Well, looks like it has actually been a whole year since I last posted. I can’t believe it. I thought it had been several months, but didn’t realize how much time had passed since I last shared on my blog. I apologize … again. It has happened before when I allowed other things to take up my time, but I promise I’m going to try to do better … to make this a priority. Encouraging others is important to me; but I can’t just say that, I need to act on it. Of course, I may not write a lot every single time, but if I can share even a brief message or thought with one of my photos a few times a week, and it touches you, strengthens you, or helps in some way, it will be a blessing to me as well. I pray that you will be encouraged here.
Like a lot of people, I have often asked others for prayers for a particular situation, but I can’t say that I have been very good about following up and letting people know that their prayers, or my own, have been answered. I privately thank God for what He has done, and I am truly grateful, but I don’t always publicly acknowledge or praise God for answered prayers. So, I wanted to take a minute to do that today.
On March 31st, I published a post “Seeking Prayers Today” as I had been stressing quite a bit over a work project. It was not something I felt equipped to do (even with years of editorial experience), as the client had very unrealistic expectations and requirements. While I recognized that situations like this can create an opportunity for God to shine through and pull off a miracle, it didn’t feel like this was one of those cases, as the actual work would still have to be done through me. I told God that I trusted Him no matter which way the situation went, but if he wanted to know my heart, I preferred that the project would simply go away. Within the next month, there were several delays, and then we were told that we would start at the beginning of May but the project would run through October (where originally they wanted everything done in a couple of months). I felt better about the additional time, but prayed that somehow it would still end up being cancelled (which is not very common once contracts have been signed) as it continued to feel very overwhelming and almost impossible to me.
At this point, I am pretty sure that several other vendors had already walked away from the project, but I knew that the company I am working for did not want to walk away from their commitment. They have a very strong work ethic and moral code, and I understood where they were coming from in remaining ready to press on. About a week before we were to begin, we heard from the client that they no longer had the resources necessary and were going to be unable to complete the whole project. At first, they wanted us to write one small portion of the project, which we would have been happy to do, but within a couple more weeks, the entire job was cancelled. Now, obviously, I can’t say all this happened because of me as I don’t have any pull or control in a situation like this … but God does … and he cares about the things that matter to us.
Granted, the downside of this was that we lost a large contract and the money that would have come in from it eventually. However, I feel it was a major plus in that the company I work for was able to save face and not walk out like other vendors had; the editors (me especially) felt a great sense of relief as this “monster job” was slain; and the time we would have spent on this crazy project was opened up for us to be able to take on better jobs with more realistic expectations and time frames. [Since then, I have added a prayer to my prayer board (more on that later) to deal with the aftermath, and new projects are beginning to come in.]
So, thank you God particularly for this answered prayer! And thank you for the other prayers you have answered recently as well – like Bart’s new job, which he is really enjoying and we feel will offer him success as well as an opportunity to make a difference for others [he sold his first house today!]; and my sister’s health, which is finally better [at least for now … it’s always something with her 😉 ]; and so many other things you have come through for us on.
I have so much more to share with you, my readers, on prayer, including the new prayer board I made, but if I try to write about it all now, I will never get this post published. So, I’m going to end with some words from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and promise to share more with you later.
“God is infinitely bigger than your biggest problem or biggest dream. … There is nothing God cannot do. Yet many of us pray as if our problems are bigger than God.”
“100% of the prayers [we] don’t pray won’t get answered.”
“Our most powerful prayers are hyperlinked to the promises of God [in Scripture].”
“Scripture is God’s way of initiating a conversation; prayer is our response.”
“The Bible is a promise book and a prayer book. … Reading is the way you get through the Bible; prayer is the way you get the Bible through you.”
If you have not yet read this book – I highly recommend it. In fact, I borrowed it from my sister-in-law and took tons of notes, but I plan to get my own copy sometime. If you want to change/strengthen your prayer life, you really should check it out.
Meanwhile, pray BIG, worry small, and TRUST GOD.
Today, I want to share with you a partial guest post by my husband, Bart. Having experienced various times in our lives when money has been tight, we have struggled with the concept of tithing (regularly, generously, and biblically). We have often been so concerned with meeting our own needs that we have clung too tightly to what was in our hands rather than trusting God and releasing what we had in order to open up our hands to receive greater blessings.
In fact, I remember having a conversation with my aunt once about what I thought of giving 10% to the church. I told her I felt like the money I donated or gave to various places or causes added up to 10% and it didn’t matter if it went specifically to a church. Giving was giving, right?
Our church has recently been sharing “generosity talks” at each service through members of the church. These personal stories have been very encouraging and motivating. Giving is up and so are personal accounts of blessings received. Following is Bart’s story, which he emailed to Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Plano, last month after sharing it with me:
My Conversation with God
I just had a conversation with God. Well, let me back up and give you some background.Over the last couple of months, when I have woken up early in the morning, before the sun, I have begun praying. Now, I know praying is a good thing. But one of the things I got from reading the Left Behind series (for the third time) is that praying should also be about listening.This morning, before I woke up, I was dreaming about taking a test in school or somewhere. Someone walked into the room and called my name. I woke up instantly. I was wide awake. I started my usual prayers, thanking God for my beautiful wife and then just stopped. Hey, why don’t I try listening this morning and see if God talks to me.In church this past Sunday, there was “another presentation” about giving to the church. What stood out to me about that presentation was the phrase: “90% of God’s math will go further than 100% of mine.”Being that I can’t just clear my head and think of nothing, I was smiling to myself, feeling pretty proud that my wife and I had recently been having conversations about giving to God. We had decided that we would give 10% of our earnings, but rather than tithing it all to the church, we wanted to have some control over where our money went. We felt like we would give more joyfully if we got to choose who we were giving to. So, we thought we’d give some to the church but the majority of our tithe would go to other missions of our choice like E3 and to people we knew personally who have been called to missions. I smiled as I thought about the different people we had been helping over the years go on missions throughout the world. And then I felt and literally heard, “How many of those has your tithe funded completely? Ask Jack [pastor of Prestonwood] how many my church has funded completely.” He was standing in my bedroom looking at me. My smile was gone. Our tithe is nowhere near enough to fund anything completely. “Give my church the 10% and I will bless you so that you will be able to continue giving to the other missions.”I hear you God. I hear you.I was so excited, I rolled over to wake my wife and share with her my conversation with God. She was sleeping peacefully though, so I thought that might not actually be the best way to start the morning. So, I decided that I should type up my conversation and share it with you, Jack (especially since God called you by name). God used your sermon, and the recent focus of the church on giving, to reach out and shake me out of my need to control my tithing. I will be obedient to God … joyfully.God Bless,Bart Fuller
Chris Kouba, the pastor of our church, wrote back about 15 minutes later:
Chris Kouba, Lead Pastor North Campus
In the past, I am sad to say, we have often given out of what was left rather than from our “first fruits.” Since Bart and I talked about his conversation with God, we have decided that we will be giving 10% of our checks as soon as they arrive, before we even pay a single bill. It has not even been a month since Bart’s encounter and our change of heart accompanied by a change in action, yet we are already experiencing blessings and a hope for a more fulfilling future.
I pray the same blessing on all of you.
“…return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord … You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. … Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:7, 8, 10 (New Living Translation)
Today’s message from Jesus Calling (one of my all-time favorite devotionals) is very appropriate for me, so I thought I’d start out by sharing it with you:
I am with you and for you. When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you. You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don’t be discouraged—never give up! With My help, you can overcome any obstacle. Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very-present Helper, am omnipotent.
Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me and do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing head-long toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence.
[Romans 8:31; Psalm 46:1–3 (NKJV): Luke 1:37]
Although the word “trust” is not actually used in that message, I believe it is implied. The closing words could very well be, “Slow down, trust Me, and enjoy the journey.”
I am one of those people who gets an idea in her head and then pushes forward full-force, trying to plan out every detail. I feel better when I am actively taking control of a situation. And I get frustrated when things begin to spiral out of my control or they don’t happen as quickly or the way I think they should. But I know that this is not the best way for me to go about my life. In fact, the more I try to control things, the more stressed out I get, and the further I may fall from God’s actual plans for my life. Or by trying to do everything myself, I realize that I may miss out on the opportunity for others to witness the amazing things that God can do despite obvious circumstances.
That’s why my word for 2016 is TRUST. There are many areas of my life where I need to let go of control and just trust God. So, this year, instead of worrying and fretting, I am going to trust. Instead of planning and manipulating, I am going to trust. I will do my very best to slow down and wait for God to reveal the paths He has laid out for me rather than rushing forward on my own.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything
you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
(Proverbs 3:5-6; The Message)
If I trust in God’s plan, and I wait for it, I won’t have to be worried or afraid that things won’t happen according to my plans. And I can be confident that I am taking the right steps for a better future. Is trust an issue that you deal with? Below are some other passages and images that might help you as they have helped me.
Although I don’t like to wait, God always has a plan to work things out for my good. So I must trust His “wait” is either to protect me or to prepare me for what’s ahead. (Glynnis Whitwer, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day)
God always keeps His word. If He has given you a specific promise, you can be assured that He will fulfill it. It may not be according to your time-table, but it will always be according to what is right in line with His will for your life. (Charles F. Stanley, In Step with God: Understanding His Ways and Plans for Your Life)
May we all become people who pray. May we also learn to leave the burden with You, rather than pick it up and carry it with us after claiming that we’re trusting You. Right now, Lord, take the burden. We cast it upon You, knowing that You’re better able to handle it than we ever will be. (Charles R. Swindoll, Insight for Today: The Importance of Prayer)