A Dear Friend

One of my dearest friends went to be the Lord yesterday. With a heavy heart, I got onto my exercise bike this morning. It sits in the basement and faces French doors that are at the end of a hallway. The morning sun had begun to rise. It was the same time I ride almost every morning. I listened to worship music and prayed.

I lifted up prayers for the family and myself. We all know that she is basking at Jesus’ feet but the selfish side that misses her wishes she was here on this earth. I acknowledged that God is good, all the time. I asked that the family would feel His arms around them, assuring them how much He loves them. I asked Him to do the same for me and to show Himself to me, reminding me of Who He is and how much He loves me.

At that moment of prayer, the song Victor’s Crown began to play through my headphones. You are always fighting for us, Heaven’s angels all around, my delight is found knowing that you wear the Victor’s crown.

After those words played, the brightest sunshine shone through the door, came down the hallway, and almost blinded me. Never has that happened and I ride my bike the same time every morning. I smiled. It was Jesus wrapping His arms around me, assuring me He’s here. He’s in control. He knows we’re hurting and He loves us very much.

Nothing can take the place of this friend. I cannot even begin to explain how much she taught me and others about the Lord, and how much she will be missed by family and friends. Knowing she’s with Jesus makes it a little easier to endure the fresh pain.

If you are ever in need of God to show Himself, ask Him. He will. He is faithful. As Darlene Zschech so beautifully put it in the next phrase of the song, {God} You’re my help and my defender, You’re my Savior and my friend, by Your grace I live and breathe to worship You…

God Speaks Through a Diet Coke

I was preparing for an important task and I needed help. Help is one of the hardest things for me to ask for, but I have learned to yield to God in this. I swallowed my pride and asked Tammy (name changed) to help me. Of course she willingly said yes, even seemed excited. The day before the task, I got the dreaded text. Tammy had to back out. In the Spirit I understood and was very pleasant. In the flesh I irritated.  

I’m whining to God about Tammy and having to do the task alone as I stopped for my morning coffee. It was already ninety degrees so I swayed from the hot coffee and decided to grab a diet Coke instead. Very rarely do I buy a screw top diet Coke. I prefer the fountain drink but today, for some odd reason (God) I grabbed the screw top bottle and took it to the checkout.

The checkout person held the bottle up and in an almost too cheerful way, said, “Look, you get to share a coke with Tammy.”

I said, “What?”

He held the diet Coke up, spun the bottle around and there was Tammy’s name printed on the label. “This is Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. They put names on the bottles of a person and you’re supposed to find someone with that name and buy them a Coke, or you could bless them in some other way, I guess. Your call.”

I walked to my car and once inside, held the bottle up and looked at the name in big black letters. Tammy. I laughed with God for a long moment. God, through a diet Coke, had to remind me that sometimes I don’t have the right heart or attitude. I might have done the right thing outwardly, I understood and was nice, but my heart wasn’t right.

I’ve heard preachers say that even when you don’t want to do the right thing do it anyway, your heart will catch up. I’m once step closer to my heart catching up. Next time, it won’t be a forced ‘do the right thing,’ but it will just come naturally in the Spirit.

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 Long Will You Wait?

I was in a brand new hospital. After visiting a friend I left the room, found my way back to the elevator, and pushed the button. I was pretty proud of myself. I didn’t get lost. I noticed that the little light didn’t come on under the arrow down button on the elevator. I shrugged it off. It’s a new building. It has some kinks to work out. I’m sure the elevator is on it’s way. I pushed the button another couple of times just to make sure. No light but no worries. I’m sure it’ll be here. I got my phone out, checked twitter and facebook then looked up at the elevator. Hmm, strange, it should’ve been here by now. It’s a small hospital and I’m only on the fourth floor.

I pushed the button, again. No light. I pushed it harder. No light. I pushed it over and over. Still no light. I’m trying not to make a scene but I continually pushed the button. A nurse walked by, smiled and went on her way. I gave it one last push and figure, lights burnt out, surely it’s on it’s way.

I watched a couple of Vine videos then double checked the sign. It said elevator. Maybe I should tell someone. I push it again. I look at the time and sighed. I’d been standing and waiting for a while. I gave it another couple of pushes then gave up. I’m finding the stairs. It’s only four flights. I can walk.

I walked back into the hallway and looked for a stairs sign. There in the corner, hanging from another wall was a sign that said elevator. I turned the corner, pushed the arrow down button. The light lit up and within seconds the elevator door opened. I walked in and began laughing at myself. I later found out the other elevator wass for employees only. If I’d looked closer, there was a black box on the wall that allowed employees to swipe their cards which turned the elevator on.

As I got in my car I wondered why I stood in front of that elevator for so long. Why didn’t I move when it was obvious it wasn’t working? I thought of the Israelites standing at the Red Sea. Yes, God sometimes tells us to be still but sometimes, He tells us to move! The Israelites were backed up against the sea. Moses told them to stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord. God said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”

There are times we feel like we can’t do anything but wait. We continually push the button thinking surely the light will come on. We think we are being still, waiting for God, but in reality, we’re overcome with fear or exhaustion all the while God is telling us to move so that we can receive His deliverance.

If you hear Him tell you to move discard the distractions, the fear, the embarrassment, whatever is holding you back and move. Your deliverance, like the elevator, could be just around the corner.

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.