By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Prayer: The Why February 25, 2010

One of the primary areas I’d like to work on in 2010 is prayer.  At the beginning of the year, God brought the issue of my sub-par prayer life to my attention in various ways.  One was the teaching at our church women’s meeting when the speaker asked, “Do you look forward to praying?”  Uh, no.  It’s humbling and disgusting to admit, but many days I look forward to my favorite tv show or a date with my husband more than I look forward to spending significant time in prayer.

In recent years, as I have become more and more dependent on the Holy Spirit as a mother, prayer has become a greater part of my life.  But my prayer life is mostly informal–short prayers for help, wisdom, patience or self-control during the day.  Or praying for others when God brings them to mind.  That informal prayer life is valuable and important.  But when thinking about looking forward to prayer and reading a chapter on prayer in Donna Otto’s book Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time, I realized that I need to develop a consistent, substantial time for prayer.

Otto writes:  “Fortunately, God is generous, loving, and–most of all–full of grace . . . He does not maintain prayer meters or time clocks . . . But the Lord of our lives deserves homage and our allegiance.  If we are too busy to commune with Him regularly, we are doing a disservice to Him and to ourselves” (p. 237).  She discusses the importance with combining the informal prayer life I’ve described with a formal prayer life:  time set aside for prayer, including adoration, confession, thanksgiving and presenting our requests to God.  This part of my prayer life has been inconsistent at best.

I love how Otto describes this time she spends with God:

Personally, I think of prayer time as a specific opportunity to get down on my knees and subordinate my will to God’s will.  God has a will.  God has a perfect will.  God is sovereign.  And through prayer I try to subordinate my will to His will.  I do that by asking Him to create in me a clean heart, to create in me a sinless heart that is in line with His plan for me and to allow His desires to be my desires (p. 252).

Who wouldn’t want their will to be in line with the will of their good, sovereign Creator?  I know I want that.  But I battle against my sinful nature daily as sleep, worldly desires and my to-do list wage war against setting aside this time with God.  I’ve been talking to other women about prayer and working to improve in this area, so I look forward to sharing more about this topic soon.  In the meantime, I hope you are as convicted and encouraged as I have been to set aside time for prayer.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Wasted Suffering February 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 10:10 pm
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A few weeks ago in BSF, we studied the raising of Lazarus in John 11.  Although the miracle of raising a dead man is powerful, I found the words and actions of Christ prior to going to Bethany just as impactful.  When Jesus receives word that his beloved friend is gravely ill, He replies, “This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4).  Then the Scripture says that Jesus loved Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus very much, so when He heard Lazarus was ill, He stayed where He was for two more days (verses 5-6).  From that tiny word “so,” we must infer that Jesus’ delay (and therefore Lazarus’ death) was somehow for the good of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

In the BSF study notes for this passage, the author writes that in this miracle, God’s glory was revealed in a way that blessed all those who witnessed it.  Of course, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were blessed in a special way, and in a way they would not have experienced if Jesus had come immediately and healed Lazarus before he died.  The same is true of the suffering in our lives.  In every trial, there is a unique blessing for the believer, an opportunty for God to be glorified, and an opportunity for other believers to be encouraged by our response of trusting God even in hardship.  I learned in the BSF notes that suffering can be wasted, or it can be used to glorify God and seek the blessing He will give in that trial.

Shortly after reading this lesson, our entire family was sick.  Nothing serious, but enough to put me out of commission for three days and send us to the pediatrician multiple times in a span of 12 days.  As I lay in bed with body aches and a pounding head, my BSF lesson on wasted suffering came to mind.  Although I knew my sinus infection was a very minor hardship, I realized that not even minor suffering should be wasted.  I started to look for ways that God was blessing our family during our illness.  And God showed me several ways.  I gave thanks to God for the snow and ice that kept my husband home from work, because I never would have made it without him.  I gained renewed compassion for people who are ill.  My appreciation and love for my husband grew as I watched him take care of the kids on his own and spend quality time with them while I was sick.

I can’t tell you I spent those three days smiling toward Heaven, singing praise songs and meditating on God’s goodness.  I did plenty of complaining and feeling sorry for myself and wishing things were different.  Looking back, I can see that the difference between the moments of wasting the suffering and not wasting the suffering was a matter of my focus.  When my eyes were on myself and my misery, I moaned and groaned and complained.  When my eyes were on God and His glory, I could see the ways He was blessing and providing for me and my family.

I don’t share this out of pride.  I don’t think that having a few moments of thankfulness in the midst of a sinus infection is anything to boast about.  But I’m thankful that God provided this small test, an opportunity to apply and reinforce what I’m learning in His Word.  I want God to be glorified by my life, no matter what the circumstances.  I don’t want to waste opportunities to learn more about God’s character and draw closer to my Savior.  Even if that means seeing the good in a really, really runny nose.

 

Goals for 2010 February 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 3:48 pm
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I thought I’d write a bit about my goals for 2010.  Because it’s February, and everyone knows that February is the time when you let everyone know how you’ve already failed at keeping the goals you wrote down in January.  (Even worse, I found a post I wrote in January 2008 (yes, ’08) about my goals for that year, and they are pretty much the same as my goals for this year.  Gulp.)

I recently read a book on organization by a Christian woman named Donna Otto.  The title was compelling–Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time–and I found many helpful tips inside.  In the book, she urges women to write down their goals, which we’ve all heard before.  But she also urges women to look at their goals regularly after writing them down.  I’ve taken the first step, and I plan to put the goals inside the cover of my prayer notebook, which hopefully I’ll be opening daily (one of my goals).   So this will either go really well or really badly.

Otto suggests 8 areas to help you brainstorm your goals:  intellectual, physical, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, family and career.  Here are some of the goals I wrote down in these areas:

Intellectual–finish 3 non-fiction books (I’ve finished 2 already!)

Physical–exercise 3 times a week

Emotional–display the fruits of the Spirit to Noel and the kids (And apparently, yelling and grumpiness are not fruits of the Spirit.)

Financial–save money in areas of our budget where Noel asks me to do so

Social–have someone over for dinner once a month

Spiritual–spend time daily in God’s Word and develop a more disciplined prayer life

Family–spend time every week working with Will on pre-reading skills

Career–I don’t have one, but in this area, I’ve set the goal of writing a post on this blog every week.  Obviously, this isn’t happening yet!

Other–scrapbook at least one year’s worth of photos, start Sarah Kate’s baby book

Other than reading books to myself and to Will, none of these goals are going too well.  I’m hoping that by making them public to the 8 people who read this blog (hi, Mom!), it will provide some accountability and motivation.  I do feel like these are all areas in which I should be growing and progressing.  I don’t want to look back at this post in 2012 and be struggling with the same issues.  I want to look back on 2010 as the year that I developed a vibrant prayer life, learned huge lessons from God’s Word, applied them to my life, shared them with others, and served my family with joy.  (And if I happened to lose 5-8 pounds and finish a scrapbook along the way, that would be a bonus!)