Post from a Reader: Splash

Beginning in January and continuing over the next few months, we will feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Soaking wet firewood doesn’t light too easily. And if it’s really wet, it’s just about impossible.

No, this isn’t about camping. But it is about things that seem impossible.

I was recently reading the story of Elijah and Ahab and the miracle on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18. Elijah had challenged Ahab to prove his gods were more powerful than the Lord God. They agreed to make sacrifices on piles of wood, and then Ahab would ask his gods for fire from heaven, and Elijah would ask his God for the same.

Ahab and his men made a complete spectacle out of themselves, crying out and waiting for their gods to respond. Which, of course, they didn’t. Elijah, believing that his God would come through, decided to make it even more impossible in order to prove beyond any doubt that his prayers were heard.

And that’s when things got wet.

For Elijah, it wasn’t enough to just ask God for fire. He poured pots and pots of water all over the sacrifice and the wood, and the water ran all around the altar. Oh, and he filled a trench, too. And all that impossibly wet wood didn’t make one bit of difference. When Elijah called out to God, “the fire of the Lord fell down and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust and it licked up the water that was in the trench.”

Take that, Ahab.

You know, sometimes I feel like there has been water dumped on my prayer requests. Sometimes it seems that answers are improbable, if not impossible. Take, for instance, my prayers for a husband.

I wrote a book 10 years ago about waiting on God for a husband, but I’m still waiting. SPLASH.

I work and worship in places where there are few single men my age. SPLASH.

The statistics aren’t in my favor. SPLASH .

But you know what? My God seems to love impossible situations. He loves taking soaking wet wood and making a roaring fire out of it. He doesn’t have to answer in the way I want Him to, but I know He could. It doesn’t matter how difficult or challenging or overwhelming things get.

So maybe instead of getting discouraged over delays or disappointments or things that get worse before they get better, we need to be reminded of the wet wood on Mt. Carmel.

Splash. Go ahead. Pour on the impossible. I’m watching for the fire.

Nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. Jeremiah 32:17

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

~Sharon

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Blessed is She Who Has Believed

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

During the Advent season, I was reading Luke’s account again of the virgin birth. I always love to stop and think about the fact that Elizabeth would have been considered too old and Mary would have been considered too young. And that either pregnancy would have been a scandal of its own variety, but somehow the narrative of God’s incarnation has both of them carrying children at the same time. What a beautiful and bizarre first meeting they must have had after the angel visited Mary. As I was reading it this time, I saw a new line that caught my eye. This is what Elizabeth says to Mary, right before the Magnificat:
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

And I just stopped. What a line of praise and trust and faith. Two women, surprised to find themselves first-time expectant mothers, staring incredulously at God’s faithfulness in awe. Elizabeth lifting up Mary’s faith as a blessing. And all this while the only adult man in the story has been recently struck mute for his unbelief (sorry, Zechariah). Isn’t this a bit of a crazy story, when you stop to think about it? Considering the cultural norms and gender roles of the day, the unexpected pregnancy for both women, and the Spirit-led responsiveness of one child in utero…wow. God writes so many unexpected stories…and stories whose encouragement transcends time:

God sees women who have been quietly believing and trusting His promises to be fulfilled.

Mary and Elizabeth weren’t doing things that looked amazing, special or “paradigm-shifting” to anyone around them. They were living faithful lives – one as a married woman who had perhaps grown used to the name of barren, and one as a young, single woman found to be pregnant before marriage. And yet God plucks these women out of their lives and sets them in the very beginning of the story of the Incarnation. And I would like to think that years of quiet belief enabled both of them to be ready to respond when God called. A woman who, like Mary, could then embrace the unforeseen shape of God’s call on her life: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

In order to believe, I need to keep on remembering his promises to me.

I always think of a sermon I heard on Hebrews 12:2 (…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…) which emphasized that the verb for “looking to” at the beginning of verse has the sense of continually turning, or to keep on looking. So true. We forget so quickly. I can’t vaguely think about “Oh, God is faithful and He said some stuff about that.” I have to turn the eyes of my heart toward His word and look deeply at His promises. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is no easy feat for me…I quickly switch back into my selfish, self-reliance mode and I’d stay there, were it not for God’s faithfulness in pulling my heart back to Him.

We can encourage the faith of others.

One of my favorite things about this passage was a note from a commentary:

Those that have experienced the performance of God’s promises themselves should encourage others to hope that he will be as good as his word to them also: ‘I will tell you what God has done for my soul.’

As women who are praying together to see impossible things become possible, I sometimes forget that this is some of our calling. A call to be women who identify and encourage faith in others. To say “I see faith growing in you!” To celebrate God’s faithfulness with other women in whatever particular shape it shows up. And also to say “God is faithful” and tell our own stories. Even the stories with question marks, with grief, with unfinished endings, with many years of waiting…because, in the end, we are women who have seen the Lord be faithful in what circumstances we find ourselves. And we are trusting on His promises for the unforeseen road we’re walking. In the end, as the angel told Mary, we’re trusting the God who sees and acts in the realm of the impossible:

“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Praying with you and for you,

Amy

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Post from a Reader: When God Doesn’t Answer Prayers My Way

Throughout the next few months we will feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

The year began with my boyfriend abruptly and very unexpectedly breaking up with me instead of proposing to me. This was a godly man I had been best friends with for six years, and until the breakup, I had wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He was the person who could make me laugh in the bleakest circumstances, who could challenge me in ways no one else could, and always pointed me to Christ. When I imagined myself in that white wedding dress, he was on the other end of the aisle, and with that dream shattered I had no idea where to go from there.

God graciously opened my eyes to many things that I was blind to before my break up. He performed a deep, soul-healing work over the course of the year that exposed roots from my childhood that were making me repeat unhealthy patterns in relationships. God gently took me through the healing of old wounds and helped me to understand certain behaviors and life choices. As God unearthed things, He revealed to me how my whole life I had been making decisions based on how I felt I had to earn love and approval and I had been living a life untrue to my authentic self, the unique person that God created me to be with a plan and a purpose. I had created a false self in my futile attempts to earn the love and approval I felt that I needed.
As God began to peel off all the masks that I had worn for so many years in my attempts to earn love, I began to know myself for the first time in my life: my passions, my calling, and what He created me for. He began to show me who I really was-my identity in Christ as His daughter, but also my unique personality and design in His plan. I realized that for many years in my career I was biding my time and waiting for things to change, to become a wife and mother and work part-time to make my life bearable. I had been waiting for my life to change from some external source instead of making the changes I needed from the inside out. I felt God calling me to something radical: to quit my job and travel the world with Him for an indefinite period of time.

Leaving behind everyone I knew and traveling the world by myself without the security of regular paychecks or tangible support from loved ones, having only a backpack on my back, was frightening and exhilarating all at once. I bought a one way ticket to Iceland and left without a return date. Over the course of the next four months, I journeyed around the world with God and traveled to nine countries. 

 During that time He taught me what an amazing adventure life can be when you give up control of your own life, He showed me how all the provision I received on my trip was not because of earning it, but because of who I am in Christ, and He also taught me how many doors He flings wide open when I follow the dreams and desires He’s placed in my heart instead of stuffing them and hoping for them to go away. I learned how I don’t have to fear my dreams and desires if I am abiding in Christ, but to the contrary, that when I do follow them, He is able to put me on the right path for the plans that He has for me. Prior to my complete surrender to Him on this grand journey, I spent my life fighting the very nature that He had given me, and therefore it was impossible for Him to put me on the path to my God-given purpose.

2015 has been a year of unimaginable loss, and gain. I lost my best friend and person I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but in the end, I gained myself. I have spent so much of my adult life desperately praying for God to fulfill my desire of a spouse. It’s only after this past year that I’m praising God for unanswered prayers and seeing the wisdom in His timing and coming to trust that He truly knows what is best for me. I can finally say after journeying the whole world over with God that I trust Him: to use everything in my life for good (Rom 8:28) and to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). I trust Him even more for the good things to come because of the prayers He doesn’t answer.

 ~Kim

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Freedom

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

What a week it’s been! Took 4 nephews skiing while their parents attended a work event. Hosted a drop-in tea party for 20 ladies at my house, complete with homemade truffles and scones (like Downton Abbey high tea kind of stuff without the castle or butlers). Delivered a meal to my friend who gave birth to a healthy little girl 6 days earlier (marriage and baby happened while in the over 40 club, btw). Hung pictures with another friend getting her house ready for an exchange student. Also played goffer and general hospital patient helper for my mom, who had a surprise surgery on Tuesday and has remained in the hospital ever since. Plus, there was the normal week happenings like work, dishes, and sleeping.

While I could use a little less excitement packed into one week, I’m thankful my week could accommodate the activity. There is a certain level of freedom that comes with being single and childless. I don’t have to check with (or on) anyone before making last minute schedule changes, like sitting with my dad while waiting for my mom to come out of surgery. I can plan my week without regard for meals, laundry, and the schedule of another person dependent on me for these things.

I love the freedom that singleness provides in my life. I’ve talked with two women recently that find themselves single again because of very sad circumstances, and they have both remarked about the freedom they are experiencing in singleness. I don’t have pets or house plants because they could mess with my ability to be spontaneous and flexible. While I cherish my freedom, I believe it comes with responsibility.

Freedom is a gift.

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

True freedom is a gift from God, delivered by the death of Jesus on the cross. Accepting the gift of salvation through Jesus, we are no longer slaves to sin and our human desires. Christ has set us free!

Freedom is living.

1 Peter 2:16-17 “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Have you ever met someone that is living life to its fullest as a free child of God? It’s truly a beautiful thing. Freedom in Christ is not a license to do anything, but a call to live as servants of God. It’s one of those upside down kingdom principles, where a “free servant” is not an oxymoron.

Freedom is serving.

Galatians 5:13 “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

The purpose of our freedom in Christ is to serve others. Freedom is not meant to be just for our own benefit, but is to be a blessing to others. No matter our status in life, our lives are to be characterized by service and love. Singleness, if not kept in check, can produce selfishness. However, Paul encouraged living single because he knew that there is great blessing and purpose in using singleness to fully devote oneself to serving God and others.

Freedom is devotion.

Psalm 119:45 “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”

Imagine if we drove vehicles without any traffic rules. I believe mass chaos would ensue. Freedom to travel in safety and covering great distances is done so because we have road rules. Navigating the Christian life in freedom is done by following God’s commandments. Devotion to the things of God equals freedom!

How are you using your freedom in Christ? Is your freedom producing service or selfishness? Buckle up, it’s the law!

Praying you have a wonderful week living in freedom!

Michelle

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Post from a Reader: The Waiting Game

Throughout the next few months we will feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Everything in my childhood led me to believe I would marry young.

First, there were my parents. A new and eager Christian, my mom arrived as a freshman at her Ivy League school and headed directly to the campus chapel where she heard Christians had been gathering. She met the charismatic young pastor, a recent graduate. Four years later, shortly after her own graduation, she married him. Yes, not only was my Dad her pastor, he was the first person she met her first day on campus. (The stuff Christian dreams are made of.)

Second, there were my siblings. My first wedding took place at the age of 3, when my brother, a budding pastor even then, married me off with a Monkey-in-the-Barrel in lieu of a ring to a childhood friend. A friend who later became my pastor! At the age of 4, I remember holding my sisters (2 and newborn) and knowing I wanted my own babies. By the age of 6, I believe I had had a crush on every young guy, worship leader and pastor my Dad mentored. My brother can embarrassingly still name many of them.

I was enough of a rational young adult surrounded by a wonderful youth group of friends to know it was unlikely I would date and marry someone from my high school years. I invested those years in friendship.

Then college arrived. The first person I met on campus on my first day…was my brother. Who had joined that year’s freshman orientation specifically to be there early to welcome me. My college was split 50-50 men and women and we always joked about how it was designed so everyone could pair up…and that unfortunately, my brother and I were the last two remaining once everyone else found their other half!

After college, I worked for a church in England for a year.  During which time both my baby sisters began to date the men they would later marry. I have lived and cried and hoped through so many of the times the blog writers have described:

  • Watching both of my baby sisters get engaged. In the same week. (I joked to my Dad that if I could fake an engagement with a guy off the street that same week, we could probably all get featured on Oprah.)
  • Watching both of my sisters receive lovely birthday, Valentine’s and Christmas gifts from their special guys.
  • Watching both of my sisters get married. Being a bridesmaid in 5 weddings in 6 weekends. Featuring most of the same people at each wedding which means the same comments, condolences and criticism on my continuing singlehood.  My boyfriend at the time breaking up with me over the phone as I dressed for the 6th wedding because he realized he was in love with a girl from his college…the first Christian he had met on campus a decade earlier.
  • Dating someone who was verbally and physically abusive.
  • Watching my older brother fall in love. Realizing I would be the only “kid” at home on Christmas morning (and no, that is not cool when you’re in your late 20’s).
  • Watching my Dad cry and say “I don’t know why God hasn’t brought someone for you yet but I believe strongly that he hasn’t forgotten about you.”
  • A friend telling me about her vivid dreams of attending my bridal shower – and viewing that as a promise from God – while I politely nodded and thanked her and tried not to hope too much.

The hilarious pinnacle of my singleness is best described in this anecdote that made me equal parts amused/hurt at God’s sense of humor: one April, I visited my grandma and cousins in PA. I have two older female cousins, both married and raising lovely kids. And I have one male cousin, less than a year younger than me, who was in a coma following a horrific car accident when he was two. He is blind, severely crippled, and mentally still very much a toddler. He also loves life and laughs more than anyone I know. On this trip, he very excitedly announced to me that he had a girlfriend! He showed me pictures from the school they both attend, he blushed every time he mentioned her name and his Mom told me the teachers caught them kissing! On one hand, it was the sweetest most innocent thing I had ever heard. And I thank God for giving my cousin this love. On the other hand, I cried secretly that night because it is quite a blow to the ego when one’s mentally handicapped cousin is ahead of them in the dating game.

I survived my brother’s engagement and found myself able to fully join in his joy. I survived my grandma passing away, the grandma who married in her 30’s and would have understood (maybe) what my life felt like, had she been the kind of grandma who talked about those things.

And all those years: I lived. I ran half marathons and marathons and ultramarathons. I lived in England and Maine and Boston. I attended Red Sox games with my former babysitter who became a dear mentor and friend also living the single life. I helped plant two churches. I visited Russia, Ukraine, England, France, Ireland, Wales and traveled to Miami and San Francisco for work. I got my MBA. I spent five years in the most darling apartment next to Fenway Park. A home that became a wonderful haven and a constant source of thanksgiving whenever singleness became especially painful. I celebrated my 30th birthday by flying my Mom and sisters to Napa Valley to watch me run my 3rd marathon on 03.03.13. I babysat for my dearest friends when they all began to become mothers. And I kept all these beloved babies dressed in the cutest attire. Most recently, I celebrated the birth of three nephews who are precisely 6 weeks apart from each other. I loved being single and I hated being single and I was constantly loved by a good and gracious God.

I’m dating a wonderful man now. He has asked my father for my hand. He has procured my grandma’s engagement ring. He is everything good and kind I could want in a husband and he is not at all what I had planned for. I have caught myself wanting to move the waiting game along. Wanting to Pinterest my way to a perfect engagement and wedding. To allow myself to be selfish and self-centered for the next year or so because “I deserve it” and “it’s my time.”

But the truth is that life doesn’t stop when you’re engaged. Or waiting to be engaged. Or dating. Or single.  We are prayerfully and painfully walking a cancer journey with his Mom. We are trying to be respectful of hurting friends going thru divorces and infertility. And in the midst of all of that, one of these days, we will get engaged. And it will be a joyous day of thanks to God. But it will also just be another day, not the finish line of a race.

In my job, I work closely with a lot of retirees and the elderly. And it is pretty rare for both partners in a couple to pass away at the same time. Which means it is very likely that I, or you, or many of our friends, will end our time on this temporal earth once again…single! I am so blessed by God that I know how to be single. That I know goodness and blessing that have flowed from that. Maybe I will be the one to graciously help others thru that journey? And to remind them again, that this is not a finish line. Heaven with its promise of no pain or sorrow, no feelings of being picked over or left behind, no thoughts of inadequacy and loneliness, await us all! I can’t wait.

I know I’m not the only one to think “if only I knew I was going to marry in the future, I would stop worrying about it and focus on God and my present life.” Yet I know that’s a lie. It’s precisely the unknown and unknowable that pulls me closer to God. It’s the promises in his Bible such as “the years the locust have stolen from you” and “for I know the plans I have for you” that feel sweetest when I’m struggling (even if I sometime takes his promises out of context, I know He is bigger than my potentially wrong interpretations.)

My prayer for us all during this busy holiday season is that we would wait on the Lord expectantly, prayerfully, and that we would be able to pray this with confidence over ourselves and each other:

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14

And also “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7.

~Liz

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Art Imitating Life

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for women and men to bear the image of God in their unique ways, and for marriage to be given to those who desire it.

Curved with soft curls on the ends as if it was blowing in the wind, the two thin walnut wood sculptures seems to be frozen in a dance. A gallery not far from my house was featuring a collection of wood sculptures by a local pastor and artist. The theme of the collection was marriage, which fell under the heading Bone of My Bones.

One of my favorite pieces was entitled, Love Dares. It featured a rough, large block of wood with a smoothly carved curved piece balanced on the block, but mostly hanging off the one edge – curling away from its foundation. It reminded me that when love has a secure base it is free to take risks and go beyond the bounds of perceived safety, yet always remaining anchored.

I asked the artist, as he was explaining how one exhibit came from a rotten stump, if he started with a vision of what the wood should be or if it formed as he worked on it. He said he rarely starts with a clear vision of what should be, but rather begins with a blind understanding of what is to come. He feels his way through each step, carving, sanding, and chiseling away at the wood until something begins to take shape. He remarked that this process often parallels life, rarely do we have a clear vision of what should be, but find ourselves blindly moving through life taking one step at a time until something begins to unfold.

As one year closes and another one begins, I’m feeling as blind as ever. As my friend and I hiked on January 1st we remarked at how the trail provides a nicely defined path to follow, even has markers along the way, but how life’s journey is rarely so defined. I keep praying for the light to illuminate my way (Psalms 119: 105) and step, but sometimes the light seems very dim and my step unsure. The process for the wood sculptures really resonated with me. Keep working out my faith, allow God to chisel away the ugly parts, sanding me to a smooth finish, and it’s okay for me to be a little blind along the way… the purpose is still unfolding!

A work in progress!

Michelle

PS: Thank you to those that have submitted possible blog posts! We are compiling the submissions and looking at the schedule for the next several months.

 

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Merry Christmas!

We hope you had a Merry Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, with friends and family. As we move into the final week of 2015 and the reflections of a year flood your mind, may warm memories fill your thoughts and hope call you into the New Year.

Thank you to those of you that have taken the time to write your stories and email them to us. We will continue to collect these through the end of the year for possible use in future FastPray posts. Email submissions to fastprayblog@gmail.com.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The FastPray Team

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