Confessions of a Prayer Failure

Short sighted. Short lived. Short tempered. Short range.

Short.

So often go my prayers.

It’s like taking vitamins, or exercise; a duty rather than a delight.

How easy it is to shrug off my lack of prayer as a typical human struggle.

Is it really, though?

I suppose if pride is a typical human struggle, then yes, it’s true.

Even after 500 years, Martin Luther casts a shadow. And some of his words haunt me.

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” ― Martin Luther

These words at once stir up feelings of wretchedness and hopelessness. Never have I stared down a day with its details, deadlines and dreads with this mentality. And now I feel guilty because I know Luther is right, and I am wrong.

I read Isaiah and how in the nation’s wickedness they seek all varieties of counsel except the Lord’s. And God knows their ways and speaks to Isaiah, “should  not a people consult their God?”

Should not a set apart nation consult their King?

Should not a leader consult his Maker?

Should not a stressed out employee consult her Comforter?

Should not a weighed down father consult his Father?

Should not an overwhelmed mother consult her Rest?

So I ask myself, and I ask you, why? Why do we fail to pray and to take the day to Him?

Is it too bold of me to speak for all humanity here?

I will and I do. Because you are like me and I am like you. I speak for us all and declare pride the culprit. Pride keeps us from prayer.

Do I sound too harsh?

We may shroud it with words like forgetfulness, business, and tiredness. But each of these says, ‘my will be done, my kingdom come.’ Each declares, ‘I have the answers, I know the best ways, I give preference to my desires.’

Again, I read further in Isaiah:

‘Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, asserting in pride and arrogance of heart, ‘the bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with smooth stones; the sycamores have been cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.'”

God chastises the nation for their disobedience, and they say, ‘don’t worry, we’ve got this.’ And this is how I know that pride is the disease at each of our roots. The stubborn pride of Israel persists in us all. The pride that declares, ‘I’ve got this.’

When I fail to pray, pride is winning in my heart. When I fail to pray I attempt to overthrow the rightful King of my heart, passively and aggressively. When I fail to pray I seize my burdens and strap them firmly to my back per recommendation of self.

Again, I read God’s word and His message to wise Solomon. He speaks of His stubborn and wicked people stuck in their pride, and calls them to humility: a humility of heart which produces a posture of prayer.

“…My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek my face…”

Prayer flows from a humble heart. Praise, supplication, thanksgiving, cries, all spill forth from the heart that recognizes God as God and self as not. Prayer is a constant trickle from a humble heart at rest in the Yoke Taker and Bondage Breaker. Prayer rises from a humble heart, rejoicing in His presence and provision; especially when there’s a lot to do today.

 

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… but He can

Seven words at the heart of the issue. You can’t do it, but He can.

I was surprised when the words, ‘you can’t do it,’ left my lips headed for my kids’ ears. Surprised, first because of their contradiction to cultural messages, and second because I had not premeditated the utterance.

The message we are culturally expected to convey to our children is: ‘You can do it!’ ‘Work hard and you will accomplish all your dreams!’ ‘Look inside of yourself and you’ll find all the strength you need!’

But this was not the message my offspring needed that day. And it wasn’t the message I needed either.

After a morning of siblings fighting and yelling, my heart was growing weary and my tendency toward frustration was simmering beneath the surface. I was about to cross the line into disciplining out of anger rather than out of love.

So I did the only thing I could at the moment – I sent the culprits to their beds and walked away. I knew if I didn’t take a break I would become a culprit too, like I have many times before. I knew I was at the end of my power and resource.

As I descended the stairs into the kitchen, I lifted my heart as a child to my Perfect Parent, to my Heavenly Father. I laid my weakness and inability at His feet and asked in return His wisdom, power, and creativity. I knew I could go no further on my own.

And ever so gently the thought seeped in: your children need from Me the same thing you need from Me.

When I spoke with my children several minutes later, I asked them if they recognized their wrong choices and sin in the morning’s uproar. They both did to an extent, and we talked about confessing and repenting, though they weren’t as engaged in the process as I hoped.

And then the heart revealing and life giving question that God had prompted me to ask spilled out, stopping them and me in our tracks:

‘Do you have the ability in and of yourselves to make right choices, to be obedient to God?’

They paused, thinking. Part of me assumed that of course we’ve talked about this before, surely they know that God is their only true source of hope and help.

But answers came in the form of tentative affirmations. They thought they could do it on their own.

Initially, it saddened my heart to know that these precious gifts from God, whom Cyrus and I have been tasked with the responsibility of parenting, carry this burden and lie around with them. The same burden I’ve often carried. The lie of self made righteousness.

But, I was thankful that God prompted me to ask such a revealing question – a question that laid bare their hearts and opened them up for seeds of truth.

My husband and I want our children to grow to be completely dependent on their Creator. We want them to experience the rest and peace and joy of not being able to do it all, but of being hidden in The One Who Can. As they grow in independence from their parents, we want them to grow in dependence on God.

We want to replace the world’s messages of self empowerment with the true messages of Christ empowerment.

I want instead to tell them, as I must daily remind myself, “you can’t do it, but He can.”

 

I hope these words have encouraged you to look up, to Aim at Heaven. To receive Aiming at Heaven posts and updates sent directly to your in-box, simply scroll down and click the subscribe button.

Thanks!

Weather Forecasts and Soul Barometers

 

Given opportunity, I will be consumed by consuming. Books, Music, ideas, information. But gorging on input has been hindering my output.

Last month, God prompted me to attempt an ‘input fast.’ I needed to dam the flow of input into my soul, with a very few exceptions, and fill up with Him alone.

So, I finally worked up the courage to be input free for one day.

It didn’t take long for me to encounter blank mental space.

I sat there, phone in hand, quickly checking for time sensitive emails (one of my input exceptions). Then there it was – that moment when I would usually check social media or read more email. But not this time. This time I was face to face with blank space. I couldn’t check Facebook, or Instagram or Pinterest. So, more out of habit than anything else, I touched that blue weather icon.


That’s when the sirens began to blare in my soul. The weather?! Am I so desperate for input that I’d check the forecast over facing silence? Did I just crave knowing something, anything?

Maybe all my input gathering gives me a sense of security because what it really gives me is a sense of control. Being ‘in the know’ gives all of us perceived power.

It seems silly, but that little display of clouds and rain and sun represented my craving for control through consuming input. Checking the weather that day revealed the barometer of my soul. And I didn’t like the tempest I saw.

I began examining this revelation from another angle. What if I didn’t know the forecast? What then?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The wind and clouds and rain will pass through the Northwest Autumn as they always do. Storms and sun will dance across the stage of the sky in precisely the order they’ve been commanded – whether I have a program or not.

And so goes all of life. I try to  know what lies ahead – to control how I get there and how I get through. I believe the lie that somehow my knowledge is required to keep this life afloat, when all along I’m safe in the hands of the All Knowing One.

But there’s more to this weather lesson than finding rest in releasing a false sense of control.

As I ponder, I recognize that joy and delight are sacrificed on the altar of control.

But, there can be childlike pleasure in experiencing the unexpected!

Just a few days ago I woke to a stunningly foggy autumnal morning. It brought me a small thrill to be surprised in such a way. Even now as I write, the blue and gray skies battle above me. And I have the joy of being on the sidelines to observe their swirling dance. And I didn’t know either of these things would happen ahead of time. In this, I find deep pleasure. In the Creator of the unexpected I find deep joy.

No matter how well informed I think I am, only God knows what my next breath will bring. I can rest in that truth, and I can delight in it too!

I’ve checked the weather a little less often since that day. And as I’ve fasted from input on two more days since, my soul barometer is telling me that the tempest is calming.


 

I hope these words have encouraged you to look up, to Aim at Heaven. To receive Aiming at Heaven posts and updates sent directly to your in-box, simply scroll down and click the subscribe button.

Thanks!

Be Coming

She sits, legs dangling, on the kitchen counter. That same wisp of hair again hangs over her right eye and I gently reach out and tuck it behind her ear.

“I just don’t know who I am!” She sighs. “What am I supposed to be?” Tears of sadness, frustration and longing well up and hover over the bottom lid of her walnut eyes.

Oh precious child of  mine! If only you could see how three extra decades of life don’t erase those deep exhales of questioning from my own soul, too.

How this very day I come before our Heavenly Father with the same words written on my heart.

And He says to me,

Oh, precious child of mine! You are so becoming – beautiful in my sight! And you are also becoming – growing daily into the footprint of my Son. You are becoming.

All you must do? Lay aside doing and rest in being.

Rest. And Be Coming. To Me.

Be Coming – to rest in My Light

Be Coming – to rest in my Love

Be Coming – to rest in my yoke

Be Coming – to rest your cares on Me 

Be Coming – to rest in My great power

Be Coming – to rest in My forgiveness

Be Coming – to rest in My grace

Be Coming – to rest with My people

Be Coming – to rest in My True Home 

Be Coming – to rest in the freedom I’ve won for you

Be Coming – to rest in Me, the true Vine, the true Source

Be Coming to Me. I give you identity. Be Coming to Me. I quench every thirst, feed every hunger, answer every cry.

Be Coming to Me. And you will be exactly who I made you to be.

The doing is done. It is finished.

Be.

I will direct you, in My time, as you simply be. Be Coming.

 

Precious child of mine, let me tuck that hair behind your ear once more. Lift up your head and BeCome with me. Be loved, be treasured, be held. You don’t have to know the future – what you will Be Doing – it is enough to be known by Him who holds the future.

Be Coming along with me.

Joy in the Whirlwind: when plans come undone

My husband delivered the disappointing news with a smile. A smile that communicated gratitude in the midst of uncertainty.

After $600 of work, it’d been determined our suburban was terminal.

A few days prior, our offer on a home in Albany was rejected.

And just as we were about to make an offer on another home, we got news that our home’s buyer’s financing fell through.

So it’s back to square one.

It’s one of those weeks. A week of trials that tempt me and the rest of the family to frustration, disappointment and anger.

Thank you God.

It’s the response my husband and I have been choosing, and helping our kids to choose too.

Thank you God.

It’s the sacrifice He desires.

Thank you God.

It’s the comfort He promises.

Through these temporary set-backs, we’re learning to let thanks be the baseline to the song of our life; gratitude our anchor; joy our undercurrent. We’re thankful for growth and teaching opportunities – to teach our own hearts and our children’s hearts God’s ways. We’re thankful for His joy in the whirlwind.

How is this possible?

I’m asking myself the same question. Had the same circumstance occurred five years ago, I’m doubtful I’d have had the same response.


Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

In the face of trials, James exhorts us to consider it pure joy because we know – we don’t know the blueprint but we know the finished product. We don’t know the middle but we know the end.

This knowing is what brings us through the experience of pain, suffering, frustration, and disappointment with peace, fulfillment, healing, and hope.

Faith is far-sighted. It sets eyes on the end we know is coming.

Faith knows what James knows, that just as charcoal under pressure, and precious metal through fire, a life under trial produces beautiful strength. Or as James calls it, endurance; an endurance that makes us complete in Christ.

What if we realized that without trials we are incomplete? What if we recognized the refining of our souls in the midst of adversity? What if we relied completely on the power of our Savior to redeem our circumstances?

Maybe then joyful eternal thanks would mingle with tears of temporary pain.

Maybe then would we consider it all joy.


Our house is back on the market, the suburban will soon be on craigslist, and we’re keeping our eyes open for new listings.

Through it all we are are choosing thanks. It’s unnatural at times to say things like, “Thank you God for a broken down vehicle,” but as children of God we dwell in the realm of the supernatural. Our kids look at my husband and I like we are crazy when we say these things aloud, but after some prompting, they join in. ‘I’m thankful that having only one working car means we get spend more family time together.’ ‘I’m thankful we still have one car to get around.’

We are … ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Heb 12:2

We serve One who has already done what He asks us to do and who offers us His own overcoming power to do it.

Thank You God!


I woodburned this frame a couple months ago to remind myself and my family to frame our minds on praise and thanksgiving. A tangible way to practice one of the most most repeated exhortations of God’s Word. It’s a visual cue to set our minds on things above rather than to get bogged down in the details of daily life. It’s a guide as we aim at heaven.

I know all of you are facing your own trials this week too. Internal and external, quickly passing and long lasting. Keep enduring. Keep giving thanks. Keep your joy.

Because you know the end of the story!