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God’s purpose for pain? Prayer.

God always has a purpose for my pain and its always prayer.

Until I’m in need of relief from physical pain my dialogue with God is half-hearted at best. It often takes bodily suffering to transform my pathetic, weak prayer life into an ongoing, intimate conversation with the Lord on High. Time and time again God has allowed the stress of physical distress to enter my life in order that I would be compelled to passionately and fervently converse with Him in prayer.

Why is it that I wait for pain to propel me to prayer? Talking with God is as fundamental to my spiritual well-being as breathing is to my physical well-being. Yet when I am physically well I am prone to neglect my prayer life and allow it my conversation with God to become feeble and infrequent and, before I know it, I become spiritually unwell.

In his New Testament letter, James wrote to the twelve tribes that if any of them were afflicted they should pray. If they were merry they should sing psalms and songs of praise. (James 5:13) James was echoing the instruction of Paul who wrote to the Ephesians to “… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Both Paul and James knew that the secret to living united with Christ is consistently and constantly talking to God through prayer. When communication suffers, faith fails. When intimate conversation with God goes silent, strength in His Spirit falters.

God desires that His children remain relentless in their prayerful condition regardless of their physical condition. In sickness and in health, God wants us to engage in and enjoy loyal, constant, consistent conversation with Him. God yearns to communicate with us in all circumstances – on easy days and hard days; painful days or days of ease. God desires to talk with us and walk with us so He can strengthen and guide us along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Pain has been the catalyst for many of my most heartfelt prayers but in order for my relationship with Christ to be healthy and fruitful, pain cannot be the only reason I pray. For the well-being of my faith, my prayer life cannot be pain dependent. Whether it be through tearful laments or tears of joy, I must continually to talk to God in all circumstances and on all occasions because God always wants to talk to me.

And He wants to talk to you, too.

Don’t wait for pain to pray. Speak to your Heavenly Father today. Right here. Right now.

And then get ready to listen because God is always eager to engage in a beautiful, fruitful, blessed, ENDLESS conversation with His beloved.

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Enjoy the Ride (and the view)

“NO SINGLE RIDERS.”

The rules were printed in big, bold red letters and displayed so prominently they couldn’t be missed. Solo rides were not allowed on the amusement park Ferris wheel…under any conditions.

A ride on the Ferris wheel was the sole reason I had entered the amusement park in the first place. It was a perfect summer evening to take in the view of the sun setting over the lake and I planned to enjoy it riding in a solo Ferris wheel car. In hand I had the four tickets needed for one person to enter the ride. I was all set for a single’s adventure until I saw the sign.

Despite the crystal clear no non-sense warning, I paused at the ride’s entrance and considered my options. I wondered if maybe, after waiting in line and putting on my sweetest (most pathetic) face, I could persuade the ride operator to make an exception. If that didn’t work out, maybe I could join a small group that had room to spare in their car. If I asked nicely, I might be able to snag the extra seat.

For a few minutes I stood by the ride’s entrance as groups of teens, families with small kids and couples on dates went dashing up the walkway prepared to enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel. I couldn’t bring myself to encroach on anyone’s evening nor was it proper to ask for a solo rider exception. So, with four unused tickets in hand, I turned and walked away from the Ferris wheel.

Dejected but not defeated, I decided I would use my tickets and find a different ride that welcomes singles. I heard the roller coaster off in the distance and, for a moment, thought that might be a fun adventure. But the roller coaster ride is over so quickly there would be no time to enjoy a view of the sunset.

To my right I could see single passenger swings flying high up in the air and decided that would be the right ride for me. I was about to walk in that direction until I heard yelling above my head. I looked up and was filled with joy when I saw the perfect attraction for a solo rider.

The Sky Ride.

Fifteen minutes and three tickets later, I was up in the air traveling slowly above the amusement park. The Sky ride didn’t ban singles from riding. In fact, the bench seats were filled with solo travelers enjoying a peaceful ride above the park while taking in a breathtaking sunset view.

On my solo amusement park adventure I was reminded that while traveling through life there are rides that aren’t suited for singles. There are particular adventures, events and occasions that only welcome couples and groups. Certain life experiences cannot be enjoyed alone. But that doesn’t mean that singles should leave the park of life dejected with perfectly good, unused tickets in hand. Attached isn’t the only way to ride through life while enjoying a beautiful view.

The park of life is full of rides that welcome single riders. If one ride in particular can’t be enjoyed alone you need not walk away dejected or throw away your opportunity to experience a full life. All you need to do is look up and out to discover that there are countless opportunities to use the ticket God has given you. In the park of life God has filled it with rides and attractions perfectly suited for singles to enjoy. And they boast beautiful views, too.

Whether single or attached, enter the park, buy the ticket, and live life to the fullest by enjoying the ride that’s just right for you.

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The Joy that Freedom Brings

It’s here. The day children wait for all year. And no, I’m talking about Christmas. Jesus’ birthday didn’t suddenly move to June.  The highly anticipated day I’m referring to is none other than the first day of summertime freedom. It’s official. School’s out for the summer.

All year long students have been held like caged birds trapped in small, stuffy classrooms. Confined to uncomfortable desks and a dictatorial bell schedule they have not been free to flit around and fly. For one hundred and eighty days they have waited for summer and all the fun it brings. Now it is here and students are giddy with relief.

In commemoration of the final day of school children and adults of all ages are gathering at amusement parks and picnic pavilions to celebrate. There will be rejoicing on roller coaster rides and suds of fun on water slides. Ice cream will be eaten for lunch and funnel cake will be devoured for dinner. For one day shouts of glee will be encouraged and no one will be shushed.

On school picnic day children are full of the joy that freedom brings.

 

In June or January, while stuck at a desk or basking in the sun, I aspire to live with the joy of a child enjoying the first day of summer vacation. I long to embody a child-like delight and glee as I rejoice in endless freedom.

I have every reason to be full of joy because Jesus Christ has set me free. God has released me from the guilt of my past. I am no longer caged by sin and shame. The door to salvation has been opened and on the other side is an eternity infinitely more glorious than summer.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

We are free to be full of the joy that freedom brings.

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The Dog Wash

The dogs desperately needed a bath but the groomer was booked three weeks out. Pippy and Molly would have gladly waited that long. They dread the groomer. Pippy shakes the whole way there but I could not endure three more weeks with two stinky schnoodles. My girls desperately needed a bath so it was on to plan B.

The upstairs bathtub. Although convenient, at home washing never gets the job done. While kneeling on the floor and bent over the porcelain surround I can’t scrub well enough to really eradicate the dirt. Then there is the problem of the water pressure when it comes time to rinse. The girls hate the faucet and panic when we get too close to its powerful stream. Pouring water from a pitcher is the only inefficient option.

On to plan C.

The Dog Wash. The girls were excited when I grabbed their leashes and opened the front door. They thought we were headed for a walk but when I went straight to the car Pippy’s face fell into a panic. This wasn’t a mission for a walk. This was a mission for a bath. I could see the anxiety written all over her furry face. She thought she was headed for the groomers.

For the next seven minutes on our way to the dog wash Pippy panicked as if her life were about to be over. I did my best to reassure her. I said, “You are not going to the groomer.” And added, “Or the vet.” But Pippy was relentless in her fearfulness. She refused to settle down.

Until we arrived at our dog wash destination.

The moment I opened the door and Pippy jumped out of the car with relief and joy. She could smell the air and it wasn’t the groomers. She could see the pavement and it wasn’t the parking lot she had dreaded. Pippy pranced with glee because I wasn’t about to leave her behind to be shampooed by a stranger. I was going into the dog wash with her and I would be staying the whole time.

Fifteen minutes later the dogs and I had completed our cleanliness mission and were back in the car headed home. Both dogs behaved beautifully in the bath tub and Pippy never panicked. All three of us enjoyed the ride home in peace.

 

Poor Pippy, her fearfulness isn’t her fault. As I watched her panting in the backseat I realized that she’s just behaving how she was taught from her Mom. Pippy learned how to be fearful from watching me.

The truth is, I am fearful and prone to panic. While riding on the road of life I shake and pant with all of the anxiety of an unsettled Schnoodle. Even though God is behind the wheel I become anxious and tremble as if something terrible were about to happen. Even though the Word of God reassures me that the destination ahead is going to be good and glorious, I hold onto my concerns. Even though the Lord commands me not to worry I refuse to release my fear.

Until we arrive at God’s destination.

When the door is opened and God’s plan is revealed I leap into the future with joy because the reality is never what I feared. My anxiety disappears and all shaking is settled because God is not dropping me off at the groomers. He is not leaving me behind. Every time He opens the door the glory of His presence is revealed. God isn’t going anywhere. He is staying right there with me.

There is nothing to fear and no reason to panic. God is not about to abandon you and me, His precious children, at the groomer. Christ is going with us into the dog wash. The restorative, redemptive hand of God will go with you into the tub. The Spirit of God will surround you in every cycle and see you  through until His work is done and you are clean!

Thank God the groomer was booked and the tub at home wouldn’t do. As it turns out I’m the one who needed the trip to the dog wash so God could cleanse my heart of panic and fear and restore peace as I ride in the backseat with Him.