Awaken the Sleeping Giant…

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I woke up yesterday morning, brewed a fresh hot cup of aromatic coffee and sat down in my quiet place to talk to the Almighty as I have done for the past 20 years of my life. At first it felt normal, quaint, even usual.  In that same moment something different was stirring.  As I uttered my first few words, I felt a sense of disappointment; a rendering in my soul that quietly whispered, “there’s something missing.”  My faith was seemingly taken to task.  Every part of my spirit was simultaneously crushed and yet filled with anxious hope all at the same time.  I was on to something.  God was moving deeply.  I didn’t quite know what it meant, but I craved for understanding.

Most of the time, I follow my very articulate prayer list to the tee.  It has served me well for two long decades, but somehow it looked old and dusty.  I stared at this long list of requests and thought, “Why?  Why am I doing this over and over and over.”  Of course I reasoned with myself.  “Because you care about people, you care about God.” That made sense, so I started in again with my prayers.  Prayers for my amazing wife, my struggling kids, my hurting family and my lost friends.  Prayers that can take quite some time to get through if I fervently seek out God.  All this is good, but like I said, something was missing.  Let me first make something very clear here…

There was absolutely nothing wrong with what I was praying, it was how I was praying that gave me great pause.

Discipline and routine are wonderfully needed.  It can take years before we realize how much we need a good sense of structure in our lives.  Most of the people I know that have significant struggles tend to be less disciplined.  I know this well because that was me for many years.  My point is that the very thing I was missing had nothing to do with my prayer structure but had everything to do with how I entered into God’s presence.

I love my kids and I know they love their dad.  I could never count the number of times they have come to me to ask for things.  When they approach me, it’s usually pretty straightforward.  My kids don’t mince words, they just come out and say it.

“Dad, can you give me twenty bucks so I can go to the mall with my friends?”

“Dad, can I take the car tonight?”

“Dad, I really want that new make-up, can you get it for me?”

They ask and I answer.  But I couldn’t imagine them coming to me, cowering in shame or fear, giving me those same requests.  It wouldn’t even feel right.

“Dad, my friends are going out and I’d like to have some cash on me.  Can I get twenty bucks from you?  You don’t have to give it to me if you don’t want to.  Just thought I’d ask.”

“Dad, I’d really like to use the car this afternoon.  I know it’s probably stupid to ask, so if you say no, I’ll totally understand.

“Dad, I’ve been looking at this make-up online and it’s pretty cool.  Man, I’d love to have it.  I know you probably think it’s too much for me, so don’t worry about it.

Can you see the difference?  The way my kids approach me is bold and real.  They just ask and tell me their heart.  They don’t mince words and give me an out, they just say what they want and leave it in my hands.  Certainly I can answer any way I want to, and even disappoint them from time to time, but that never changes the way they ask.  They simply come forward and talk to their dad.

How come I always qualify my prayers?  You know what I mean?  Have you ever done it yourself?  You know…

“God, would you help me with this? But, not my will, your will be done.”

It’s almost a fatalist view of prayer.  It isn’t bold.  It isn’t sharing the depth of what you desire.  And the truth is, it’s filled with fear.  Check out what’s written in 1 John 5:14-15,

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”

John writes that we should have complete confidence when we make our requests to God.  Don’t get me wrong here, God will not just give us anything we ask for.  But what I do see Him saying is, “Ask me with boldness.  Tell me your heart.  Don’t hold back and don’t be afraid.  Just ask.”  And if our hearts are aligned with His, our prayers, as bold as they can be, will be answered in ways that may surprise us.

I began to pray differently that morning.  I asked for things in a bold and fresh approach.  I left the whole, “thy will be done” stuff off the table.  It didn’t make it’s way into my conversation.  God knows his will prevails.  I don’t need to remind him.  What I do need to do is “…come boldly to the throne of our gracious God” as stated in Hebrews 4:16 and let him know my requests.

Friends, God isn’t a Genie in a lamp that we need to rub the right way in order for him to appear.  God is our Dad in heaven!  He is waiting for you and I to come to him with boldness in our time together.  Yes, routine is great, discipline is wonderful, but being fearless is even better.

If your prayer life has become dull like mine, take a fresh approach to God.  Love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then approach him with your requests.  He’s a big boy and can handle it.  Leave the decision making up to him, BUT BE BOLD!  I do not believe for one second you will regret it.  I’m beginning to think that when I ask for God’s will at the end of every prayer, what I’m actually professing is fear.  No more fear for me and no more fear for you.  Let’s go to God with boldness and be a fearless prayer warrior with a Dad that loves us more than we could ever imagine.

She was NOT Happy…

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The day could not have started off any better.  After sleeping in and preparing ourselves for a long journey, we were off to see the Emerald City, Seattle!  We hit the road around 9am and the Google map said, “ETA 11:57AM.”  We were excited to say the least.

Kris hadn’t been to Seattle for nearly 15 years.  I couldn’t believe it had been that long, but she was right!  I think Maddie was probably around 3 years old when we last made the trek.  In the excitement of the adventure, Kris decided she wanted to drive.  The beautiful forest was calling her name.  So we pulled over at a Starbucks, got a yummy, piping hot sugar-free vanilla latte and back on the road we went.

It wasn’t but a few miles when she looked in her rear view mirror and said… well, I won’t say what she said, but she said it!  And yes, the flickering red and blue lights reflected off the rear view mirror and into her squinty eyes.  Nailed for speeding!  It certainly wasn’t the end of the world for me (after all it wasn’t my ticket), but for her, I could see the tenseness in her face; the tight grip on the wheel.  It was pretty clear that her afternoon wasn’t going to end well.

As I looked over from time to time, I could see she was lost in thought.  I asked her a few times how she was doing, and of course she said, “I’m fine.”  But she wasn’t.  She was really bothered.  And that bothered me.  I really wanted her to let it go and have fun, but that wasn’t going to happen, at least not right now.

Isn’t that just life?  You’re having the time of your life, and then WHAM, it all comes crashing down.  The heart races, the face turns grimm and the soul feels crushed.  I felt for my girl and she definitely wasn’t in a good place.  It’s times like this when we realize how much we need to take a brake and chill out. It reminded me of Mark 6:32,

“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Even Jesus knew there were times when they just needed to stop and rest.  So we decided to hit a Rest Stop.  Oh yeah, and I can take over the driving…

As we pulled in, I immediately noticed how calm it was.  It was a serene, comfortable place designed specifically for rest.  It actually gave Kris the breathing room to alleviate the negative thoughts from her mind.  She took a little walk toward the woods, and I puffed on a smooth-draw cigar.  It really was a much needed rest that got me thinking.

As much as we needed a rest stop, it wasn’t our final destination.

Sure, we all need to stop and rest for a while; reflect on life and get our priorities back in order, but we also need to keep moving forward.  Sometimes too long of a rest can be a trap.  Maybe you’ve found yourself in a familiar ambush…

  • Your financial situation has you against the ropes and you simply ignore the calls from the creditors (I’ve done this myself)
  • You just lost your job and every part of you gives up looking for another one. (done this too)
  • You’re married to Freddy Krueger or Mommy Dearest and you just want to sleep it all away. (Kris did this one with me!)

There is a healthy rest and a not-so-healthy rest.  One of them connects you to God which pushes you forward.  The other connects you to your flesh, which freezes you in your tracks.  Can you imagine if we had just stayed at the Rest Stop?

Certainly, the rest stop was peaceful, tranquil and comforting.  There was a restroom, fresh brewed coffee, plentiful snacks and gorgeous places to hang out.  But it wasn’t permanent.  It wasn’t our destination.  And that’s often what we do; we find a rest stop, but sadly, we make it our journeys end.

Look at what Jesus and the disciples did in Mark 6:32 immediately after they rested…

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Jesus received his rest and then went right back to work.  That’s a prescription for Godly success!

Friends, I write this to encourage you.  We all walk an often turbulent road, and God certainly calls us to rest in Him at times.  But that rest needs to be intentional.  It’s a rest where you get away in order to get back on track.  It’s a place where you meet God in order to move forward.  And that’s what we did…

After about 30 minutes of resting, we decided it was time to move forward.  We washed up, got in the car and off we went!  We laughed again.  We held hands in the car and we listened to photonic grungy-metal all the way to Seattle.  It ended up being an amazingly memorable day that ended oh-so sweet!

If I could just end with a short Bible verse that tells us exactly how to get back on the path that moves us forward.  It’s found in Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Isn’t that amazing!  God only wants us to seek him out with all our hearts.  And when we do, our path forward becomes crystal clear.