Spiritual Shelter

by Erin Mullen

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“Every prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for [your descendants] and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayers.” – OLE Hallesby (1879-1961), Norwegian pastor and writer

“And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Christ), each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of fragrant incense, which are the prayers of the saints (God’s people).” Here in Revelation 5:8, we are given a picture of the “prayers of the saints” being held in “golden bowls full of fragrant incense.”

And every “Oily Mom” said, “AMEN!” No, but seriously. In a world of endless essential oil treatment combinations and diffusers of all shapes and sizes, I do not have to explain the imagery presented here of these stored up, continuously burning prayers. Ever before Him. Cherished in the most valuable of bowls. Not one prayer spilt. Not one prayer wafted away.

There is part of me that would like to glamourize this heavenly oil diffuser session, thinking it would be the sweetest and best of all concoctions this world has ever known. But there is another part of me that wonders what prayers with tears and sorrow would smell like? What do prayers of anger, resentment, and worry bring to the mix? Frankly, this mysterious book of the Bible does not give us any additional adjectives, besides “fragrant,” leaving it still very elusive.  

The fact remains, these prayers were essential enough to the 24 elders that this bowl and a harp is what they brought, facedown, to the Most High.

Prayer in one hand and Praise in the other says a lot.

So, can I be honest here? For the last nine months, my “prayer closet” has deliberately been designated within the four doors and behind the wheel of my old but reliable Honda Odyssey. No, I am not quiet-timing and driving. You see, I am like many moms with multiple kids. With multiple kids comes multiple carlines (twice-a-day I might add). And with that, there is always gap time.

For a while I could grab 45 minutes at home for my quiet time during this gap time, but my youngest spent the majority of it begging me to head to her school. So, the routine began. Drop two kids off at the elementary school and then drive on to the next drop off and be first in line.  And that is where I would invite the Lord to come and meet with me. In the middle of my smelly, crumb-filled, gray van, the Lord would graciously “draw near” (James 4:8) and “incline His ear to me” (Psalm 116:2), and I to Him. There were days I am sure my prayers smelt more like burning sage and less like lavender and chamomile. Continue reading →

Staying the Course in Times of Failure

by Rey Cooke

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Mom’s illness had worn me out emotionally and physically. My best prayer times were spent in the car traveling back and forth to her home. Sleep was interrupted with worry, fear, hurt feelings, guilt, and anger. Even though I shared the responsibility of caring for Mom with my brother and sister, I still felt overwhelmed and sad.

I longed to be at home with my husband and family; to watch my grandchildren play ball on the weekends. I listened to praise music and sermons online when I could, but nothing replaced my church. I felt as if I was slowly drifting away from my life. When I was with Mom I wanted to be somewhere else, and when I wasn’t with her I felt guilty and torn.

The hospital days were long. I didn’t expect her to make it out. We were given the worst news about her condition; almost every organ was in total failure!  “Why hadn’t she taken better care of herself?” Angry thoughts drifted through my mind driving a wedge between God and me—not because He moved away from me, but I’m ashamed to say, I moved away from God.

The tide turned, Mom slowly began to regain some strength and her heart function increased to 19 percent. We began to be hopeful that she would make it out of the hospital, but we knew her life would be radically different. She would no longer be able to live independently, which meant an adjustment for me and my siblings.

I wasn’t prepared for the roller coaster of emotions I would go through when she returned home. We began to make arrangements to put her home on the market and get her and her husband settled in a Continuing Care Community.

The volcano inside of me finally blew when I overheard my mother telling her friend that we were taking all of her things. I snapped at her, forgetting how sick she was and how the medication altered her perspective. I was surprised at what popped out of my mouth—not Holy Spirit led, but my flesh in all of its glory!   Continue reading →

Instructing Our Children With Scripture


by Melisa Gaines

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Children don’t come with an owner’s manual.  No experience is required.  If having a baby biologically, you get about nine moths to prepare for the most challenging job of your life!  If you give birth in a hospital, most require you to have a car seat installed properly to ensure the child’s physical safety, and they may provide a lactation consultant or formula to help the child get some nourishment the first couple of days of his or her life, but other than that, you go home with a human and don’t have a clue what you are doing. It’s crazy to think that getting any other job usually requires education, experience, and references. That’s not the case with motherhood.

Once we get past the hurdle of trying to figure out how to nurture this child God has entrusted to our care, pretty quickly they grow up and start walking and talking and making their own decisions. What then!? A whole new learning curve approaches and most are unprepared.

We are told in Scripture that “the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).  Most parents understand the need to reprove their children’s wrong behavior, but Scripture also teaches us that we are to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

What I want to emphasize is that instructing them positively with Scripture is equally as important as correcting them when they do wrong.

Let me share with you how I try to do that with my kids in our home.

Continue reading →

If Need Be

by Stephanie Blackiston

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I am sitting at my computer listening to the birds sing outside my window.  It’s a beautiful spring day.  I have laundry piled high, waiting to be folded. Baseball uniforms that need to be ready by tonight’s games, dishes I can’t seem to keep up with, and papers that need to be graded. It’s a beautiful life I could have never dreamed of.

Keeping my home is a high calling.

My highest calling is to daily grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

In twenty years of walking with the Lord, I have experienced various trials.  Like you, I have walked through fires that have tested my faith at its core. Thick confusion sets in when we are being tested.

Is God really good? Does He really use ALL things together for my good?

Will my faith survive this fire?

I am going to share with you three Biblical words {you may have never noticed before} that I have learned to speak over and over in the fire.

“IF NEED BE”

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.” 1 Peter 1:6-8

“If need be” means: it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper.

  1. Necessity brought on by circumstances or by the conduct of others toward us.
  2. Necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end

Sometimes those three little words are all I can say during a trial. I pray,  “God, I don’t understand this.  I don’t want this! This is too painful…but Your Word says ‘if need be’. I believe this is a loving necessity… not an accident.”

It is Biblical and right to be grieved {for a little while} by our various trials.  Grieving doesn’t mean a lack of spirituality. The Holy Spirit grieves. But, according to this passage, we can greatly rejoice while we grieve over our trials. I don’t normally put grieving and rejoicing together, but God does!

Did you know that the Bible says our trials are “color-coded”? (That is what the word “various” means!) In a sense, our trials come in different varieties and colors.

Later in 1 Peter, we find out that we are also given color-coded, or “various,” grace (1 Peter 4:10). In other words, for purple trials He gives purple grace! The exact grace for each trial!

The same word is used to describe “various” sicknesses (Luke 4:40), and then again for “various” miracles (Hebrews 2:4).  God can give specific color-coded miracles for color-coded sicknesses! Red illness= red miracle!

How about that for increasing your faith? Keep praying for your matching miracle!

But what happens when the miracle doesn’t come?

Let’s look at someone in Scripture whose miracle didn’t come.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days,  and then He said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” John 11

At first glance, Jesus can seem unavailable and/or uninterested as Lazarus is dying. Why didn’t He come stop the illness before it resulted in death? Because He sees a much bigger picture. It says that Jesus loved Lazarus.

I believe love is what kept Jesus from coming. Jesus wanted to give Lazarus the privilege of living a resurrected life.

You may not be physically dying right now, but you could be experiencing a trial that feels like it is going to end in spiritual death. Where is Jesus? Why isn’t He coming?

Love.

It is happening so you will see the glory of God, so you can know His resurrection power, and so others will believe!

“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”  So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me.  You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”  Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11:40-43

What favor! What a privilege to be chosen to be resurrected from the dead! I imagine Lazarus didn’t feel favored when he was sick and dying, but he was.

Imagine how different his life must have been after walking out of that grave! The next time we see him, he is reclining at a table with Jesus! When you have been resurrected, I am sure you are much more LAID BACK!  Afterall, what is there to be afraid of when Jesus Christ has already conquered your greatest fear?

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25

Friends, even if you “die” waiting for Jesus to come, He will resurrect you. He is coming! He always comes.

“Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Romans 8:34

Remember, trials come on a “if-need-be” basis. Nothing slips into your life without purpose. Pray for color-coded grace and a matching miracle!

He is able!

And if the miracle doesn’t come, God is doing something bigger. You just can’t see it yet.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection” Phillipians 3:10

Stephanie Blackiston

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From My Womb to His Feet

by Melissa Langley

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They say it is helpful to give you a name. That is hard for me since I don’t know if God created you BOY or GIRL. Big sister calls you “Cookie,” but that doesn’t sound like a very serious name. And you, my precious baby, are very significant.

I waited for you for 40 months. I carried you in my womb for 7.5 weeks before your heart stopped beating.  Two more weeks passed before my body would let you go.

I am surprised how much I have wept because of you. I have grieved over you and felt deep loss at my very core.  It’s the kind of loss that takes and gives at the same time – a holy loss that burns and refines.

As your body was failing you, my broken body was powerless to save you.  I wanted nothing more than to mend you and make you whole again so I could keep you with me a little longer.

What shall I call you?

I don’t see you as the world sees you: small, insignificant and lifeless. Although your physical frame measures less than an inch, I choose to see you through faith’s eyes: strong, purposeful and alive.

I think I will call you “Strength.”

That is what your father’s name means, and “strength” is the word my Heavenly Father gave me for our family this year. It was given before you were conceived.

Yes, your name fits you.

It was by His strength that you were brought to the point of life, of heart, of spirit, and of soul. It was in His strength that we buried what was left of your body in the ground while keeping our hope intact.  And it is through His strength we press forward, viewing your life and death through the lens of trust.

I wonder what you are doing at this very moment.  Big sister asked if you were running.  When I picture you, I see you at the feet of Jesus. Surrounded by millions of souls just like you. Souls that have never seen the sun rise or fall.  Souls that have entered eternity without leaving a footprint on earth.

Maybe that’s why the enemy is waging a war here against your kind. Because every time he comes into the presence of the Lord, he has to cross over a sea of innocence. Your very presence in heaven is a constant reminder to him that he can never touch you. You will never be tainted by this sinful world; your eternity is secure.

I want you to know how much I love you; how much I wanted you. My body made a place for you, and although my womb had to let you go, my heart will never stop carrying you.  You belong to me.

You will not come back to me, but I will go to you.

We will banquet together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will drink side by side, satisfied that every wrong has been made right and every tear has been wiped dry.  And we will sing songs. Oh, how we will sing to the LORD, our Strength!

Save me a seat, little one. I will see you soon.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.” Psalm 28:7

Melissa Langley

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Motherhood in Light of the Resurrection

by Emily Cook

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As I write this it is early on Good Friday morning. My husband has just read a children’s devotional about this day to our three-year-old and he’s loading a yearly tradition on his iphone. As I grab my laptop from upstairs, I hear S.M. Lockridge loud and clear, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” The Sunday he’s referencing is resurrection day, that glorious day that Jesus came out of the grave and gave us the opportunity to do the same.

It got me thinking, how can mothers live in light of the resurrection?

We are forgiven.

Because of what God did for us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are forgiven and free to forgive others. As a mom, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was when my son was a baby. In one of Jean Stockdale’s lessons she advised us to model asking forgiveness from our children when we make a mistake. In turn, they will learn to do the same.

This has given me such freedom from perfectionism. No matter how hard we try, we are human and we will make mistakes. When we do, God asks us to humble ourselves to ask Him for forgiveness, as well as those we’ve offended. On the flip side, when our children fail us, we are compelled to forgive them just as Christ forgave us. We reach out our hand to help them up and set them back on the right path.

We are faithful.

Because we have believed the good news, we are to live lives full of faith in Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit. This will mean we live contrary to the world in our reactions, our choices, our attitudes, and our activities.

When our oldest was four, I felt this constant tugging at my heart to have my husband and I sit down to write a mission and vision statement for our family. I felt the temptation of busyness looming just ahead with two little ones and one on the way. I knew if we didn’t have something to refer back to, it would be easy to fall into the snare of the devil to choose “good things” over God things. Above all, Christ must be at the center of our life and our perspective eternal. If not, life can get way off balance. This has been a work in progress for us with lots of conversations and adjustments as our kids have grown.

A surrendered life to Christ doesn’t look like a check-list of boxes to complete to make us “Christian,” but spiritual disciplines are necessary for us to hear from the Lord and to grow. Personally, I try to stay focused on the Lord daily by making the intake of His word a priority through reading, listening to sermons, and following biblically-sound podcasts during the week. A consistent diet of truth can be a great encouragement, a faith builder, and a toolbox for Moms raising children in light of the gospel. Continue reading →

For Better or For Worse

by Lee Stewart

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When my daughter was four, she asked me out of the blue, “Mommy, why do you love talking to Daddy so much and why does Daddy love talking to you so much?” I told her I married my best friend.

On my wedding day, I took it for granted that I was marrying a person I would want to talk to for the rest of my life. We eagerly made vows to stick with each other, in sickness and health, for better or for worse. When you’re all dressed up and making promises in front of a sanctuary full of family and friends, you say “for better” with a lot of expectation, but you say “for worse” almost hypothetically.

It’s true when a Christian marries a Christian, the “for better” part has a staggering potential for joy. But it doesn’t exempt us from an actual “for worse.” It might come with miscarriage, or financial straits, or tension with in-laws. It might come with habitual miscommunication, difficult conflicts, or a struggle to forgive. But “for worse” does come and it does hurt.

There will be days when you face “for worse,” and your love is a choice and not a feeling.

After God spoke the world into being, He didn’t wait long before ordaining a marriage. There is no earthly union more intimate than this one.  There is no one else who can walk alongside us in our spiritual journey the way our spouses can. There is no relationship more naked than this, both figuratively and literally.

Is this a big deal to Christians? Is it a big deal to Christian parents?

In my nearly 9 years of parenting, I’ve been told to “enjoy every moment” more times than I can count. But in my 11 years of being married, I’ve heard almost no one remind me to enjoy my marriage.

A few years ago, a wise counselor warned me and my husband that one of the greatest threats to our marriage would be complacency. He didn’t think divorce would touch our home, but he knew what complacency would cost us.

Complacency is when you stay together and adapt to each other’s sins.

Complacency means you’re still talking, but not in a vulnerable way. You’ve stopped building the friendship. No one is praying out loud. No one is asking questions. No one is actively interested in the spiritual welfare of the other. Complacency is when you settle into what you already know and are comfortable with.  It’s when you start looking away when you should be confronting.

A Christian marriage is a Christian friendship, and this includes sharpening one another. Continue reading →

God’s Word Is Not Chained

by Lindsey Wingo

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“I am suffering…but God’s Word is not chained.” 2 Tim. 2:9 (NIV)

When I read those words above I stopped dead in my tracks.

God’s Word is not chained.

I suppose it hit home with me especially in light of a recent conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about the times in our lives when fear and worry come out of nowhere causing us to question God’s goodness and His promises. In a matter of minutes we can go from joyfully trusting to wanting to hide under the covers and not come out! My sweet friend was feeling tormented by fear. She knew where it was coming from. She knew the enemy was behind it. But she simply could not shake it. One of the thoughts she kept having was “Did God really give me that promise, or was I just imagining it?” Immediately the story of Adam and Eve popped into my mind. Satan is crafty and deceptive, but he uses the same old bag of tricks time after time. And why not? He knows they work!

“He (the serpent) said to the woman, ‘Did God really say…” Genesis 3:1

Now compare that to these rogue thoughts that enter our minds all too often: “Did God really say what I thought He said? Did He really give me that promise? Is God’s Word true and does it really apply to me? Does God really care? Is He really good?”

Sounds familiar, right?

I’ve heard it said that Satan has a distinct method of operation. If he can get us to doubt God’s Word, maybe He can get us to doubt God’s goodness. And if he can get us to doubt God’s goodness, he can appeal to our flesh and set a trap for us wrapped in self-pity, fear, worry, (fill in the blank). The battle truly begins in our minds. In scripture we are warned to guard our minds diligently.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

The word used for heart in the original language is translated in other places as “mind.” What we think and dwell on will determine the very course of our lives. What a sobering thing! And while God’s plan for our lives includes trust and peace, Satan’s plan leads to destruction. One of the primary areas he targets us is in our thought lives. Romans 1:28 is the perfect picture of Satan’s end game:

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they did what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:28 (NIV)

But we don’t have to be victims! God has given us powerful weapons to fight back. He has already won the victory on our behalf. We just have to choose to walk in the freedom of His victory. He has given us the weapons we need to fight the unseen battle raging all around us.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

When thoughts creep in and wrap us in chains, God’s Word, which praise be to God is NOT chained, has the power to break them. Continue reading →

The Day I Stopped Praying for My Daughter’s Future Spouse

by Katie Fruge

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Getting together with my five other siblings for the sixth and final wedding created a special celebration last month. It was a storybook romance; my sister married her childhood “crush!” Two young adults who love Christ coming together to begin a new life. It was the exact marriage all Christian parents want for their daughters. I would be thrilled if a future like that lies ahead for my daughter. However, I’m not praying for it—not anymore. A year ago I made a conscious choice to stop praying for my daughter’s future husband.

This is not a post raging against marriage. I fully affirm and embrace the gift and beauty of marriage and would be glad if my daughter one day marries. Rather, this is a post about consciously raising my children in a way that sets them up to be able to embrace the life God gives them. No conditions, no caveats.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul describes both singleness and marriage as a gift. Both are good, and both have benefits for serving the Lord. As this post from Desiring God explains, “Singleness is not a problem to be solved.”  Sometime last year, this idea started to take root with me.

I began to wonder if my prayers for a future husband treated singleness as something to be solved or healed?

Was I unintentionally raising daughters who would view the gift of singleness as a curse instead? I began to seek out how I could raise my children to follow Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians when he says, “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.”

So, during our nightly prayers I stopped praying for a future husband. My original intention was for my children to know at an early age that I was committed to praying for their (future) spouses. I wanted to establish early on that I had a vested interest in who my children would marry and that I deeply cared about their character and spiritual development. Yet I think in the middle of my well intentioned desire, I realized I was perpetuating the idea that one day my daughter would certainly get married. I began to question, Am I setting her up for deep-seated spiritual anguish if she never gets married? What if God calls her to a life of singleness? Are my prayers for a future husband in direct opposition to a good gift her Heavenly Father could give her?

Obviously I cannot predict the future relationship status of my daughter, but I want to raise her in a way that enables her to embrace whatever life God calls her to. Not my version or desires for her. I want to raise a daughter that is willing to say “yes!” and thoroughly enjoy all the good gifts her Father wants to give her—not struggle through them.

Married or single, I want her to know that all of her needs will be met and fulfilled through Christ.  

Continue reading →

The Inner Room

by Katie Reno

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“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6

How am I spending intentional time calling out to God daily?

Do I spend time praising Him simply for Who He is when no one is looking?

Am I asking God to meet my soul needs instead of others?

Do I give him access to my deepest pains, struggles and hurts?

How am I making intentional intercession for family and friends?

These questions have been lingering in my head for a while now. Days seem to be going by faster as I get older. This means more ground is being lost if I am not being intentional in the inner room, daily seeking God.

As a mom to two toddler boys, I desperately need His wisdom, strength and patience to parent well. If I don’t seek God daily, I will rely on my own strength, be quick to anger when my boys don’t listen, and try to love them out of fumes I’m personally running on.

I don’t want to be a mom just making it by, day by day, and I know you don’t either. I want God’s supernatural power to fill me.

Some excuses we give God for not having a personal prayer life may be:

  1. I don’t know where to start or what to say.
  2. I don’t have time.
  3. I have way too many sins for Him to hear me.

Continue reading →

This entry was posted in Prayer.