Tag Archive | prayer

Time for a Time Out

OregonRetreat-1

When my kids were little, when I felt overwhelmed and pressured I would go into the bathroom and lock the door, just to be alone. As they pounded on the door, demanding to know why I was taking SO LONG, I would offer the excuse, “Mommy just has an upset tummy …” (small totally understandable white lie, right?).

It’s been a lot of years since then but the need to be alone once in a while persists. But the bathroom as a location for a personal retreat just doesn’t cut it anymore. 🙂

Even though I am legitimately a people person, “alone” is where I do my best thinking, praying, reflecting, producing, and reprogramming. And boy, did I need it this month! So earlier this week I took myself on a little personal retreat (thank you to my husband and daughter who were so gracious to get along just fine without me for a few days!).

We have access to a condo at Mt. Hood, Oregon, a three-hour drive from our home. It was me, my computer, a few books and magazines, and a knitting project for my soon-to-be-born granddaughter. Long walks in the woods. A trip to the snow. Three days with no appointments with anyone other than God. It was glorious.

This was the path to the river, right outside my doorstep:

OregonRetreat-5

I sure don’t have these moments on a daily basis! The refreshment to the soul is priceless. I took smooth stones from the river, wrote my kids’ names on them with Sharpie marker, and brought them home to keep in a dish on my desk for little prayer reminders and a memento of my retreat.

OregonRetreat-4

I drove a half-hour to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where I parked myself at what was obviously an anointed desk near the window (See top picture above; I can’t believe I caught this image with just my phone!) to work and look out at the snow. I took work with me because part of my purpose was to FOCUS … and to get some traction on a few editing projects I was struggling to stay on top of at home. It was SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT in this inspiring environment!

 

OregonRetreat-2

It was surprising to me, how productive I was, and yet how refreshed and re-invigorated, on my little “working personal retreat.” I did the things “I” wanted to do. Not having the TV on (as it often is in my house when the family is around) was peace to my nerves. Spending some time in prayer, talking with God about my family, my work, and some friends who are going through hard times. Listening to classical music and working on a knitting project or perusing cooking magazines and planning my holiday baking and menus. Swimming laps in the cold air at the end of each day, in a heated pool with steam rising into the dark autumn sky. Wow, I actually liked spending time with … me!

The last day of my retreat I received an email in my inbox from a friend whose blog that day just happened to be why we need personal retreats from time to time!  It’s well-worth a read. And, if prayer is what you want to focus on, on your own retreat, my friend Cynthia Bezek has written a book called Come Away with Me that will help you do it. She has certainly been an inspiration to me in that department.

I am home again and back to reality, feeling on top of things and much refreshed. I think I’m much better for my little “time out,” and I hope my family agrees!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

I Woke up in Woking

Back in the UK and so happy to be here!

 

We arrived at 6:30 a.m. to a bit of a soggy, muggy day. I grabbed a quick nap and then went on a run into town to meet a couple of friends for coffee.  Was I really in Gig Harbor only yesterday?

 

Lots of construction going on in the town square in Woking these days. It’s looking beautiful and oh-so-modern … then right around the corner I run into a street of row shops that looks like a scene from a Dickens novel. I love that about England.

 

Running past lovely manor homes and laurel hedges, holly with morning glory pouring out of it, a house called “Pooh Corner” (all the houses have names here)… past the football (soccer) field and the neighborhood pub (can’t wait for fish and chips and STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING) … have I mentioned how much I love England?

 

This is my sixth trip to the U.K., so it’s kind of becoming a home away from home, of sorts.  We absolutely love it here: the people, the sights. The culture and history. The heart and spirit.

 

It’s hard to say if that’s just coincidence and personal affinity, or because we both have roots here.  Doug’s grandfather was born in Devon, my great-grandparents in Hampshire and Scotland. I find it kind of a surreal (but very nice feeling) to go back to where our “people” came from.

 

That’s why I love it that God would bring Doug and me around full circle, back to the area our own grandparents and great-grandparents left almost a hundred years ago. Not just to vacation, but to serve. Not just to teach, but to learn.  Not just to work, but to enjoy authentic friendships and Kingdom community.

 

We’re really looking forward to being part of the Prayer-Saturated Life conference at ChristChurch Woking next weekend, June 29-30 in Woking, Surrey.  UK friends, if you’re around and available, please join us!

 

It’s going to be a full ten days. I’ll post some pics and blog entries and share some of our experiences, observations, and reflections.  Glad to share the journey and keep you posted! 🙂

 

 

 

 

No Worst Case Scenario

Granted, I’m an optimist. I like my life, as well as my eggs, “sunny side up.” Pollyanna was one of my favorite movies of all time (I even named one of my daughters after the actress who played the main character, Hayley Mills).

That being said, even if I weren’t an optimist, I would still believe this: With God, there is no worst case scenario.

I was reminded of that just this week, facing a medical situation. Thankfully, the combination of my swollen lymph nodes and bottomed-out iron levels did NOT equal something cancerous.  But they could have. And yes, a couple moments of fear did cross my mind before the hematologist ruled that out and pronounced me simply, profoundly anemic. IV iron infusion, here I come …

Being confronted with fear (i.e., getting my boat rocked) once in a while is probably a good thing. It sure shows me where my trust is, anyway. It reminds me that fear says, “What if?” whereas faith says, “So what!” I want to be a woman of faith. Not flippant faith, but sound, solid faith that knows the facts and looks past them to a truer reality: Faith says that God is bigger than anything life, the world, or the devil can throw my way.

You might think I’m being overly simplistic and maybe I am a bit. But if my life belongs to God, if I’m really trusting Him in the driver’s seat, then I can trust that He will direct. He will provide. He will make the crooked ways straight and the broken things whole.  It’s what He does. He’s a compassionate, powerful, redemptive Father who always comes to His children’s rescue (Psalm 103:8-14). Maybe not always in the ways I would like Him to. But He always shows up!

And in the meantime, I  believe Jesus’ promises: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world … I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (John 16:33; Luke 10:19). I am with you. I have given you authority to overcome. Nothing will harm you.

I’m not being a Pollyanna when I say I don’t believe anyone should live held down by fear, anxiety, hopeless, sorrow, or panic: What if? What if? What if???

If IF happens, He will still be there.  He will still be good. He will still provide, direct, redeem, and restore.  It’s who He is. It’s what He does. And I’m so very, very glad about that.

“There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that? If God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.” ~Pollyanna

 

Take a Breath!

Little did I know the day I picked up a copy of a book called Breathe at a used book store that I would be learning that lesson in more ways than one. The book caught my eye first by its title, Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life. I thought that sounded good (and welcome), and the inviting picture of a comfy chair in a sunny corner looked particularly appealing to stressed-out little ol’ me.

So I took it home with me. It would be a great jumping-off spot for my daily devotions and fodder for reflection about some of the high-impact issues going on in my life and family.

Did I mention last year was a CRAZY BUSY year?

Our eldest two children got married within six months of each other.

Our third child trotted off to Europe for three months and then transferred universities across state upon her return.

Our youngest child started high school (aargh!).

… not to mention a number of writing and editing projects, speaking engagements/work and ministry trips, a growing kids ministry at church, health issues with one of our kids that required drastic diet changes, major car repairs, my husband starting a new career, and well, truthfully … learning to parent young adults instead of children has been a whole new world in and of itself. It’s been a busy, full season of life—and no end in sight!

Ironically, at the same time I picked up Breathe to be my “travel-companion” of sorts during this season, I managed to land myself with the worst case of asthma I’d had in eight years. It got so bad I ended up in the allergy/asthma doctor’s office for a breathing treatment!

Probably not a coincidence, ya think?

God has a way of doing that, doesn’t He? … of giving us a graphic object lesson in the natural realm to get our attention and help us understand something in the spiritual realm. It certainly got my attention!

I could almost hear Him whispering in my ear, “Sit down. Relax.  Take a breath.  Breathe in Me.” So I did. And I am. I’m pacing myself better.  Listening and following a little better (I hope). And certainly breathing easier.

A lot of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book I skimmed through because (season-of-life-wise) it’s more directed at mothers of young children … but the principles and insights have nonetheless been invaluable and thought provoking for me. I recommend it. You can click on the photo of the book above for a link to where you can buy it if you think you might need a little “breathing treatment” of your own.  🙂

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  ~Job 33:4

Got Kids? Pray First, Open Mouth Second

Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything. ~The Bible

It’s been said that the family that prays together, stays together—but do you know just how true that really is? Seriously! A Gallup poll revealed that among married couples who attend church together regularly, the divorce rate is one out of two.  How sad. That’s the same statistic as for marriages anywhere. But get this: among couples who pray together daily, the divorce rate is one out of 1,153. [i] What a difference!

One of the best gifts a couple can give their children (and each other) is the gift of a strong marriage and family life knit together through prayer. Prayer builds unity and intimacy. We become intimate to whom we pray, for whom we pray, and with whom we pray. Prayer is the key to unlocking extraordinary blessings for children and families the way a key unlocks a gate.

Years ago, Doug came up with a slogan for our family that, in our house, prayer should always be “the first response, not a last resort.” I’d go so far to say that prayer has not only been our lifeline to heaven (and sometimes to sanity!), but it’s also been our greatest and most valued parenting tool.

What that’s meant for this mom, specifically, has been to make every effort to pray first, open mouth second. I’ve had to work on it even harder as my kids have grown and become adults.  More often than not, my role is not to fix, not to correct, not to express an opinion … but to pray.  And then step back and trust God. (Yes, hard to do I know. But He always comes through and I’ve learned to trust Him.)

Proverbs 31: 27 says, “She watches over the affairs of her household.” I skipped merrily over that verse for years until one day I just happened to read it at the same time as I was reading elsewhere in the Bible that day. Isaiah 62:6-7 says, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest.”

That jumped out at me. I’m a word person. Both roots of those words—watches and watchman—have similar meanings, “to peer into the distance, observe, watch; to hedge about (as with thorns), guard, protect, attend to”[ii] They can also be translated “lookout” or “doorkeeper.”[iii]

How very cool.  I realized way back then that prayer is one of the most powerful roles a mother can play in her children’s lives. So much more can be accomplished for my kids from my knees than from my mouth! Correction, instruction, suggestions, and advice are all very well and good—and necessary.  But years of experience tell me (and I know many other praying moms who will agree with me) that some of the most powerful breakthroughs I’ve seen with my children have been when I prayed instead of only trying to fix a situation with natural means.

My friend Cindy has a sign posted in her family room, where she can see it every day, that says PRAY BIG. I love it.  I think it’s the perfect mom-slogan. 🙂

Have you PRAYED for your kids today?

This post adapted from my book Prayer-Saturated Kids, by Arlyn Lawrence and Cheryl Sacks, NavPress 2007.


[i] Gallup Poll, 1993

[ii] James Strong, “Strong’s New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN:1995), tsaphah, Strongs #6822, p. 122; shamar, Strongs #8104, p 145.

[iii] The NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI:1990), p. 1598 and 1643.

A Child’s Original Design

Having five children, ranging in age from 14 through 25, I learned a long time ago that they are all VERY DIFFERENT. What’s important to one means nothing to another. What works for one does nothing for another.  And they ALL have unique interests, personalities, and ways of relating to the world around them. Getting to know each one of them personally, in the special way God has designed them, has been one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of Doug’s and my parenting journey.

Do you know how God has uniquely designed your child, or the children in your life? Have you looked for unique characteristics that give clues to what that design might be—personality traits, character qualities, talents, abilities, spiritual gifts and life callings? Better yet, have you ever prayed and asked God to show you His design for your child?

You can start praying for a child’s design and destiny at any age: when they’re in the womb (as I’m doing now for my coming granddaughter), when they’re in school, when they’re in high school, or even when they’ve left your home. It’s never too early—or too late!

Then, through prayer, blessing, encouragement, and training, you–parent, grandparent, teacher, or other mentor–have the amazing opportunity and privilege to partner with God in seeing His original design for a child come to fruition as that child grows into adulthood. You can help children become who God destined them to be!

“Train up a child in the way he should go,” says Proverbs 22:6, “and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Raise him or her, that is, according to the child’s “natural bent.” The Hebrew meaning of the phrase “in the way he should go” is literally “according to his way.” The Hebrew word for “way” is derek, which means “bent” It refers to a unique inner design or direction. In fact, when referring to our children’s natural bents, I like to use the term “original design.”

As our children grow and mature, and find their way in life and in God’s plan, praying for them according to their original design is one of the ways Doug and I have learned to “let go and let God.” Kids, as they become adults, will inevitably make some decisions or take paths that give parents white knuckles from time and time. We were no exception when we were young adults, and neither are own kids! Interceding for our teens and adult children has helped give us the reminder and confidence of who God says they are, and that He ultimately determines their steps, regardless of what we may see with our physical eyes in the moment.

I want to be sure the prayers I pray for my kids (and soon, grandchildren) will find their way to God’s ears, and then back into their lives by way of a tangible answer. So, with that in mind, I try to align those prayers as closely as possible to God’s heart and will (and not my own)! Finding out and endeavoring to cooperate with His original design for my children is one of the best ways I know to do that. 🙂

Be encouraged.

It’s a journey!

And God is outside of time and space.

He sees the whole picture, for you AND for your children.

You, and they, are in His hands.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

(Adapted from my book Prayer-Saturated Kids, co-authored with Cheryl Sacks, (c) 2007 NavPress.)

Letting Go

There’s something that often strikes me when I hear remarkable stories about people who overcome tragic abuses, losses, and injustices and go on to live lives full of joyful and dynamic impact. How do they DO that, I wonder?

It’s a sharp contrast to others I encounter who DON’T have that same peace and joy and freedom—who live life scarred and beaten down, bitter, and full of self-pity.  What makes the difference?

I think it’s the freedom of forgiveness.

I put a little post on my FB page the other day about unforgiveness vs. forgiveness and—oh my goodness!—it was my most commented post ever!  I think it’s because the tension between the two is so common to the human experience.

The desire NOT to forgive, to hang on to offenses, is a temptation for all of us.  So why don’t we ‘fess up, admit it, and talk about it more?

Jesus did.  He said we’re supposed to forgive those who hurt and offend us even up to “seventy times seven.” That’s a pretty radical suggestion! It’s way beyond our humanness sometimes.

That’s why I think much of the work necessary to truly forgive happens first through prayer. Prayer is a way I can interact personally with the Father’s heart—a heart that is full of infinite forgiveness and unconditional mercy and love (unlike my own).

That’s not religion.  That’s relationship. When I connect with Him, by faith and through prayer, those qualities can become mine. He gives me the desire and power to forgive, and the strength I need to do so. That’s the only way I can fulfill Jesus’ radical commandment to forgive seventy times seven.

I’m speaking from experience here, not just theory. I’ve had to forgive hurts and injustices just like anyone else. Big ones and little ones.  It’s a day-to-day exercise, isn’t it?

One of the biggest forgiveness tests for me came once when I had to go back into the very environment where I had been been wounded and subjected to a significant injustice.  Could I do it? It was hard to think of coming face to face with my offenders. But having forgiven them first in my heart, through prayer and in concert with my Father’s heart, I was ready to do it with my actions.

It was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done.

When we forgive, WE’RE the ones who are set free. It’s not so much about letting the other person “off the hook.” WE are the ones released from the prison of unforgiveness.  That was certainly my experience! And I hope it’s yours, too.

 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:13

 

Is there a person, an offense, or an injustice you want to forgive, but are having trouble with it?

Can I suggest doing it WITH GOD FIRST, in your heart, through prayer?

THEN put it into practice with your thoughts, words, and actions.

Was it any easier?

I’d love to hear your forgiveness stories!