Category: Essentials to Faith

If You Want to Hear from God, Go Stand by Him

There’s a story behind the picture in this post. This old man, praying over his bread. It’s actually part in a series because there is an old woman as well, in a separate picture. In my family, this picture is a big deal. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins have this same picture hanging in our homes. It’s iconic for us and we all have different memories of times we we’d spent at my grandparents’ house, doing various things while that picture watched over us. I used to ask myself- what is he praying about? Just his food? Maybe the weight of the world is on his shoulders and, at the end of a long, difficult day, sitting down to his meal, he is praying for grace to face another one. Who knows. But everyone in my family has a different theory.

I’m not one to pretend I know much of any one, particular thing, but after walking in relationship with the Lord all of my life, I do know this: Prayer changes things. Prayer doesn’t change God, no. He never changes. But prayer changes hearts, minds, attitudes, entrapments, strongholds, situations and everything else because prayer engages God’s power and releases it into our lives: On earth as it is in heaven.

We become the agreement on earth, for things to align in God’s will, as they already exist in heaven. That’s an Amen!

On my mind today: Deuteronomy 5:31, “…but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…”

As I’ve been working my way through the book of Deuteronomy, I’ve been reading it with fresh, new eyes. I remember trying to read it so many times in the past and just about falling asleep, partially because I thought it was boring and partially because I’ve read it so many times, since it’s one of those first few books you encounter each time you try to read the Bible through in a year…

Our proximity to God is a crucial part of our ability to hear from Him. James 4:8 tells us to ‘Draw near to God…” – it is our responsibility to place ourselves closer to God and we do that through building a relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and through time spend seeking Him in prayer and even just being quiet in His presence.

There is a geography in the Kingdom (Read the post, “The Geography of Sin” for more) – you are either close to or far from God- and those are your choices to make.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses had just finished giving the Hebrews the Ten Commandments that the Lord spoke to him “on the mountain, out from the midst of fire, the cloud and the think darkness with a great voice” (don’t you wish it could just be that easy to hear from God…?!) and the Word says that even though the people heard the voice of God up on that mountain as the Lord spoke to Moses, they had no sense of honor or awe. They wanted to get as far away from it as they could.

In fact, they said to Moses, “Now, therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.”

One of the biggest mistakes the Hebrews made (over and over and over) is that they consistently ping-pong’d back and forth in their geography to God. If God did nice things, they got closer. If God didn’t do what they wanted, or not fast enough, they made golden calves and distanced themselves from Him.

One thing we know about God from His Word is that not only can God be found, but also- He wants to be found, but it is our job to seek.

In Deuteronomy 5:30-31, after the Hebrews got weird about being too close to hear God’s voice, the Lord says to Moses, “Go say to them ‘return to your tents’, but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…” As for YOU. As for me. “Stand here by Me.” Could there be any more inviting, amazing statement God could make? He wants to be near me?

The Lord wants to be close to us, so that He can speak. Need a word from God about your situation? Read the Word. Pray. He can be found, but you must seek Him, His face. You must place yourself close to God so that He can speak and so that you can hear. How can we expect to hear and know the voice of God if we aren’t standing close enough to Him to listen?

Food for thought. Pray before you eat it.


When Making Lunch Changes the World

If your house is anything like ours, school mornings are somewhat chaotic. This morning’s weeping and gnashing of teeth was over school lunches. We can’t afford to buy school lunch right now, so we pack lunches (remember the good old days when people preferred homemade things??), which is much less exciting, apparently.

As EDJ stomped around in anger because “we never have any good food” my husband suggested scraping three dollars out of our spare change jar to let him buy lunch, but it turned out that we didn’t have enough, so I got up to find him something to eat for lunch (yes, he’s a teenager and could, presumably make his own lunch, but it wasn’t in the cards today- I could already tell). You know how those days go.

As I scrambled around to scrape together something for lunch that wouldn’t end up being thrown away, EDJ threw some shade at me about how he hates peanut butter and jelly (which is all I could manage, as we need to shop, but haven’t gotten paid yet- aaaand you know how that goes), and that he fully intended to throw it away at school.

We went back and forth about the value of food and its cost, priorities and perspective, an appreciation for what we have even when it’s as humble as a PB&J and how not everyone can pay for school lunches and how that is OKAY. Of course, when I say “back and forth”, it was mostly me doing the talking as EDJ remained (mostly) silent and staring in a way that reminded me of the way people’s eyes would glaze over when looking at those magic pictures from the 1990’s that made images appear and float in front of your eyes.

After he left for school, I sat down to do my devotions and was reading in John 6, about the little boy with the five loaves and two fish. You know the story- Jesus had been teaching and everyone had come from far and wide, and apparently no one had thought to bring any food into the desert.

When Jesus suggested buying them food, Philip points out that they don’t have enough money to buy food for everyone (we didn’t even have $3, so I felt his pain), but they did have “five loaves of barely and two fish”, offered by a boy in the crowd.

Suddenly it struck me — someone had made that lunch for him, most likely the boy’s mother. My mind wandered as I thought about what that mother may have gone thought that morning as the boy headed out to see Jesus. Did he argue with her about how he hates fish? About how he’s sick of eating barley bread all the time? I wondered if he had complained that her fish always tasted funny and how all his friends were stopping at flafel the vendors to pick up something better. I wondered if he told her he’d throw it away once he was away from her.

I thought- maybe after he’d left, holding his five loaves and two fish away from his body as though it were covered in spiders, if she’d sat down like I had and beat herself up for not being a better mother and for forgetting to pick up his favorite lunch foods. Maybe she’d sent him out of the house with resignation, imagining how he’d toss the food that the rest of the family would gladly have eaten without complaint and what a waste it would be. Maybe she’d just been glad he was gone for a few hours. (You know how that goes).

Then, I remembered Jesus. He’d taken those five loaves and two fish and had performed one of His greatest miracles ever recorded – feeding well over 5,000 people (the Bible only counts the men) with that humble, packed lunch that some mother, somewhere in time, had made that morning. Who knows what she went through, but if she were anything like me, she may have had a morning that made her think: Why do I bother to do this at all? Will it ever get any easier?

And yet, because of the faithfulness and, yes, even the “routine” of one mother, who had made a thousand thankless lunches before that and a thousand thankless lunches after that day and may have had a thousand other arguments with her son about how it’s never good enough- she got up and did it anyway. Why?

Did she know Jesus would perform one of His greatest miracles with her humble, packed lunch? No. In fact, it’s highly probably she never had any clue what the Lord had done with her thankless lunch, made on a morning when she felt especially frustrated with it all. She did it because that’s what loving mothers do – they keep moving ahead because they love, because they see things their kids do not, because they’re willing to invest in their children, even when it’s not gratefully accepted at the moment.

However that investment pays off someday isn’t the concern right now. We do what we know to be the right thing, our very best, in spite of the struggle, the monotony of the routine, in spite of how others around us accept the best we have to offer- we’ve given it to God, and who knows- maybe that one, frustrating morning where we did the same thing we do every day will become one of the greatest events ever recorded in history- because we got up and faced another day thinking all we were going to do was pack our kids a lunch.

Stay Blessed!


Bye, bye baby (#4)

(This post may be difficult for some to read, due to the expressions of healing amid a miscarriage, but I felt it necessary given that it’s something many women experience, and yet few are open to discussing. Through this difficult time, the Lord ministered to me in a new way through this situation and I wanted to share what He showed me in case it’s of any help to someone else going through the same thing. Blessings!)

I lost a baby recently – my fourth miscarriage. By now, you’d think it would just be another unfortunate experience that I just ‘get through’ because it’s become almost routine, and because we weren’t even trying for a baby, but nope – this one hit me just as hard as the ones we’d planned for. The surprise, unplanned pregnancy was no less devastating in the loss, but to compound my pain, I had to deal with the knowledge that this one was my final chance to have another child.

All my life I’d dreamed of having 5 children. I couldn’t tell you why – just a number that I have always felt was the perfect number of kids for me. I had my first one in college, before I was married. Then, I got married and two more children joined my life. Next, we had an “ours”, totaling four children, but I wanted five.

Growing up, it never occurred to me that I would struggle with fertility issues like this. Each time the bleeding started, I got that pit in my stomach, that heart-stopping fear, and then the grim sense of knowing – it’s over.

Each miscarriage that I have had has its own story – of what I experienced at the time, physically, spiritually and emotionally – and this one was no different, except that it had a greater sense of finality – and I struggled with that, a lot. I wasn’t ready to give up, but my body was.

I don’t bother asking questions like “why” anymore – and I don’t blame God for one second. We live in a fallen world where the choices of evil people affect the good, and where babies die before they take a breath because someone kills them or because they were not formed to the point where they can survive. It’s not God’s fault. It’s just life and it happens and we have to deal with it and move forward, and God, in His faithfulness, is there to walk through it with us. Oh, how I needed Him this time, maybe more than the others before.

However, last night I started cramping and I got worried, so I reached out for a time of prayer and crying and talking with my mom and a dear friend, I fell asleep and had a dream that impacted me deeply. You can say what you want about dreams, but I absolutely believe that some dreams are sent from the Lord, to serve a purpose and this is what happened in mine:

I walked into a bedroom and I heard the song “Once Upon a Dream” playing on an old record player, with that gritty, scratchy sound you remember hearing on old records. Specifically, this one by Lana Del Ray . Sitting on the bed was my grandmother. While, in real life she has passed onto glory, there she sat – a younger, happier version of herself – and she was holding a baby boy with bright blue eyes. He was about 6 months old. The baby turned and looked at me. I asked my grandmother if I could hold him. When I spoke, he reached out for me and said, “Mommy”. 

I took him and held him very close, to my breast as if to nurse him and for a split second, I got to look into his sweet, little face and I smiled.

I woke up to a rush of blood leaking from my body and I knew, in that place in your heart where your spirit just knows, I knew I was losing my baby. I tried to pray and stand in faith, but I knew he was leaving, especially in light of the dream I had just had. I felt that the Lord had sent me that dream to let me catch a glimpse of him – to validate that he was, indeed, a real person and that he had a place in heaven.

And so I grieved.

I prayed that this baby’s life would serve some purpose in the greater purposes of the Kingdom of God – and I was determined not to define what that purpose would be – even if I don’t personally get to witness that purpose during my time on earth. I will not ever say this little life served no purpose, because we know that God is a God of purpose and no life, no matter how small, isn’t breathed with His spirit and given a purpose.

We have to be careful not to define “purpose” with our own definitions, when God’s purposes are well beyond our ability to comprehend. He sees all things, and all times, everywhere, so it would be really narrow-minded to define the purpose of a life based on what we see. God exists in eternity, as do His purposes – they are eternal, which means that not even death can cause the purposes of God to cease. I felt like I could let my baby go if I knew that his little life would not be for nothing – that he was seen and known and made and existed for a purpose.

I was reading in the Psalms – my go-to for comfort in times of pain or trial – and I read several chapters before running into Psalm 139. I almost skipped it because I already knew it had a lot to do with unborn life and I didn’t want to comfort myself with a cliche. I told God I wanted a “fresh revelation” – but I read it anyway and I’m so thankful I did.

Isn’t it funny how we try to TELL God what we want and don’t want, and don’t just trust Him to know what we need?

As I read Psalm 139, the Holy Spirit quickened His Word to me from Psalm 139:46 which says, “Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed, And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them…

That phrase jumped off the page to me: when as yet there were none of them

I knew in my heart that the Lord was speaking to me that although this little life may have no days here on earth, God not only saw my little baby, but had written out days for my tiny one. Not 6 weeks of days on earth, but days written into eternity. Perhaps in eternity is the only place my little one will live – and that’s okay – because I’ll get there and when I do, he’ll be there, living out the days the Lord has written for him.

How short sighted it is of me to think that life on earth is all there is. I know better than that! Just because someone passes into eternity, we have this sense of finality, but in Christ, we know that this life is only one part of what we were created for in the expanse of God’s time, not our own.

It gave me a tremendous sense of comfort to catch the revelation that this life DID have purpose, even though it has not fully unfolded yet, and even if he never has “days” as I understand them right now, on this earth.

So, I grieved, but “not as others who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13-14), but as one who knows that my hope is in God.

I thank my Friend, the Holy Spirit for the dream that I had about my baby, right before he passed. I know that He used it to bring me a measure of comfort and to be faithful to His word in John 16:13 to tell us of things to come. I was also so comforted to know that my grandmother was there too and that she was happy, because she had died a slow, painful death, and because she loved to rock babies in a rocking chair. It was one of her favorite things in life and she used to volunteer at hospitals to rock very ill babies and sing to them and pray over them. So, to see her with my baby was a beautiful image I will always treasure.

All that to say – if you’ve experienced a miscarriage – there is hope in God. Remember that our limited understanding of eternity is not God’s eternity, and our idea of purpose and will, are not His. We cannot say His purposes didn’t not prevail or that His will was for someone to die and that their purpose ended with their death. That is NOT TRUE. God sees in all times, in all places and His Kingdom will advance through the unfolding of the purpose He has placed onto every, single life – whether or not we experience it in this life, in this time and place. Every life is one of destiny  and I am so excited to see how it all plays out.

In the meantime, I will move forward as a healed and whole person, happy to know that the Lord knows what He is doing and I rest in His unfailing love.