and you’ll find. Etc. etc. etc.

So why does it only seem to work half the time? It almost seems like a fifty-fifty shot, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to why some prayers are answers and some are left hanging.

Sure, maybe you’re asking with the wrong intentions. Maybe your reasoning is off. Maybe your heart isn’t in the right place. But what if it is?

Something clicked for me recently. It’s one of those things that I’m sure I’ve always known. I just am not certain I knew how to apply it.

Today’s verse is James 5:16.

Praying-the-Lords-PrayerThe earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Well, first off, what does it mean to earnestly ask something? I thought I knew. I assumed it meant that you ask believing God will answer. I thought it meant that you asked and really meant it. And maybe that’s one way to look at it, but look up the definition of the word earnest.

I just checked on dictionary.com, and it means: “serious in intention, purpose, or effort.”

With that definition in mind, when you ask for something—let’s say a raise—do you ask with serious intention, purpose, and effort? Do you go into your boss’s office and ask for an increase in pay and explain the details why you need to make more? Or do you just declare that you deserve a raise?

That puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

So how do you ask God to answer your prayers? How do you make your requests to God? Do you just say, “Dear Lord, please bless me today”? Or do you say, “Dear Lord, please be with so-and-so as they do such-and-such”? Or how about this classic: “Dear Lord, bless this food”?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those prayers, but knowing how we now define earnest, are any of them earnest? Do any of those prayers demonstrate serious intention, purpose, or effort?

If you just walked into your boss’s office and asked your boss to give you a raise today, do you think they’d just do it? No! If they didn’t fire you right away, I’m willing to bet they’d want to know why. Why do you deserve a raise, and what are you going to about it if you get it?

If we wouldn’t walk into our boss’s office and demand a raise without giving some kind of indication that we were willing to invest ourselves in the company more, why do we think God would just drop blessings on us if we haven’t indicated that we aren’t going to be committed to Him?

No, blessings can’t be earned. No, you can’t work your way into God’s favor. No, God doesn’t play favorites. But according to Scripture, if you are righteous and your prayer is earnest (if it demonstrates serious intent or purpose or effort), that prayer can accomplish the impossible.

If you follow Christ, you’re righteous. Period. If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, God counts you as righteous. But just because you’re righteous in God’s sight doesn’t automatically mean all your prayers are going to be answered. No way. I know many Christians who might be righteous, but they are certainly not earnest.

So if you’re frustrated about your prayers going unanswered, take a moment and really look at your heart and the way you make your requests to God. If you’re just haphazardly asking Him for random things that make you sound like a great Christian, don’t expect much. If you’re just flippantly asking Him for things that will make your life easier because you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable, you aren’t going to impress Him. But, if you know what you want and why you want it, tell Him.

You know what I want? I want a novel on the bestseller list so that I can tell more people about my faith in Jesus Christ. I want to make enough money to support myself and travel to encourage His missionaries around the world. That’s what I want and why I want it. That’s specific. That’s earnest.

I’m taking God at His Word. Through Christ’s blood, I’m made righteous. My prayers have purpose, effort, and serious, specific intention. So I am expecting wonderful results.

God may not answer the way I think He will, and that’s okay. Because He will answer. And however He answers will be better than I expect. I just have to give Him enough time to work out His perfect plan in my life, and in the mean time, He’ll take care of me. That’s what it means to trust Him. That’s what it means to have faith. And faith, my friends, will impress God. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.

God doesn’t always give you what you want

I’m staying in a swanky hotel right now. I mean, it has a bathtub. A real, honest-to-goodness bathtub that’s deep enough to soak in. And it has a shower too. Super swanky.

When I checked in at the desk, the lady asked me if I wanted a coffee maker brought up to my room. Now, I kind of have a coffee problem. I like coffee. A lot. Black or with milk or half-n-half or cream. Lattes, cappucinos, espressos, whatever. I love coffee.

Generally, hotel coffee is horrible, though. I usually can’t stand it, but when I wake up in the mornings early and write these devotionals, I desperately need a cup of coffee. So I’m willing to take anything. So, I told the lady at the desk, yes, I’d love to have a coffee maker in my room.

I got up to the room, and a guy from downstairs knocked and brought in my coffee machine. But it wasn’t a cheap little coffee pot like I’ve got at home. It wasn’t even a fancy coffee pot. It was a Keurig! A real-life Keurig with real-life coffee pods and everything! It was awesome!

How many times do we ask for something and expect a cheap response? How many times do we pray to God and ask Him for a specific result and expect a cheap answer? I do it all the time, but is that how we’re supposed to ask?

0125151521Today’s verses are James 4:1-3.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

I ask God for stuff all the time, and it’s normal for me to automatically assume that He won’t give it to me. That’s not because God’s mean. It’s not because I don’t trust Him. It’s just because I’m not sure my motives are always right.

I can’t be the only one out there who asks God for things I know I don’t need. Surely others have asked God for things, knowing that obtaining them probably wouldn’t be in my best interest. I’ve just asked for them because I wanted them. I’ve asked because it would make me happy or it would make life easier or it would help me feel vindicated.

There’s nothing wrong with being happy or having an easy life or feeling vindicated about something, but what is your motivation? For me, if I ask God for something because it will make me happy, that means I’m not content. If I ask God to make my life easy, that means I’m being lazy or giving into fear. If I ask God for vindication, usually that means I’m being insecure and letting my pride direct my actions and thoughts.

If you want God to give you what you’re asking for, check your motivation. Check your heart, because that’s what God looks at.

Hey, singles. Do you want a husband or a wife? Why? Is it because you feel incomplete without them? Is it because you need a spouse to move on to the next step in your plan for life? Or are you just sick of being the fifth wheel when all your friends are getting married and leaving you behind? If you want to get married, what is your heart motivation?

Hey, employed person. Do you want a raise? Do you want a promotion? Why do you want it? More money? More status? More power? What is the motivation behind your desire?

Hey, unemployed person. Do you want a job? Why?

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are or what kind of life you lead. If the motivation of your heart goes against what God says is right and true–or if your desire will go against God’s bigger plan for your life–God won’t give you what you ask for. Period.

And He’s not being mean. He just wants what’s best for us, while we usually can only see what’s good.

But you know what? Sometimes when you ask God will give you more than what you ask for. Sort of like my amazing coffee machine. I didn’t expect to get it. And even then, it wasn’t what I expected when I got it–it was better! And God’s just like that.

So if God hasn’t answered your prayers today, don’t give up. Yes, check your heart. Make sure your motivation is what it should be. And then, keep asking. The day is coming when God will blow your mind.

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Peace like a security system

Real peace is elusive in our world, whether you’re talking about the peace between nations or people or peace of mind. People pay extravagant sums of money for peace of mind, so they don’t have to worry. But is real peace something you can buy? Or is it something you’re given?

My brain is in overdrive this morning. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but it’s jumping from topic to topic to topic in rapid sequence, which makes it really difficult to concentrate on anything. It may be because of all the exciting things I learned at the writing workshop this week. It may be because I’m leaving for England next Thursday to see the other side of my brain for the first time since January. But either way, I’m having trouble focusing this morning, so I thought I’d better stick to something simple.

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Castle turret at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:6-7.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever experienced peace that functions as a guard? The Amplified Bible uses the term garrison. Peace that guards your heart and mind. To a natural worrier like me, that sounds awfully nice. I have a vivid imagination, and I can just see worries creeping up my heart and mind like thieves or robbers. And peace, like a guard or a soldier, beats them back and tells them to hit the road.

How do you get that kind of peace? You pray about what’s bothering you. You tell God what you need and thank Him what He’s already done. That’s what it says above. But does that really work?

Well, you do have to believe. And you do have to choose to give your worries to God and choose to not take them back once you’ve let them go.

Worry is like having a guard available and choosing to guard the door yourself anyway. It’s like having a security system installed and sitting up all night in spite of it because you’re sure it’s not going to work.

Worry is a waste of time and energy and focus, and it’s something I fall prey to frequently. I try not to. I know better. But I have this propensity to take things back that I’ve already given over to God. Does that make any difference? Does that help my request get answered sooner? Absolutely not. It doesn’t change God’s opinion or His methods or His plan. It just changes the color of my hair and upsets my stomach.

So how do you choose not to worry? How do you let peace be the guard of your mind and heart? Well, to be very honest, I don’t know. I’m still working on that one, but since the Bible says this is how it works, I believe it. So it all comes down to trust.

I trust that God is going to answer my requests in the way that will bring Him glory, whatever that looks like, and I’m up for whatever He has in mind. I trust that God knows what He’s doing. The only thing I can figure out about myself is that I just need to be vigilant when it comes to my control freak tendencies. I need to pay attention when I try to take back the concerns I’ve given to Him, and I need to stop myself.

So what are you worrying about today? Everyone worries. But we don’t have to. If you’re a follower of Christ, you can pray about it instead of worrying, and God has promised to send His peace–peace so awesome we don’t understand it, peace strong enough to protect our heart and our mind from worry. But that protection won’t do us any good if we refuse to be protected.

Cement frog spitting water at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God does great things for grateful people

How often do we ask God for thing? If you’re like me, it’s all the time. I usually try to keep an open line of communication with Him all day long, kind of like He’s a friend walking right beside me who I can tell anything. And while I know what the format for prayer is, sometimes I just like to talk to Him.

But what I can’t seem to get used to is how to react when He answers my prayers. Have you ever been there? You ask God for something, and He responds almost immediately? It’s at those times that I really don’t know what to do or how to respond.

Cement frog spitting water at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Cement frog spitting water at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are Luke 17:11-19.

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

I try not to get my hopes up when I ask God for big things. I believe that He will answer and give me what I’m asking for in His time and in His way, but I usually expect that time to be later and that way to look completely different than what I expect. But every now and then He gives me exactly what I ask for exactly when I ask for it.

It’s then that I need to remember to thank Him. That’s the response I need to have. And I just want to take a moment to do that this morning.

I’ve been praying that the workshop I was attending would be successful and it was, on many many levels. Those of you who know me very well know I struggle with self-confidence, especially when it comes to my writing. But God went out of his way at this workshop to show me over and over and over again that I’m exactly where He wants me and that the things I’ve written are truly things that can be used for Him. I talked to people I didn’t know. I put myself out there for everyone to see, and I wasn’t afraid. And I learned a lot and gained more confidence than I expected. That’s exactly what I was praying for, and that’s exactly what I got.

And I want to thank God for answering that prayer. He didn’t have to, but I’m so glad He did.

What prayer has God answered in your life recently? I’m sure He’s answered something, whether you realize it or not. Don’t be like the nine healed men who went away healed and forgot to acknowledge Who had healed them. Be like the one who came back. Thank God for what He’s done.

God likes to do great things for grateful people.