By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

I Don’t Wanna. May 10, 2010

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 2:59 pm
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I’ve been reading The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers compiled by Arthur Bennett.  I highly recommend it.  They are short (perfect for a quick morning reading before the kids are up), and they have been very encouraging and challenging to me in my personal prayer life.  One of the prayers that I read weeks ago is still lingering with me.  It is a prayer that I want to pray sincerely for myself, but it’s a tough one:

“I am well pleased with thy will, whatever it is, or should be in all respects,

And if thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair, I would choose to refer all to thee,

for thou art infinitely wise and cannot do amiss, as I am in danger of doing.

I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.

Then prayer turns wholly into praise, and all I can do is to adore and bless thee.”

Valley of Vision, p. 4

I’ll be honest.  When I read this, I thought for a moment how wonderful it would be if God let me decide how things were going to go.  Never in a million years would I “choose to refer all to thee.”  I’d be in charge, and it would be awesome.  And rejoicing that all things are at His disposal?  Delighting to leave them there?  I’m too busy trying to yank things out of God’s hands so I can manage the situation and manipulate things according to my desires.

After typing the above paragraph, I did some strategic formatting.  As you can see, it’s all about me.  My wisdom (ha!) and my wants.  The way I think things should go.  One problem (among many) with this way of thinking is that my desires (happiness and comfort) are rarely in line with God’s desire for me (to make me more like Christ).

I want to desire what God desires for me.  I want to be more like Christ.  I want to glorify God with my life and point others to Him and His grace.  I want to so fully trust His goodness and faithfulness to me that even if he bidst me decide for myself, I would choose to refer all to the all-wise, all-loving, sovereign Creator.  But I’ve got some growing to do in this area.  So I guess it’s good that God’s in control, whether I like it or not.  🙂


Who Are You Praying For? March 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:21 pm
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I’ve been asking a lot of people questions about prayer lately.  My BSF leader was kind enough to loan me a CD of a talk given by Dr. Chuck Lawless at a recent conference.  Dr. Lawless was speaking on Genesis 18-19 as an illustration of the power of intercessory prayer.  It definitely changed the way I view this passage of Scripture and the importance of intercession for others.

In Genesis 18, Abraham petitions the Lord regarding the righteous in the doomed city of Sodom.  He starts by asking the Lord, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” (verses 23-24).  The Lord answers, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake” (verse 26).  Abraham continues to ask the Lord, what if there are 45 righteous found there, will He spare the city?  What about if there are 40? 30? 20? 10?  The Lord agrees to spare even a few righteous who might be found in the city.

Then in Genesis 19, we see that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family are living in Sodom.  Before God destroys the city, He sends three angelic visitors who tell Lot to escape the coming destruction:

As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”  But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:15-16)

Lot and his family should have perished.  God, in His mercy, sent the angelic rescuers.  And even still, Lot lingered.  The Scripture doesn’t tell us why he lingered, but obviously he was being drawn in some way by the sin around him.  Maybe it was his material possessions, maybe there were friends he was leaving behind.  Whatever the reason, his lingering should have cost him his life.  But the Lord showed mercy again, and Lot was rescued.

Here’s the part I’ve never noticed before at the end of this passage:

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29, emphasis added.)

God remembered Abraham.  God remembered Abraham’s pleading on behalf of his nephew.  And God answered by rescuing Lot, both from the consequences of the sin of the city and the consequences of his own sin when he lingered in Sodom.

In his lecture on this passage, Dr. Lawless posed the question:  when do we start praying for others?  Usually, it is when they are already in the midst of a trial or entangled in sin.  In addition to those circumstances, we should be praying before the trial hits, before sin ensnares.  We should especially be praying for our children, that God would seize them and bring them out when they are lingering in sin.

This passage teaches us that intercessory prayer is powerful.  Lot didn’t know it, but he needed a prayer warrior petitioning the Lord on his behalf.  The image of Lot being seized by the angels has been an encouragement to me as I pray for my loved ones.

Who are you praying for?  How well are you fulfilling the weighty responsibility of praying for your spouse, your children, your pastor, your friends?  What a privilege to be used by God in such a powerful way in the lives of those we love.


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


A couple of ideas January 13, 2009

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 3:11 pm
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Occasionally I have a good idea.  It doesn’t happen often.  In fact, I think in the past year, I have had exactly two good ideas.  The second is the reason I’m writing this post, but I’ll share the first as a bonus.

Firstly, I have friends who teach their children the “Interrupting Rule”:  when mom is talking to another adult, either in person or on the phone, and the child has something to say, the child quietly puts his hand on his mom’s arm.  The mom puts her hand on top of his in acknowledgment, and when there is an opportunity, gives the child a chance to speak.  I’ve always admired this rule.  Last fall, I decided to teach it to Christopher.  As I was explaining what I wanted him to do, I had a moment of brilliance . . . I called it our “secret signal.”  There is something intriguing to a 4-year-old boy about having a secret signal, and he caught on right away.  He is terrific at giving me the secret signal!  Sometimes he even gives it to grandparents and other adults who can’t quite figure out why he is standing there with his hand on their arm.  🙂

My recent good idea has to do with praying for my kids.  I have used a couple of different books in the past, and they have been a great help.  My struggle recently has been wanting to spend in-depth time each day praying for my children.  Last summer, I typed out topics and Scripture from “Praying the Scriptures for your Children” by Jodie Berndt.  I have used them some, but not as consistently as I’d like.

So the other night I cut and pasted the verses into a small notebook, making a flip calendar for myself.  I put it by my bathroom sink, since I spend 10-30 minutes there every morning doing mundane tasks such as brushing my teeth and drying my hair.  I realize this is not as ideal as sitting quietly, devoting myself only to praying these Scriptures for my children, but at least I am reminded of the topic and some verses that I can call to mind during the day.  I also find the verses to be edifying for my personal walk with the Lord each day.  When I’m done with Berndt’s topics, I may cut and paste my notes from “31 Days of Prayer for My Child”–another great resource about praying for your children.



Top 10 Reasons to have a Daily Quiet Time June 30, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 1:51 pm
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I realize that many ladies in my stage of life (mother of young kids) are not spending time daily in prayer and God’s Word. I know this because I used to be one of them. In college, I thought, “When I don’t have all this studying to do, I’ll spend more time in God’s Word.” When I graduated and started working, I though, “When I stay home with kids and don’t have to leave the house so early, I’ll start having a daily quiet time.” And when I became a stay-at-home mom, I thought, “When my kids are at school all day, THEN I’ll finally have time to get a great prayer life started and read my Bible more.” I thought it was perfectly acceptable to chalk up my lack of discipline to this stressful, exhausting season of my life and only crack open my Bible a couple of times a week.

Then came Bible Study Fellowship and its daily homework. And the realization that if I am in God’s Word on a daily (or almost daily) basis, He will teach me, mold me, strengthen me, and make me more like Christ (which also means being a better mom to my kids).

So if you are using whatever season of life you are in as an excuse to put off developing a daily time with your Savior, let me ask you consider my top ten reasons why you should have a daily quiet time. I’m just putting it out there . . . let the Holy Spirit convict where He may.

10. It gives you an opportunity to pray for yourself. No one knows your struggles like you do, and so no one else is better equipped to intercede for you to the Father for what you need each day. Most of my prayer list is for myself–praying that God would give me wisdom about specific situations, take away anger, anxiety, frustration, etc. Take time to lay your struggles before God and ask for His provision.

9. It gives you an opportunity to pray for your husband and children. I’ve already posted about a great way to pray for your kids during the month. There is nothing more important you will do for your family.

8. You are setting an example for your children. When your kids hit the teenage years, do you want them to be reading God’s Word? How about when they are out from under your roof, facing the questions and temptations of the college years? And what habits would you like them to have when they are raising your grandchildren? Start setting an example for them now.

7. You are filling your spiritual “pantry” with wisdom and truth to feed your family and friends in their times of need. See this previous post for an explanation.

6. If you want to follow the command of Deuteronomy 6 to teach God’s Word to your children, you need to know it yourself. Much of the discipline I strive to use with my children involves teaching them God’s Word and what it says about how we are to love God and each other. My discipline will be either hypocritical and/or superficial if I’m not writing God’s Word on my own heart before I try to write it on my children’s heart.

5. If you want to bear fruit, you must be connected to the vine (John 15:4-5,8). As this passage in John reminds us, apart from Christ, we can do nothing. If we are connected to the Vine (Christ), we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God. I want to bear fruit for God in all that I do, especially in raising my children. I must be connected to my Savior in order to accomplish that goal.

4. If you need wisdom, God will provide perfect wisdom beyond any wisdom of this world (James 1:5). It is easy to feel uncertain about how to raise kids. How tightly do you control their activities and friends? What worldly influences do you allow in their lives? Do you let them do soccer, AWANAs, or both? And we aren’t even out of the preschool years yet! I need God’s perfect wisdom, and His Word and prayer are how I can get it.

3. Christ told Mary and Martha that spending time at His feet is more important than our to-do list (Luke 10:38-42). As my pastor’s wife says, spending time with God is even more important than getting your shower. (And she never smells bad, so she must find time for both.) Your family will benefit more from having you spend time in God’s Word than having a gourmet hot dinner or a clean bathroom.

2. Christ set an example for us by spending time with His Father (Matthew 26:36-44). If there was anyone who knew God’s Word and God’s will perfectly, it was Jesus. And yet He took time away to talk with His Father and ask for strength to do His will.

1. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Does teaching, reproof, correction, or training sound like anything you do during the day? Enough said.

I say these things not to make myself look better, but only to glorify God and what He is doing in my life. I would not choose to make time for Him if He did not give me the strength and conviction to do so. I have seen the fruit of my time with Him in my daily life and in my relationships, and that makes me want other moms to experience the same benefits.

If you are willing to share, what are your reasons for spending time with God, or what obstacles keep you from it? I’d love to hear your comments.


Praying for my kids May 11, 2008

*** I’ve revised this recent post to participate (for the first time!) in Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer. Head over there to check out everyone else’s great ideas! ***

I’ve been trying to do better lately about praying for my kids. My attempts at praying for my kids often lapse into brief prayers like this: “Please Lord, help them to obey. Change their hearts so that they love you with all of their heart from an early age. And please, help them to obey. Please.”

What I’ve been doing recently is using a notebook from two years ago when I studied the book “31 Days of Prayer for My Child” by Susan Alexander Yates and Allison Yates Gaskins. (Yates also wrote “31 Days of Prayer for My Teen” if that’s where you are. And if that’s where you are, I would guess you really need that book!) The book goes through 31 topics to guide you in thoroughly praying for aspects of your children’s life, from your own shortcomings as a parent, to their future spouse and friendships, to their spiritual life.

When I read the book a couple of years ago, I got a small notebook and for each chapter, I summarized what I wanted to pray regarding that topic, an attribute of God that relates to it, and a relevant Scripture passage, usually one of the several referenced by the authors. (This was suggested by the authors, not a brilliant idea of my own.)

For example, on the chapter about Sibling Rivalry, I wrote: “Praying that Christopher and Will would be lifelong friends, not for outward appearances, but for Your glory. God is triune–our perfect model of unity. Romans 15:5-6: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now that I have all 31 days recorded in my notebook, I can use it each month. I look at the listing for that date and pray about that topic for my kids. If you don’t want to buy the book or feel overwhelmed by the thought, you could simply brainstorm 31 prayer topics, perhaps with Scripture references, and create your own prayer list.

What I love about my notebook is that when I inevitably miss a day, I just keep on going and hope that I don’t miss again on the same date next month! Surely over the course of a few months I’ll get all 31 topics covered with prayer.