“God’s time for the performance of his promises is when it labors under the greatest improbabilities,”
Matthew Henry, Commentary on Matthew 1.
Last year was a Year of Broken Things. Major surgery for me, a massively destructive tornado in our community. Lives broken through illnesses, drugs and depression. Traditions broken, businesses broken, families broken through government-sanction quarantines. Man cannot fully redeem himself from things that would break him, but God! God can! God redeems unspeakable grace and beauty out of the broken places and turns them into blessing.
Last year, my word for the year was prayer. God took me through a year of prayer, teaching me to go deeper and deeper.
First, it was self prayer during the pain of my surgery and recovery. My spinal fusion surgery required a five day stay in the hospital. After a few days, the IV needle in my hand really needed changing. Flushing it was terribly painful, and, to be honest, the pain medicine they gave me for recovery didn’t put a dent into any pain. About 2 a.m., a sweet, young nurse came in to flush my IV. She thought it needed changing, but I thought I could tough it out into the next day. The pain was excruciating. I started reciting Psalm 23. This young nurse is forever imprinted on my heart – she recited it with me, helping me when I faltered, to recite it three times until she finished. People have prayed for me before, but this moment, in the middle of a dark night in a hospital, I remember thinking, “Oh, this is what you wanted me to experience about prayer – the holiness in a hard when joined in prayer with someone else in a way I don’t remember experiencing before.” I’m not sure what was different, but it left me wanting to comfort others in the same way that young nurse comforted by praying with me.
Little did I know that hospital prayer was a stepping stone to the next prayer lesson, a lesson on selfless prayer. In the middle of a dark night, at 1:38 a.m. a tornado hit our community. Nineteen people died, so many families were left with only the slab of their houses. Yet, so many were miraculously saved. Selfless prayer is intercessory prayer – standing in the gap, petitioning God for comfort beyond understanding, for peaceful sleep, for fear to leave families whose lives were broken and turned upside down when the tornado came. The flood of prayers released a Holy Spirit flood that covered our county, covered our hurting families – and the hands and feet of God came to pick up the contents of houses that had been dumped out, spread out, and broken. The president even came to visit the small town halfway up a plateau to comfort, to pray, calling this communities’ response the prototype of crisis response: A community that prays selflessly, a community that becomes the hands and feet of Christ.
Selfless Prayer requires extracting any personal gain out of the prayer equation. I’ve prayed selfishly for years. Salvation for my kids? Yes! Because if they’re saved, I don’t have to worry. Healing for a loved one? Yes! Because when healing happens, worry seems to flee. Prayers for things to stay the same? Yes! Because change is hard. Selfless prayer – praying for others, for God’s plan, God’s touch, God’s miracle – so that another person finds God’s peace, God’s plan, God’s touch, God’s miracle. My worries, my comfort, results that don’t look like my expectations? Selfless prayer allows God to work in His Amazing Ways! Maybe that’s is what is meant by “purity of heart” – to pray out of selfless pure concern for God’s best for someone else for challenging situations.
The Selfless Prayer lessons in the tornado journey were just another stepping stone to the third lesson – Intercessory Prayer for America. Covid Quarantine hit two weeks after the tornado. Disquiet. Communities turned upside down. Church cancelled. Restaurants closed. Two or three not able to meet. Then, from quarantine, unrest, violence unleashed across our nation – and the living faith in the wait of prayers sent out is where many of us are – waiting on God who always arrives right on time.
I don’t consider The Word of the Year a theme – I consider it an intense class God enrolls me in to teach me more, take me deeper about the topic, refine my heart to what He wants me to learn, to make the lesson come alive, for the roots of it to break the rock of my soul.
My Word of The Year this year? I haven’t pinned it down. God hasn’t sent me enrollment papers for the class – yet I feel it is a continuation of that prayer. . . but more. . . Redeeming Praying – specifically for redeeming the lost lambs. . . . Prayer Praising God in a faith-is-a-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen way. . . .Praying God’s hand is on Those who Stand with and Fight for Israel. . . Prayer against fear in a world turned upside down.
I am reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary on The Gospels this year. A few years ago, I read the chronological bible in a year – and it so made my soul rejoice. I missed the quality time God and I shared with that – and Henry’s commentaries have been on a list of things I wanted to read for quite a while. I also wanted to read the gospel with fresh eyes.
Jesus was born into troubled times. “Fear Not” the angel told both Mary and Joseph.
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife.” ~ Matthew 1: 20
Because of Jesus, I can say to myself, “Fear not, Daughter of the King. . . because of me, you have my protection, my favor, a place under my wing, in the shadow of Who I am.”
Henry writes about Joseph’s Fear Not Moment:
“It is a great mercy to be delivered from our fears, and to have our doubts resolved, so as to proceed in our affairs with satisfaction.”
Early in the new year, my husband and I went on a hike that was supposed to be a two mile hike and ended up being a 4 to 5 mile hike. I’ll admit, I was fearful over any hike over two miles, though I wanted to be strong enough for more. Exhausted at the end? Yes! Sore? For sure! Realization that I was stronger than I knew? That, too! But in the journey, I sang praises. God kept showing me broken places that became blessing places.
Fallen trees at every corner with roots laid bare was one sight. The broken places had become homes for animals. The decay became nutrients to sweeten the soil. New life grew, thrived.
One fallen tree revealed roots that broke through big rocks, like God telling me if my roots are in Him, they can break through anything that tries to stop me from reaching His living water, the soul sustenance that is Him. Nothing can stop God’s saving grace or His plan, or, friends, His promise to His children.
“Delays of promised mercies, though they exercise our patience, do not weaken God’s promise,”
~ Matthew Henry COmmentary on Matthew 1.
Shortly after my first son was born, I read Psalm 18. Maybe I latched on to it during our infertility journey (secondary infertility) – and my heart grieved and cried because we so wanted another child and we couldn’t. Maybe the need to turn it into a song for my heart was the challenges of graduate school along with a newborn. I don’t remember exactly, but it’s a song where I wove parts of Psalm 18 together and have sung for over 30 years – and one I still sing today – in my car, at my sink, one a path of broken trees on a Tennessee trail. Singing in this Year of Redeeming Prayers, Praising Prayers, Thankful Prayers, Sacrificial Prayers, Seeking Prayers, Prayers asking God to Be with Me, Stand with Me, Teach-Me-How-To-Love-You-More Prayers, Trusting Prayers.
The Lord is my Rock
The Lord is my Fortress
The Lord my Deliverer
I cry to the Lord, “You are Worthy of Praise,”
and I am saved from my enemies!
The Lord Lives!
Praise be to my King
Blessed be God my Savior
You are the God who avenges me
You subdue nations under me
You save me from my enemies
You rescue from violent men
I will praise you among the nations, O Lord
I will praise you among the nations. (Song taken from Psalm 18)
Along the paths rom that Tennessee winter hike that felt like a Spring day, I saw so much evidence that from brokenness comes good things, found solid footing in messy pathways, and evidence that strong, deep roots can break the unbreakable! Love letters from Shaddai letting me know that whatever comes in 2021, with Him will be an overcoming year if He’s in it! Selfless prayer that worships our God, trusts our God, asks our God, thanks our God – even when don’t see comfort, security, everyday ordinary – that’s what invites Him into our challenges. That’s what 2021 needs!
Remember Me Monday: #29 & Linky
“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
~ Isaiah 63:7, The Message
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly, quietly and loudly, tells his children, “You have forgotten me!” (Jeremiah 3:32, Ezekiel 22:12, to name a few). It’s a heart cry from a father to a child who has forgotten all the love, all the saving, helping, little and big blessings – and it leaves me stunned when I realize our Father, the creator of the universe, who knows things I cannot begin to fathom, who authors storylines that leave me amazed, delights in all of us so much, He cries out, “Remember Me.”
While every day is a Remember God Day, I am inviting you to join me on Monday mornings to come by and remember what God has done for you, for your family. Maybe God sent a cardinal darting out in front of you, as if to tell you, “I’m here,” or broke a child’s fever after you laid it all down at His feet in a 2 a.m. bedside vigil. Maybe He stood with you in the wait of a prayer sent out, or brought someone you loved to Christ. Maybe He healed your broken heart, gave your courage, or you gave Him your dreams as a love offering only to have Him give them back in an unimaginable way. Maybe God helped you survive to bedtime after a crazy Monday, or forgive yourself for missing it with your kiddos –– Whatever it is, let’s Remember Him. . . in a “Remember Me Monday” love letter.
“My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all the day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord”
~ Psalm 71:15-16.
Let us delight in Him by telling the stories of what He’s done! If you wrote a blog post remembering what He’s done for you, join the linky. If you didn’t but still want to praise Him for what He’s done – write it in the comment section. Then visit a comment before or after yours! One of the beautiful things about the blogging community is the relationships it builds!
Rules? Write long or short, a list or a story, include photos or not. Just Remember Him and what He has done, and let the gratitude of your heart guide you. Let’s make Monday so Rejoice, that the goodness of God spills into the rest of the week!
Places I’m Linking at This Week:
Inspire Me Monday, Grace & Truth,
Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story,
https://welcomeheart.com/blog, Worth Beyond Rubies,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee,
Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire,
***All photos marked with Muddy Photography or © Blue Cotton Memory or used within Blue Cotton Memory blog(s) belong Blue Cotton Memory. Going forward, photos will be marked with Muddy Photography.