How to Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus

In August 2013 I was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.  Yes, those were the words the doctor used in the measured, clinical tone some doctors use in delivering bad news.  Those words, in addition to “It’s not good, Monica,” and “A few people make it to five years.”  I will be honest, I have experienced the goodness of God and I know the One who numbers my days, but this news of metastatic breast cancer was devastating.  My husband and I have four kiddos and at the time they were 6, 4, and 3 years old, and our baby was 7 months old.  My mother’s heart grieved, and I simply could not imagine not raising them.

So, my family started down a path that we continue to walk today, and many in the body of Christ bravely chose to walk with us.  The Bible says that we are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), which, if we are honest, can be overwhelming.  However, in God’s incredible grace, He surrounded us with people who were willing, by the power of His Spirit, to do the hard thing and bear this burden of cancer with us.  How sweet our co-laborers have been.

First, people prayed.  A woman I had never met came up to me almost a year after my diagnosis and said, “I have been wanting to meet you.  I pray for you twice a day, that you will dance at your grandchildren’s weddings.”  I receive that!  She continues to pray for me, twice a day.  When we do not know how to come alongside someone in their suffering we can always, always pray.  I have friends who have called and prayed with me over the phone, laid hands on me in my sister’s living room, texted prayers, and I could go on and on.  God has heard.

People gave.  They gave of their time.  My mom and dad still come almost every three weeks when I have treatments.  It is a sacrifice of their time and their resources, but they continue to bear that burden with us.  People gave and continue to give physical gifts:  money to help with medical expenses, gifts to encourage my heart and my kids’ hearts, breast milk to feed my baby while I was receiving chemotherapy, and countless meals and gift cards, to help ease the tasks of everyday life in the midst of initial and continued treatment.  God has faithfully met each and every need.

People believed.  What balm to my soul to see faith personified in the body of Christ. Just last week, a friend sent me the following scripture: “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come” (Psalm 71:18).  She is believing with me—especially in those moments of darkness when I do not believe myself—and for me: that in my old age, I will be proclaiming the name of Jesus to another generation.  May it be so.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ 

Monica Patrick has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember.  She is a stay-at-home wife and mother in Fort Worth, TX.  She and her husband Charles are about to celebrate 11 years of marriage and have four children, Susanna, 10, Josiah, 8, Nathaniel, 6, and Seth, 4.  She homeschools their children and together she and Charles serve as the 4th grade Sunday School teachers at their church.  She is a gatherer and enjoys bringing women together to talk about Jesus and His faithfulness in marriage, parenting, friendship and life.  She dreams of one day traveling the country with her family in a motorhome.

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Peace in Parenting

I’ve been doing this mommy-thing for a little over eight years now, and I’m getting a few things figured out.

  1. God really is who He says He is.

Every family is different. I’ve decided I can compare notes with other moms if I want to get a little inspiration here and there, but nothing will bring the peace I crave like spending real time in prayer. The Lord wants to Father me in my parenting. In all things, really. But most of my life I have depended on my human understanding to plow through challenges that might arise. This is a mistake. I can only plow for so long before I run out of resources.

  1. Praying with my husband really works.

I know this is a no-brainer. We all know this, but I’m not sure many of us are practicing this on a regular basis (and I don’t mean regularly once a year!). I can’t tell you how many times I have felt frantic in my heart about a parenting issue. When I carry inner angst, I start to behave like a scary momma. Like monster-under-the-bed momma. I have no idea why I don’t think that it would be an excellent idea to tell my soulmate and have him pray with me. Without fail, anytime I’ve asked my husband for help he’s shared the load and stood in the gap for me. Just knowing that my husband is my teammate means the world to me. I am not alone and we can tackle anything together. Why, WHY would I not make prayer a priority with my husband when we get such amazing results?

  1. My kids need structure and healthy boundaries.

If I’m going to help my kids learn healthy boundaries, then I must learn what my healthy boundaries are, too. I recently started seeing a counselor to help me work through some of my own issues, and it has been one of the most positive experiences of my life. I see myself differently, and I feel more empowered to lead my children than ever before. I’m learning what makes my kids tick, and that means we can cooperate better. I am in authority because I am under my husband’s authority. My children understand how that looks in our home. When they push the boundaries, they know that we’ll enforce them. Because we’ve laid this groundwork, we have a spiritual peace in our home even when we’re loud, creative and adventurous.

I’m grateful for all the Lord has taught me throughout the years and I’m excited for all that’s yet to come. If you’re looking for a breakthrough in your parenting, may I suggest getting involved in a Life Group and getting prayer as a first step?

I’m curious, what was your “aha moment” that brought peace to your parenting?

This post was written by Jodi LaFrance. To read more about her, click here. 

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

worshipHi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

It’s Not About Rules

not about rulesThere seem to be so many rules about spending time with God: You should pray first thing in the morning. But, also pray throughout the day. You need to pray about J(esus) O(thers) Y(ourself). Praying for 30 minutes is a minimum. Pray the Word. Be quiet and listen. Pray in a prayer closet. Pray with others. Pray by yourself. Pray for your children (for sure before bed!).

Nothing seems to be wrong with any of these guidelines. We WANT to pray effectively. We WANT to be taught how. We will do anything in our power to get it right…And that’s where it seemed to break down for me. I realized I am dependent upon God, even for—especially for—prayer.

I recognize that I have rules/guidelines for interacting with my friends and family, but that is not what I am most thinking about when I have fellowship with them. My awesome heavenly Father captures my attention so much more, and woos me into a love relationship with Him. I just want to be with Him. I want to be led by Him as I grow in my relationship with Him in prayer.

Not that my relationship with God has to have parallels with my human relationships, but I think it does bring up some things to think about. Just as I don’t interact with my husband in the exact same pattern every day, I realized it is the same with my heavenly Father.

Sometimes I can sit quietly in His presence and be refreshed. Sometimes it looks more like a great interceding for a matter that He has placed on my heart. Sometimes I sing a love song to Him (although not as often as I would wish, and certainly not with a microphone). Sometimes I pray for those matters that it says specifically in His word that we should pray for (like our leaders and for Israel).

Right now, I have a desire to grow in these things. I also don’t want my life to be so segregated, but to fellowship with God throughout the entire day.

I love having a sweet reminder of His presence when I see the sunrise. I love when I sense His leading as I seek Him silently in the middle of a difficult conversation. I love when He brings a Scripture to my mind. Walking with Him and abiding in Him all day long is my desire. But it is only in His strength. Thank you, Lord, that your strength is all I need.

I love Philippians 2:13 that says,

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

It’s all in Him. He gives me the desire to have greater fellowship with Him, and then He doesn’t leave me hanging—He gives me the power to do it. I’m grateful.

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here

WE THE PEOPLE

adultingI recently saw this meme online, and it made me laugh—probably because many times I’ve thought that same thing. “Isn’t there someone else that can do this better than me?”

With all the recent tragedies in the news, it’s definitely been easy for me to “hope for” someone else to be responsible to lead our cities and our nation to a better place. And then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:8

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Right there it is…plain as day…I’m to pray.  In the moments I feel overwhelmed with current events, I’m to pray. The Scripture is clear: I’m to petition and be thankful to God. I’m to join with him in his desire that all men would be saved and come to know the truth of Christ.  I’m to live without wrath or dissension in my heart.

When we the people choose to join our prayers with the prayers of Christ, we are saying yes to God’s will. We are saying yes to living a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  We are taking responsibility for the well-being of our cities and our nation, and we are fulfilling the purposes of Christ that we were created for. 

May I encourage you, dear friend, if you don’t know how to pray, start with Jesus’ example. Say it back to Him with a sincere heart…not just from memory, but truly believing that God hears your prayers.

“My Father who is in heaven, Holy is Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give me this day my daily bread. And forgive my sins, as I forgive those who sin against me. Do not lead me into temptation, but deliver me from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”   Matthew 6:9-13 (paraphrased)

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here

The Circle Maker {A Book Review}

the circle makerEvery month, we feature a book review based on our blog theme for that month. For more great book suggestions, check out our Bookshelf tab here. (And for you non-readers, check out the audio book options!)

For May, we’ve been blogging about the power of prayer, and while there are a lot of great books on prayer, I wanted to review The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.

When I first started reading this book, I only read through maybe a third of it—and then I got discouraged. We were praying for miracles in our life, and Mark shared testimony after testimony of God’s answered prayer for his life and for his church.

I suddenly felt a bit forgotten and alone.

And, to be honest, I sort of developed a bad attitude toward the book. I would say stuff like, “Oh, he’s just all about ‘name it and claim it.’ That’s not how God operates.”

Let me tell you, friends, when I did actually come back to finish it—a year or so later—I realized it’s so very far from being heretical.

Mark gives insight into the heart of God for prayer: that we would believe, that we would risk in what we ask for because only then are we exercising faith, and that we would be persistent even when we don’t see anything changing.

He’s very quotatble, so I’ll try to be sparse, but here are a few of my favorites:

“His command better be your wish. If it’s not, you won’t be drawing circles; you’ll end up walking in circles” (p. 16).

“God does not answer vague prayers” (p. 27).

“No doesn’t always mean no; sometimes it means not yet. We’re too quick to give up on God when He doesn’t answer our prayers how or when we want. Maybe your deadline doesn’t fit God’s timeline… Maybe it’s a divine delay” (p. 64).

“If you want God to surprise you, you have to give up control” (p. 66).

“I don’t want easy answers or quick answers because I have a tendency to mishandle the blessings that come too easily or too quickly. I take the credit or take them for granted. Now I pray that it will take long enough and be hard enough for God to receive all the glory. I’m not looking for the path of least resistance; I’m looking for the path of greatest glory… Maybe we need to change our prayer approach from as soon as possible to as long as it takes (p. 196).

Whether you’re a seasoned prayer warrior or are looking for an approach to be more disciplined with your prayer life, you’ll be encouraged by this book!

God desires to give us good gifts, and his heart rejoices when we ask Him! Remember Brad’s sermon about middle voice? (5 Smooth Stones—Part 4: Faith) He said,

Pray in middle voice—taking action but depending on God to complete the action.

Let’s exercise our faith through prayer!

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here. 

Influence in Your Circle

circle of influenceI once declared, “I won’t do anything without talking with You about it first, God.” The statement came after a terrible time of grief and pride, and as the only reasonable response to a stunning and specific, yet amazingly gentle, correction given to me by Our Father.

I’d like to say that I have made good on that promise 100%, but that would not be true. However, our Counselor reminds me of that vow when I “go and do,” but neglect my conversations with God. I have noticed that the pattern holds: as I pray about personal, marriage, parenting, friendship, church and ministry, vocation, political issues, etc., I see His praise-worthy creative power at work. However, when I neglect my privileged responsibility to pray over my spheres of influence, I hopelessly witness not only my own but others’ terrible times, grief, and pride.

Remarkably, God Himself made nearly the same statement to us as I made to Him. Amos 3:7 (NIV) says,

Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

I believe the reason He does this is to provide the reality of the difference He makes in our and others’ lives. Our spoken prayers toward Him make a difference in our perspective of the world. Also true is that His spoken word—transforming us internally and manifesting externally through us—makes a difference in how He and the world relate to one another. Powerfully, we are in God’s sphere of influence!

Our faith is the only one which states that overcoming this world’s degenerative problems is not just possible, it is the ongoing fulfillment of an eternal promise (John 16:33)! God’s part of the conversation, often given through His disciples, is powerful and effective; He provides correction, encouragement, love, and every good thing.

Many Christians I have known struggle with the words “witness,” “testimony,” and “prophecy”; they sound like they belong to other people and other times. However, John’s Revelation (19:10 – ERV) message, “…the truth of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” is for all disciples of all ages to experience! When we think about it, to witness simply means to provide “public affirmation by word or example,” especially, of our belief in the doctrine of Christianity (the teachings of Jesus and of His Apostles) to those who need the Truth.

Jesus encourages disciples with His timeless declaration, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 – NIV). The world is large, and our problems in it can seem overwhelming; however, the pattern of God’s power in overcoming remains. It is our privileged responsibility to pray about religions and politics, work and recreation, friends, and family; because, these spheres touch and overlap. Praying, we witness God’s influence throughout the world. Beginning with our own little circle, we’ll increasingly see how He changes lives in every good way!

This post was written by Tina Crowson.