prayer and fasting and faith on the earth - part two

I've been on a bit of a journey, off and on over the past few years, periodically fasting and praying for the healing of a good friend.  I am still confident that God has said "yes" - I actually have a sticky note on my refrigerator detailing the day it happened - but we haven't seen it yet.  For awhile I felt like it was time to cease praying and simply wait for God's yes to come - but lately I've been feeling a little more urgency to start praying again.  And I've found myself in unexpected conversations with people about healing, and I feel that once familiar stirring to pray for "greater things" again...  but I'm still not quite sure what to do with all of it, intellectually, anyway.

You may want to backtrack a bit and read the first post in this series so you can follow my train of thought as I continue to process all of this.  Here's the link:

prayer and fasting and faith on the earth - part one (you'll want to read the comments too)

Okay, so fast-forward to this weekend.  I have some friends who recently have been experiencing a degree of success in praying for people to be healed.  On Saturday, they were hanging out with some other friends of theirs who had a prophetic word that there was someone with a left shoulder that was bothering them, and God wanted to heal it.  They asked people they met all day, but they never found anyone.

Sunday morning, I woke up early in a ton of pain.  Somehow in the night, something had happened to my left shoulder, and I could hardly move it.  The muscle behind my shoulder blade just ached, and reaching for things was intensely painful.  This did not bode well, as I was leading worship yesterday.  So I emailed some of the prayer warriors in our church and asked them to pray for me.  All morning long, people prayed - and when it came down to it, there were two kinds of prayers being prayed.

The first type made sense to me - "God, we know You can heal, and we want that - but if you choose not to, then please just give her the strength to carry on and lead well this morning."  Yep.  Believing that I would be able to lead was no problem - but believing that I'd do it pain-free came harder.  So this was a prayer with which I could easily agree.  I wanted to be healed - don't get me wrong - and I believe with all my heart that my God who once made the sun stand still, and once even made time go backwards is certainly able to heal my shoulder - but there was an intellectual assent that He might not.  Was that faithless?  Or practical?  I'm not sure.

Then there was another type of prayer prayed over me.  The sort of prayer that went more along the lines of "Shoulder, we command you to be healed in the Name of Jesus, to be restored to the way God created you to be."  Now theologically I don't have a problem with that prayer at all.  As I explained in part one of this series, I believe that it is entirely biblical to tell someone to be healed.  But it didn't happen.

It hasn't caused a crisis of faith - I still believe (possibly irrationally, but I don't care) that God can heal, that He wants to heal, and that it's entirely likely that I may one day finally screw up the courage to practice healing, embracing success and failure alike as my friends are doing, and learning from the process.  I'm not in the least upset that I woke up this morning with my shoulder still aching.  But I do sort of wonder why He said "no."

It's possible that it's simply to grow my faith.  Leading worship from that place yesterday was difficult, but it was also one of the sweetest runs I've had in a long time.  I don't often feel God's presence when I lead - it's a much more intellectual and practical experience that most would expect - but yesterday He gave me the grace to actually feel engaged in worship, and it was a joyous morning.  I wasn't pain-free, but it was bearable while I was on-stage, and that was an answer to prayer.  But I wonder.  I'm encouraged that He told people I don't even know, so that my friends would be on the lookout for an opportunity to pray for healing, and so that I'd feel incredibly loved by a God who was thinking of me before I even knew what the day would hold.  But with all of that - why wasn't I healed yesterday?

Praying on the way home, I felt like He said it would be a while.  I'm okay with that - tho I'll be honest and say that I'm kind of hoping (er, wishing...) for a short while as opposed to, you know, months.  It's a muscle ache - it will eventually sort itself out.  I'm not worried about it, just uncomfortable.  But I wonder what it is that I'm to learn from all this, and if it is a matter of needing more faith - not very strongly wishing God would heal me, but being 100% positive (hoping, believing, confidently trusting) that He will.

And how does all of this affect (or should it affect?) the way I pray for other people in need of healing?

I'm not sure.  More reflections to come in a day or two.  But in the meantime - thoughts?

a shameless plug for what looks like a GREAT movie

Some friends from an era of my life which feels much longer ago than it actually was have been involved in the production of what looks like an INCREDIBLE movie.  I will definitely be looking for it when it comes out.

You can check out The Frontier Boys on Facebook or on the official website.  :)

random ramblings, vol. 6

It's been awhile since I've written a rambling post, so since I'm procrastinating on any number of other things I ought to be doing, here you are. :) Seven random facts that have relatively nothing to do with anything.

1. Today was one of the most decidedly non-Sabbathy Sabbaths I've had in a really long time. I'm actually strangely glad to say that - mostly because it means that I've had a Sabbath on a weekly basis for a while now.  But I'm feeling it this evening, the lack of Sabbath.  I had literally a dozen errands to run today, things I just haven't had time to do; I managed to fit in nine of them before deciding the other three could wait.  And actually, now that I've said that, I can't even remember what one of the remaining three was....  Anyway.  All of that is to say that life has been incredibly fast-paced of late.  Which makes me really happy about Random Rambling #2.

2.  I'm going on vacation.  :)  Totally impromptu (well, somewhat planned, as I made reservations two days ago, but still... it wasn't on the calendar until last week!).  It's just for a weekend, but I can't wait.  Two days, mostly me and Jesus, in one of my favorite places.  I have a rare Sunday off from Torch next week, and I'm looking forward to spending time in worship with some dear friends I haven't seen in far too long.

3.  You know you're involved in church service planning when you evaluate the risk of buying a movie you've never seen before by factoring in whether or not the production company is included under your church's CVLI license... just in case there's a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

4.  I haven't seen "Ladies in Lavender" or "A Room with a View" in far too long.  I should fix that...

5.  I have entirely too many unread books on my shelves.  I wish I had time to fix that, too....

6.  I'm looking for a really good Lenten devotional guide.  Does anyone have one to recommend?

7.  I'm sorry to say that my kitchen table is, once again, cluttered with unopened mail, mostly of the unwanted variety.  I'm hoping to get to it tomorrow, but the good news is, I have a good friend coming over on Thursday, which will necessitate cleaning before then.  :)  One of these days, I really am going to get a handle on this....  And okay, I will just confess.  I started a new box for that sort of thing somewhere around Christmas.  But it is GOING DOWN by the end of February.  Really.  Mostly because I need that box for other things...

So there you have it.  Seven random ramblings.  Merry Christmas.

I suppose one of these days I should also take down my tree.....

full circle

It's been an amazing journey these past few years.  In May of 2007, I spent a few hours in the seminary library, studying commentaries for fun, and wrestling with a certain but still somewhat ambiguous calling - coming to terms with my inner Donna Reed and realizing that in spite of my hesitancy to find out what it was, God's call on my life was much different than I'd dared to dream.  In July of 2008, I preached my first official sermon on a Monday night at a young adult group - using a sermon illustration that has become Torch quasi-legend.  (Remember that time I got chased by a buffalo?  lol.  So does everybody else...)

And today?  Today I am headed back to the library to begin research for my first ever Sunday morning sermon.

(AHHHHH!!!!!!)  I am excited and terrified all at once.

It's a little surreal, looking back, and still feeling a tiny shred of that old reluctance to step out - but feeling at the same time, in spite of that little bit of sheer terror, so incredibly confident that God has called me to do this.

Nonetheless, I am very grateful that I have a month to write, re-write, and re-write again.  :)

Wish me luck!  Or better yet - pray that I get out of the way and am quiet enough to hear what He's speaking thru the text, and can relay it effectively.  :)


a new venture

As I grow into my role on staff at Torch, every now and again, I find something new on my plate.  This month, it's blogging.  :)  Our website's been under construction for awhile, and now that it's (mostly) finished, there are all sorts of new features, including a pastor's blog.  I've been asked to contribute, and this week, my first post went up.

Let me tell you - blogging for someone else's blog is challenging!  :)  Writing for our church blog is way different than just coming here to my virtual "room" and sharing my heart.  But it was a really good stretch for my shepherding skills and my writing.

And since it's all I've got right now - here it is.  :)


Stay Dependent On Your King

Have you ever gotten to the end of your day, only to look back and realize that you were pretty much the worst version of yourself you could have possibly been?
  • Maybe you snapped at people left and right, for no particular reason, or over-reacted to situations that would have gone better if you’d just taken a minute to think (or to take a deep breath) before dealing with them
  • Maybe you cut someone off in traffic, or left that file on your desk at home in spite of the fact that you were supposed to give a big presentation - on all the info in that folder
  • Maybe the printer jammed (again) and you swore in front of your boss - who isn’t a believer.  

Whatever it was - the sun’s going down, and all you want is a do-over.  You know you’re not going to get it, but in the midst of all the guilt you feel over the myriad of ways in which you’ve screwed up, you’re resolute: tomorrow will go better.  You will make better choices; you will keep your temper; you will get it right.   And maybe, somehow, it will make up for today... 
Except that it won’t.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” - Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
Suddenly, that resolution you just made seems a little ... well, ridiculous.  Because honestly, without His help, there isn’t a whole lot of hope that tomorrow will go much better.  Most of today went the way it did because you weren’t depending on Him; you were doing it on your own, and it didn’t work.  You weren’t quiet, you didn’t trust Him, you felt guilty (but you didn’t repent - you didn’t do a 180 in your heart or with your actions), and you weren’t even slightly at rest.  You were anxious and tense; your tone of voice was sharp when you spoke.  You were - to sum it up - knee-deep in sin for most of the day. 
Trying to do better might seem like the right thing to do, but the truth of the matter is, it’s not going to go any better tomorrow than it was today if you don’t get some help.  No matter how genuinely you want to go into tomorrow representing Jesus - the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, it’s not going to happen if you try to do it on your own.
So what do you do?
Well, first, you repent for your sin, and admit that you can’t save yourself.  Let’s look at that verse again, this time from the Message paraphrase:

“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me - the very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”  - Isaiah 30:15b (The Message)
Did you catch that?  Your salvation requires you to turn back to God and stop your ridiculous efforts to save yourself.  
The Bible says: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” - Ephesians 2:8-10
It is by grace you have been saved, through faith... not by the things you do.  Better still - the very faith you have in His grace?  Even that isn’t yours; God gave you that, too!  Your salvation is completely a gift, and all you had to do was ask for it.  It wasn’t free - it was incredibly costly - but it was given to you as a gift, completely paid for, when you asked for it.
Now as Ephesians 2:10 points out, God does have things for you to do.  Being kind to your coworkers, modeling a godly character in front of your kids, and living an upright lifestyle on campus are all important - but doing those things in love and obedience doesn’t save you.  Jesus does.  Did.  Is.  Will.  Salvation and sanctification (becoming like the One who saves you) go hand in hand - but you have to stay dependent on Him.  Jesus promised, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in Me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:3-4)

Stay dependent on your King.
Cease striving, beloved.  Be still, and know that He is God.  (Psalm 46:10a)  He is sovereign; He is your King.  And as your King, He tells you: “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.”  Don’t allow yourself to be counted among those who “would have none of it.”  And if those five words convict you, then ask yourself:
  • What is it that keeps me from repenting of my sin?   (Is it my pride?  My stubbornness?  Too much self-reliance?)
  • What keeps me from resting in the knowledge that it is by grace that I have been saved?  (Do I still feel like I need to prove my worth somehow to God?)
  • What is filling my life with noise, drowning out the still, quiet whisper of His voice to my heart?  (Am I spending too much time watching movies, or reading?  Is my schedule so full that I don’t have time to simply stop and wait on Him to speak to me?)
  • What is keeping me from completely trusting Him?  (Am I afraid that He will let me down in some way?  Or am I afraid of what people will think if I follow Him more openly than I do?)
Take some time today and wrestle with those questions.  You might be surprised by some of the answers.  You might even already know them.  But once you’ve gone there, all that’s left to do is to tell Him, and to settle down in complete dependence on Him, putting your faith in His incredible, unending, limitless, and amazing grace.
It is yours.  All you have to do is ask.

(cross-posted on the pastor's blog at


The church in which I grew up did actually celebrate Epiphany.  No matter what night of the week it was, we went to church on January 6th.  The sanctuary was still decked out in all its Christmas splendor, and the candles were lit in the stained glass windows.  The service was quiet, reflective, beautiful.  It was about journey, discovery, revelation, seeking, and finding.  And it was one of the avenues by which God taught me to seek Him.

Much of the church calendar is simply a journey through the Scriptures, with pauses for reflection, repentance and celebration at appropriate moments.  Today, Epiphany, is a reflective celebration day, and centers around the story of the wise men from the east who came to worship Jesus.

Reading their story again tonight, I was awestruck.  These men - however many there actually were - travelled a really long way to give Jesus some rather unusual presents.  They came, they worshiped - and then they went home.

(I wonder what they talked about - or if they even talked at all - on the way home...)

There is so much to learn from these wise men.  They were God-seekers; they were people who paid attention to the signs of the times.  They were faithful, determined, persistent.  And they were worshipers.

There may have been days when they were tired - desperately tired - but they kept on, and they reached their goal.  They sought Him - and found Him - and worshiped Him.

May we do the same this year.

Book Review: The Heart Mender, by Andy Andrews

Andy Andrews' The Heart Mender is an inspiring story about the power not just of love, but of forgiveness, community and faith.  Intertwined with the love story of an American woman and a German soldier during World War II (and with the stories of their friends and neighbors) is a bit of the author's own story, as he uncovers the clues that lead him to discover the romance.

Andrews is a skilled storyteller, and weaves dialogue and description to create vivid and believable characters.  The issues with which the characters struggle are real, and the answers to which they come are hard-won - but throughout the book is a firm and unyielding hope and confidence that love will, in the end, triumph.  From beginning to end, the storylines illustrate the truth that bitterness and resentment do nothing but continue to wound, while making the choice to forgive can do everything towards bringing healing and hope to a broken heart.

One of the things I most appreciated about this story is that while it is a love story, it doesn't happen in isolation.  It blossoms in the context of a community, and affects - and is affected by - that community.  I love that.  It makes the entire book feel even more true - because in real life, relationships do inevitably happen in the context of community.

I absolutely loved this story.  I have actually read it twice now, and already loaned it to a friend.  So I am happy to say that Thomas Nelson actually sent me an extra copy to give away on my blog!  :)  If you're intrigued and would like to read it, please let me know by commenting below.  Your names will be entered in a drawing, which will take place a week from Saturday.

Disclosure in agreement with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising":  I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.