Watch, Trust, Do Not be Afraid

I drove to church today overwhelmed.

Our student minister is moving to another ministry. It’s been five months since my assistant and good friend moved. My work load seems daunting. My youngest son is a senior so this year is already bursting with “the last” of so many things. My new book was just released so the fall is full of book events. I have been wondering how long I can keep up with the current pace.

In Children’s Church we learned three things that Isaiah echoed to King Ahaz.

Watch for God.

Trust God.

And do not be afraid.

I asked the kids to tell me when they’ve seen a sign from God. We heard a lot of cool stories. Then I asked them to share some scary things that were currently going on in their lives. Things they had to trust God to get through.

A few answers… My grandmother has cancer. My father recently passed away. My uncle passed away. I had to have surgery last week. The leaving of the student minister. Grandparents getting older.

Some very serious events going on in the lives of kindergarteners through 5th graders. I was humbled, to say the least.

We stopped and prayed to a BIG God and knew that He heard us.

God told Joshua three times …be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.

If you’re overwhelmed, He is there.

If you need a miracle, no matter how big or small, He is there.

He wants to show Himself to each one of us.

Watch for Him.

Trust Him.

Don’t be afraid.

 Books by Dana K. Ray

Absolution Book 1 in The Luciano Series  http://a.co/1hRwM7T or https://danakray.com

A Second Chance https://amzn.com/1632132605  or https://danakray.com

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We’ve Been Robbed

 

We’ve been studying the Armor of God in Bible study and have learned that the key to the armor is in Ephesians 6:18-19. Once you put it on you must… with prayer and petition pray at all times…be on the alert will all perseverance…and pray…
Put it on and pray it up. Those are the words from my wise Bible study leader, mentor, accountability partner and dearest friend. It’s been my motto for months.
Since starting the Bible study about the Armor of God, I feel like I’ve been under more intense spiritual attacks.
This past Saturday, April 1, was no different. It was going to be a busy day filled with lots of non-stop things to do, so being woke up at 7:00 am to the words “we’ve been robbed” was shocking. Unfortunately it was not an April’s Fool joke.
I followed my husband outside. All three cars had their doors opened and trunks popped. Inside, the glove boxes were emptied along with the console. The cars were ransacked and things were missing, but nothing was as bad as the empty spot in the driveway where my husband’s Toyota Four Runner used to sit. Yep, they stole his car and all it’s contents.
4Runner
Talk about one crazy morning. Waiting for the police, hearing our stuff would probably not ever be found, volunteering at the High School, my sons last drumline competition, trying to get my hubby a rental car…it just seemed too much.
When I get overwhelmed, I laugh because it’s better than crying. So I’m laughing, making jokes, trying to see the bright side.  It could’ve been so much worse. The robbers could’ve used the garage door openers inside the cars to walk into the house and take so much more.
I try to be a cheerful person, smile and keep upbeat. Saturday was no different. But within a day or two, the stress does catch up with me. When it does, I usually get hit hard.
Sunday and Monday were overwhelming. If something could go wrong, it did. I found myself throwing off my armor and running to hide. Then I pulled myself up, put each piece back on, prayed it up and continued on the fight.
Today, I am pondering why I took it off in the first place?
I heard God whisper, “Because you thought it’d be easier to hide.”
He was right, as always. I did think it’d be easier to throw a cover over my head and ignore everything, that was going on, but it wasn’t. Hiding drew me into a dark place, consumed by my problems instead of shining His light and watching Him work through all circumstances.
I am still a bit overwhelmed, but there’s no way to get around the hard things that will come up in our lives. To get through it, we have to remember to always put it on and pray it up.
On another bright side, they didn’t take very much out of my car. I’m so thankful because I have a book signing Saturday in Webb City. My car was already packed. They took my box of table decorations and business cards but left my canopy, table, table cloths and books.
So if you come see me in Webb City, MO on Saturday, I have a book to sign for you!
When you feel you can’t move forward, remember to put it on and pray it up! God will always geet you through!
Dana
A Second Chance by Dana K. Ray. If you can’t make it Saturday, you can buy a copy at https://danakray.com or https://amzn.com/1632132605

My Promised Land

“And after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Hebrews 6:15 (NIV)

Have you ever prayed for something for so long that you have to continually remind yourself that God’s timing is perfect? And even though we know His timing is perfect, the wait can be excruciating!

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. God put the desire in my heart at a very early age. Stories have played like movies in my head since as far back as I can remember.

I won my first poetry contest in fifth grade. A simple poem I wrote in 1976, the theme: The Bicentennial.

One of our famous presidents was Lincoln,

He did us lots of good thinkin’

All though he was tall,

He was loved by all and

He kept the southern states from leavin’!

Wow, and I won first place. Amazing, huh? My prize…a book about boys track. Yes, the ultimate punishment, they thought Dana was a boy. Ugh. Not the first time someone thought I was a boy, but I graciously accepted my book, taped my poem in it and have cherished it since. Occasionally I pull it from the shelf, look at it and giggle. It is a reminder of God working in my life even before I knew Him as savior and friend.

I began the year 2015 with these words, “Okay God, it’s been twenty some years since I started putting our stories down on paper and this is the year. It’s time to start trying to get them out to the publishing world. By the end of 2015, I will be entering my Promised Land. And if I don’t have a publishing contract, I will self-publish.”

Reminded of my promise to God daily, and with the help of my critique partner’s encouragement, I subbed one of my books to two publishers in September. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. But God is good and before I knew it, I had both interested and one offered a contract. I’m excited to say that I signed that contract on December 4, 2015 with a release date set for next year. Whew. Twenty plus days to spare.

A Second Chance is due out May 24, 2016.

As I sit here and write this I believe our God to be big and I believe Him to fulfill our dreams. I am a walking example of His answer to prayer. I pray you will dream big dreams and believe our God to be as huge as He really is. Thank you, Jesus, for continued answer to prayer!

My Prayer Closet

I wrote this when my kids were small…

“Jesus] went up on mountainside and sat down.  Turning to his disciples, he began to teach them… “go into your room, close the door and pray.”

Matthew 5:1, 6:6  NIV

A prayer closet. A concept my preacher taught me years ago. A place to have a quiet time. A time set aside for just you and the Lord. I’ve heard of people using their dining room tables, gardens, in-home offices or bedrooms. Before I had kids, I faithfully went outside on our deck and prayed. If you would’ve asked me then, I never imagined my prayer closet would change from looking at the beautiful sunrises to the tile on the bathroom wall but after four kids I’ve learned that we can approach God anytime…anywhere… 

My children, like most, seem to need every second of my attention. I’ve found the only time I’m able to get away is when I use the restroom. One particular day I woke up to the screams of my kids. The fighting had already begun. Dread consumed me. I knew it was going to be bad. Sure enough, by mid-morning, I was frazzled. I did the only thing I knew to do. I retreated into the bathroom and balanced on the ledge of the bathtub. I dropped my head, clasped my hands together and prayed.

For months I had been praying to find a place to spend time alone with God. I missed my prayer closet. Almost instantly my brain started turning. I looked up at God and smiled. It was so obvious. Since the only time I have for myself is in the bathroom, why not take advantage it? That was the moment my bathroom turned into my prayer closet.

I started by taking a few extra minutes, then quickly grew longer. Luckily it only takes me about thirty minutes to get ready in the morning. Extending this to an hour was not a problem. The kids just thought Mommy needed more time to become beautiful.  Which, in reality, she did.

I stashed a Bible in the vanity drawer. I converted the edge of the bathtub into a kneeling bench. The bath mat as my kneeling pad. I’ve often thought if only I only had a mini-fridge and a coffee pot…

It is a very important fact that Christ went out alone and prayed. If Jesus, the Son of God had to do this, how much more important is it for us to do the same? Our concern should not be where the closet is, but that you have one and you use it, daily.  Praying is communicating with God. It is how we build a relationship with Jesus Christ.  There are no concrete ways to pray, but we have the unwavering words of Psalm 34:15, (NIV) that says; The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers.

One summer afternoon I was in my closet. I knelt before the bathtub. My knees fixed comfortably on the bathmat, my arms resting on the side of the tub, and my hands facing upward as I delightfully prayed to our Father. I heard a faint tap and a soft voice come through the door. It was my seven-year-old son.  “Mommy? What are you doing?”

“What do you think, honey? I’ll be out in a minute.” I continued on with my prayer, knowing that God understands these little interruptions. I’m not sure how long it was after that but I finally emerged from the bathroom refreshed, revived and ready to tackle the rest of the day. I was startled to see my son sitting cross-legged on the floor in the hallway.

He looked up, his large hazel eyes narrowed. “What were you doing in there?”

I thought for a moment. “Going to the bathroom.” It seemed the easiest answer and it wasn’t a lie. I did go to the bathroom, only I had taken an extra fifteen minutes to pray.

“No, you weren’t,” my son firmly stated. “I looked under the door and saw your toes.”

I chuckled. He had to have stuck his face to the carpet and laid prostrate to see what I was doing. I knelt down, gently laid my hand on his back and smiled. “I was praying.”

“Oh.” He smiled then ran off.

I laughed, wondering what must’ve been going on in his little head when all he could see were my knees and toes pressing into the bathmat. Then I saw a vision. I pictured my son, years later using my unconventional prayer closet as an illustration.  He explained that with four children his mother had desperately sought a place to pray and finally found one. He pointed out how she had unknowingly taught him the importance of finding a certain place to pray. Prior to that day, he had always assumed she just had trouble going potty.

How Big is Your Brave

I was recently at a meeting with a lot of senior ministers, children’s ministers, youth ministers, and music ministers. My feelings of inadequacy began to rise. Thoughts invaded my head. I’m not smart enough. I don’t know the Bible as well as them. I’m not spiritual enough. Those thoughts and feelings make me sit quietly even when I feel the spirit prompting me to speak.

I left the first day of the two day meeting frustrated with myself. I’ve prayed about this feeling of inadequacy for years. As I drove home, I cried out to God, “When am I going to have a breakthrough. Am I always going to feel this way? When will I get over it? Why does this continue to haunt me? Will I always walk around with this not good enough feeling?”

I asked over and over again when my breakthrough was going to happen but heard no answer. I decided I needed some music so I flipped on the radio. The first words I heard were…Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave. I just wanna see you, I just wanna see you, I just wanna see you be brave. (Brave by Sara Bareilles) I realize the song is talking about something totally different but it was as if the words were coming directly from God’s mouth. Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy, fallen for the fear and done some disappearing…bow down to the Mighty, don’t run…I just wanna see you be brave.

It doesn’t matter if we feel inadequate. The question is, do we trust God to equip us to do the job He has called us to do? When we’re weak, He is strong. Do it afraid. He just wants us to be brave. He wants to see it. Show Me how big your brave is.

Pray with Intensity!

I went to Silver Dollar City. I am deathly afraid of heights but my daughter talked me into riding the Giant Swing.

We get on the ride with three other people; a dad and two girls around the age of 7.  The ride starts and I’m thinking this will be okay until we swing back for the first time. I close my eyes tightly, my knuckles are white and I begin praying, hard, because I am terrified for my life.

“Jesus,” I say, “Just make it end.  Oh, Lord, help me! God, make it stop. I don’t want to die…”

My daughter, instead of enjoying the ride, is trying her best to console me. “It’s okay, mommy,” she says, patting my arm. “It’s almost over. That was the biggest swing. It’s getting lower. It’ll be okay.”

“Oh, Jesus,” I say with more intensity. “Help me, you have to stop this thing…”

From start to finish, the ride lasts one minute. The longest minute of my life.  When the seat belt unbuckles, I shout, “Thank you Jesus. Oh, thank you Jesus.”  The people watching are getting a good laugh. My daughter is still trying to console me and the two seven-year-olds are asking their dad to ride it again.

As I staggered away I tried to catch my breath, slow down my heart rate, and get the feelings back in my hands, I heard God say, “Oh, Dana. If only you’d pray with one-tenth of that intensity we could move mountains.”

When was the last time you prayed with that kind of intensity? When you felt your life was on the line? Maybe it was the death of a loved one or a bad diagnosis? What if we could pray with that kind of intensity all the time? We could, and would, move mountains.

God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare Pray hard and long.   Ephesians 6:17-18 (The Message)

Clip and Zip

I had the chance to go to camp this weekend with some kids and the thrill of the weekend is zip lining. All the kids were harnessed up, ready to go. One was very apprehensive. He was scared. I could relate. I’m petrified of heights but I have zipped a few times. Once you get over the fear, it’s really fun.

This frightened little man walked all the way up to the tower, climbed the stairs, looked down and said, “No way.” He climbed back down and walked back to the base. Looking up at me with his sad eyes, tears flowing, he said, “It’s just too scary. I couldn’t jump off.”

I agreed with him. “I know it’s really, really scary but after you take that first step it’s really, really fun.”  He wasn’t buying it. I started for the tower.

When I got up to the tower my heart pounded. I climbed the stairs and the arguments in my mind start. Will the harness hold me? Will the line snap? Will I fall? It’ll be fun. I’ll be fine. I could die.

The mini war was interrupted by the guy on the second landing. He asked me to climb up those last five stairs to clip onto the line. I will admit, that is the worse part. You’re on this little platform. You have nothing to hold on to and it’s a straight shot to the ground.  I was scared enough and I didn’t need to stand up there waiting my turn, thinking about what I was about to do. It would scare me too much. I told him I’d rather wait until the lines were clear. I prefer to walk up those last stairs, clip on the line and zip.

I clipped. I zipped. It was a blast. The kids all cheered and adults snapped pictures.

Zip lining is like a ride with Jesus. You harness up, trusting the guy who put it on. You clip onto the line, trusting it will hold you. The hardest part is stepping off the platform. If you look down and around, you may just chicken out but when you trust, the ride is a blast!

I thought of Peter stepping out of the boat. He stood on the edge of the boat, looking around, the wind blowing, wondering, Can I walk on water? Will I sink? Will Jesus help me? Jesus told him to, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter heard Jesus, suppressed those fears, and stepped out. Can you imagine the ride? Walking on the water with the wind blowing around you. How cool would that be? Yes, he looked around, he was afraid. He took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink but Jesus saved him. And for a moment he walked, however brief, and it had to be amazing.

When Jesus calls us to do something, the hardest part is taking that step off the platform. Trusting that God has it all under control and the line will hold. Once you let go, lean back in the harness, and enjoy the ride because it is amazing. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Eph. 3:20)

Don’t waste any more time standing on the platform looking down.  Clip, zip and enjoy the ride.