Prayer

Thoughts on Prayer

Sometimes I hear people say, or I think myself, “all I can do is pray” as if prayer isn’t really doing much. But in reality prayer is one of the most important things we can do.

In 1Timothy we are encouraged to pray for all people and for our leaders in order that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (see 1 Timothy 2:1-6)

Ephesians teaches us that our battles are not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (see Ephesians 6:10-20)

Our battles are fought in a realm we don’t really understand. The idea that there really is good and evil, that there really is an ‘evil one’ (John 17:15, 1Peter 5:8, the Lord’s Prayer) that there really is a battle going on in the heavenly places is something we don’t always grasp in our views of reality.

Remembering you in my prayers…

Mountain Creek image for Thoughts on PrayerIn light of all of that, over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing some prayers from the New Testament and asking that we, like Paul did, pray for one another.

In Ephesians 1 Paul shares his prayer. As you read through the prayer pay attention to his prayer requests and to how he incorporates encouragement to those he’s praying for and praise and adoration for God.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you

  • the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him,
  • having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
  • that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you,
  • what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and
  • what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe,

according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV)

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16b ESV)

Sharing

Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I was talking to my stepmom this morning and we were reminiscing about Ned.  He was the priest at the church where I became a Christian and the priest that brought my dad back to church.  We were talking about how he taught grace and taught us to bring Jesus into every situation.

My stepmom said that he taught us that we should bring Jesus into every situation, like if the toilet overflowed we should call Jesus, Jesus, Jesus – and Jesus would come, right into whatever mess we were in.

We’d go to the Wednesday night prayer and praise services, where many times everyone would end up circling the alter, holding hands and singing praise songs. After the meeting we’d go have dinner or dessert and spend hours talking about the things Jesus had done for us, about the miracles in all the everyday things we experienced.  We saw Jesus in everything and we’d share our faith and our love with one another.

She said, that’s why the Bible tells us to not stop meeting and sharing with one another, because sharing causes us to see and remember, it causes us to be thankful and see God’s hand where it is.  It brings us out of the mundane and into the presence of a Holy God – A Holy God who became man and walked among us, A Holy God who fills us with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, so we are never alone.

Not only did Ned preach Jesus, He lived in relationship with Him and shared Him with us.  Ned was never above us, he was a fellow sinner in need of grace, but he knew where there was a fountain flowing freely and he wanted us all to know.  He loved us, his congregation, and he was there for us pointing us to the true source of love through his stories, his laughter and his tears.  I am so thankful that God gave us Ned at a point in my life when I truly needed Him, but you know I still need Ned’s in my life.  I need people who are real, down to earth people, people who exude Jesus.

Flowers with Hebrews 10:23-25

New Year Encouragement

New Year Encouragement!

1 article, 2 blogs, a niece’s advice and a quote… What a way to start the New Year! I hope you find these as encouraging as I did.

From Tullian Tchividjian, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church’s Senior Pastor and founder of Liberate, we read:

You get the idea. In some ways we get better. In some ways we get worse. And in other ways we basically stay the same. Whoever told us that the experience of life was one of escalating progress lied to us. Most of the time it feels rather static, doesn’t it?

New Year’s Resolutions are a burdening attempt to fix ourselves and make ourselves more lovable. But (and here’s the good news), God loves us as we are, not as we should be.
God’s love for me, approval of me, and commitment to me does not ride on my resolve but on God’s resolve for me. ~ Tullian Tchividjian

To read this complete article, go to: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/01/01/welcome-2015-it-may-be-two-steps-forward-one-step-back-but-here-what-matters/

From David Zahl, director of Mockingbird Ministries and Editor-in-Chief of the Mockingbird Blog:

new year encouragementThis is the liberating truth of the Gospel at its most gut level. Life in the shadow of the cross is not some endless trajectory of mandatory improvement. It is not a mission or a project. It is simply life. A life lived with a modicum of self-acceptance in which we act in silly and sometimes self-defeating ways, but where we are free to laugh at ourselves (and cry with others), knowing that we have been given something a whole lot more sturdy to rely on for comfort and value than our own resolutions. What’s more, we are not alone. ~ David Zahl

Read the full blog at: http://www.mbird.com/2012/12/resolving-to-love-calvin-and-hobbes-17-years-later/

From Steve Brown, radio broadcaster, seminary professor, author and the founder of Key Life, we read:

Just because one believes in grace and admits to not living up to the standards (e.g. resolutions), it doesn’t mean that one lowers those standards (or quits making the resolutions). In fact, God’s grace and love make it possible to be honest about the failure and, at the same time, to continue to make the resolutions. ~ Steve Brown

Read this complete blog here: http://www.keylife.org/articles/the-god-of-second-chances

On a side note, my niece posted this on Facebook and I thought it was a great idea, so I wanted to share it:

My favorite part of January 1st!!!
Throughout the year, we keep a jar on our table and fill it with slips of paper noting things -big and small- for which we are especially grateful. Then on New Years Day, we dump it out and take turns reading them out loud, one at a time. Highly recommend doing this! It’s such a beautiful way to start the new year—reflecting on many of the blessings and sweet moments from the previous one. ~ Erin Fede

And lastly, but not leastly… a quote:

There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. ~ J. I. Packer Knowing God

Happy New Year!

Tami – January 2015

Focus

From the GRACE Archives – Focus

Seek First the Kingdom of God

This month my idea for writing has been focus but I’m having a very hard time getting my focus, getting a clear picture, as to what to write about.  I’ve been perusing scriptures and contemplating ideas but there just seems to be too many directions I can go.  Honing into one and taking off with it or sticking to it is becoming very difficult.

I wonder if this is not somewhat like our Christian faith.  There is so much good we can focus on and so many side roads we can travel.  Sometimes these can be great and can help us to grow in depth and breadth of our knowledge of God, but sometimes we can get side tracked and forget what is really important.

Have you ever noticed when you read or hear something about a topic like parenting or marriage, your focus starts out good (i.e. how can I be a better…?) but soon seems to shift?  We pick up a book ’10 easy steps to becoming a great mate” and start reading with all good intention but soon we start seeing things and think ‘well my mate doesn’t do that….  You mean her spouse actually does…”  Our focus seems to change, we start reading a “how to…” and end up reading a “why doesn’t…”

You can see examples of this in scripture, like when Paul asks the Galatians: “Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”  Where did they go wrong?  I think it was in their focus.  Their focus became, as ours often does, how can “I” be a ‘better’ Christian.  We add in how can “I” be a ‘better’ church goer, wife, mother, etc.  As we start focusing on ourselves our vision becomes skewed.  We start with good intentions but, because our focus is internal, our actions tend to be motivated by our gain.  Instead of seeing as God would have us see, our vision is clouded by our I’s.  We start seeing where we have been wronged, used, abused or where we are better, more proficient, more able.  We become bitter, resentful, prideful, discontent.

When this happens we need to stop and redirect our focus back to God.  When we glimpse God, see His glory, all else pales.  When we seek God first; life falls into place.  When our focus is on the love God has shown us, we are able to love; when our focus is on the mercy we have received, we are able to forgive, when our focus is on the hope to come, we can offer hope; when our focus is on God, all earthly cares diminish.  So I would like to encourage each of to start off our school year, focusing on what is important; seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matt. 6:33

By Tami Munden

On a somewhat related note… this is  a good blog:  http://thetarasfamily.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/the-discontent-wife-whos-to-blame/

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung, testing is over, but school is still in session. To many this can be a depressing time. Everyone wants to be outside, wants school to be over and it feels over with the ‘end of the year testing’ done. And yet we must trudge on, get our days in, finish our ‘to do’ lists, all the while everything inside screams to be finished. The conflict is within parent and child alike. No one wants to be doing what they feel they ‘have’ to do, so tempers are short, feelings get hurt and school becomes a chore, something only to be completed but not to be enjoyed. What can we do?

I think we must make changes, cater to the urges within us. Spring is the time for sewing seed, tending gardens, etc – I imagine God gave us the desires we have to be outside at this time of year. Just look at all the beauty He created around us. Every part of our being cries to be outside and why not? Why are we homeschooling? – to be like the schools? – to be stuck in the monotony of busy work? With all of us feeling stuck, maybe there is something to those feelings, some deep truth that needs delved into?

For goodness sakes, if everything in you and your child is screaming for change, then change! We have that liberty when we homeschool – that’s one of the reasons we do it! I want my children to have a desire to learn and understand their world, God’s creation, so why not get out in it and observe and enjoy what He has made.

Be CuriousGo on a nature hike or a nature hunt. See how many different bugs, birds, leaves, weeds, flowers you can find. Make graphs and charts on your driveway compiling the information you see.

Do jump-rope skip-counting and memorize your math facts. Play catch while counting by 2’s, 3’s, etc. or while doing multiplication tables. Observe the geometry around you, street intersections, parallel lines, perpendicular angles.

Practice spelling or take a spelling test on the driveway with chalk. For younger kids, write the days of the week, the months of the year or the alphabet and have them jump from one to the next practicing, memorizing.

Do art outdoors; take some time to draw from nature, learn about texture – take your pencil or crayon and color on different surfaces then try to recreate that image, see what you can create with sidewalk chalk on your driveway.

Work on listening skill activities. Have them follow a set of directions and add another one and see how many they can remember, for example: run to the tallest tree, spin around, hop to the mailbox, skip to the grass and do a cartwheel. It’s amazing how they enjoy this stuff and it’s great for their listening and remembering skills.

Study history and have them be explorers, writing a journal, complete with illustrations, of the things and peoples they meet, in your back yard!! Have them follow compass directions and plot a map complete with how many centimeters/inches = how many meters/feet.

Have them read under the shade of a tree.

There are sooooo many things we can do outside and still learn. Sure they may not be your everyday ‘curriculum’ but what do you want your children to learn? It may take a bit more creativity and work on your part (and on theirs but they may not even realize it – it’s amazing what children will do when they are having fun at learning). I think you will find it definitely worth the time and effort you take. Instead of feeling trapped you can be free and free up your children to love and enjoy learning.

By Tami Munden

Free to Fail

“It is high time for the church to remind our broken and burned out world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a one-way declaration that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose; because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.”Tullian Tchividjian

Free to fail, what a thought!  I grew up very insecure and felt very much like a failure.  I failed again and again at life, at relationships, at about everything I tried, but then I became a Christian.  Lying on my bed one night, I prayed “God I hurt, I can’t take it anymore, I just don’t want to feel anymore – I want to die, I don’t want to go to heaven, I don’t want to go to hell, I want to just not exist.  Please help me, I know this is wrong.” and then I cried myself to sleep.  When I woke up the next morning, I turned over in bed and looked out of the window and saw it was a new day… A new day… and I had hope.  I hadn’t known hope in a long time, but I woke up with it that morning and my life was changed.  God did it; He gave me a gift, the gift of hope!  What joy I felt.

Years have gone by and life has failed me, people have failed me and I have failed them.  I know failure and have come through it, but I still fear it.  The fear of it paralyzes me at time.  I’m not free to speak, to act, to write because I fear failure.  Not only do I fear failure, I fear being rejected, being mocked, being hurt and those fears paralyze me.  I become like the man who hid his talent, buried it in the ground, because he knew that if he lost it… so he just buried it.  That’s me; time after time I bury myself.  I actually picture it – when I’m afraid, when I feel I’ve let people down, when I let myself down, I picture myself crawling into a big hole in my backyard and burying myself.

I read an article recently about letting your children fail and I realize how my fears have affected them – I don’t want to fail, I don’t want them to fail, so I protect them, I shelter them.  I don’t want them to know the hurt, the pain I’ve known, I want them to be happy and to succeed.  I want it for them.  But you know, I also want it for me.  When they fail, I feel like I’ve done something wrong, I’ve let them down, I didn’t say the right thing, I didn’t respond in the right way and I realize I expect perfection.  Not just from them, but from myself.  What a burden I have put on, not only myself, but my family.  I pray that they will forgive me and that I will forgive myself.

But then I look away from myself and I am reminded that God loves me and I love my children.  When they fail, or when they fail my expectations, I don’t stop loving them, I don’t see them as failures, I see them as my children whom I love dearly.  It’s not about what they do or don’t do, it’s about them – it’s about love.

By Tami Munden

Decisive Element

Haim Ginott Quote
Haim Ginott Quote

Sometimes I read this quote and think “I sure hope this isn’t true!” but then I see the truth in it.  I love the teachings of Steve Brown, he is so quick to affirm God’s love for me, His unconditional love for me, to remind me that I am a child of God and can call Him Abba Father.  What great peace of mind this gives me.  Sometimes when I feel like a failure, when I am a failure, when I’m reminded of my fallenness, it’s easy to want to hide from it.  To act like I have it all together and am ‘saved;’ saved so I can appear to others as being Holy and Righteous in myself.  But I’m not.  I’m saved so I can be naked and unashamed, so I can be transparent in my weakness and yet know that I am loved and cherished.

When I think on the above quote, I see my successes and I smile, but then I quickly remember my failures and honestly I want to hide from them.  But God calls us to be vulnerable and to help each other through our ups and our downs, not just our ups.

I remember a day when my daughter questioned something the science book was teaching, I got irritated – ‘I didn’t write this, it’s not my opinion, it’s what is.’ Instead of nurturing her, I got frustrated – I didn’t have a better answer and she just had to accept what the book said.  I look back on that day now and wish I would have said, ‘That’s an interesting point you are making – we should do some research and find out why they say that.’ But no, I just moved on and, at least for that moment, squashed her inquisitiveness.  I can’t say I always did that, there were times I would stop, change directions and go with the flow of learning and inquiry, but not always.

I think back to teachers that inspired me and I realize they set the mood, the tone of their classroom and geared it towards enlightenment, wonder, and acceptance.  They shared their love for learning with me and I drank it in.  Others, the ones I felt stifled by, tried to squash the inquisitiveness; they set their stage and went with their set agenda even if it wasn’t working.  They were more interested in teaching the lesson, as I was that day with my daughter, than they were in inspiring the student to a love of learning.

We, as homeschool parents, have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.  We take it willingly and with love, but we have to remember that we are the decisive element in our child’s learning.  He can inspire or squash, and unlike when I was growing up and had some good teachers that did inspire and some bad ones, we are their only teachers, so we must be all the more aware of the responsibility we have.

Given that, it is important that we remember Who is the decisive element in our lives.  We need to remember God’s love for us, His mercy, His grace, and His forgiveness.  We need to remember that He sent Jesus as our Savior, not because we’re great people without any faults, but because we actually need a Savior.  We are fallen people in a fallen world and, where one day there will be a new heaven and earth with no more sin and death, that day isn’t today.  We strive to be the best we can be, not to earn any medal, but because we are loved.  We strive to be that positive decisive element in our classroom, not because we are perfect, but because we love.