How I Limit God

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray – for men to become godly leaders in the church and the home; for soft hearts that are responsive to the Lord; and for strong, Christ-centered marriages for those who desire them.

On my sixteenth birthday, my parents gave me a beautiful, leather-bound study Bible (KJV, of course), complete with my name imprinted in gold on the cover. Over the years, I’ve underlined and made notes next to verses that have spoken to me, many of them in Psalms as I’ve made it a habit to read and meditate on a Psalm-a-day to start out my quiet time.

Reflecting on the verses I’ve picked out as “special,” I realize they tell the story of my single-girl heart:

“Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake.” (Psalm 69:6a)

“My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from him.” (Psalm 62:5)

“Cast they burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

“…Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8)

Waiting. Expectation. Burden [of singleness]. Tears. And yes, this one is in there too with the note “Searching…” in black ink in the margin:

“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalm 37:37)

I think that last example is most telling, and honestly, pretty convicting of the one mind-set, one view of God and His Word that I’ve used to define my relationship with Him – God as a provider of a husband. Not to mention the fact that I doubt the psalmist intended me to interpret the verse as upright man = good husband = peaceful life for me, although there is wisdom in holding out for a godly man to marry.

Yes, God wants me to find comfort in His Word and to apply His Words to my life. Most certainly, He wants me to pour out the desires and sorrows and longings of my heart to Him as King David so beautifully set the example in the Psalms. But He wants me to know and experience the other pieces of Him too and not simply interpret His Word and His Provision for me as it applies to my relationship status and waiting for a husband.

Things like (to name a very few):

  • God the Most Holy (Daniel 9:24)
  • God who saves me (Psalm 51:14)
  • My Salvation (Exodus 15:2)
  • A consuming Fire (Deuteronomy 4:24)
  • Sovereign Lord (Luke 2:29 and as our guest writer Heidi showed us last week)

In the midst of my busyness, anxiety, desires, sadness, fears, and needs, I so often forget God as my Father, Jesus as my Redeemer and Intercessor, and the Holy Spirit as my source of Power and God’s constant presence in me to lead me in the way I should go.

This week as we fast and pray, let’s not lose sight of the awesomeness and power of our God. Let’s not limit Him to “Spouse-Giver” as I have so often done, but spend some time reflecting on “I AM.”

May His peace and joy rest upon you!

With love,

Emily

Posted in Author: Emily, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Trusting God’s Sovereignty

We fast and pray on Mondays at lunch for men, for women and for marriages to those who desire them. This week, our friend Heidi is our guest blogger - many thanks, Heidi, and hope her reflections bring encouragement to each of us. 

I don’t know about you, but while growing up, I often heard people in church talk about God’s sovereignty and trusting in His sovereignty.  I never really understood what that word meant until years later.  I now know the definition of the word: God’s ways are higher than mine; He has supreme rule and authority over my life.   But just because I now know the definition doesn’t mean that I fully trust in this aspect of who God is.

As Christians, I feel like we often whip out these “Christianese” terms to make people feel better or to give a solution for an issue, but when it comes to our own lives we struggle to trust in those aspects of who God is.  There’s a recent song entitled ‘Sovereign Over Us’ by Michael W Smith that speaks to this.  (If you haven’t heard this song, I recommend you stop right now and take a listen before reading on.)

I’ve come to love and hate this song.  I love it because I know it’s true; it speaks into the very depths of who God is and an aspect of His relationship with us.  I hate it because singing it or agreeing with the lyrics indicates that I fully trust God’s authority and rule over my life – no matter what comes in my life.   And honestly, I really struggle to trust Him when things hurt, don’t make sense, and are a struggle.  My human brain often can’t wrap around the fact that God loves me and is sovereign even when life isn’t handing me the greatest cards.  I know the truth in my head, but getting it to resonate in my heart is harder.

The lyrics to this song cause me to ask some questions of myself – feel free to ask yourself the same ones:

  • Do I truly find strength in Him during my times of sorrow?
  • Do I allow His love to cast out my fear?
  • Do I allow God to meet me in my mourning, or do I instead blame Him, get angry at Him or push Him away?
  • He’s teaching me to trust – am I teachable?
  • Can I sing the chorus with my whole heart and soul, trusting that He really does have amazing plans for my life?

Chorus:

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us.

Do we really believe the words to this song?  Maybe you’re in a really great place right now and it’s easy for you to say ‘Of course, yes, I absolutely believe and trust the words to this song.’ – That’s great!

But when you’re not in such a great place?  When you’re turning 30, 40, or 60 years old and still single?  When someone close to you dies?   When you are jobless and struggling to make ends meet?   Here’s a painful one – when the person you’ve been dating (and are looking to marry) breaks up with you?  What then?  Do you still believe in the depths of your soul that God is sovereign?  Do you truly choose to trust Him in those moments?

That’s my desire – to trust Him and His sovereignty, no matter the situation or circumstance.  Notice I said it’s my ‘desire’ – I’m not perfect and there are times I fail to truly trust Him and His sovereignty but I want to be able to do so.  To that end, sometimes we need to ask Him to cause us to trust Him and make us believe in His sovereignty.  Often when the pain comes, we don’t have it in ourselves trust Him, but we can ask Him to do it for us.

I remember a time about a year ago when I experienced one of those ‘punched in the gut’ moments.  The pain just washed over me, the questions swarmed in my head, and none of it made sense in my little feeble mind.  I very vividly remember texting a few close friends and asking them to pray for me. I also asked them not to call, as I knew I needed to spend time with my Father as I processed the pain.  I sat on my bed in a mess of tears and confusion, I yelled out to my Daddy: ‘Lord – make me trust You, remind me that it’s ok.  Remind me that I can trust You, tell me it’ll be ok.’   And yes – I yelled it. I was almost demanding it of God because my desire was to trust Him, but in that moment I had no ability to bring that trust forth in the midst of the pain.

May we trust His sovereignty this week.  May we be able to sing this song with all of our heart and soul and believe every word of the lyrics.  And when the pain buries our ability to trust, may we cry out to God by begging Him to provide for us what we can’t provide for ourselves.

Friends – God loves you so very, very much.  His desire for your life is to bring good out of the bad; we must learn to trust Him and His sovereignty over our lives.

Posted in Author: Heidi, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Girl No One Wanted: Revisited

On Mondays, we pray that God would move mountains and give the gift of marriage to those who desire it. We ask God to redeem to hardened, broken shards of our hearts–reforming them and softening them as chosen, beloved women of God. We ask God to raise up a generation of men to walk in the light of His holiness and into relationships with women.

I haven’t been on a date in a long time. I wrote this FastPray post almost a year ago, and not much has changed since then–except that I’m a year older–tiptoeing to the edge of thirty. When people ask if there’s anything happening in the romance department, I dread it. I’d rather throw the conversation to my job–which I love and is newsworthy. My dating life. There’s not really any news to speak of, and there hasn’t been for quite a while.

If you’re in a circle of single gals–who are single but do go on dates, it’s hard not to feel like a third-class citizen. Married people being first class with the champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. (Delusional much?) Single but dating or getting asked out–although not being married seem to be closer than me–I mentally slot them in at second class. Me. I’m totally unpicked. No, one wants my digits or to take me to Ethiopian food. I try to be “pickable,” but despite my best efforts, I’m unchosen. No one even wants to go out with me once–much less marry me. I’m really good at hiding the fact that it bothers me. It’s easy to use humor to shield myself or my listening skills to constantly direct conversations away from any pin-pricks.

I’m thankful–so thankful, that God can’t be conversationally out-maneuvered. He enjoys humor but sees through my deflector shields. He uses the most unassuming, humbling, simple words to let me know that He sees me. He loves me. He’s chosen me. They come from the beautifully written, elegantly summarized, Jesus Storybook Bible. One of my favorite stories, The Girl No One Wanted, starts off this way:

There were once two sisters. The youngest sister was very beautiful and her name was Rachel. But, the oldest sister wasn’t beautiful at all (some thought her quite ugly), and her name was Leah.

Rachel was the kind of girl who always gets invited to parties and chosen for the team. Everyone loved her. And poor Leah? No one hardly even noticed her.

If you’re familiar with Genesis chapters 29-30, you’ll immediately recognize the story of two sisters who both married a man named Jacob. (That unlikely, tricky guy that God had chosen to be in the lineage of Christ or as the JSB puts it, “to rescue the whole world.”) Jacob was “jacob-ed” into marrying Leah, the ugly one, but he always loved Rachel best. Leah felt hideous and unloved. I really identify with her. The story continues:

But God didn’t think she was ugly. And when he saw that Leah was not loved and that no one wanted her, God chose her–to love her specially, to give her a very important job. One day, God was going to rescue the whole world–through Leah’s family.

Now, when Leah knew that God loved her, in her heart, suddenly it didn’t matter anymore whether her husband loved her the best, or if she was the prettiest. Someone had chosen her, someone did love her–with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up. Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

So, when Leah had a baby boy she called him Judah, which means, “This time I will praise the Lord!” And, that’s just what she did.

I’m not sure what exactly it is about those words that bring me to tears when I read them, but they do. God has loved me with an everlasting, steadfast, rich, great love. (Jeremiah 31:1. Psalm 103. Ephesians 1-2.)

I get so caught up in the theological jargon, in my Bible reading plans, in worrying about singleness, and in the cultural mess surrounding praying for marriage that I miss the sheer wonder of the the fact that despite the difficulties of my unchosen life–God loves us with a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

My prayer is that you feel the warmth of that love as you pray this week.

Anna

Posted in Author: Anna | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Marriage Can’t. Jesus Can.

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for men and women to be progressively more shaped into God’s image and for marriages to those who desire them. 

I wanted to be happy for him. I really did. But his smiling face with a fiancée and an engagement ring in the middle of my social media feed stirred up the worst crags of my heart. Him? Are you kidding me? After he’s been unable to find anyone good enough in the last fifteen years, he magically finds someone in six months? I know what this is…he just decided it was Time to Get Married (TTGM) and picked the next girl. I wish I could say I was appalled by my heart’s vitriol, but I too busy rationalizing my behavior and hiding him from my news feed.

Why was I so upset? Was it envy? Was it anger that he was winning the mental “marriage marathon” I unconsciously run with every ex-boyfriend? Was it judging God’s actions with the lens of my own experience? Was it unforgiveness and general irritation with his being shown mercy when I wanted to see him suffer the consequences of his previous behavior?

Unfortunately yes to all of the above. Confession had to happen but later, with some more time, I realized the anger was deeper than him. There were so many lies wrapped into my visceral reaction to his good news; I didn’t want him to get married first because it felt like he was somehow getting to the finish line first. So many lies have gotten wrapped into that false understanding of marriage and of my own identity:

  1. I was waiting for marriage to prove that I was worthy of being chosen and to close the door on years of bad or nonexistent dating
  2. I was waiting for marriage to define me – to define my arrival in adulthood, my relational sphere, my geographic home, my vocational direction, my financial outlook, my travel plans, my emergency contact person.
  3. In essence, I was waiting for marriage for me - for reasons that would make me feel good about my life, cement what I wanted to be true about myself and give me excuses to use social media to overshare my life milestones (ok, maybe that’s just me).

Of course marriage can’t really do these things — marriage can’t fix my identity problems. Marriage and a spouse can’t neatly package up my life’s definition or relationships or calling and tell me who I am.  And marriage can’t and won’t always make me feel good – especially in the midst of life’s storms. At those points, we need a deeper anchor than marriage. And scripture says marriage is bigger than the people in it. It’s about two sinners on a journey of imaging the selfless, other-centered love that Christ has for us as His church. Marriage is good, but it simply can’t live up to the mental demands I’d placed on it.

In contrast, Jesus can and already has. Jesus has already called us chosen. Almighty God has already set His love on us. At the cross, we have already been offered forgiveness and shown extravagant, ridiculous mercy in the face of much worse crimes than those of any ex-boyfriend. Jesus has defined the good life, our relational sphere, and our calling to love another as we have been loved in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

I’m not trying to downplay the God-ordained good of marriage or the courage to unashamedly long for it and keep praying for it. I simply wonder if smaller expectations of marriage and greater expectations of Jesus are a good place to start this week. To pray boldly — asking Jesus to come into the crags where the lies have taken root — to expose our sin in order to heal us — a process that we need, no matter where our circumstances have us on this Monday at lunch.

Praying with you,

Amy

Posted in Author: Amy | 10 Comments

Choices, I have a few

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray – for men to become godly leaders at church and at home; for soft hearts that are responsive to the Lord; and for strong, Christ-centered marriages for those who desire them.

Ever go to the grocery store for a simple purchase and get lost in a sea of choices? I mean how many different kinds of toilet paper options does one need to choose from? Don’t get me wrong I’m thankful for 100 various flavors of ice cream to choose from and don’t even get me started on the bread options. Yum! I’m just struck lately with the myriad of choices available to me in ‘Merica.

You see to distract myself from my recent milestone birthday and more importantly, do something to impact the clean water crisis in the world, a friend and I decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds for a well for a community in Tanzania without access to clean water. This trip was over a year in the making and involved a leap of faith on my part and God doing what He does best… making it all come together! It hasn’t even been a week since I’ve returned from this grand adventure and I’m still trying to wrap my head around all that we saw, tasted, and did. What an amazing team of people I got to experience this journey with, truly God orchestrated!

After the whole mountain climbing thing, we went to visit several of the communities with Compassion International centers and the site of the well project. It was considered an honor for several of the families from each of the centers we visited to invite us into their homes and share their life stories with us. For me, these visits were not only an honor, but humbling and eye-opening to the unique situation I find myself living as a single woman in the western world.

In all of my travels to the developing world, I have yet to meet a never-married woman over 30 years old. Widows – yes, never married – no. I’m sure there might be one or two that exist, as I haven’t talked with everyone in those countries, I’ve just never met anyone. What struck me as I’ve been reflecting on this… Choices!

I didn’t have to marry someone to leave my father’s house, because I had options. I can choose to remain single and still provide shelter, food, and clothing for myself. I also have the choice to be selective with whom I marry, again because I don’t need to be dependent on a man to survive outside of my father’s house. I would venture a guess that a woman from one of the Tanzanian communities I visited is not evaluating a relationship with a man with the same checklist I’m using, if she even has a checklist at all.

On one side of the world, we have more choices than we know what to do with, while on the other side, choices appear to be quite limited. Yet, if we believe Psalms 37:23, our steps are ordered by God no matter how many choices are available for us to make. So today I’m going to choose to be thankful…

- For being single and not living in my father’s house!

- For the ability be earn a living as a single female which affords me the opportunity to have food, shelter, clothing, and travel.

- For clean water.

- For choices.

- For ice cream, and all its many flavors!

- For knowing God, experiencing His grace, and for hope that the road ahead is in His hands and not mine!

So much to be grateful for these days!

Michelle

Posted in Author: Michelle | 16 Comments

The Sex Talk

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray – for men to become godly leaders at church and at home; for soft hearts that are responsive to the Lord; and for strong, Christ-centered marriages for those who desire them.

Shortly before I got married this past May, I got the “Sex Talk” from a few close friends and in a preparing-for-marriage class we took at our church.

One friend shared with me, “Emily, it’s not like in the movies. It doesn’t last all night.”

Another friend shared that her husband showers immediately after sex.

The older married ladies leading the girls-only time during our marriage class gave tips on avoiding infections and dealing with discomfort.

So why am I sharing this with you?

Because if you’re like me, you probably have some misconceptions about sex. Whether these misconceptions come from Hollywood where they edit out all the bloopers, or not learning/thinking/talking about sex and sexual desires because it’s easier and less shameful that way, or you grew up hearing that you will have the best sex of your life and be fulfilled sexually if you abstain until marriage, you are believing lies that the enemy is using to discourage you now and will use to discourage you in your marriage.

The world often presents a distorted view of the purpose for and the practice of sex. As Anna and Amy wrote earlier this year, the church doesn’t always promote a healthy view either. Growing up in a conservative church, I heard “don’t have sex until you’re married.” If anything, we were to be modest and asexual until marriage. I didn’t hear about married Christian couples struggling with their sex lives because “sex in its proper context [of marriage] is how God designed it.”

Several years ago, a friend and I had a conversation about how we secretly hoped Jesus wouldn’t return until we were married and could have sex with our husbands (isn’t that the highest good this world has to offer?). Such thinking illustrates misplaced hope and turning sex into the fantasy it’s not meant to be.

Lest I sound like I’m complaining or anti-sex, while sex can be awkward and complicated, it is wonderful to be with the man you love and trust and is key in developing and maintaining intimacy with your spouse (not to mention procreation). Sex does provide pleasure and an outlet for natural sexual desires, but sustaining healthy relationships requires commitment, hard work, vulnerability, and prayer. Something our culture often neglects to mention or model.

This week, let’s pray for discernment and protection from the lies about sex that lead to discouragement and discontent, both among singles and those who are married. Our sex life or lack of a sex life is not meant to define us – our faith and trust in a Heavenly Father and our identity as His children is where we find confidence and purpose.

Partnering in prayer with you,

Emily

P.S. Hundreds of churches from the D.C. area are gathering on Monday at the Lincoln Memorial to confess our sins and pray for our nation. Would you pray for protection for this time and for God to do a mighty work? And isn’t it cool/just-like-God that this prayer service corresponds with our fast.pray. time?

P.P.S. If you want to read more about a balanced view of sex while remaining celibate, here’s a link to an article another fast.pray-er shared with me that greatly helped re-frame my thinking about abstinence and sex.

Posted in Author: Emily | 8 Comments

Staples

On Mondays, we pray and fast for God to soften our hearts as women, to raise up men, and to give the gift of marriage to those who desire it. This week we have a guest post from a gal named Kate. Our hope is that you will be blessed by her writing as you pray and fast.

This summer was marked by two very important, heavenly ordained encounters where I learned The News.

Memorial Day weekend I encountered a friend of a friend who knows my ex. Through the course of catching up (it had been years since I saw her; same amount of time since talking to my ex), she causally brought him up in the course of our meandering conversation. And then she dropped The News – “You know he’s married now, right? And, expecting a child.”

Now, I’ve never played ice hockey. I have a niece who’s a freshman in college, living her dream, playing NCAA hockey. I’ve spent countless hours watching that kid zoom around the ice in chilly rinks along the East Coast. I can tell you, upon hearing the news about my ex on that warm Memorial Day with our feet dangling in a sparkling pool, I felt like I had just been checked hard by an NHL hockey player skating 40 mph, drilling me into the glass. I felt shaken to my core.

Here was the voice that played inside my head that moment and in the hours and days following: “HIM? You’ve got to be kidding me, God. He doesn’t even like you, let alone know you! Why him and not me?”

The “why him and not me” refrain followed me. Everywhere. I said it when I brushed my teeth and when I walked the dog; when I accepted a meeting invite at work and sat at a red light: Why him and not me?

Flash forward several weeks to my second heavenly ordained encountered this summer. I’m at the gym, working out with my trainer. An acquaintance who knows, through professional circles, my most recent ex is beside me lifting weights. She asks me if I’ve heard The News. “Bob got engaged, did you know that?!” Why, of course not. Why would I know that? Is what I wanted to scream at the gym.

This is the second proverbial NHL check into the glass. And my reaction is the exact same. Same voice, same recriminations: yelling at God, doubting His plans, believing He has withheld something great from me that I deserve more (the gift of marriage). Oh, so much more.

In the wake of getting emotionally drilled after hearing The News (twice) over the course of one month I go through a dark period this summer. There are lots of tears and sleepless nights. Sadness moves in and sets down a chair to make itself at home. The refrain becomes: “Why them and not me?” Why, God, why? And I befriend this refrain for several weeks; it plays on a loop in my head.

But then, God moves in. He speaks and begins to work this out in my heart. I liken the whole process to the following story: At the tender of age of 38, I am the unlucky recipient of two lower back surgeries six years apart. Thankfully, both were a success.   But for the second surgery, they had to close the incision with staples.   Believe me when I tell you – the removal of those staples was worse than the back pain that lead to the surgeries; worse than both of the post-op recoveries. I gripped the table and gritted my teeth when the kind nurse removed those staples. One, by one, by one, the staples rattled as they were dropped into the metal dish.

They had to come out because it was only after the staples were removed that my back could truly, completely heal.

I liken this summer to the removal of staples, but this time, in my heart. Emotional staples that I didn’t even know existed. God very tenderly and lovingly told me, “It’s time to remove these staples, Kate. You think you’re ready for marriage, but we need to remove these staples in your heart so you can truly heal.” He orchestrated those events so I could hear The News and He could begin His work. I captured this truth in my June 19th journal entry: “This is all about cleaning house, the house of my heart. This is needed. It’s useful. It’s painful. We’re removing staples. The first staple represents the one I loved. The second staple represents the one I haven’t been able to forgive. Unworthy love and unforgiveness (for and towards my ex’s) have been souring my heart. There’s hardly any room for The One to come in when such sadness, blame, pining and unforgiveness reside. There has been no room and no way healing can take place. This is the start of something great. This must be where and how you start to make all things new. ‘I make all things new,’ is what you said (Rev. 21:5). So then, do it. Keep pulling out the staples. Make me new.”

I share this story, the Summer of Receiving The News, because it’s illustrative of so many things as we wait patiently for God to reveal His will. This waiting period is not a time to presume we’re perfect and ready (like I pretty much thought I was), so let’s just get on with the show already, God. This is a precious sliver of time to ask God for His help in honestly assessing our hearts. Are we ready for marriage? Really ready for what God has planned for us? Is there anything hindering the process of healing and restoration? Is there anything preventing us from being emotionally whole, healthy and ready for His ultimate good and perfect gift?

Before this summer, I would have told you, “game on, I’m ready.” And, yes, my heart is in mint condition, thank you very much! But after this summer, I can tell you I am humbled and ever so grateful for God’s gentleness and patience. For the way He communicates and reveals. For the way He lets me have my temper tantrums and the loving kindness He bestows in reaction. He knows every square inch of my heart, each crevice and patch. And the most beautiful take-away from this summer is this: He doesn’t wince or look away from the icky staples. Instead, He offered to hold my hand and help me remove them. It’s breathtaking, the magnitude of His love. The good He intends for me. The protection He provides. The peace that is mine because I am His.

What an intimate and loving Father we have who works with us as we prepare ourselves for His ultimate design.

 

 

Kate lives in northern Virginia where she has a heart for rescue dogs, singing in church, strong coffee and those moments where God reveals so much. 

 

Posted in Guest Writer: Kate | 20 Comments