Waiting For Answers To Prayer

One of the more frustrating experiences for someone of faith is unanswered prayers. The Bible tells us again and again that our prayers are indeed answered and God definitely hears our prayers so that isn’t the cause of our frustration. Part of our frustration is God’s timeline vs. our timeline. We are used to the fast food, high speed internet, 2 day shipping life, wherein we can get answer or things in a few minutes or few days at most. But few relationships are made in 2 days, homes aren’t built in 2 days, and God doesn’t always answer prayers in 2 days. Sometimes these things take years, which can be hard for us to understand or accept, but we have to trust and have faith in God’s plan and timing.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m in a bit of a waiting pattern and I’m dealing with some of that frustration myself. There are moments I’m definitely enjoying not being quite so busy, and while it took a little while I finally have been getting stuff on my to-do list done. As I’ve shared on some of my other blogs recently, I’ve been reminded how even giving a little time and effort can bring some great results. I’m amazed how little time some of these things take and how much sooner I could have gotten them done if I knew it wouldn’t take that long (and were willing to accept something other than perfection or a complete job).

So while I’m still waiting for answers to prayers, I’m finally adjusting to waiting. It’s been a reminder how each moment is a gift, even if it’s not the gift you were expecting or hoping for. But it’s not like the gift of that “fantastic” knitted sweater from a grandmother or aunt that you might get at Christmas, but it’s a gift that you can actually use and benefit from. If you’re waiting right now for answers to prayer too, I encourage you to look around and see if God’s giving you a different answer to prayer or has some other things that you should be doing right now, instead of being focused on what you have been. What will you be able to cross off your to-do list this week?

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Reality Reflection: The Whole Picture

Today I want to talk about a topic that has been bothering me for some time.  Personally I think it’s one of the biggest causes of failures, frustrated employees, dissatisfied relationships and general miserableness.  What is it?  It’s not taking the time to get the whole picture.  Let me give you a few examples:

Your partner asks you to go to the store for milk.  You go and get the milk the house typically drinks, and when you return they ask why you didn’t get bread as well or why you got that kind instead of the other kind.

Your boss asks you to write up a proposal for a project.  You do so based on the others you’ve done in the past.  You pass it to your boss expecting to be able to get back to your work and they ask you to do it again because they wanted it with different targets or goals.

Paperwork on your family car (insurance or government) comes up to be renewed.  Your partner is working so they ask you to do it.  You get there to do it only to be told that the only person who can renew it is the person whose name is on it, which isn’t indicated anywhere on the paperwork. 

You get the idea? In each case there was more to the story than was first known.  Why the full story couldn’t be told in the first place completely boggles my mind.  Is it a test that you want someone to pass or fail by not telling them the whole thing?  Do you expect someone to read your mind and know what you really meant?  Or is it just a case of you not really thinking things through and failing to communicate properly?

I do understand that sometimes we just forget to tell the whole story or sometimes we don’t say too much because we don’t want to micro manage or overwhelm with details.  But there’s a really big space between providing necessary details and micromanaging or over communicating.

This week I challenge you to take notice of how you interact with other people.  Are you a half-done picture person, or do you communicate the whole picture to them?

Tell Your Own Story

I was reading an article about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the heir to the British royal throne and his wife, and their tour through Pakistan this week. The article talked about how the whole world is watching their story unfold, that we’re watching their autobiography be written with each word he/they say(s), thing he/they do(es) and place he/they goes. Many people don’t have a story written until they’re much older because they aren’t famous or important throughout their whole lives, but in the case of the Duke especially, we’ve always known that his future is important and bears watching.

One of the things that caught my attention in the article was how they saw and placed importance on the story that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and other royal family members) are creating through how they live. The Queen for example has done a great job of writing a story that portrays her as a strong leader who loves life and is extremely proud of her country and people. Just like them, we too have a say in the choices we make in our lives, but we aren’t usually as carefully conscious of how the way we live will impact the story we’re hoping to write.

Halloween is coming up in just about two weeks, and it’s a chance for many of us to tell a story about our dreams and someone we wish we could be or dream about being or have a fantasy about. For some of us it’s a chance for a little fun, but for others of us we’re serious about the person we’re dressing up to be, it’s who we wish we could be and part of a story we wish we were writing.

Life does hold responsibilities we each have to face, but more than ever people are proving that you don’t have to be something you hate or do what your parents wanted you to do just to meet those responsibilities. We each have the ability to choose how we conduct ourselves even when dealing with people and things we don’t really enjoy or are burdened by. Much of our story is told through what we say and how we conduct ourselves, especially when it’s difficult, and that’s definitely something we have control over especially when we don’t have control over other things like how other people act.

What story are you telling through your words and actions?  Is it time to write a new chapter in your story, or maybe even a whole new book?

Exploring with God

Monday in the US was the day that’s historically celebrated Christopher Columbus, and in recent years has also been called Indigenous Peoples Day. Personally I would make Indigenous Peoples Day another day in the year, and if we’re not wanting to name a day specifically after Columbus, to name this past Monday Explorer’s Day or something like that because the men (and women) who were part of the great exploration of the world should be recognized, because without them many of us in the US and around the world wouldn’t be where we are without them.

As I was thinking about explorers like Columbus, I got to thinking about how many people throughout the Bible traveled or were called by God to travel. Abraham traveled, Joseph traveled, the Israelites traveled, Ruth traveled, the prophets traveled, Jonah traveled, Jesus traveled, Saul/Paul traveled, many other disciples traveled, just to name a few of the well-known figures in the Bible. Some of these people traveled because their life necessitated it, others traveled because God called them to travel for reasons of ministry.

Sometimes what’s necessary for us to really discover who we are and to see the plan of God for our lives, is for us to get out of our comfort zones. Yes, God sends us wherever we are told to go to share about Him with the people there, but as Jonah learned, the journey can sometimes be as much for us as it is for them. Exploring can be fun and exciting, it can also cause some stress and discomfort, especially if you’ve got the wrong attitude or a closed heart going into the adventure.

Most of us will come to at least one point in our journey where we’re faced with the option to go out into the world and open ourselves to others and possible changes, or choose to stay where we’re at. I think we should all choose to take the opportunity to explore at least once in our lives and see what God wants to teach us or how He wants to use us through that experience. There’s nothing technically wrong with sticking with the status quo in your life and not wanting changes, but often changes happen whether we want them to or not. Being open to changes and to the experiences God has in store for us will help smooth our explorations and help us better connect with those we meet along the way.

If you’re exploring right now I invite you to share your experiences and words of wisdom for those who may be struggling with their own journey.

Reality Reflection: Out of control

It’s amazing how quickly things can sometimes spiral out of control. You say you’re just going to do one more thing and six more pop up that really need to be done that day. Or you mis-speak about something or someone mis-hears you and someone feels offended and it gets blown completely out of proportion. Or one person struggles with slick roads and it turns into a 5 car pile up. Or the weather is completely unseasonal and your family reunion plans are ruined. Or you use one wrong ingredient and the whole dish is ruined. Some of these things we have an easier time avoiding or fixing or dealing with, but for many of them we have to give recovery our best effort.

The thing about control is that you can try and be in control, and you can in fact be in control, but if someone else gets out of control you can’t do much about that except try to react or respond in the best way. In the example of communication I used earlier, it’s so easy to get caught up in a conversation and think you hear something and react instead of pausing and thinking about if you really heard what you heard and asking for clarification before forming an opinion or reacting negatively. So when it comes down to it, the better control you have, the easier it will be to stop a situation before it does spiral out of control.

It’s not about trying to be in control all of the time, if you try for that you’ll end up crazy and live such a regimented life that you miss out on a lot of adventures that the world has to offer, not to mention you won’t meet some of the cool people out there if you only focus on controlling yourself. So the question is, how good is your control? Can you stop yourself from watching another TV episode if you know you really should to do something else? Are you able to get focused on something when you really need to? Are you able to say both no and yes depending on which a situation calls for?  Are you able to let go of that control and be free and fun as the occasion calls for?  Is control a tool you use or is it controlling you?

Words of Bravery

In keeping with the theme for this month, today I thought we’d take a look at what some other people had to say about bravery:

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” J. K. Rowling

“Nothing is black or white, nothing’s ‘us or them.’ But then there are magical, beautiful things in the world. There’s incredible acts of kindness and bravery, and in the most unlikely places, and it gives you hope.” Dave Matthews

“Like timidity, bravery is also contagious.” Munshi Premchand

“We are built to love. Have the bravery to open the heart you have contracted from life’s disappointments. This is how the heroes roll.” Robin S. Sharma

“The world is not limited by IQ. We are all limited by bravery and creativity.” Astro Teller

“I don’t think that bravery is about skin. Bravery is about a willingness to show emotional need.”  Richard Gere

“If you want to change things, it requires bravery.” Naftali Bennett

“I feel like my secret magic trick that separates me from a lot of my peers is the bravery to be vulnerable and truthful and honest.” Katy Perry

“Bravery never goes out of fashion.” William Makepeace Thackeray

“I think bravery is to get on the ball and be bold enough and confident enough to try things when everyone is looking at you and the pressure is on and people are expecting you to win.” Michael Carrick

Time for Atonement

This week the Jewish people are remembering Yom Kippur, which is also known as the Day of Atonement. I find it interesting that while we Christians may talk about it from the book of Leviticus, it’s not a day we set aside as holy. We look at Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, and the Ascension, but not Yom Kippur. If it is the holiest day for the Jewish people, and obviously from a part of the Bible that we as Christians read, why isn’t it something we Christians really talk about?

Let’s start with what atonement means. Atonement is defined as making amends, reconciling, or reparation for wrong doing. Atonement is what people do when they have to pay a fine for a traffic ticket or do community service, and we also say ‘I’ll make it up to you’ on a regular basis. The issue or difference comes in because atonement isn’t always a step we take or a step we know we take in the forgiveness process, but I think it’s one we could take and recognize more often. Especially when it comes to relationships, it’s may be the difference between being able to work things out and repair them versus throwing them out and not trying to or being able to fix things.

So where does atonement fit in to our lives as Christians? Galatians 1:4 (ESV) says “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” We know that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins, to make our slate clean, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t recognize when we sin, shouldn’t ask for forgiveness for our sins, shouldn’t atone for our sins, shouldn’t learn from our sins and do/say differently if and when there is a next time.

There’s more shame in pretending you’re perfect and hiding your sins than admitting you have sinned and working through the aftermath. Admitting you have sinned means you’ve got the opportunity to be forgiven and be able to be healed of that sin and make changes going forward, which is way better than trying to live under an ever-increasing mountain of sin. Not every sin needs fixing, some need to be forgiven and forgotten.  But in the situation where it’s appropriate to atone and there’s a chance to make things right, grab that opportunity to get your life headed back in the right direction and showing that you’re as good as your word when you apologized.