Friday, January 27, 2012

A Tet Celebration- Happy Vietnamese New Year!!

Anna wearing her Ao dai

Dean making the Spring Rolls

Our traditional Vietnamese meal


Allie made Vietnamese Iced Coffee

The proper way to eat pho

One Word 2012... Praying with Boldness

So, in my quest to make Prayer my word for 2012 I have been reading a book by Mark Batterson called The Circle Maker.  I don't agree with everything he says but I have found it helpful and challenging to think in a different way.

One of the main themes of his book can be found in these sentences:  "Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers.  God isn't offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers.  He is offended by anything less.  If your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God."

Bold.  If you asked 100 people who know me to list ten words that describe me, I am 99.9% sure that on that list of 1,000 words you would not see the word "bold".  No.  Not even once.  The very word "bold" brings intense feelings out of me.  I don't like it.  I'm going to be very honest here and admit that bold people, well, they kind of annoy me.  There, I said it.  Please don't judge.  I know it is because I come from such a different place.  I find bold people to be intimidating and a little annoying.  Oh, did I already say that?  Sorry, this whole paragraph is a little bold and it's making me a bit nervous.

Well, now that you know my relationship with the word "bold" you can imagine how uncomfortable this book has made me.  You mean, I am supposed to pray with boldness?  I immediately get this image in my head of the people who "pray with authority", demanding and telling God what He needs to do in each and every situation.  That kind of praying makes me cringe.  What right does any of us have to tell an almighty and Holy God what He needs to do?  No, that's not going to happen.

But, still, this book did strike a chord in me and I know that my prayers are too timid.  I know I go before God with the attitude of "if it wouldn't be too much trouble' and "if you wouldn't mind" and "I know I've asked this before but...".  Yes, my prayers are a little on the unassuming side.  Maybe, just maybe, I could find a way to be bold without being obnoxious.  Maybe there's some middle ground.

So, I put the book down and got out THE BOOK and started searching.  I found lots of bold prayers. Many people who probably would have intimidated and annoyed me.  But I also found a common theme among these bold prayers.  I noticed that when these people prayed boldly they were praying out of obedience to something God had already promised them or revealed to them.  They were praying in God's will.  They weren't asking for what they wanted or what they thought was the best plan.  They were simply pleading and imploring God to do what He had already said He would.  You can see it if you look at Elijah, Moses, David, Peter, Daniel... so many others.

Now, that kind of bold praying I know I need more of in my life.  There are things that God has shown me that He wants to do for me personally.  There are things that He has promised in His word.  But I don't ask.  I wait for Him to act.  I don't ask and I don't step out with boldness and act.  I wait.  Yes, I would say I need a little more boldness.

There is another kind of boldness I see in scripture and it is seen in I Timothy 5:5, "The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help."  THAT is bold!!  When you are truly in need and you are alone, but you put your hope in God and pray day and night for His help... that takes boldness!  There are times in your life when you know you don't have a prayer without the intervention of God.  I've definitely been there.  And I've prayed my little heart out.  Pleading and asking for a little help.  It takes a bold faith to keep asking, to keep believing that He will come through. 

To never give up hope in God and His promise is boldness.  It doesn't mean we demand that He do what we ask, when we ask, and how we ask.  It means we keep asking.  And believing.  For as long as it takes.  And when He delivers in His time and His way, we accept it and give Him the glory.  For me, that is boldness.  The other kind of boldness, well, I'll leave that to God.  I think He's the only one who has that kind of authority.

So, maybe I've made a little peace with the word "bold".  I can be bold in my way.  I can boldly, but humbly, put my faith in God and pray in His will. 

Humbly, now there's a word I really like.  More on that next time...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One Word 2012

I know I've mentioned before how much I love the New Year.  I love the clean slate, the new beginning, the chance to start over.  I usually spend some time thinking about my life and the things that I know I need to work on in the year ahead.  I come up with the list of resolutions, write them down, and within a month they are forgotten.  Well, if I even get to writing them down.  Most of the time they stay swirling in my head for a few weeks and then they are forgotten.

Well, I started off this new year the same way.  I had such good intentions to write them here on my blog and get started on fixing all of my flaws.  But then I came across a website called One Word.  The idea is instead of making a list of resolutions that will soon be a memory to find one word to focus on for the year.  One word that embodies something that you would like to accomplish or be or gain.

One word.  I like that.  One word is easy to remember.  One word is doable for me.  So I switched my focus from all of those resolutions and just started thinking about my one word.  Well, it sounds easier than it is.  I have so many words that I would like to be or do or have.  Words like patience, presence, peace, or perseverance.  I couldn't choose just one so quickly so I have spent some time really thinking and praying about my one word.  Through those prayers, God kept laying that one word on my heart.

That word for me is PRAYER.  My word for 2012 will be prayer.  I have struggled with prayer my whole Christian life.  I feel so inadequate in my prayer life.  I struggle with perfectionism and so I never have the time to put into my prayers because that perfect time never comes along.  I have struggled with what I believe about prayer.  Does it really change things?  Why do some people get the answers they want?  Do I not have enough faith?  Is God upset with me?  Did I pray in the wrong way?  How should I pray?  Am I doing it right?  I have struggled with all of these questions and more.  They keep me from having the kind of prayer life I want and I know God asks of me. 

So part of my prayer journey for 2012 will be learning about prayer.  I have already started reading some books on prayer.  I plan to read some of the newer books as well as some of the classics.  And, most importantly, I plan to focus my Bible study on the scriptures that teach about prayer. 

I have also laid out a plan for the year as to what to focus my prayer on:

January-  I have been preparing my heart, making my plan, just asking God one simple thing:  Teach me to pray, Lord.

February-  I will be praying for Dean (since it is the month of love, you know). 

March-  I will be praying for my children.

April-  I will be praying for our church.

May-  I will be praying for the needs of my family and friends.

June-  I will be praying for the unsaved.

July-  Since it is my birth month, I will be praying for myself.

August-  I will take some time to focus on praise, thanksgiving, and listening to God.

September-  This is a hard month for me so I will focus on our ministry, Emma's Gift, and those who are experiencing grief.

October-  I will be praying for our community.

November-  Since we will be going through a time of decisions, I will be praying for our country.

December-  I will be reflecting on what I have learned, praying for clarity, and asking for guidance for 2013. 

Well, that's the plan.  I will keep you updated as to how it is going, what I am learning through my reading, and how God is changing me and teaching me. 

I end with this prayer from David, as it is my prayer as I start on my prayer journey:
 "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight."  Psalm19:14