Praying Palms Down

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Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
—Psalm 4:1

Today I’d like to talk about prayer—specific prayer, that is. The kind of prayer about painful or stressful situations that brings us to our knees. We pray and we pray, and then we pray even more … waiting for an answer from God.

As we pray, we often lift up our hands up in a symbolic gesture as we give our problem to the Lord. I know what I’m talking about because I used to do this very thing.

One day, however, I had a realization that has completely changed my prayer life. It occurred to me that when I pray with my palms facing up—toward the ceiling (or sky)—I can quickly and easily close my fingers into a fist and mentally and emotionally take back that situation or trouble.

I have a tendency to do that, you know, take back something I’ve been praying about and have supposedly handed over to the Lord, just because I might be able to somehow take care of it myself.

Does this sound anything like you?

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.  —Psalm 17:6

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Since I am a very visual person, I thought about praying for specific things palms down, with hands facing the floor so that I could drop my prayer request at Jesus’ feet. To me, giving up that situation palms down tells me that once I’ve let go of it that way, it’s gone. There’s no chance for me to pull it back.

I’m not saying that everything I pray for in this way gets answered exactly as I would like, but what it does is enable me to allow God to do His work—not only in the particular situation for which I prayed but also on and through me. Sometimes I get in God’s way too much and don’t give Him enough room.

When I pray in this manner, I feel a real peace come over me. The kind of peace that lets me know that I don’t have to worry about the problem, because:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
—Luke 12:25

and

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
—Philippians 4:6

Beloved, this is my prayer for all of us: that we will always remember to pray palms down.

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Godliness + Contentment

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Godliness + Contentment

By Patricia Knight

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

We could list the aspects of our lives that have changed due to the invasion of adversity, but that exercise would not change our circumstances. Instead of stressing the negative, why not accentuate the positive? List the gains rather than the losses. Reflect on the people you’ve met, the introspection you’ve gained, the spiritual strength and dependency that has grown, the patience learned, and the ability to mature in your faith.

If we are able to combine our faith with personal well-being, then improvement or enrichment will result. We have learned the secret for peace of mind. Following God, no matter what occurs in our lives, believing that whatever He chooses is best for us, and telling others about God’s goodness and grace, will all contribute toward our personal and spiritual riches.

1Thes5-18-HandSilhouetteSunset-35--AMPAs difficult as it may seem, we can develop a greater dependency upon our Lord even during afflictions. Therefore, we can go forward to accomplish whatever God asks us to do for Him, not in spite of pain, but because of it. We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances”(1 Thessalonians 5:18). The thankfulness we express is not an appreciation for leading a restricted, hurtful life, but rather it is a means of recognizing and showing gratitude for God’s sovereign leadership in our lives. Whatever He plans for us is perfect in its design and timing. 

Learning patience and perseverance produces a stronger faith. We learn those attributes by practicing them. Our hardship gives us reason to develop positive and useful emotional tools—those with which we can reach out to others in their time of need.  Christian maturity will follow.

When God has something to teach us, He may set us aside in order to instruct us in life’s lessons. The experience we gain will be invaluable in serving a loving, faithful God and others.

“Godliness + contentment = great gain”
is a method of expressing the verse as a formula for life.
It defines a spiritual goal for us—
one that God honors.

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Fearful Hands

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All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt.
Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.
—Isaiah 3:7-8

Fearful Hands

By Patricia Knight

“Hands hang limp,” a description used four times in the Old Testament, is a metaphor expressing fear or failing courage. Isaiah 3:7-8 records, “All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.” A typical reaction to intense fear is a limp, incapable mind and body. We freeze in our most ineffectual state. Doubts assail us; fear paralyzes us.

Jesus had just miraculously fed in excess of 5,000 men with a boy’s lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. After the baskets of extra food were gathered, Jesus commanded His disciples to go ahead of Him and cross the lake by boat while he dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus slipped away into the mountains for solitary prayer.

Imagine that you were one of Jesus’ disciples. By now it was dark. Jesus had left your group, assuring you He would rejoin you in Bethsaida. Each of you were familiar with the demands of navigation on the local waterways. Several of you were fisherman by trade, having spent your lifetime coaxing a living from the sea. Your group of disciples had rowed three and a half miles into the lake in the pitch darkness. There were no lighthouses or emergency flares; just total blackness.

From Jesus’ outlook on the mountain, He could see you, His beloved disciples, struggling at the oars as the wind buffeted your boat. “At the fourth watch of the night {between 3:00 and 6:00 am} he went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:48).  

Distracted by the wind storm and thinking only of survival, you disciples worked as a team to keep your boat on course. Suddenly, out of the dark, tumultuous night appeared what you interpreted to be a ghost. With terror in your hearts, you cried out in shock. You had learned the superstitions about spirits in the night, causing disasters. Perhaps this was a water spirit which you had heard spoken about in hushed tones by the elders who told of experiences encountered during their lifetime of boating and fishing.

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Immediately he spoke to them and said,
“Take courage! It is I.
Don’t be afraid.”

Then he climbed into the boat with them,
and the wind died down.
They were completely amazed.
—Mark 6:50-51

In response to your fear, Jesus immediately “spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely amazed” (Mark 6:50-51). Not one of you had recognized Jesus until He spoke. Little did you realize when Jesus walked on the water toward your boat, He was displaying the majestic presence and authority of His Lordship, ruling over the waves. As His Word testifies of Him, “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Psalm 89:9).

God commands, “Do not fear…; do not let your hands hang limp” (Zephaniah 3:16).  Though hands hanging limp is an alternative method to explain fear, I wonder if the disciples’ hands dropped their oars during that frightful, majestic night when Jesus appeared to His chosen men by walking on water?

How often do our hands hang limp when what we need is a surge of heavenly courage and power similar to the promise Moses gave Joshua centuries ago.

“’Be strong and courageous… 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’” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

Deut31-7-8-StrongBarbedWire--AMPOur experiences with fear may not be as visually explicit as witnessing our Master walk on the surface of water before our eyes. Nevertheless, our fears are just as real. Do such tragedies as developing cancer, being victimized with identity theft, or suddenly losing all of  our earthly possessions in a natural disaster, instill fear in our hearts? Do we allow panic and anxiety to wash over us like raging ocean waves, or do we grab the oars and look to the Master of the Seas as our Source of help?  Our head as well as our hands often hang limp with discouragement in an emergency situation. However, God has promised to care for His own, to provide for all our needs, and to give us victory in conflict.

Joseph was shamefully treated by his brothers when they forced him into a cistern and sold him as a slave to passing merchants. He was then sold to the captain of the guard in Egypt where he prospered, but without warning he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison where he remained for several years, seemingly forgotten!

Job, known and admired as a model citizen who loved and served God, was victimized by having his property burned, his animals stolen, his children killed, and his health so compromised, he was humiliated, grieving, and in constant pain.

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had suffered in servitude to the Egyptians as brick makers for centuries. They felt hopeless and helpless, waiting for God to rescue them from their cruel taskmasters.

Do any of our fears compare to what Bible characters suffered centuries ago? Perhaps our experiences pale in comparison or we could be dealing with much more horrendous hardships. The Israelites, Joseph, and Job all feared for their lives. Their circumstances reversed when God intervened, working out individual life plans, blessing them richly. Their catastrophic life stories are contained in God’s Word so we can learn from their mistakes and their victories. We aren’t so different from those biblical figures who suffered hardship, disease, and injustice. Their ultimate victory was a gift from God who loved them deeply, just as He does us.

God’s promises have remained constant throughout the centuries. “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25, 26). God is worthy of our trust. With promises so personal and profound, why not permanently put fear to rest and rely on God’s rich mercy and grace? Don’t let your hands hang limp, but trust your Lord enough to grasp His hands and walk in step with Him day-by-day.

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Adjusting to Serious Illness

This is an excellent article from CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help. It is not easy to live with chronic illness, whether you’re the patient, the caregiver, friend or family member. Included in this article are ten practical ways that patients and their families can use to make their households and relationships work better.

Adjusting to Serious Illness:
Strategies for Patients and Their Families

By Bruce Campbell

CFS and fibromyalgia force profound adjustments, both for patients and for those around them. Household tasks are juggled, finances are often strained, and all family members wonder what the future will bring. What strategies will help you and your family adjust if you are struggling with the disruptions created by CFS or FM?

Understanding Your Unique Situation

The foundation of an effective response is understanding your unique situation. Every family’s circumstances are different. Just as each patient must individualize his or her self-management strategy, families need to develop a response to CFS or FM that fits their individual circumstances.

The scope of adjustments will be dictated by the seriousness of the patient’s health problems. CFS and fibromyalgia vary greatly in severity. The average person in our self-help program reports that she functions at about 25% of normal, but there are sizeable numbers who are housebound, while others are less affected and continue to work part time or full time. The severity of medical issues will set the limits on the amount of adjustment required.

The family’s financial situation is also crucial. Some families can afford to let the ill person stop working or have her take an early retirement, while others are stretched financially and may be forced to make financial adjustments of various kinds. The presence or absence of children and, if present, their ages is significant. Couples with school-age children have to juggle work and child care. Those with adult children may get help from their kids. The health of the spouse is another important factor. In some families, both spouses are ill or a normally-healthy spouse has a health emergency like a heart attack or surgery.

A final factor is the strength of the bond between the partners. Some marriages are made stronger by illness, while others become frayed and still others break. The response of the well spouse to illness may vary from strong support, on the one hand, to disbelief, abuse and abandonment on the other. Some people in our groups, who have had multiple marriages report that they have experienced the full range of possible responses, most commonly a lack of support in an initial relationship and understanding in a later one.

Ten Strategies

Here are ten ideas for how families can adapt to CFS or FM.

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Read the rest here

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Being Thankful for What We Do NOT Have

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Rejoice always;
praying without ceasing;
in everything give thanks;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of thankfulness. Often when I thank God for all the blessings in my life, I have also thanked Him for what He has not given me or allowed in my life. Have you ever prayed like this?

Okaaay, I can hear most of you saying. The rest are thinking, wait … what? are you serious?

Yes, I am very serious. I thank God for things I don’t have, that He has not allowed in my life. I’m not just talking about more serious illnesses than those I live with every day or cataclysmic events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. I’m referring to things like more money, maybe more (and more stylish) clothes or a bigger house. How about straight hair instead of the naturally curly mop I was born with? Or writing talent so spectacular that publishers come after me instead of the other way around?

It seems to me that the more we want, well… the more we want, like some vicious cycle. Contentment with what we have now is admittedly difficult because human nature always yearns for more. And yet, I’m wondering if allowing ourselves to feel this kind of contentment will result in that inner peace that is so illusive.

And isn’t that something to be utterly thankful for?

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Peace, mercy and love be yours in abundance. —Jude 1:2

Peace. Mercy. Love. These are what can be ours in abundance. And from personal experience, reminding myself that I have these things usually leads to my feeling happy and contented with what I have in the here and now.

Beloved, how about you? Have you learned to be thankful for certain things you do not have?

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I Wonder – Followup

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Last week I was looking back at some of my first posts, back in 2011. My second post was titled “I Wonder…” When I read it again, I was struck by how much has happened and yet stayed the same since then. Hmm… isn’t that considered a paradox?

This is what I wrote then.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the deeper meaning of life. I mean, what if this is all there is?

I read this earlier today:

“If I see God in everything, He will calm and color everything I see! Perhaps the circumstances causing my sorrows will not be removed and my situation will remain the same, but if Christ is brought into my grief and gloom as my Lord and Master, He will “surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).”

Now, I have to start by saying that I do try to see God in everything, but I’m not really sure about that “calm and color everything I see” stuff. When I live with yet another migraine (and this current one has lasted almost all week), hear about helpless hurting children, view photos depicting yet another flood or earthquake, read about another tax hike-pay cut-employee cutback-home foreclosure, or simply stand by the side of a close friend struggling just to make ends meet, I ask myself again: what is life really all about? Are we simply here to suffer through life’s challenges and then die? Or is there something more?

We all have a yearning to know the reasons behind our circumstances—that desire to justify the bad things that happen to us. If we seek to do what is right, help others who are in need, and are very careful to not hurt anyone or anything, why must we still suffer?

I don’t have the answers, although I know Who does. Stay tuned…

Fast forward 4 years to where I now am physically.

Every day is a new adventure in pain. I still live with several chronic pain illnesses: Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), and chronic migraines. CFIDS is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Some people with FMS or CFS/CFIDS/ME get better over time. Others get worse, and I’m in this group. Add to this that my migraines now assault me daily. We live at a 5500 foot elevation, and my doctor told me once that she believes my body never has adjusted to living in a high elevation area, even though we’ve been here for almost eleven years.

Every prescription medication I’ve tried for any of these illnesses has either not worked for me or caused huge side effects. Alternative therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic or massage only work as long as it takes to administer the therapy. Several years ago I used to work out several times a week, until I realized that exercising through my pain was causing even worse migraines.

Does this get me down? My feelings try to make me feel frustrated and helpless about all of this. But read on to find out the one Reason I can grab hold of those feelings before they take over.

This leads to what’s going on now with me spiritually.

I am more convinced than ever that God is with me every single day. My true hope is in Jesus Christ and this is what carries me through each day. On days like today when I’m going through yet another FMS/CFS flare and everything I do causes even more pain, migraines and nausea, I struggle with all of this.

Not the why of it, because I know everything in my life is part of God’s plan for me. It’s the persistence … the everydayness of it … that is wearying. 

These days, my life is a very delicate balance. I need to weigh everything. If I want to do something as simple as the laundry, I need to allow for rest time before as well as afterward. And most times there is payback after the activity even if I have rested well beforehand. It is very frustrating.

In spite of all that, there persists in me a joyful hope that never fails to uplift my heart. I know without a doubt that God is always with me throughout all of it. And if anyone can truly understand my pain, it is Jesus. He not only understands it, He holds me close in His arms and comforts me when I am in pain and feel discouraged. He is my God of hope. He helps me cling to that hope, which turns my frustration and weariness into joy and peace.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Beloved, please remember that if we completely place our trust in God, He will fill us with hope, joy and peace. The more we trust in Him, the more He supplies all the hope, joy and peace we need every single day.

Hope in God is saying “no” to fear or discouragement, and by so doing, saying “yes” to something that will satisfy much more down the line. Wait on God, believing that what God has planned is so much better that what we grab for ourselves! —Joni Eareckson Tada

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When Everything is Hopeless

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As long as matters are really hopeful,
hope is a mere flattery or platitude;
it is only when everything is hopeless
that hope begins to be a strength.
Like all the Christian virtues,
it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.
–G. K. Chesterton

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At “Wits’ End Corner”

I’ve had my paperback version of Streams in the Desert devotional for years. It is probably my favorite devotional book. As you can see, I have read it so many times that I need two heavy-duty rubber bands to hold it together. It’s difficult to see, but the photo on the left shows the blue one that holds a big section of pages together. The pink one keeps the binding from slipping off.

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I received an iPad as a 2013 Christmas gift from my children, so I now have an extensive Kindle library on it, including a digital version of this book. And of course, I’m reading it again this year. When I read the May 23rd devotional, this poem leaped out at me as if I’d never seen it before. My eyes leaked as I read it, and I’m guessing yours will too. 

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
The Burden-Bearer stands.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who fails you not: 
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is the “God who is able” proved.
-Antoinette Wilson

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Your Marriage is Not a Hollywood Romance

I’ve been writing a column titled “The Marriage Triangle” for The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC). I like to share articles I find about marriage in between publication of The Marriage Triangle articles. This is a good one from The Intentional Life

Your Marriage is Not a Hollywood Romance

It may seem a paradox, but marriage is more important than love. Why? Because marriage is the normal situation out of which true and abiding love arises. The popular notion, championed by fiction and motion pictures, is that love is primary, and marriage is nothing more than a dull anticlimax. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve found that real love hardly exists outside the context of marriage. How could it? Real love is a slow growth coming from unity of life and purpose. Love is a product. It is the thing to be created by mutual service and sacrifice.

Read more here.

Please check out the The Marriage Triangle tab here to read more articles about marriage.

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