redirect: He speaks in the surrender

I was supposed to be writing this last post. I was supposed to be focused, on task, on a mission, and in bed before 3 am.

Instead, I was having a fit over a misdirected link in Upside Down, taking readers to a page that doesn’t exist. 404. Error. Sorry, no such page.

redirect: He speaks in the surrender

A calm, cool-headed, normal person would’ve shrugged and dealt with it another time. Tomorrow maybe, or next week.

But, no. Oh, no – that bad boy was going to get fixed come hell or high water, and it was going to get fixed now. Immediately. Just as soon as I could figure out html, 404 redirects, meta-data code stuff, and other things I know almost nothing about. Posthaste. Chop-chop.

Right…except I’m not even sure how to change the ink on our wireless printer, and I avoid going into the bleep-bloop room to fix techy stuff at all costs. So I searched for every other option possible on Earth, under the Earth, in Middle Earth, it didn’t matter. Anything but the bleep-bloop room.

An hour later, more confused than ever and the clock ticking, I broke down and went to that back office of our server – that place with wires buzzing and lights flashing and files of I-don’t-know-what-that-is-but-I-really-don’t-want-to-break-it technical doohickies.

I’ve been in this situation many times before – trying to avoid something essential out of fear, uncertainty, or stubborness, only to come up against that critical issue again and again, until I finally give in.

I poked around for a while. Open file, close file. Open different file, close file. Back to the home page. Oh, looky there…an icon labeled “redirects.” Whaddaya know.

Once I was in the right place it took 90 seconds to fix. And I would’ve felt like a hacking ninja, except I still couldn’t figure out how to change the email address on my account.

There have been prayers I didn’t want to pray because they were about issues I didn’t want to deal with. I thought that once I mentioned it to God, it would be this big can of worms and I’d be up all night hashing things out and crying ugly tears and going to therapy for the next six months.

But no. Oh, no. I mean, sometimes those things are necessary, but not usually. He’s much more efficient than that.

Once I gave in, at the speed of thought He was right there to bring truth, wisdom, conviction, healing. In a flash, a transaction of forgiveness occurred – from Him to me, from me to others. It happens swiftly when we let Him. Posthaste. Immediately. We’ve been trying to teach our kids this as we learn it ourselves — He speaks in the surrender.

And here at the end of this series, here is what I’m praying for you. We can pray it for each other, for our churches, our communities, and our nations.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasingas it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

– Colossians 1:3-6, 8-14, ESV

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

– 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, ESV

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

– 2 Thessalonians 1:3, ESV

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

– 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, ESV

Rejoice always,

pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. ESV

Friends, thank you so much for reading. I’ll be taking the next two weeks off, and November will probably have just a couple of posts and the newsletter in the last half of the month. We’ll be resting, but remaining redirected toward Him and relentless in prayer.

Inwardly with knees down, eyes up…outwardly, on our feet, eyes open. Exciting days are ahead.

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This is day 31 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

called: who we are at the end of our story

There was this girl…she was very young, but she’d been on adventures.

The daughter of a king, she had risked her life to protect the enemy of her people. She was abducted for ransom, but deemed not worth saving by her royal father. Eventually she married into the enemy’s camp and sailed with her husband to another country, where she lived in a completely foreign culture and died three years later.

Her name was Rebecca Rolfe, but that’s not the name she’s known for. She’s known for the name she had earlier, when she did that amazing thing she is celebrated for – saving the life of John Smith. Her name then, of course, was Pocahontas.

called: who we are at the end of our story

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

– 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

There was this other girl…she was the daughter of a political activist who was assassinated when she was still a child.

She was born in the early 1900’s in a small eastern European country that had its own identity crisis to such an extent that she technically had several nationalities by the time she was an adult. She moved away, eventually to become a legal citizen of the country she served, lived, and died in. Her name at birth was Agnes Bojaxhiu, but the name everyone revered at her death was Mother Teresa.

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

– 1 Corinthians 1:28-31

There was a man named Paul, formerly Saul, transformed from persecutor to apostle. His story wreaks fear in the enemy who would like to see people chained to their past.

 I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

– 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Our history does not dictate our future. He’s not done with us, and He’s not done with those we’ve been praying for, either — the hurting child, the struggling teen, the difficult co-worker, the angry relative, the grieving friend, the immoral business, the dishonest politician.

(I’ve heard He even saves people who voted for Clinton in the nineties – though Vince is quick to remind me that love keeps no record of wrongs)

Who we will be at the end of our story is still being shaped by our willingness to obey and follow Him. Our future is still being written. What will we be known for?

They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

– Revelation 22:4-5, ESV

God, I’m praying for freedom for anyone feeling tied to their past. You create all things new, You leave no stone unturned, You leave no person untouched. Help them to know that You’ve called them to greatness, and give them a vision of the good future You’re calling them into.

One more. Well, two more.

There was this man named Zaphenath-paneah – weird, I know. He was sold into slavery as a boy and spent years in and out of prison, eventually coming into great favor with the king. He had an idea to save the nation from famine and after thirteen years of forced labor, he became the second most powerful man in the land.

There was this other man, Jacob – he went from being a deceitful mama’s boy to the father of twelve tribes, and God renamed him Israel. Two years into the famine, his family was starving and they sought food in Egypt, where he found both refuge for his family…and also his much beloved son, Zaphenath-paneah — more commonly known as Joseph, thought to be dead for about fifteen years. The family was reunited, and when Jacob died seventeen years later, his body was actually embalmed according to the customs of Egypt. So was Joseph’s, about eighty years after that.

Neither of these men could have known what the ending of their stories would be when God spoke to them in the beginning of their journeys.

And at the end of our story, we will look back and notice the same thing.

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This is day 30 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

epic: when God redeems your story

You’ve probably heard of this guy, Maewyn Succat.

No? Trust me. You’ve probably celebrated him, even. Here’s a hint: shamrocks, green clothing, beer. Well, maybe green beer. He has a holiday named after him, often involving green beer.

epic: when God redeems your story

See, I told you. We know him as St. Patrick. But his story — most of us don’t know what happened to make a kid named Maewyn Succat become a saint named Patrick. It’s worth knowing, though.

St. Patrick was a Roman Briton of good family dwelling probably in the Severn valley. His father was a Christian deacon, a Roman citizen, and a member of the municipal council. One day in the early fifth century there descended on the district a band of Irish raiders, burning and slaying.

– Winston Churchill, The Birth of Britain

It was terror. The enemy was up to no good. It’s an awful part of our history.

The young Patrick was carried off and sold into slavery —

It gets worse and worse. But I didn’t give you the rest of the sentence, and the last two words reveal much about the rest of the story:

The young Patrick was carried off and sold into slavery in Ireland.

And we know that God was up to something, too. Regardless of what the enemy was trying to destroy, God was doing what He always does – creating redemption in an all-things-for-good, beauty-for-ashes, Romans 8:28, epic kind of way. In between the kid and the saint, God was hovering over: protecting, watching, guiding. Taking every attack from the enemy and turning it on its head, He was making history through this young man.

For six years…he tended swine, and loneliness led him to seek comfort in religion. He was led by miraculous promptings to attempt escape.

Although many miles separated him from the sea he made his way to a port, found a ship, and persuaded the captain to take him on board.

After many wanderings we find him in one of the small islands off Marseilles, then a centre of the new monastic movement spreading westward from the Eastern Mediterranean…

He conceived an earnest desire to return good for evil and spread the tidings he had learned among his former captors in Ireland.

– Winston Churchill

He didn’t just sail back to Ireland immediately, though. He obeyed, waited, and let God mold him into the saint that would save a nation.

After fourteen years of careful training by the Bishop and self-preparation for what must have seemed a forlorn adventure, Patrick sailed back in 432 to the wild regions which he had quitted. His success was speedy and undying.

– Winston Churchill

Some of you are fighting discouragement over terrible attack, an awful history, or an uncertain future. The man we now know as Saint Patrick endured all of those. The enemy can try to spin a plot twist, but God writes the best stories for those who let Him.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

– Colossians 1:24-28

There is nothing He can’t do with a person who trusts Him utterly — unflinching in obedience, uncowed by the enemy, unchained to the comfort zone, and unhindered by society’s expectations.

The world does not need super-men, but supernatural men. Men who will persistently turn the self out of their lives and let Divine Power work through them.

God Calling, edited by A.J. Russell

Jesus, I’m praying tonight for all of us in the middle of the story, between a rock and a hard place, not sure how this thing ends. I pray for encouragement that breeds an increase of faith in each of us.

God isn’t done with you yet. He is hovering over you: protecting, watching, guiding, and taking every attack from the enemy and turning it on its head.

Prepare for something epic. It will be the story of your life.

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This is day 29 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

grace note

Me: Stop bossing your brother.

Child: I’m not bossing him, I’m telling him!

Oh, of course. So sorry.

grace note: pursuing harmony without preaching to the choir

We’re still working on teamwork, teaching our kids to encouragers instead of critics, and to get the plank out of their own eyes and mind their own business. It’s hard to model this as a mom because, well, I’m bossing them about not bossing each other. After almost fourteen years of parenthood, I’m still learning when to step back – to wait before interfering, intervening, stepping in, or advising, and just let them have at each other. Also known as “taking it outside.”

I mean, teaching them to problem-solve and work through conflict. Yeah, that’s it.

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It happens, though, when the Spirit takes over the rooms of our house, and we step into our calling. It’s dangerous. It gets crowded with growing pains. It might wreck any preconceived notion we ever had about what our lives might look like.

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Sometimes the unexpected happens. Sometimes the unexpected is in the form of company. And sometimes we have a hard time getting along with each other.

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Frustration and bickering can bluster the day away, and criticism chills in hearts that should love each other. Maybe we just want to give the answer and fix things quickly. Or, maybe we want to be seen as someone who has all the answers, overflowing with unwanted advice and unsought council. Sometimes it’s out of fear or lack of control, but more often it’s from insecurity or pride, which are just different sides of the same coin. That person is doing things differently than I would do them. I would never do it that way. It must not be right. Since they are not doing things the way I would do them…they must need my input.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

– Philippians 2:1-4

In nothing is the power of the dark lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all who still oppose him.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

One of the slimiest tricks of the enemy is getting us — kids and adults — to attack each other with discouragement, misunderstanding, ignorant judgment, or anger. He’s constantly on the lookout to divide and conquer God’s people so we will take each other out, and when we fall for it, we all lose.

Anytime someone asks what the greatest difference in our life is, my #1 answer is church. That is what we gave up in order to answer the call to adopt. It is also what I hear over and over again from families….church is what they miss the most. It is very sad that the one place/group of people that should be the greatest support and most welcoming place is the one we’re often isolated from the most.

– anonymous adoptive mom

A friend of mine wrote that, and they are hard words to read. So much is at stake.

We’re made to win this, though. As an adoptive family working through attachment issues, we’re learning to live this daily:

We look at our fellow men far too much from the standpoint of our own prejudices. They may be wrong, they may have their faults and foibles, they may call out all the meanest and most hateful in us. But they are not all wrong; they have their virtues, and when they excite our bad passions by their own, they may be as ashamed and sorry as we are irritated. And I think some of the best, most contrite, most useful of men and women, whose prayers prevail with God and bring down blessings into the homes in which they dwell, often possess unlovely traits that furnish them with their best discipline. The very fact that they are ashamed of themselves drives them to God; they feel safe in His presence. And while they lie in the very dust self-confusion at His feet, they are dear to Him and have power with Him.

– Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

– Philippians 2:5-9

We must be savvy…and be kind, not forgetting that we’re on the same side.

God, I’m praying tonight for protection over relationships — in families, in friendships, in work and ministry, that we would be so secure in Your love for us that we wouldn’t be insecure in our love for each other. We pray for an increase in unity, and conviction over divisiveness and friendly fire. Forgive us for being arrogant, insensitive, and critical. Help us to know how to support, how to ask, how to serve, how to encourage. 

Heaps of grace on each of us, to each other. The battle is won when we have each other’s back.

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This is day 28 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.

filling the house

When we moved here, this was a big house to us. Not huge – we went from four bedrooms to three bedrooms, but that was okay because it was few hundred square feet bigger, plus a garage. Plus woods. Plus not hearing sirens, neighbors arguing, and the booming bass and scratching speakers of young drivers who had poor manners and equally bad hearing.

filling the house: what relentless prayer is...and isn't

That was three kids and two cats ago. We still love our home, and we still fit in our home, but we’ve grown and it is obviously less roomy than it was when we first moved here, like the kittens still squeezing into the dollhouse. When someone plays the piano, you hear it in every room of the house. There are scratches on the floor, there have been holes in the walls, and rooms have shrunk to make way for more people and bookshelves. It is far more shabby chic than showy contemporary.

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(5 weeks old)

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(9 weeks old)

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(4 months old)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

– Colossians 3:23-24, ESV

And I’m learning to pray as I clean the house, that God would be cleaning us. As I’m scrubbing grime from around the sink faucets, I’m asking Him to remove calcified areas and hardening stubbornness. Dusting neglected areas, I’m asking Him to reveal what needs attention and care. Folding towels, I’m thanking Him for clean water and healthy bodies, and praying for those who have neither. While sorting boys clothes on one side of the couch and girls clothes on the other, I’m praying that these kids would be grateful for what they have, steward things well, and not be immature whiners. And I’m praying that for me, too.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

– Colossians 4:2, ESV

It’s not glamorous. Relentless prayer is behind the scenes. It’s life-transforming, future-changing, people-saving work, yes – but not glittering and sophisticated. It’s rugged, rustic, primitive – beautiful in humility, sincerity, and imperfection. It is the movement underground that builds until the earth shakes.

It’s not just requests and intercession. It’s not just praise and thankfulness. Mostly, it’s His presence encompassing every type of prayer, like music that permeates every room of a house.

It is not what I say; it is I, Myself. It is not the hearing Me so much as the being in My Presence. The strengthening and curative powers of this you cannot know. Such knowledge is beyond your human reckoning.

This would cure the poor sick world, if every day, each soul, or group of souls, waited before Me. Remember, you must never fail to keep this time apart with Me. Gradually you will be transformed, physically, mentally, spiritually, into My likeness. All who see you, or contact with you will be, by this intercourse with you, brought near to Me, and gradually the influence will spread.

You are making one spot of earth a Holy Place, and though you must work and spend yourself ceaselessly because that is for the present your appointed task, yet the greatest work either of you can do, and are doing, is done in this time apart with Me.

God Calling, edited by A.J. Russell

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It doesn’t matter if we go from the kitchen to the office, or from interceding to just waiting to hear His voice – the Music is there, filling every room.

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This is day 27 of Without Ceasing: 31 Days of Relentless Prayer. Find the other posts here. To get new posts right in your inbox, subscribe here.