Where IS that Hundred Acre Wood?

Just when I think I’m pretty clever about reading caution signs and carefully walking the path in front of me—Bam! Blindsided. Bewildered. Awake at night. Tears.

After watching Christopher Robin last night, I really want to climb through a hole in a tree trunk and find a 100-acre wood and talk with Pooh. Astutely he warns us, “Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the forest that was left out by mistake.” It’s that piece of life that feels left out by mistake (or should be left out) that throws us.

MapI’m sorry. All this morose Eyeore-like blather comes from focusing on earth—on wishing for an imaginary hole through which to escape and discover a fantasy forest where bears hold your hand, piglets do your worrying, and donkeys mirror your glum attitude. It’s silly and nonsensical until you stop to consider…

Actually, I do have a mysterious path to embark on. It’s not imaginary and it leads to a 100 billion, trillion, quadrillion acre land of peace and joy and beauty. I will enter that path, possibly sooner than I expect, and find wonders beyond what I imagine. The heartache and disappointment I grapple with will pale, replaced by glorious wonder.

Until that day, fellow travelers and Hundred Acre Wood wishers, in Pooh’s words, “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” If a bear with little brain can say this, how much greater is the bravery, strength, and intelligence available to those of us who walk with the King of Glory, possess His Spirit, and own His promises?

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8 NIV)

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Cor. 10:13 MSG)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10 NIV)

 

 

Caution

The Flip Side

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After touting the delights of yellow in my last post, I found myself alert to the color—and yellow showed up everywhere. Suddenly I was acutely aware of caution signs I’d often passed without acknowledgement. Truthfully, it kind of irked me. Yellow had been a happy color and now it seemed to scream at me: Watch for Children, Deer Crossing, Wet Floor, Construction Zone, Go Slow!

The longer I thought about it, and the more signs I saw, I became grateful—somebody out there in the municipality was concerned about my safety. And that turned my thoughts to God and the cautions He offers.

  • Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise.” (Eph. 5:15)
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody….live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge.” (Rom. 12:17-19)
  • Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9)
  • “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” (Josh. 23:6)
  • “The Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” (Josh. 23:10-11)
  • “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” (Deut. 6:3)

God cautions us to protect us—from wandering off, from hurting others, from falling. Sadly, there are times I zip right past His warnings. Thankfully, He doesn’t take the signs down. Their reminders are as steadfast as His love.

Holy Spirit, Counselor and Revealer of Truth, alert me to the cautions You have lovingly placed in my life.

CautionGood

I Love Yellow

The Lighter Side

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I love the cheerfulness of yellow and its mood-elevating, smile-on-your-face, soul-satisfying effect.

I love the bold, brazen, bronzy glow of the sun and it’s paler yellow beams sprinkling the earth like suspended salt from a shaker.

I love buttery golden corn kernels eaten from the cob, messy and delicious, salty and warm—a  special summer gift.

I love the yellow smile of daffodils, proclaiming the arrival of spring just before forsythia wave their golden arms. I love sassy black-eyed Susans, and audacious sunflower faces grinning at the sun, and delicate, lemony, buttercups—joy-surprises along the path.

Speaking of lemon… I love lemonade, pale yellow, sweet and tart—the best is fresh-squeezed, sold at Amish markets.

And what about lemon cookies, lemon sherbet, lemon drops, and lemon meringue pie?

Have you noticed that a sunset is more astonishing when its purples and pinks are embellished with streaks of yellow-gold accenting its beauty?

Has your heart fluttered at the flit of a swallow tail butterfly dancing by—or the sight of a gold finch lighting on a branch—or the first golden flash of a lightning bug in the early evening?

What yellow do you love? White-petaled daisy centers? Yellow plastic pails on a sandy beach? Is it the color of your favorite team? Please share!

Image from Pixabay/Ulleo

The Kingdom, the Power, the Glory—Forever

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This powerful closure to the Lord’s prayer is footnoted in many Bible translations, but too profound (and familiar) to be overlooked. Let’s again bring our prayer request to God and, by His grace, find release in this glorious closing statement. This is the ultimate bottom line.

Whatever our burden, concern, request, we acknowledge God’s kingdom as our priority.

Father, you know my thoughts and my heart and what I would like to happen. You know how I’m hurting and longing for a change in this circumstance, but right now, I elevate your kingdom above this kingdom. I want your righteous standards, your purity, your light, your methods, your thoughts to be preeminent.

I trust you as King and Ruler to do what is good—for the bigger picture, the greater good, and your eternal purposes. To that end, I lay down every inferior suggestion and imagined scenario and put my trust in you. Rule in this troubling circumstance—and also in my heart.

We dare pray like this because the power—all power—unlimited power is His. When He doesn’t respond as we wish, it’s not due to impotence or indecision. Just the opposite. He has the power to do better and more than we have asked and knows how to bring exceedingly great blessings.

Our Father, God of power, might and wisdom, you are omnipotent. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14). I will to put my trust in you, for you are able and you do all things well.

The end result of all we pray must be God’s glory—His magnificence, beauty, splendor, brilliance, grandeur, wonder. If His glory isn’t our chief goal, what is? Our glory? We worship Him as our Father and King because He is worthy.

Father, it’s not about what would bring resolve to my loved one’s situation or blessing his or her life, but about your glory. Lord, be magnified—be magnified in the midst of this mess and in my heart and soul.

Forever. God’s kingdom will never end, His power never wane, His glory never fade. What will change is our awe as we see His kingdom more clearly, trust His power more fully, and behold His glory more openly.

I pray that this walk through the Lord’s Prayer has enabled you to profoundly trust our Father. My hope is that He has been magnified in your eyes and the heaviness of your prayer concerns has lightened.

Thank you, Jesus, for teaching us how to pray. Amen.

Lead Us, Deliver Us

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If you’ve been waiting to read what I’ll say about “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” so have I. It’s easy to get mired in the theology of the request, and I did. I referenced my notes from when I spoke on the Lord’s Prayer, but finally decided to simply talk about how I pray this for myself and others and leave the studying for your personal pursuit.

This may be the easiest and most passionate appeal we pray from the Lord’s Prayer—who doesn’t want to avoid temptation? It’s also a humble acknowledgement that, even when it’s the obvious choice, we need help to escape. In the previous verse we prayed for forgiveness. Now we pray that we won’t be in the position to again fall.

When Jesus told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” He knew whereof He spoke. Two chapters earlier we’re told, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (4:1, italics added). He knew the pain involved in resisting temptation.

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Jesus knows, He helps, and sees the perfect purpose.

God tests us to build us up. Satan tempts us to tear us down. When the tests come, Satan will appear on the scene and tempt us to despair, bitterness, fear, anger, self-pity, unforgiveness.  Lord, “deliver us from the evil one.”

How better can we pray for the situation we’ve been bringing to God as we walk through the Lord’s Prayer? It is probable that the burden we carry stems from a yielding to temptation.

Father, please don’t lead my loved one into temptation, but deliver her (him) from the evil one. Open a way of escape. You are the Faithful One, ever-present to help in the time of trouble. Help this one who is dearer to you than she is to me and open her eyes to see your deliverance.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Graphic from pachurch.ca

Debt Forgiveness

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Today we’re taking our prayer request to a new level—one that is probing and deeply personal. We ask for forgiveness, for ourselves, for the ones we’re praying about, for those involved in the pain that has brought us to our knees.

I’d rather pray for bread.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Debts. I have debts. Plural. I owe my friend $5 when I was short for the lunch tab. I owe a reciprocal dinner. I owe others for acts of kindness too many to count and too thoughtful to match. I owe visits and emails, words of gratitude and patient listening, encouragement and caring about your story. And that’s just on this plane.

I owe God my life. I am straddled with a debt of forgiveness I can’t pay—a life I cannot purify enough to make worthy, thoughts that dwell on unhappiness more than on Him, service I’m not selfless enough to give, praise that forgets my faltering ego and exalts Him, trust that usurps my fears, worship that is not minimized by mood.

So, I inadequately come to the One who paid all these debts and more, and offer nothing as I ask Him to forgive me—again. I receive sweet mercy and astounding grace. And then I remember the qualifier—forgive as I have forgiven my debtors.

Is there someone I’m holding accountable to me? Does my attitude say you owe me? Am I waiting for reparation?

My forgiveness for others will never be as free and full as what I receive from my Father, but I can make my heart right by releasing my offenders from their debt, like I’ve been released from mine. And then I make forgiveness choices—to not rehearse the offense, to not repay the evil, to bless the offender, to live at peace, to refuse to take the offense that’s been given.

How does this apply to the situations we’ve been praying according to the Lord’s prayer?

Lord, my loved one may not be asking, but I’m asking, please forgive his (or her) sins. Bring him to the place where he will marvel over the magnitude of your forgiving grace. Cut away roots of bitterness that want to take hold. I release from debt, those who have hurt him, who have hurt me. Bring a miracle of healing that only forgiveness can release.

Graphic from vimeo.com/hunterstreet

Give. Us. Daily. Bread.

Wheat.During the past weeks we’ve prayed about a specific situation according to the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. We asked God’s name to be honored, His rulership to reign above our desires, and His will to be done. The focus of these first three requests has been on God’s greatness: His holiness (hallowed be), sovereignty (kingdom come), and wisdom (your will be done). The next three focus on our smallness. As we bring our request to Him today, let us ask,

“Give us today our daily bread.”

This seemingly simple request is actually heavy with meaning.

Give us. These words recognize two things—the Giver and the need. In the self-sufficient place I live, I need reminders of both. I drive to one of 35 grocery stores within fifteen minutes of my home where I find a dazzling array of selections and pay for them with cash, check or credit. I empty my bags (always plural and more than I expected), pushing my purchases into already full cabinets. I confess, “Give us today our daily bread” never passed my lips.

Our request for daily bread is not determined by need but by acknowledgement. It is not our jobs, our ingenuity, our labors that supply our needs—it’s all from God, the One who gave us work, talents and strength. It’s all grace and deserves daily appreciation.

It is different when we pray for something outside our ability to provide (such as the request we’ve been praying through the Lord’s Prayer). Then it is easy to feel our need because we are powerless to change the situation. Our cry, “Give us today our daily bread” is honest. The need hurts and only God can supply the remedy.

Today. What we presently need—we’ll be back again tomorrow.

Did you ever notice God is more about process than speed? I want this burden to be gone today but God gives me grace today. I need to subdue the desire to cover it all, to solve the problem and be finished with it, and ask only for what’s needed today.

Our. Not my needs alone, ours. I own your need and share your hardship. We are in this together.

Daily. I want to be confident in God’s provision—it is always enough for the day, like manna in the wilderness.

Bread. I don’t ask for the desserts of life but for what is needful to live well. “Lord, give me what nourishes and sustains me. Satisfy me with your gifts of perfect, timely provision.”

The significance of praying for our daily bread explodes when we consider a conversation Jesus had in John 6. He said, “I am the bread of life.” I believe Living Bread is encompassed in the request for daily bread since no other petition in this prayer pattern includes spiritual or emotional needs. Both “breads” are needful daily and are supplied by a gracious Father.

Let our prayers intentionally focus on the Giver, our daily need and His daily supply.

Lord, you know what’s necessary for my loved one. You understand his (or her) needs better than I do, so I ask you to give him what he needs for today and help me to not worry about his future. And, Lord, it’s not only for his bread I pray, but for all the lives who touch his and are affected by him. Work in me, that I may care as passionately for others as I do for me and mine. Give us today our daily bread.

Lord, satisfy me today with Yourself. Let me—no—let us eat of the Bread that fills our longing souls. Give us today our daily Bread.

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