One More Look at Elijah

Last week, when I shared thoughts from Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I left out one of the most powerful quotes in the book, particularly appropriate for those of you who read last year’s essays about the miracles of Elijah and Elisha.

“My favorite verse is quite possibly James 5:17, which reads, ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently.’ Don’t keep yourself from praying desperately and courageously for the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah. As this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently.”

Have you ever said, “There’s nothing I can do but pray?” That only feels like a helpless position when we forget that prayer is powerful, that everything else we do to help in any situation is actually secondary to our prayers.

Of course, powerful prayers don’t promise us a yes from God every time. As Francis Chan said, “There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true…Do you trust God that when He says no or “not in this way” to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?”

Now in my grandparenting years, I’m often put in the position of having to say no—to climbing on the furniture or eating too much ice cream or going out in the cold without a sweater. I marvel at how toddlers can insist that they know better—until I realize that sometimes I do that to God.

The possibility of a “no” answer should never keep us from praying big prayers. Why wouldn’t we ask? My grandchildren will ask me for anything they want, even though they know by now that I won’t always grant their request. We can trust God to give us the right answer every time. Friends, let’s make this the year of asking and accepting, of looking for miraculous answers and praising God in everything he does. Elijah had nothing on us. Rather, just like us, he had God.

On Staying Happy…

Casting Crowns performs “Praise You in this Storm” via YouTube here: Copyright rules prevent me from typing up those terrific lyrics. I’m listening to them as I write. They remind me that, often, I don’t get God’s answers on my schedule. I have to wait, or I have to take “no” for an answer. And in those “no” and “wait” situations, I’m supposed to keep trusting, keep praying, and keep remembering that our Loving Lord is right there and worthy of praise, even in the stormy times.

This is a time of storm for so many of us. I could just say, “’Hope you will lift your hands and praise him anyway,” but I want to go in a different direction today. I just read “Feel Happier Today,” an article by Lisa Fields in the May 2020 issue of Reader’s Digest. The author gives instructions, from a purely secular perspective, on how to boost our happiness. Yes, I know, happiness and praising in the storm are not the same thing. On the other hand, when we praise in the storm AND take godly steps to care for ourselves, happiness is far easier to maintain. So, here’s what I gleaned from the Lisa Fields article, seasoned with a spiritual spin. None of it will surprise you, but all of it is too easy for us to ignore in stressful times. I consider this a reminder for you and me both.

“Practice being happier. This takes effort.” So true! ‘Same goes for the need to practice our faith walk. I’m reminded of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. When my first thoughts of the day run along the line of “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it,” I’m off to a much better start than, well, than almost any other sort of beginning. But such a beginning requires practice. That practice might involve

  • limiting the news (and, as we do take in news, turning to prayer over all we hear)
  • setting a Bible near the bed (and opening it!)
  • playing praise music
  • memorizing verses
  • posting sticky notes where I can be reminded of the truth
  • or …

Next week, I’ll give you five more happiness tips, but none of them are as powerful as practicing God’s presence.

What do you do to remind yourself first off that our God is an awesome God?

What do you do to boost your happiness?

Share your ideas with me, and I’ll post them here for all to see. Until next week…Brenda

Photo by Ben White Photography via

No Coloring Book Prayers by Beth Smith

There was a cartoon in the newspaper recently of a family praying the Lord’s Prayer together. When they said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” the little girl in the family added, “with the crust cut off, please.”

I often pray like that little girl. I seem to be trying to dictate to God what I think he should do for me and for my loved ones. I draw him a detailed picture of what I want and then ask him to sort of finish coloring it in his way. (After all, I really can’t boss God around, can I?) Sometimes I even want to add numbers, prioritize things a bit, so that God will know where to start and how to proceed. I call this a “coloring book prayer.”

So, how do we change? We’re told to ask, seek, and knock, to make our request known to him. So, yes, we tell God the desires of our hearts. But then, it’s time to focus more on God and who he is by remembering to whom we are praying:

  • The Creator of the World
  • King of the Universe
  • The one who wants the best for us
  • The God who loves us

God said, in Isaiah 55: 8, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts…And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

We can take great comfort in those words if we decide to trust God more than we trust ourselves. Let’s take that leap of faith. (Which is, really, just a whole bunch of baby steps of faith, taken day after day.)

God is a much better artist than we are. We don’t need to tell him how to draw our lives for us. We can make our requests known to him and then trust him for the best answers…for the most beautiful picture, for our best life.


For Tomorrow: 1 Thessalonians 5

This is God’s will for you:

Rejoice always!

Pray continually. 

Give thanks in all circumstances.

And so, may God grace you with a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by GDJ via

The Moment Before

Have you experienced the moment before? I’m sure you have. Here’s what I mean:

  • You get an email saying your lab results are now available on line.
  • Your SAT scores (or GMAT, or final grades) show up in the mail.
  • Your kid (or parent, or best friend) sits down next to you and says, “I have something to tell you…”

This list could go on forever. We all have those moments when we know the information we are about to receive will be very, very important and could be truly wonderful or nearly devastating. If you’re like me, your breath and heartrate change, and time seems to stand still.

What do you do in that moment before? I won’t discourage you by telling you what I used to do, or what our enemy wants us to do. Instead, let me tell you what I’ve finally learned to do, what I’m hoping you will learn to do as well.

  • Remember that the One who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving is in charge of this moment and all the moments to come.
  • In heart and and mind say, really say, “I trust you in whatever this moment is about to bring.” (If some part of me doesn’t actually mean that yet, I’ll ask the Lord to intervene with added trust as well.)
  • As much as possible, release and relax every bit of that now-tensed-for-bad-news body.

And then, open the email, read the letter, listen to the loved one—all the while letting an undercurrent of silent prayer pervade as you accept the bad news or celebrate the good. Afterward, be still sometime soon. Ponder, pray, and worship the One in charge. My pastor says, “The only way you can learn how to pray is to pray.” The more we do it, the more it becomes the second nature prayer is meant to be! And the more we pray, coming into the throne room of God and seeing that it’s our loving Dad sitting on that throne, the more we can face those “moments before” with peace.

Photo by ErikaWittlieb via

Keep Calm and…

IMG_8116Just days after I read Tish Warren’s chapter on lost keys and began composing last week’s blog offering, I lost, not my keys, but my driver’s license, credit card and insurance card. They were all wrapped up in a $20 bill and tucked into the back pocket of my jeans so that I could stroll purse-free through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the peak of the season.

Steve and I waited in a long entrance line, then chose a quiet trail. It was nothing short of idyllic. We stopped at benches and swings along the way and even nestled into a particularly vibrant patch of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes to take a few selfies. My husband/photographer had us up and down a couple of times, making sure we caught the perfect pose.

Once we returned home and headed back to our responsibilities, I started moving in my typically too-fast manner to catch up from our indulgent morning. Ten minutes later I reached into my pocket to retrieve those very important bits of plastic and my $20 bill. Nothing. Certain I had simply returned them to my wallet on auto-pilot, I took a look. Nothing. Car? Nothing. Wildflower Center? (Oh, my, so many spots where my pocket could have spilled!) 

As the tension so fully banished by a walk in the park slowly threatened my peace, I remembered Tish Warren’s warnings and exhortations. Thanks to that timely read, I turned to prayer and refused the panic. After all, my time and money belong to the Lord. Do I really believe that? If so, any loss of either belongs to him as well. And so, after more searching and a call to the kind folks at the Wildflower Center (who found nothing), I interrupted Steve’s work. He prayed with me, and we began to look together. Then, there they were, IN THE TRASH. In my haste, I had taken the bundle out of my pocket before we ever made it from the car to the house. Then I’d picked up—in the same hand—the map and flier provided by the park and no longer needed. I tossed out the whole collection together.

Whatever made me look in the trash, I do not know. Well, actually, I do know. And the hallelujahs of the finding were almost—not quite—worth the discomfort of the search. But this I also know: trust, secured at least in part because Tish had reminded me of God’s sovereignty and the reality of NO NEED TO PANIC EVER, brought the calm that brought me to prayer that caused me to take a look in that recycle bin while my valuables were still on the top of the pile.

Keep Calm and… is a popular poster and tee shirt phrase these days. I’m not sure we have good reasons to keep calm without the Lord who loves us. But, with him, we have every possible reason. And that’s enough to think about for today.