Upholding my steps

As I begin my day, continued lockdowns and government suppression in my community once again lie before me.

I struggle to gain perspective. I wake up at night with stirring thoughts running through my mind. I reach for the cross around my neck and grasp it tightly, remembering who I am in Christ and the plans he has for me.

Calmness begins to take hold. I breathe deeply, fully in then releasing out several times. I focus my mind on his grace and everything he has done for me.

I pray for perseverance and strength. I pray for his truth to be revealed in this country, the world. I pray for hearts to be transformed.

Uphold my steps in Your paths, so that my footsteps may not slip.

Psalms 17:5 NKJV

This is a prayer I wrote during another challenging time. I’m so glad God put journaling and studying in my heart.

God, when my anger burns hotly, remind me that you are the only one who truly understands my heart and the only one who can save me from destructive, self-consuming thoughts. 

For as I turn to you, my cloak of indignation and defeat becomes one of capability, worthiness, strength, and contentment. 

In a moment of challenge, help me to know that you always provide a way out, as long as my focus remains on you.  

Reveal to me how this present circumstance and my perception of a broken, corrupt world is inconsequential compared to your insatiable desire for me to follow you.

I cannot comprehend everything that happens to me. Guide me to live this life in lockstep with your precepts, doing nothing in self-deception, cold-heartedness, or single-mindedness.

She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Trust in the Lord, and do good.

Psalms 37:3a

The battles before me

The other day I heard a new song by contemporary Christian music artist Phil Wickham called Battle Belongs.

I needed to hear that song that day. It took all my anxious thoughts about our country and organized them neatly into lyrics and music notes. It allowed me for a moment to feel a little part of Heaven right here on earth.

The song uplifted my spirit and my soul to where it should always be — praising the God before me and letting him take the reigns of my life.

I wrote about giving God my battles — the ones I was facing at that time — in May of 2016. I cringe to think I put the word “mask” in there, particularly now in 2021 where face masks are a symbol of control and compliance; a time where it is forbidden in my state to open your mouth and sing at church.

Nonetheless, this prayer still speaks to me today, a time when struggles and battles continue:

God, your timing is perfect.

Reign in my imperfect thoughts; reshape them into your artistic expression.

Sever the bitter roots and tangy vines the enemy plants to incite division.

Surface the dross in my heart — control, envy, impatience, pride — and rid my mask of reproach.

Set my mind free so I can live in the Spirit rather than dwell in my failures.

Your message to your faithful ones tells of a calm and spacious place that is always available to us.

I can know you are working in my life, building a bridge from heartbreak to healing with a promise to prosper on the other side.

It will take full trust in you, a daily pouring out of myself, and true forgiveness of others for my sake to mend my deceived heart.

But I am committed, because I know that you are the only one who can bring light into this darkness.

I look to your words again; I hear them down deep inside.

I trust you to fight my battles once again.

Steep hills and dark valleys

Lord, our daily work in this generation is heavy- laden with a veil of darkness all around us, burdened by a thickness of lies and deception from an evil and destructive spirit who comes to steal, kill and destroy. An attempt to stir up rage and fury to defame and divide believers seeking your name.

But I know that you are greater than any destructive force and your truth lasts forever.

You comfort the downcast; you calm me and my soul breathes.

You are my strength, you are my song; my portion and my cup.

You lead me down a path that helps me grow closer to you, my vine.

You give me hope as I follow you to fulfill my purpose, an inexpressible joy that leads me to my heart’s desire.

You provide a shield of resilience when times are trying; your Word guards and protects me.

You know every tear that falls from a broken heart; every foreign thought that needs your strength to cast down.

Only you can restore me, calming the storm within.

You know the shadows that want to overcome my mind, those which dim the light and entice me down to a pit of hopelessness.

So, I take heart as I lift up your name, reflecting your light so that other may see.

My cup brims with blessing today, and surely tomorrow.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Psalms 16:5
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Psalms 37:4
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalms 23:5-6
You prepare a table before mein the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 7:6
But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,…

A Prayer of Peripety

I was looking back through my prayer journals and came upon some notes I took while my small group focused on Beth Moore’s Esther Bible study. One of the main literary themes throughout Esther is the ‘reversal of events’ — in this case, a divine intervention that turned the tables of injustice, based on one woman’s integrity, faith, and valiancy.

Although the story of Esther took place in Persia around 480 B.C., its discourse is still relevant today. In our time, those considered conservative thinkers are targeted by the deep state to be silenced, supported by elitist censorship and the cancel culture of the ruling class. Yet as most Bible scholars would highlight, and if we are to learn anything from our main character’s predicament, the impending queen of the empire, it would be that our purpose is found within our current generation, or as the author profoundly puts it, “for such a time as this.”

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14

So I come back to my prayer for a reversal of events that I wrote in my journal almost four years ago. One that has all the desperation and boldness that I would pray today. I can’t resist editing a bit, but here is the gist:

Lord, God, let us do more than just get through this unbelievably challenging time. I can see your plan and purpose shining through. I recognize it and reach out for it – – your transcendent joy.

Change our discouragement into hope, our confusion into purpose, tears into forgiveness, and anger into celebration. Take everything unworthy in our hearts and transform it into something incredibly beyond our imagination.

Putting our fears and the world’s untruths aside, thank you for locking my mind on your precepts; you are the author of the story of stories.

We wait on you; we put our hope in you. Like a grape seed planted waiting to be watered and touched by the sun. Hold me close to the vine.

Help us, in your strength only, to bring your kingdom come.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:5

Going Forward in 2021

Thank you, God, for bringing the following verses to my mind as we start another year of the year of our Lord: Isaiah 43:18-19 and Psalms 31:14-18.

I’m excited to start the year with the Jesus Always devotional by Sarah Young given to me by one of my daughters. I have also started The Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change, given to me by my other daughter, which is also something I’m sinking into.

However, I’m still making my way through The Reservoir weekday devotional, brought forward by Chris Hall, president of Renovare, and finishing up my Chasing Vines Bible study by Beth Moore!

There are also a few others that I won’t mention for now, but clearly I will have no absence of spiritual content.

And I will need every ounce of it this year.

“Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

But I trust in you, O LORD;

I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand;

rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

Make your face shine on your servant;

save me in your steadfast love!

O LORD, let me not be put to shame,

for I call upon you;

let the wicked be put to shame;

let them go silently to Sheol.

Let the lying lips be mute,

which speak insolently against the righteous

in pride and contempt.

Psalms 31:14-18

Amidst the Chaos and Fear Hand-selected and Brought Forward by Big Tech (A Simple Prayer)

God, steep my life this morning in your reality, your initiative, and your provision. Keep me focused on your heart to rule my day. Direct my wandering mind to you in everything, each moment of today. Amen

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Colossians 3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Of Grapes and Vines

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

John 15:1 NIV

Last summer, I read Chasing Vines, by best-selling author and Bible teacher Beth Moore. If you adore the richness of an Italian landscape, appreciate the taste of a Sauvignon Blanc or a red wine blend, or identify with the parable of the vine and the branches, (illustrated in John 15) you’ll enjoy this book from introduction to epilogue.

As many Christians know, The Vine and the Branches in John 15 is all about staying close to Christ, or “abiding,” in your walk with God through the metaphor of the gardener (God), the vine (Christ), and the branches (disciples). Through her teaching, Beth shares some beautiful analogies between the rocky soil of a Christian’s daily walk in salvation and the delicate yet rigorous process of creating fruitful vineyards.

The whole concept of abiding is not only key, but foundational to a Christian who is rooted in a personal relationship with Christ (not religion) to be free to accomplish their purpose set forth before the beginning of time.

“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 NIV

She also points out that in the Bible, the Old Testament refers to “the vine” as Israel. But in the New Testament, Jesus Christ takes His rightful place as “the true vine” (John 15:1). She calls this an amazing “sub-planting.”

About this Moore says, “John 15 is about living a naturally unexplainably life. It’s about doing what we can’t do on our own and becoming who we can’t be on our own.” (P. 52 of the Chasing Vines, Group Experience)

The words, concepts, and experiences in Chasing Vines will make you want to read more. And it will be a comforting and joyous read; for me that was certain.

I’m now re-reading her book while starting a group Bible study in my neighborhood. The study consists of a workbook, which is a great way to think about what Moore is presenting in her book and put it into your own words, like personal journaling. The study series also includes six short videos, which are equally enlightening and educational as she takes the reader closer to the leaves and buds and branches of the vineyard— figuratively and literally!

To all, enjoy this study that Beth Moore brings to life. But even more importantly, know that He abides in you.

Touched by the Spirit of Hope

I come to you again with a renewed sense of hope. I can have the calm spirit you’ve given me, casting down fear and anxiety. Help me choose life each day, Lord, as I quiet the chatter in my mind. For you are the belonging and freedom for which I seek. As I humble myself before you, you promise to lift me up. Pour out your strength so I can willingly yield everything to you.

Deuteronomy 30:19

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

James 1:2-8
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

For this time and always

We need you, God. You are our rock, our ever-present help in times of trouble. But this was always true – even before a world-wide pandemic.

I am so thankful that I already had a structure in place for a daily outpouring of praise and prayer for the everyday challenges in life.

This verse in Lamentations I have always kept close to my heart, especially in raising two daughters and always striving to keep my family close together:

Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward him for the life of your young children.

Lamentations 2:19

I came across Deuteronomy 32:2 this morning in my daily devotional by Joyce Meyer. It really resonated with me as I ask God often for spiritual wisdom and understanding. I editorialized a bit, but this is basically the message:

Let your messages fall on me like rain and your words descend like dew on a cool summer morning, like showers on fresh grass, and as an outpouring of rainfall upon the herb.

Deuteronomy 32:2

As we come to you each day, God, lift us up in Jesus’ name.

Absolute faith, day after day

Through your grace, help me “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” me. Let my gaze be steady on you.

Prayers for our first responders, doctors and nurses, and everyone on the front lines today combatting COVID-19… Prayers for our communities, our states, our countries, our leaders, and our world.

Colossians 1:9-14 (NIV)

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.