Throwing Pebbles in Guatemala

Oswald Chambers says, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” As I blog about tossing pebbles out into the world that ripple change, I’m encouraged to see God at work through prayer.

  • God open doors for the Gospel through prayer.
  • God heals through prayer.
  • God convicts and restores relationships through prayer.
  • God sets captives free through prayer.

Today I’d like to do two things. First, let me introduce some pebble throwers down in Guatemala. It’s the yellow/gold country to the left of Honduras (purple):

guatemala-map

Meet David and Regina White and their children, Cruz and Ben.whites-8-16

They are on mission in Guatemala loving people and sharing the Good News. Second, let’s do the great work of prayer and partner with them as they bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Guatemala. Please pray for:

1)  Anointing of the Holy Spirit as they teach Bible studies in Muyurco, Lagunetas, and Nearar. Pray for the hearts of those in each village who will be hearing God’s Word.

2)  Regina as she homeschools their boys. For God’s power, peace, and patience as she juggles home, school, and ministry.

3)  Ministry partner Miguel as he takes seminary classes and for his bold witness to his family, neighbors, and friends. For God to meet his physical, spiritual, and financial needs.

4)  Village leaders: Rafa, Julio, Anacleto, and Reyes to stay strong in their faith despite persecution from neighbors and community leaders.  For God’s protection over them and their families lives.  For filling of the Holy Spirit to boldly share Christ.

David shared recently that “We cannot think of anything else we’d rather be doing with our lives.” What a joy to see the satisfaction that flows from tossing the exact pebbles God prepared in advance for this family to throw. Glory to God!

Six Things: When You Feel Like Quitting

It’s that thing your heart beats for. It’s part of you; something you’re wired to do. It’s your high calling, your pebble throwing mission.

Perhaps it’s freeing girls from human trafficking. Maybe it’s rescuing endangered animals. Or caring for foster children, or the environment, or helping frazzled moms love their families well.

As you’ve pursued your mission, have you ever felt like quitting?

I have.

(If you haven’t, feel free to save this for a rainy day. There may come a time when you wonder if you heard God wrong or if what you’re doing is making a lick of difference.)

For the rest of us, here are six things when you’re having one of those days:

1. “Just” pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Why do we say this? I’ve said it. “Is there anything else I can do besides just pray for you?” The truth is, if we all “just prayed” instead of spinning our wheels trying to do stuff, the world would be a dramatically different place. If your bent is toward “doing” rather than “being,” remember this: the next time you go to take action (send an e-mail, plant a tree, write a chapter, begin a recycling campaign, sign up for a mission trip, organize a fund raiser or whatever) take a breath. Ask God to use your efforts, edit your words, multiply your work, or stop you if it’s not the way He’d have you go.1thessalonians5-17

2. Every time you say yes to the wrong thing you’re saying no to the right thing.

When you commit to something that’s not part of your highest calling, it diminishes your ability to complete your highest calling. Whenever possible, each yes should propel you toward your mission. Do you feel ineffective in what you’re doing? Pause to evaluate your yeses. Give yourself permission to say no in order to free up time to pursue your Best Yes, as Lysa Terkeurst calls it. Jesus did this. He said yes to only those things that aligned with His highest calling.

3. Spend time with those who embrace your highest calling.

Not everyone will completely get your mission. But seek out friends on social media and in your school, neighborhood, and community who do. Seek out others whose hearts beat for what you’re doing to help spur you on. And most importantly, spend time with the Author of your highest calling, getting quiet with God, reading His word, and just being with Him. Psalm 63:1

4. Recruit others to pray specifically for this calling with you. Acts 12:12

Every other Tuesday morning, I circle up with four women. These friends are on my write-the-book journey for the long haul. They were praying for my book long before I traveled to Africa or began blogging. When I tire of updating them on my progress (or lack thereof), they still pray for me. Thanks to them and others, I’ve not given up on this book.

5. Expect things will get messy and don’t give up when they do. Galatians 6:9

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You will have “those days” when you hit a wall and are D-O-N-E, done! Michael Hyatt calls it the messy middle.“Everything is harder than you expect it to be. The hill is steeper. The road is longer. You are not sure you have what it takes to finish.”

Preparing for this season helps you push through instead of being devastated and giving up. Consider writing a “messy middle” letter to yourself on a day when you have a fresh vision of your mission. When you hit your wall, read it out loud and allow God to reignite your passion for His calling.

6. Remember who got you into this. Ephesians 2:10

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This photos reminds me of three things:

  1. The author of my calling is God. I didn’t think it up myself. I responded to His holy invitation.
  2. The One who called me has unlimited power and resources. All I must do is ask.
  3. Ultimately, my Heavenly Father is the only one I need to please.

On the dark days when you feel like you’re a crazy person for thinking you could do what you’ve set out to do, # 6 is everything. And when number 6 is even hard to do, repeat #1.

What has God called you to do? Have you experienced the messy middle? When everything screams “give up!” what has helped you stay the course?

How a One-Minute Prayer Can Save a Life

I love talking about prayer. But even more than talking about it, I love to pray. So, I was ecstatic to receive this very practical and powerful tip from fellow blogger, Lynn Donovan. Lynn and Dineen Miller encourage and equip a fantastic community of pebble throwers over at Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

Last week, Lynn challenged us with a 30-day, One Minute Prayer.

Today, I am tossing a pebble in your direction by extending this challenge to you.

Several years ago a Christian leader urged churchgoers to choose one person whose salvation they could pray for through the season of lent at 1:00 PM, every day, for One Minute. 

ONE PERSON FOR ONE MINUTE AT 1:00 PM.

Wherever they were, those participating, prayed at 1 pm. It wasn’t long into the daily prayers that those being prayed for were repenting and being saved. Hallelujah!

I’m wondering if, as a group of SUMites, we could do this?

I’m excited to see all that would be possible if we came together as a group and prayed daily at 1:00 pm. Thoughts, Fondly, Karen from Ohio.

Consider the ripple effects of hundreds, maybe thousands, of pebble warriors who set alarms on their phones and commit to stop and ask God to bring one unsaved person to mind, and then pray for one minute.

Don’t you want to be a part of that??

cropped-cropped-mp900402205.jpgThe day I read Lynn’s post, I began the challenge. Just to keep things real, when the alarm went off the first day, I was riding in the car with my husband with the radio blaring. It wasn’t exactly the perfect prayer setting. But at the heart of this challenge, and at the heart of pebble throwing is stepping out of your normal routine and your comfort zone to commit to do a tiny act of love that matters.

With radio blaring, I shifted my gaze out the car window at the beautiful Charleston salt marshes, and turned my heart to God:

Father, who do you want me to pray for today?

I was surprised by who God brought to mind. Another day, I was sitting at my writing desk deep in thought. When the alarm went off, I looked up and a neighbor’s house was the first thing I saw. So I prayed for my neighbor asking God for opportunities to talk to her about Jesus.

Will you sacrifice 30 minutes—one minute, per day, for 30 days—and ask God to place the person on your heart who needs your intercession? I promise that the ripple effects will be worth every precious second. If you’re accepting this challenge, please say so below. Let us know the first name or initials of an unsaved or hurting loved one you’d like us to pray for.

Why God Detests Fancy-Pants Prayers

In the foreword to Jon Bloom’s book Things Not Seen, Ann Voskamp shares a story about a man who labors long and hard weaving baskets. It takes him years to cut trees, plane lumber, sand, refine the reeds, and weave a mountain of baskets. As he weaves each one, he prays. When he’s finished, he takes a match to them. They turn to ash. Years of work vanish in an instant leaving the weaver with nothing to show. Nothing in the seen world, that is. Because his real work wasn’t in the seen world of weaving but the in the unseen world of praying.

basket weaver

photo credit: Chris RubberDragon

Never underestimate the ripple effects of the hidden work of prayer.

Oswald Chambers says “prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.”

I will be blogging about “the greater work” of prayer for the next few weeks. It’s a practice near and dear to my heart and perhaps the most powerful method of throwing pebbles to impact change.

“I strongly suspect,” says Dr. Peter Kreeft,“that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers to God make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those effects down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”

pebbles in sky

You probably know that the ripple effects of our prayers have little to do with the eloquence of our words. Even though we know this, we… okay, I sometimes fall into this trap. Prayers peppered with holy words and phrases like “for your glory” and “empowering” and “sanctification” are no more powerful than simple, honest prayers.

And yet, many would rather go to the dentist than pray out loud. Excuses abound:

“I can’t pray. I’m not good at it.”

“Other people’s prayers just roll off their tongue. But not mine.”

“I can never think of the right words.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

I’ve prayed in groups, classes, on streets, at conferences, over meals, and in church services with the most seasoned of prayer warriors and some true giants in prayer. Through these experiences, I’ve come to believe that God’s heart sings when He hears a fumbling prayer. That prayer is a sacrifice. It’s an “I-can’t-lead-your-people because-I-have-sp-sp-sp-speech-impediment” kind of prayer.

If you can’t stand to pray out loud for fear of:

screwing it up,

or pausing too long,

or forgetting what you wanted to say,

this post is for you. Moses gets you. And so does God.

God loves your prayers because those who offer reluctant prayers with knees knocking need Him. They aren’t self sufficient. They are God sufficient.

man prayingBut don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what Jesus said about a self-righteous man who prayed fancy-pants prayers. The Pharisee’s prayer exalted his own “righteous” acts—what he was doing for God. But Jesus praised another man for his prayers, a tax collector, who begged to God out of his desperation. The tax collector needed God. The Pharisee, not so much. Jesus also warned his disciples not to pray for the sake of being heard or seen by others.

People like Janine remind me of how Jesus wants us to pray. She is not an eloquent, “I’ve-got-this” kind of prayer warrior. But Janine’s prayers touch my heart more than most seasoned pray–ers. When she prays, she simply talks to God about her needs and concerns, for herself and for others. Janine’s raw, honest prayers move my heart because I believe they deeply touch God’s heart.

woman prayingIt’s sweet music to God’s ears when we allow our desperation for God’s intervention to win out over our need to be certain or comfortable. It’s not about the prayer. It’s about the coming. And being with Him. He already knows what we’re going to say. He doesn’t need our prayers. God doesn’t need anything. But He desires for us to come. He chooses to weave our prayers into His divine and perfect plan so we recognize that our prayers have purpose. And so we will keep coming back and persevering in prayer. John Piper even says God wants us to “badger Him in prayer.”

So come. Throw a pebble. Say an awkward prayer. Badger God. And take courage in knowing that He delights in choosing to involve you and every fumbling, bumbling word in His powerful Kingdom work.

What Worship and Water Fights Have in Common

You do the math. Three sweaty boys, plus one water feature, plus a 75-degree March day equals?

I sat in the designed-for-solace prayer garden behind my church and next to a playground. The boys were unsatisfied to simply splash in the garden’s water fountain. It wasn’t enough for them to toss a few rocks into its base. Nope. Instead, it added up to some major water play.

I couldn’t help but giggle as I watched:

First, the red-cheeked boys tried plugging the water flow with their finger. Then they sprayed each other with the spout. Then they began inserting different sizes of sticks into the opening of the fountain desperately hoping it would cause a rocket-like explosion. Much to their dismay, the mom in me intervened asking them politely to refrain from inserting said twigs into the church’s water feature.

I just love boys. They always seem to go all in.

boys-playing-in-waterAdjacent to the fountain, I noticed an empty bench. All at once, a thought came: I wonder if Jesus is sitting here right now watching these boys. Perhaps He’s smiling. Maybe even laughing. And maybe even getting wet.

It made me think of the other well where a thirsty Jesus sat with a woman at high noon. When Jesus met her at the well, she wasn’t frolicking in the water, but drawing water. He asked her for a drink. Then, God invited her to partake of the living water and promised she’d never thirst if she drank the water He offered.

well2Next, Jesus spoke words that have been written on my heart ever since I first read them.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” John 4:23-24.

As I read that passage many years ago, the Holy Spirit etched a prayer on my heart for my family:

        Lord, shape us into a family of true worshipers who worship You in the Spirit and in truth.

Whenever God gives me a prayer, my mind envisions one thing, and His an entirely better, higher purpose . As I slowly learn how to worship in Spirit and in truth, God is elevating and expanding my understanding of worship.

The same Jesus who gave truth and living water to the woman at the well thousands of years ago did the same with me by the water feature this week. My unexpected and spontaneous encounter with the Living Water taught me another aspect of true worship. Jesus and I caught those pebble-throwing boys in an act of true worship, a pure and holy moment of boys being exactly who God created them to be. When a child of God does exactly what he or she is made for, it glorifies God and makes Jesus smile. I believe this is one important aspect of worship.

As pebble throwers, our doing is an act of worship. It pleases the Father when His love spontaneously flows to another through a small act of kindness. But for pebble throwers who belong to God, just being is worship. Brother Lawrence embraced this truth. God is pleased when he watches one of His children being who He made them to be.baby-with-mother For example:

Those sweaty boys may not realize that God shaped their water fight into a moment of true worship, but the ripple effects were significant. He used them to remind me that true worship is being. Come to the well and dive into the conversation by leaving a comment below.

How do you define worship? In what ways do you worship God by doing exactly what He made you to do? What ripple effects do you see as a result?

Book Giveaway!

Do you need a new workout? I’ve got one for you. Warning: we’re not talking fitness. But, I suppose this workout did flex some spiritual muscles that were getting a bit flabby…

When I first began Becky Harling’s book, The 30 Day Praise Challenge, I expected a well-written, 20-minute-a-day parenting devotional. It turned out to be far more.

This past month, I learned how to let God turn my parenting worries and challenges into praises. Becky has a powerful lens through which she sees herself and others: praise. lensFor 30 days, I borrowed her lens by committing to praise God each day for some beautiful and not so beautiful things in my family.

sunriseI learned to praise God for my children’s struggles and celebrated how He uses these trials to draw them to Him. As I praised Him for my kids’ talents I began to see them in a new light. With fresh eyes, God showed me how they are uniquely fashioned as His masterpieces. One morning, my family picture was looking less than happy. I chose to simply praise God for the rising sun, which swelled into a wave of much needed hope to start my day.

curlAs I praised my way through 30 days, I discovered that Becky’s book is far more than a devotional. Like a curling iron that shapes a strand of lifeless hair into a soft, bouncy curl, God used this book to shape my flat and fearful, pleading prayers for my kids into praises that spring forth life and hope in our family.

If you could use a spiritual makeover for your quiet time, I highly recommend Becky’s book. Here’s where it get’s fun! There are 2 steps to be entered in a giveaway to win a copy of Becky’s book.

1. Leave a comment below.

2. Sign up to follow my blog by entering your e-mail address (for those of you who haven’t already done this).

Once you’ve followed steps 1 & 2, you are officially entered! The contest will conclude on Friday, July 17 at 12 midnight. One winner will be drawn from entries.

Ready … set … go!

New Mercies

We say it all the time: God is good. But for some, the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church threatened our belief in God’s goodness. He is all-powerful and He is sovereign which means He could have prevented this tragedy. But He didn’t.sad child

I cannot argue with those who say, “It’s beyond me—to understand how a good God could let hatred take nine people’s lives? I don’t get it.”

2305701220_0fc3d01183_zI agree. It is beyond me to grasp why a good God allows this. But God is beyond me. “His ways are not my ways,” Isaiah 55:8. This doesn’t mean He is any less good. It simply means that His definition of good is beyond mine. (Itty bitty brain. Itty bitty definition of good. Vast, all-powerful, unlimited wisdom and knowledge. Higher, more complete definition of good.)

  2443732503_69fedc69d6_zIs it possible that amidst the ocean of sadness whose waves pummeled Charleston last month, our good God is using thousands of His children to toss pebbles of love—pebbles whose ripple effects are bringing one good thing after another?

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Steven Curtis Chapman’s pebble was a song. His grief rippled a melodic promise that “Love will Overcome” across Facebook and Youtube.

4923394528_5fa7ce163b_zI gathered with other pebble throwers at my church the night after the news hit. We joined hands, bowed heads, wept, sang, and wept some more. As we quieted our hearts to pray, my favorite hymn kept reverberating in my mind’s ear: “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.” A prayer rose to my lips: “God, Charleston sure could use some new mercies. In the days and weeks and months that follow, please send us new mercies so we can look beyond our hurt and see your love at work.”

I left the church and continued with my evening forgetting about the prayer. The next morning, as I typed away at my laptop, a movement outside my window lured my eyes from the screen. I craned my neck to see what was going on. I heard chatter in the driveway and noticed my neighbor getting out of his car. His very pregnant wife’s due date was last week. For the past few days, things had been quiet next door and we hadn’t heard any news.

As I watched the back door of their SUV open slowly, a God-breathed, new mercy emerged in an infant car carrier. Joy beamed across the young couple’s faces as they carried their new baby girl inside. I heard the excitement in their voices as they welcomed her home. Peace softened the ache of my grieving heart. “Thank you Abba, Daddy, for showing me this new mercy today,” I whispered. “ I really needed that.”

baby hand

Charleston, my heart grieves for you. But hold on, because our God is faithful, His mercies are new every day, and He is good.

“Great is they faithfulness, oh God my father. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Be honest: how have such events impacted your faith? How have you seen God’s hand at work in the midst of evil?