Friday, 1 May 2020

Are You Trying to Walk All Alone?


My baby girl turned 15 this month. (I'm still trying to let that fact sink in.)

She is a self-assured, gracious young lady, who is considerably taller than me.
Yet, that doesn't stop me. 

On occasions, when we're crossing the street, I instinctively reach for her hand. I just can't shake the desire to protect her and guide her safely across. 

Amused by my maternal reaction, she confidently walks across the street single-handedly. Unattached. Alone. 

It's not that she is ashamed to hold my hand. In fact, we often walk hand in hand just for fun when we are taking a stroll.  She enjoys my company, but she doesn't need my help. 

I think of how much I'm like her when it comes to my relationship with God. 

For my daughter, asserting her independence is an expected and welcomed step on her way toward adulthood. For me as a child of God, independence is downright dangerous. 

There is no earthly way I could live this Christian life on my own. But that hasn't stopped me from trying.  

On my own, or with the help of Google, I've attempted to solve so many problems. I'm an addicted, compulsive researcher, and given the right motivation and resources, I have been known to serve up a delectable offering of man-made solutions. 

Problem-solver is not the only cap I wear. I've also proudly battled sin in my own strength. I just tried harder and harder and relished my short-lived successes. 

All along, while wisdom from above and the power of Christ were available to me, I relied on earthly wisdom and strength—the perfect recipe for stumbling. 

But thankfully, despite my choice to go it alone, God continually reaches for my hand, reminding me that I cannot do life on my own. 


'Christianity is nothing if it is not supernatural.' ~ via Andrew Murray

All because of God, I'm finally getting it.


Now, during this global crisis, I'm remembering where my strength comes from. I'm remembering to trust His hand as He guides us safely across, to seek His wisdom first, and to wait on the life-giving power of His Spirit.

I'm learning afresh that I can't even walk without Him holding my hand. One of the ways I'm reaching up to take His hand is through prayer. And like the good Father that He is, God has filled His Word with just the right words I need as I cry out to Him for guidance. 


Would you join me in a prayer to walk humbly with God?

A Prayer to Walk with God* 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth, is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head above all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand, it is to make great and to give strength to all.

Thank you for holding my right hand and walking continually with me, guiding me with Your counsel. Thank You for being the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I confess there are times I struggle free from Your grasp, wanting to do life my way. Thank You for Your steadfast love that continually pursues me, and through trials and troubles, woos me back to You. You know, O LORD, that it is good for me to be near You. Thank You for being my refuge.

Dear Father, the world has changed, and I don’t know what the future holds. But You hem me in, behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me. No matter where this crisis leads, Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me. I may not know where I’m going, but the darkness is not dark to You, O LORD. To You, the night is as bright as the day for darkness is as light with You, so please lead me in the way everlasting. Shed Your light on my path, O LORD, just enough that I may take the first right step. Then whisper in my ears, “This is the way, walk in it.”

Give me a heart that yearns to cling to You, that trusts in Your perfect, unchanging wisdom and Your infinite goodness.

As You reach out for my hand, help me to reach out to others, to share the hope that I find in You.  We are all desperate for hope and You are our Hope, a sure and steady anchor of the soul.  With You on our side, we need not fear.

Thank You, loving Father, for hearing my prayer, for answering me and becoming my salvation.

May I never fail to walk humbly with You.

In Jesus Christ’s Name, I pray. Amen

*(The following scriptures were used in constructing the prayer to walk with God: 1 Chronicles 29:10-12, Psalm 73:23-26, Psalm 139:5, 10-12, Isaiah 30:21, Hebrews 6:19, Psalm 118:6, 21, Micah 6:8.)



If you would like a free printable of the prayer, please click HERE.  


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What about you?

God wants to hold your hand. 
Are you reaching for it? 
Or trying to walk alone? 
Do you struggle to fully rely on God? 
How are you seeing the Lord walk with you through this season of uncertainty?

Grace and peace to you,
Carlie


Here's some classic encouragement in song: 'I Can't Even Walk' featuring Jessy Dixon. 
May you be encouraged.



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@Embracing the Unexpected


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Wonder-full Surprise? Or Do You Know What's Hiding in the Box?


I see the way she looks at him, and it melts my heart. 

I tell him that there's fairy dust sprinkled in every step he takes. 

I wonder if he sees it too. If he understands... if he fully grasps the awesome responsibility he carries. 

Having someone look at me like that would make me care. I would take great care in what I said, and what I did, always mindful to live right... to lead her well. It would be a 'burden' I wouldn't take lightly.

I wonder if he understands. I try to remind him not to mess up. Secretly, I pray that he doesn't ever disappoint her. 

But I'm wrong. 

It's not a responsibility to shoulder... a burden to bear. The way my daughter looks at her daddy is quite simply a gift she bestows on him. A gift that looks beyond his actions... accepts him as he is . . . always taking the best and kindest view of him, always hoping, always believing, always trusting. A gift of childlike love for her daddy.

I pray she never loses that sense of wonder. And I pray that we all can love like that. 

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, each of us a masterpiece . . . expertly and lovingly crafted in the Master's hands. We see that clearly when we gaze at a newborn baby, everything is so new, each interaction so filled with anticipation and excitement. A gift from the Lord, exquisitely designed and wonderfully complex, each layer unwrapped yields a special treat, a surprise. 



But, as they age . . . as we age,  the polish fades and the luster gets smudged and our eyes and heart forget. Forget to look with wonder on the one created in the image of God. 

We stop looking for the hidden surprise and see only what we expect to see. We start building boxes around the people in our lives. 
'There's a surprise or two hiding in everyone, and if you put them in a box, you'll never get to see it.' The Growly Books  - Begin 
Perhaps, it's our need for order or our inability to fully appreciate the beautifully mysterious complexities of each other or maybe a survival instinct. Whatever the reason, we build boxes. 

I've been there . . . in a box . . . at the end of someone's wonder-less gaze, and it's not always pleasant. 


Sure, there are some boxes I don't mind - you know, 'attentive mom, passionate about her kids' - that's great! But, 'rules-based mom, who can't relax' - not so nice! 


Mostly, being placed in a box is stifling. 

It cramps me. It makes me feel unable to spread my wings and fly . . .  to be the me I'm becoming. Because in that box I'm the me that was. And there is no room to grow . . . no grace extended for me to wriggle free. Robbed of my chance to change and grow and flourish, that's how I feel when I'm trapped in a box of someone's making. 

So, why? Why do I do it to others?


Why can't I see others the way my daughter sees my husband? With that willingness to believe the best, looking for the surprise in every encounter? With full acceptance for who they are and who they are becoming, wholly believing that they are full of wonder and brimming with unexpected surprises.


I want to be like Merridy in our latest read-aloud who 'always seemed to look for the surprises in everything around her, and with endless joy and wonder, . . . always seemed to find them . . . Everyone who met her felt a little bit greater afterward, because she always seemed to find something wonderful in you that you had never realized was there.'    

That is a gift I would love to give to others, to put aside my automatic reactions based on assumptions about who I think they are and to simply see them and appreciate them for who they really are, while giving them room to grow and become who God designed them to be. 


Isn't that the way God loves us?  We are all fully known yet loved with a never-ending always and forever love. 




Especially now, I wish I could love like that. Don't you? 

My prayer for me . . . for you . . . for us all is that out of His glorious riches God may strengthen us with power 'to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ' and that we would joyfully share that unconditional love with others. 


What a gift that would be!



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What about you?


Can you think of someone who could use this gift today? 
How will you intentionally look for the surprises today? 

Grace and peace to you,


Carlie




*This post previously published on April 3, 2016



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I've also selected these other hope-filled posts for you for such a time as this. 

You can click on the title to read. 




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Are you feeling fearful, frail or frazzled? 
Would you rather have peace, purpose, and power? 
Live Amazed - Embracing the Gifts of God in Longing, Loss, and Life is a 30-day devotional that helps to steer our hearts towards God in the midst of our secret longings, staggering losses, and day-to-day worries.  Through scripture and real-life struggles, these daily reflections invite us to embrace the peace, hope, and grace God so freely offers us. 

You can read a free sample devotion here or purchase your very own copy here
Thanks for supporting the 'live amazed' message. May we never fail to live amazed.



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Would you like to join me in the front row and live amazed at God? 
I am pleased to offer you the Live Amazed Prayer Planner as a free gift when you subscribe to ‘From Dust Towards the Heavens’. 

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Grappling for a Lifeline in a Turned Upside-Down World




Sometimes, in this world, we can feel like we’re drowning. Buried under a rush of circumstances beyond our control, we struggle to catch our breaths and, worst of all, we can’t seem to find our way up and out of the deluge.

I’m not a scuba diver, but I suspect that’s how it must feel when you’ve failed to put on your air supply and you’re in the middle of a deep dive.

In this world of deep dives, we can’t live without an air supply.

Are you in deep right now? What is your air supply? Mine is prayer. I can't imagine living without this open line of communication with God. But sometimes, I find myself gasping underwater, grappling for my air tank, trying to survive without giving my all in prayer.

‘Intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer [is] a duty the way it’s a duty for a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots should listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat should clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts on his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.’ (John Piper – Desiring God)

I've discovered recently that in addition to all the distractions and disruptions that keep me from praying I have a long list of 'good' things that steal into my one-on-one time with my Father. Maintaining a consistent, committed prayer walk has always been a struggle for me. It's like God is offering me a full tank of air, but I take only a half-breath then turn away and fight for air on my own. 

Why is it such a struggle to pray like I'm breathing?


Perhaps because prayer is hard work. Mentally, emotionally, sometimes physically taxing work. But it is a good work that accomplishes much. Perhaps even one of the good works God prepared in advance for us to walk in

 ‘Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.’  (Colossians 4:12-13 emphasis mine)

If I'm being honest, I'm not an Epaphras. I long to be like him, but sometimes though, I succumb to the struggle to pray rather than struggle in my prayers on behalf of others. 

As I read that Bible passage, I was convicted. Who do I wrestle in prayer for? Who do I pray for like their very lives depend on it? What causes do I so burn with passion for that they demand I bring them before my Father? Am I selfish in my prayer time before the Lord?

In this world, where I often find myself submerged by sweeping trials and fears of all sorts, I long to cherish, embrace and honor this faith-infused lifeline God has extended to me. 

If I pause right now to think about them, I can become overwhelmed by the prayer needs around me - my own sinfulness and failure to thrive, the blatant spiritual attacks on family members, division within the body of Christ, and the upsurging flood of fear and lack of hope I see in the world’s eyes. 

These are just a few of mine, I'm sure you have your own.

How do we bring these heart cries to our God, taking full breaths of this means of grace He has offered to us?

Recently, I've been using two methods to help me. First and foremost, I dig into His Word and pour out my heart to Him as I learn about His. There is nothing quite like this. I've also been using the Live Amazed Prayer Planner. It helps me to focus my thoughts as I seek God, commit my causes to Him and celebrate who He is and what He is doing.

Even though I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the painful toil of intense prayer or the circumstances that send me running desperately to my Father, I’m discovering that taking full, deep breaths of prayer gives me a front-row seat to live amazed at God. 

Because at the end of the day, no matter how turned upside-down this world may feel, He is still on His throne and He is able to plant my feet on solid ground. 

'As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.' (Job 5:8-9)


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What about you?

Are you drowning under the weight of the prayer needs around you? Are you turning to God first or struggling to breathe on your own? 
How are you choosing to focus on prayer and not give in to fear?  

May God reveal His glory to us more and more as we draw near to Him through prayer. 

Grace and peace to you,

Carlie

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Would you like to join me in the front row and live amazed at God? I am pleased to offer you the Live Amazed Prayer Planner as a free gift when you subscribe to ‘From Dust Towards the Heavens’. 


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When We Pray by Tauren Wells

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Are you feeling fearful, frail or frazzled? 
Would you rather have peace, purpose, and power? 
Live Amazed - Embracing the Gifts of God in Longing, Loss, and Life is a 30-day devotional that helps to steer our hearts towards God in the midst of our secret longings, staggering losses, and day-to-day worries.  Through scripture and real-life struggles, these daily reflections invite us to embrace the peace, hope, and grace God so freely offers us. 

You can read a free sample devotion here or purchase your very own copy here
Thanks for supporting the 'live amazed' message. May we never fail to live amazed. 


Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Accepting a Love I Do Not Understand


‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13 ESV)
 ‘Each of us is designed for deep, experienced, intimate friendship with God. It’s what we all long for most in the core of our being.’ (Jon Bloom)
My friend is so faithful. He sticks with me through all my dark days, is committed to me even when I mess up, and delights in our open-hearted conversations. He knows me better than I know myself and loves me more than anyone else ever could. I couldn’t imagine my life without Him.

Yet, despite all of this, sometimes I live like I’m still His enemy.  Yes, I know this is sad, but it’s true! I pray it’s not the same for you but let me explain and then you decide if you’re more like me than you thought.

It all began when I was His enemy. I was selfish and stubborn and everything I did was deserving of His wrath. (Sounds harsh, I know, but we all start out that way.) I did absolutely nothing to enamor Him to me, yet He suffered for me, welcomed me into His family, and called me His friend.

Pointing to the cross, He urged me to see it as His willing sacrifice for me—His treasured friend. Taking upon Himself the punishment I deserved, He opened the door to an everlasting friendship I now get to enjoy.  

‘But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)
‘Christ wants us to view the cross as an affection-filled sacrifice for friends.’ (Drew Hunter)

Did I mention already that He did all this while I was His enemy?

Yep, it’s a love I do not understand.

He calls me to live within this circle of friendship, thankful for a God who loves me wholly not because of anything I have done or could ever do but all because of who He is.

Yet, sometimes I slip back into enemy territory. It happens so subtly; I don’t notice it at first. One minute I’m taking God at His word, and the next, I’m behaving like the worst kind of enemy—one who pretends to be a friend. 

Here are some of the ways I exhibit enemy behavior:

He calls me to come and sit with Him for one of our heart-to-heart talks, and rather than being open and honest I obsess over having the ‘right’ words to say.

I hold back some of my deepest thoughts, worrying that He would be disappointed and withdraw His friendship.

I become so self-reliant; I don’t bother to ask for His help anymore.

I doubt His love for me and try to earn His favor through a works-based approach.

I wallow in guilt over not doing something I feel I should be doing for Him.

I rely solely on self-control in my battle against sin, doubt if victory is even possible, and ignore the power the cross grants me over sin.

I excuse my disobedience in what I like to call ‘minor’ matters.

Is it just me, or can you relate to any of these? Do you sometimes live in a way that nullifies the cross and brings self to the surface?

‘For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.’ (Philippians3:18 ESV)

It’s as if my ego is shouting, “No, the cross isn’t enough. There must be something more that I could do to gain God’s acceptance.”  

I have no excuse for this detestable behavior as God’s word is bursting with truth-filled reminders for me, and I’m shocked and relieved every time I realize that His love for me remains unchanged.

How can I fully accept and live in this truth God so often whispers to me?

Perhaps it starts by recognizing that He’s not like me. That in fact, there is none like Him who offers this kind of unconditional love.

God’s grace is not earned. His mysterious, welcoming love while I was still estranged from Him humbles me yet lifts me up at the same time. It inspires and empowers me to obey Him wholly.



Yes, when I accept this miraculous gift of friendship with God, the Creator and Sustainer of all living things, I enjoy a sense of peace, purpose, and power.

I want to live in that space, amazed that He calls me His a friend and assured of His never-ending love.

What about you?

Do you catch yourself living as an enemy of the cross, 
trying to get right with God in your own way? 
Or pulling yourself up by the bootstraps in your battle against sin? 
Have you accepted the unconditional love of God?
How can you enjoy God’s gift of friendship today?



Grace and peace to you,
Carlie

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Wholly - My One Word and the Battle of the Wills



I’m not good at multitasking.

In fact, I don’t believe true multitasking is even possible.

There, I’ve said it. An unpopular opinion for sure, and probably one that sets me up for pitiful glances and lots of assumptions about my less-than-efficient life.

But I’m being honest, I really don’t think the brain is designed to focus fully on more than one task at a time. I believe we are most efficient when we wholly focus on a single thing at a time.

Singly focused.

Yes, that’s the way to go for me.

Except that I can be singly focused to a fault. I can get so zoned in on a project that all other areas, in need of attention, fall to the wayside. I don’t have to convince you, you already know. That’s not good.

So, in walks that elusive word—Balance. Is it even possible? And how do I find it, if it is? I strive to find it. But often, it feels like I’m groping in the dark. Am I the only one?

Yet my mind keeps wandering back to being ‘singly focused’—the zone in which I do my best work.

And then it dawns on me, or rather, God revealed it to me.

What if I’m singly focused on God, His purpose and plan for my life? What if my single focus in life was to bring God glory in everything I do? (1 Corinthians 10:31The more I thought about it, the clearer it became. This path would lead to true balance, the kind God designed for me, living in the center of His will.

As I pondered on what that would look like in my day-to-day, I realized a two-step process was necessary. Step one, recognize that God is wholly God and two, step down from my seat on the throne.

Sounds a lot like the Christian life, doesn’t it? Accepting Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and following Him. Alignment of my will with His.

But that’s when my hypocrisy stepped forward and slapped me right in the face.

Turns out I’m a multitasker after all.  I switch back and forth between God’s will and my will . . . in rapid succession . . . daily . . . even as a Christian. Sometimes I even attempt them both at once.

The problem, it seems, is that I fight to sit on the throne with God. I don’t want to give up my seat (I feel drawn to its illusion of power and control), so I try to nudge God over so that we could share the seat. It’s as if I want to be God, too. (In my own life, anyway.)


But God, He loves me too much to let this nonsense continue. He has been wooing me, reminding me, showing me that He alone is God. He wants me to know that I can wholly trust Him because He is wholly God.


Wholly:  entirely, perfectly, completely, in a whole or complete manner, solely, exclusively, to the exclusion of other things, without exception

Wow!

This year, He tells me to step down. Double mindedness is not what He wants for me. For me, His precious child, one He chose even before I was born, He offers a full, abundant life. (John 10:10) And the only way, He promises, is through being single-minded, singly focused on Him and His lavish gift of grace which reveals Him in all His glory.

It’s all about Him.

Gently, He re-adjusts my focus and my fight. Rather than fight to hold on to my seat on the throne, He infuses me with the courage to keep fighting to live a life wholly devoted to Him. A life, He reminds me, that is only possible because of the victory He has already won for me. (1 John 5:4) I breathe a sigh of relief because I know, on my own, I don’t have what it takes.

So, my friend, if you’re like me, if you’re guilty of multitasking in your Christian walk, struggling to surrender fully to God in all aspects of your life, I share two words of encouragement.

Fight on!

You may feel like you’re losing the battle many a day, but God has already won the victory, a victory He so graciously shares with us. And what’s more? He has given us everything we need for living this godly, single-minded, sold-out-to-God life. (2 Peter 1:3) 

So, keep fighting! Victory is ours!

What about you?

Looking back over 2019, in what ways did God reveal His character to you? 

Which attributes of God were clearly evident in your life?

How does God revealing Himself to you help you to surrender wholly to Him?


Grace and peace to you,
Carlie

Friday, 1 November 2019

When You're Guilty of Being a Prayer Procrastinator


I have big plans when it comes to prayer.

I mean, why shouldn’t I? The Creator of the universe has invited me, through His son Jesus Christ, to partner with Him in accomplishing His purposes.

It’s a privilege too amazing to grasp fully. Even as I think of it, I really can’t find anything to compare it to.

The mystery of prayer fascinates me, humbles me, and leaves me standing in awe of our incredible God.

So, yes, I have great, big plans to fully participate in this inexplicable gift.

Except that sometimes my plans remain as bare, fruitless branches bearing only the hint of promise.

Does that ever happen to you? 

With the privilege of prayer comes the feeling of responsibility. Of wanting to get it right, of not wasting the opportunity. A desire to ensure I cover all the bases. The burden is almost too heavy for me at times.

When that happens, I need to stop. Shake off the heaviness, the dutiful press of prayer and remember the sweetness.

Remember that my prayers, as scattered as they might be, waft up like a sweet fragrance into the very presence of God.

Soak in the bursting with goodness promise that I can boldly approach God’s throne at any time, day or night, and be welcomed there.

Relish the awe-inspiring truth that I never pray alone. I have God’s very own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, praying with me and for me, giving voice to the words I can’t seem to find.

Oh my, when I remember the exquisite goodness of prayer, it changes everything. 


I embrace the gift when I accept that my stumbling words and contrite heart delight my Father in heaven.

Free to experiment with various styles of prayer, the guilt withers away.

Sometimes, I settle in for a nice, long chat with my Father. I open my prayer box, and as the sweet aroma of potpourri fills the air, I lift names, concerns, and thanks to God.

Other times, my prayers consist of heart whispers throughout my day, continually, as if I’m talking to a friend who understands my thoughts.

But times when the topics up for discussion are heavy and rich with anxiety-producing buds, I procrastinate. Not even wanting to talk about the issues that I dread, I push back our meeting time.

Then I remember God's welcome mat. The invitation to come when I’m tired and weary, and I crawl gratefully up into His lap.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to open God’s love letter to us--His Holy Word. I hear His voice as I read His words. I glimpse His heart, and I offer Him my own. Intimate moments of fellowship follow.

During all these times, my prayers are mercifully transformed from fruitless branches to blossoms bursting with hope.

Not because I’ve gotten it right, but because He has, and my heart sees that.

I haven’t fully figured out the mystery of prayer, and I never will. Perhaps, I will never feel that I have it right, and that’s okay because it’s not about me.

Although I still have days when the guilt threatens to overrun me, more and more I’m beginning to accept the seasonal beauty of my prayer life.

My prayers may be scattered and small, I may procrastinate and fail to pour out, but my faithful Father is always listening. With a sparkle in His eyes and a smile on His face, He welcomes me each time, lovingly rewarding me with a closer walk with Him.

A closer walk with Him. A deeper appreciation for Who He really is. Turns out God has greater plans for my prayers than I do.



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What about you?

Do you experience guilt in your prayer life?
Just for today why not shake off the guilt and embrace the sweetness of the gift. 
It'll have you running into the Father's arms.

Here are some verses to help as you ponder this amazing privilege:

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! (Psalm 141:2)

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence. (Ephesians 3:12)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 
(Romans 8:26)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." 
(Matthew 11:28)


Grace and peace to you,
Carlie 





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Live Amazed



Live Amazed - Embracing the Gifts of God in Longing, Loss, and Life, available now on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books A Million is a 30-day devotional designed to help us savor God's unending goodness even in the midst of our chaos. 

(You may click on the highlighted links to purchase.)