A Choice of Burdens

I read a quote recently that I think really lines up well with the Biblical passage of Matthew 11:28-30 but also sheds light on it. Let’s start with the Bible passage:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””

It’s a very well-known passage, one that is repeated and turned to during times of stress, fear, confusion, challenge and weakness, maybe one you yourself have said or read recently.  It’s one that we turn to because Jesus is clearly saying that although there will be burdens in life He is here to help us with them. Which is where the quote I mentioned comes in:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz

It’s very rare in life that we truly are out of option or that we have no choices. Typically we just can’t think of them or don’t like the ones that we can think of or see. But both the passage and the quote remind us to rethink that and be encouraged that the burden we bear doesn’t have to be the burden we see it as, and that there are options and hope, if only we would open our eyes.

Today I would encourage you to not only bring your current situations to God in prayer, but also take the time to really do your research and consider your options.  You’re only out of options and hope if you believe it is so or stop looking.  Maybe the one you’ve been avoiding is the answer.  Maybe it’s something you haven’t heard of before.  Maybe it’s something a friend has heard about and would be able to share with you if you share your burden with them.  Maybe today will be the day that brings hope back into your life.  But even if it isn’t, I know that God has everything under control and has a plan for everything, and He is here to carry your burdens with you.

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Words on Prayer

As we finish the 2019 National Day of Prayer I thought I’d share a few quotes on prayer, what prayer can mean, and the power of prayer.

“In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was ‘Help me.’ Sometimes a prayer was ‘Thank you.’ What I’ve discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away.” Iyanla Vanzant

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Prayer doesn’t just change things – it changes us. If we are diligent in seeking God, slowly and surely we become better people.” Joyce Meyer

“I think you grow wherever God plants you. I hope I’m growing as a person of faith, as a Christian. That should be our number one objective this journey of life. That all starts with a personal intimate relationship with Christ and then being in prayer every single day about all of those things – being tenacious about it.” J. C. Watts

“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” Corrie Ten Boom

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Prayer’s important, not just as some kind of a metaphysical exercise, but I think it’s a way to refresh one’s own mind and motive. If you’re praying, you’re really looking beyond your own personal thoughts and the pressures that are around you.” Mike Huckabee

“For me, in my Christian belief, prayer is not an opportunity to manipulate God into doing what you want him to. Prayer is an opportunity to have a conversation with God to try to get in tune with what his will is.” Francis Collins

“I believe in prayer. It’s the best way we have to draw strength from heaven.” Josephine Baker

“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.” Saint Teresa of Avila

A Prayer for Love

Love has to be one of my favorite topics to talk about. It’s all about hope, caring, selflessness, compassion and togetherness. Yes, you can and should love yourself, but there’s so much more to love than just loving yourself. Today we’re talking about love because it’s this year’s theme for the National Day of Prayer which is this Thursday.

Prayer is important  and awesome because we can do it anywhere for anyone, we don’t need their permission, nor do we need to know exactly what’s going on in their life to pray for them. All we need to do is lift them and their life to God. So it’s great that we take time each year to have this day and to focus the nation on prayer. But I’m thrilled that love is the topic they’ve chosen to focus on, because even though Easter was just over a week ago, it seems like the world has already forgotten the message of Easter: a message of hope, forgiveness and life.

Prayer is an important and valued part of our spiritual life and of our relationship with God, and love is taking it the next step. Love is something you can do without any hint of spirituality or directly connected to your faith.  Love is something everyone knows they need, and more people are willing to accept love than they are the words of faith that they don’t know they need, but really do need. Love can be the first step towards building relationships and sharing faith or it can be a continuation of that faith. Love is a universal action and concept that doesn’t require us to speak the same language or have the same culture or be of the same faith, it just asks us to give and care without judgment or ulterior motives.

So as you spend time in prayer this week I encourage you to ask God for opportunities to love, and to look for opportunities to love others in this week, and even beyond National Day of Prayer.

“Love one another. Just as I have loved you.” John 13:34

Prayer for Students

This month we’ve been talking a bit about the topic of responsibility, one of those responsibilities is to the younger generations, both on a spiritual level as well as a whole-life level. We have to give them the tools that we’ve got as well as do our best to prepare them for what is yet to come that we don’t know about yet; challenges and opportunities that have never been seen before.

This week on Wednesday students around the US will be gathering around the flagpoles at their schools to pray for each other as well as our nation. It’s a moment where they step up and take responsibility for themselves and their school mates, the future leaders of the world. This week the rest of the US has the opportunity to pray for students and the people they will become as well, and for those who teach them and guide them.

Each year the organization behind See You At The Pole selects a passage to focus that year’s prayers on, this year it’s Ephesians 3:14: “I fall on my knees before the Father.” I encourage you to check out what they’ve shared about the thought behind their choice of passage on their website. What stood out to me was that the verse really is a reminder to pray, to seriously dedicate yourself and time to praying for what’s going on in your life and the world around you and taking the time to develop a relationship with God. We don’t always dedicate the time and effort to prayer that we should, and this verse is a reminder to do exactly that.

I encourage you to devote some of your prayer time this week for students, both those who will pray around the pole on Wednesday and those who will not, that this year will be a positive one and full of opportunities that will help shape students into the men and women that they will become.

Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

Praying for Unity

Thursday in the US is National Day of Prayer. It’s an opportunity to come together as a nation and pray for some of the many needs in the country, and especially for our leadership. This year the committee is going with a theme of praying for unity, and the verse they’ve chosen is Ephesians 4:3:

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The great thing about prayer is that it doesn’t take sides, it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, a man or a woman, a morning person or a night person, how you like your coffee or if you like coffee, if you have a green thumb, if you prefer dogs or cats, or if you’re good with numbers. Prayer is something everyone and anyone can do. It’s also something that doesn’t have to take a long time to do or be something you have to do with others, although it’s good to pray with others.

So in a way just participating in National Day of Prayer is a way to unify many people around the US. Last week there was also some big news relating to the topic of peace and unity, North and South Korea stated that they were going to put aside their differences and try to work together for a better future.

Unity and peace both begin with a step. They not usually things that happen in one day, they are built over many days and weeks with work, communication, time and effort. Trust has to be established and it has to be shown that everyone is going to keep up their end of the partnership before unity and peace become a regular and expected thing.

So today what step will you take for peace and unity? That step can be as simple as prayer, or as big a step as you want to take.

Devoted to Positive Steps

As we continue our journey through the first month of a new year I thought we’d continue to look at some ways we can do better, be better and make this year better.

Prayer: one of the interesting things about prayer is that there are so many ways that it can be done, that it shouldn’t feel stressful or like a responsibility. Yes, it’s good to sit and do traditional prayers like are done in church, but you can also take a minute to pray before/during/after different parts of your day, and you can also keep up a running conversation with God (it doesn’t have to be this formal thing). The important thing to remember is to do it, to do it by yourslef, to do it in a group, and to do it regularly. It’s not just an expression of faith, it’s your time to talk with God, which is an incredible gift.

Pay Attention: there are lots of things that demand our attention these days, and some of us have taken to seeing the world as though we’re wearing blinders. All of us have opinions, beliefs and experiences that color how we see and interact with the world, and we’re also usually preoccupied by what’s going on in our lives. In many respects the reason the world looks the way it does to you is because of what you choose to see. The challenge for each of us is to take off those blinders and let ourselves be exposed to and open to experiencing other parts of the world. Are you open to seeing what God would show you, or stuck seeing just what you can’t ignore?

Give Thanks: one of the most powerful tools we’ve got in our lives is our ability to be thankful. Regularly expressing our thanks, showing appreciation and finding things to be thankful for can all improve your attitude, make you feel better and make you more likable and personable too. If you’re struggling with being thankful, try just walking outside your door and finding something to be thankful for. Maybe it’s the fact that snow’s not brown usually or that the sun is out or we’re one more day closer to spring or for the evergreen tree that reminds you of happy Christmas memories or the cute bunny prints in the snow. Sure, you could talk about all the not-so-great stuff and you could just see the cool/cold winter world outside your door, but why would you spend a lot of time thinking about that when you could thing on the positive?

So today I encourage you to pick one, or all of these, and commit to working on them in your life this week. Spending more time in prayer, being more open and aware and giving thanks more often can all have a really positive impact on your life, and your faith.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2