Archive for the 'prayer' Category

03
Feb
14

when stuff unravels

Jeff and I are in the middle of something that we had not anticipated. It has nothing to do with our family or our church family or us as a couple. From our perspective, it’s huge and troublesome and overwhelming. But the crazy thing is that it’s really nobody’s fault, and for that I am grateful. I tend to be a “blamer,” just like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. But this crazy, unexpected thing, I cannot blame anyone for. We could not possibly have seen this coming. We could not have prepared for it or even fixed it. We just had no idea. But here we are anyway having to deal with something way beyond our control, something that a few years back would have left me a panicky mess.

I have a few options when I get to these dark places that threaten to overwhelm me and make me want to “numb out,” freak out, and figure out someone to blame. But I’ve been here before. Maybe not exactly the same situation, but I’ve had similar feelings in my gut, and I’ve seen God do some amazing things in those dark times, so I’m trusting that this is another opportunity for growth. We don’t necessarily get opportunities like these every day.

I see God in the middle of this. I trust that He is here with me at all times and lean heavily into Him. This is not something I can make better; not something I can manufacture with an “It’ll be fine” attitude; it’s not something I can ignore or make go away. It’s something that has to be faced head on but can be faced with confidence, knowing that Jesus is walking with us through it and allowing Him to do His good work in us. And eventually when others go through this too, we will be able to comfort them in their struggle…been there, done that; God is good, especially in the middle of it because His mercies never cease. He is truly kind and gentle.

So pray for us. Not that the situation would get easier or go away, but that we would face it with God’s strength. I spent one night last week watching DVDs for hours curled up on the couch, bone-tired and burdened. Today is a new day, and I can face it with Jesus as my strength, and these are not just words that I throw around to make myself feel better or appear especially “religious.” With me, what you see is what you get, and if Jesus weren’t real to me, I wouldn’t be talking about Him or depending on Him as my very life. For me, life is all about relationships…the relationships I have with God, with my family, with friends, with those I come into contact with, and when my relationships are out of whack…any of them, I feel it deeply. Thankfully, God and God alone keeps me grounded. He tunes my heart to sing His grace.

And just as James says to rejoice in trials because they allow us to endure and then become more mature in God, I want to welcome this struggle, realizing that we will be able to see God work this out for His glory and our good, as well as see Him grow us up a bit more. And these days, that’s what I long for most, to be fully alive, completely depending on my Abba.

16
Oct
13

words that float

I recently saw a friend at a soccer match. She had slipped and hurt her leg badly and was having trouble getting around, doing the stuff she normally did. She had a huge brace on her leg and might have to have surgery. She had a great attitude but was still struggling with everyday tasks like driving kids to stuff and doing laundry and walking up stairs and things that you take for granted with two good legs.

As I listened to her story, I realized that I personally had nothing for her. I had no solutions, no advice. I couldn’t fix her problems. I couldn’t make it all better, make it all go away. I found myself saying that I was sorry that she was going through this. But I know somehow that’s not enough. Even if I had unlimited time to help her in her situation, it still wouldn’t be enough.

So I keep finding in these types of situations that I hear this little voice in my head that says to pray with them. Not later, but right then, right there. Out loud. In those few short seconds, I argue with God about doing this. I argue that I can pray in my head, and I promise Him that I will pray later. But I realize that this may or may not happen since I am so out of sight out of mind. I argue that this is weird and will make the person uncomfortable, not to mention my uncomfortability in all of it. I used to think it was not okay to assert myself, and here I am praying out loud for another person to God about that person’s needs. And I worry that someone will mistake it for a goody-goody, holier-than-thou attitude.

But I do it anyway (most of the time); I pray out loud. I pray using gestures because that’s how I talk. And sometimes it’s loud and it’s long (I don’t mean to be; I just keep thinking of stuff). I pray touching them with my arms around them or grabbing a hand. I want them desperately to feel God’s arms around them, and His love for them.

I find as I pray, my prayers come back to what we all essentially need: faith, hope, peace and love in something much bigger than ourselves and our situations. And I’m no longer thinking about myself and my own insecurities or even the other person’s uncomfortability, but something happens within me, and I have this feeling of freedom and understanding and falling into hands that are much larger than my own. And I hope that the other person will fall with me.

The prayer itself is not a solution, but I’m finding that the words or sighs or groans that float up to God are more than the requests themselves or even the answers; prayer is about connection, relationship, awareness of Someone outside ourselves and also something between each one of us. Prayer is the connecting point that ties us to God and to each other. The kingdom of God truly is among us…between us.

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.

19
Sep
13

cry of my heart

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, God cursed both Adam and Eve in very particular ways. Man’s curse was to have a hard time working the ground. There were going to be thorns and thistles, and he would have a difficult time earning a living. It was going to be by the sweat of his brow. And then, after he spent his entire life working hard, he went back to the same dust that he worked.

Part of Eve’s curse was to have pain in childbirth, which I can attest to after having five children. During those five births, I had 11 epidurals. I finally got it right and felt absolutely no pain with my last child, Jeremiah, but I couldn’t move for almost twelve hours after he was born…part of the price of trying to fight the curse, but, in my opinion, well worth it.

However, the second part of the woman’s curse continues to haunt me. God stated that the woman would need her husband, that her desire would be for him, and that he would use that desire to rule over her. This can happen in a multitude of ways, hence the power struggle in marriage where both parties try to “win” at getting their own needs and wants met through manipulation and control.

As a woman, I want to be loved and cared for, but sometimes it turns into this demanding, selfish neediness that is unquenchable and unstoppable. And my husband, as good and as godly as he is, is still going to, at times, lord it over me or use it against me because he wants his needs met too. We all do. Anyone who’s been married any length of time knows this, has felt this, has experienced this. It’s part of the curse, and, unfortunately, there is no epidural to take that kind of “heart” pain away.

Tim Keller talks about this in his book The Meaning of Marriage.  The woman remains dependent and desirous of her husband, but it turns into an idolatrous desire, and his protection and love become a selfish lust and exploitation. (174)

I find the passage in Colossians interesting because it commands husbands to love their wives and not be bitter toward them. Ultimately, women can make their husbands bitter against them. We can be so needy that not only will they rule over us but become bitter against us in the process. And all we wanted was love. But apparently, it becomes more than most men can bear at times.

So where do I go with my neediness? my sometimes unquenchable loneliness? my thirst for attention? my quest for love?

If I can take my need to be loved to a God who loves me way more than my husband ever could, I can allow my husband the spaciousness of being who he is and not demanding that he try to meet my every need. If I can view Jeff as my partner and not try to make him everything as so many songs try to portray human love, then the curse no longer has quite the hold on me that it had before. And I’m all about fighting the curse. 🙂

I’m not saying this is easy or simple; it’s not. But I do know the Someone Who walks with me when my own neediness threatens to strangle me and when my heart is overwhelmed. I know this God Who never leaves and Who never fails and Who never gets tired of my coming to Him with everything. He alone can handle me, all of me…

(I want to clarify…I’m not talking about any kind of abuse here…that is not what the Bible talks about when it says a man will rule over a woman. A man should NEVER be abusive to a woman. If that is happening, you need to tell someone and get help.)

29
Aug
13

different kinds of happy

I believe there are different kinds of happy. The one I’ve known for most of my life is the kind that depends on circumstances going my way and on other people meeting my needs or seeing things my way. It’s the kind of happy that is fleeting, beyond my control, based on outside circumstances.  So how do we “keep” happy around in a more lasting, satisfying way?

We as people want to be happy; we want our kids to be happy and live happy, fulfilled lives. It’s even written in The Declaration of Independence  that we have “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But many of the things that I myself have pursued have not brought any kind of lasting happiness. Maybe the word pursuit is what makes the word happy not really work. Because it seems that when I pursue it, it always seems to elude my grasp. And I know you can’t buy happy. So maybe happy isn’t something you pursue or something you buy but rather a state of being, something a person learns or even receives.

I looked up the word happy in the dictionary, and most of the definitions described happy as “something based on one’s circumstances or having good fortune,” but the one definition that stood out to me said “happy” formerly meant “blessed.” I have a hard time grasping the word blessed even though I’ve read it hundreds of times in the Bible. But there’s one Bible translation that translates the word blessed as happy. And that’s something I think I can begin to understand.

For me, I want to go deep into happy, the kind of happy that maybe could even be described as joy or peace within, the kind that doesn’t change even when the things or the people around me do. Deep contentment, not dependent on outside things to sustain or fulfill me.  Blessed.

So, God in His gracious kindness used one of my kids to show me a different kind of happy. Jesse, who is 17, went to camp for the first time at the beginning of the summer. I was so excited for him. Jeff and I both grew up going to camp, so I hoped that he would have the time of his life.  The camp where he went posts picture online daily, so parents are able to catch a glimpse of their kids enjoying camp life at its best.  I kept checking online, picturing in my head my son having such a great time. They posted cabin pictures online Tuesday night. All the campers in Jesse’s cabin had these big smiles on their faces; some made funny faces, but my son stood at the back behind everyone else with closed lips and a sad expression in his eyes. My heart dropped because all I wanted was for my kid to be happy.

I didn’t even tell Jeff about the picture. My heart hurt for Jesse. So I began praying for him like crazy. I prayed for him to have a good time, for him to find someone he connected with, for him to be happy. And then, in the middle of the night, God changed my prayers for Jesse. I began praying that he would find ways to serve others, to find those outsider kids who had no one else to talk to, and that he would love them instead of focusing on himself. I prayed that he would open himself up to what God had for him in this experience, that he would be happy, but that happy would look different from what I had formerly thought.

Jeff and I went to pick Jesse up from camp on that Friday, and he seemed settled and somehow more mature than the week before, happy even.  I told him about the picture I had seen online and about the two very different prayers I had prayed. And he told me stories of where he had listened and talked with some very lonely kids. Camp had not been what I had originally wanted for him, but God answered my prayers in the way that God wanted and knew that was best for Jesse.

As the summer went on, Jesse went back to work at the same camp as a junior cabin leader for twelve rambunctious 10-year-old boys. The first week he worked was a really hard week, but Jesse came home talking about what he had learned and how he would do it differently when he went back to camp to work later on in the summer. He seems to be learning happy, but not in the traditional sense of the word, where he pursues it or relies on other people or circumstances to make him happy. And as a mom, I’m content to know that God takes care of my kid and knows how to do so far better than I can even imagine.

A couple of months ago, I found the “happy” chapter in my Bible and shared it with almost everyone I talked with. Psalm 84 reveals the life-changing happy that circumstances and tragedies and fear and even other people cannot touch. It’s the kind of happy that sinks into your soul and allows you to breathe in and live all that God intended. It’s the abundant life that Jesus talked about in the New Testament. It’s the happy that tastes and sees that God is good. It’s what it means to be truly blessed.

How happy are those who reside in Your house, (Christ in me, Christ in you)
who praise You continually.

Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Happy is the person who trusts in You,
Lord of Hosts!

02
Mar
13

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were afraid to hear from God directly. They saw the smoking mountain, the thunder and lightning and stood far back even though Moses told them not to be afraid. God wanted to speak to them, but they were too afraid to hear what God had to say to them. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20)

In Deuteronomy 5, God said to Moses, ‘I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you.

Everything they have said is right. If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands…’

Jesus says the same thing about the Pharisees in Matthew 15.

These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Something’s up with some of us who call ourselves believers in our culture. Because we don’t really seem to be following the Christ I see in the Bible. And I don’t really think Jesus is talking about following Him by going to church every time the doors are open or even giving money or bringing someone to church every once in a while. These are small, insignificant things that don’t amount to much according to Jesus’ standards.

The Pharisees were doing a whole lot more than this in the New Testament, and Jesus and John called them a bunch of snakes. He knew their hearts; He knew their lives. In Matthew 7, the ones that Jesus says He doesn’t know and are cast out are the ones who prophesied and drove out demons and did  miracles in His name. And Jesus responds to them  ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me…’ I think His ideas for following Him are much, much higher, starting with listening to Him and then obeying.

In our American church culture, lives don’t seem to be changed by the power of God or His Word. Jesus cannot be treated as an add-on, something used to make lives easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable.  He is not here to fix us but to change us into a new creation, which is painful, and I don’t think people really want that Jesus. Following Him requires time and commitment and love, and we don’t seem to be in abundance of any of those things. The Israelites were afraid, but in our culture we’re not afraid; we’re just too busy, distracted, disobedient, self-centered and indifferent to follow Him. He talks about people like us in Mark 4. We’re the people represented by the seed sown among the thorny soil.

...these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

And the unfruitful ones? What happens to them at the end of the age? They’re thrown out and destroyed. Even the ones who did all kinds of things in His name didn’t make the cut. Because Jesus said that you will know those who are His by their fruit.

So what do we do with this? How do we know if we are His and are producing good fruit, fruit that Jesus will recognize? In I John, disciples of Jesus are the ones who love Him, and you see the love they have for Him because they are keeping His commands (not man’s laws or standards, but God’s commands). We begin by loving the people around us.

Some say all the right words and do all the right things but  don’t really know Him, and He doesn’t know them. But there is hope; it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. He’s given us Himself and His Word. And as John and Jesus both said, Repent (turn from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit) and believe; become a true follower of His by listening to Him and by following His commands.

Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil (repent), humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. (believe)

Although the road is narrow, and there are not many who choose to take that road, it is the way of life and truth and real meaning. But His way is also the way of the cross and death: death to self, death to the ways of the world, death to comfortable, safe lives. Jesus says, If you lose your life for my sake, then you will find it. But if you try to hang on to your life, that’s when you lose everything. There’s no middle ground here, no straddling the fence.

You’re either in the process of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, or you’re not. (Philippians 2:12)  We’re all busy following something, someone. And we intently listen to the people we’re following; we follow them on Twitter, on Facebook, on any other social media we can get our hands on. But are you a true believer and follower of Jesus, or have you deceived yourself and don’t know His power or His Word? Are you following Him by listening to His Spirit, by reading His Word? And not books that people have written about Him. Jesus told the Sadducees, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

He loves us so much, not only in how He sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to us,  but also in how He reveals Himself to us moment by moment as we open our hearts, hands and lives to receive Him.  We don’t want to be like the children of Israel who when God wanted to speak to them, they refused to come and listen but rather had someone else (Moses) tell them what God had said. We are deceived when we think we need someone to interpret God and the Bible for us, whether it’s a pastor, a Bible study teacher or Christian author.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true… (I John 2)

We have the Creator of the world who longs to speak with us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. We don’t go to the Bible to find more facts or knowledge or because we’re guilted into it. We go to the Bible so that He would reveal Himself to us in all His beauty and majesty and righteousness. We go to the Bible in order to follow Him in obedience and love.

Pray that He would give us wisdom and discernment and that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. Pray for ears and hearts to listen to and long for what He is saying. Psalm 40:6 says, You open my ears to listen. And pray for the courage to follow Him in obedience to His Word and Spirit. He’s looking for followers. He’s looking for people who will listen and obey. It’s just that simple. The true worshipers worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

According to Hebrews 12, we no longer have to go to the smoking mountain like the children of Israel did. And God is no longer in the darkness. “Instead you have come to the city of the living God…to Jesus. Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks…”

14
Dec
12

Walking With People Toward Jesus

And He began to send them out two by two… So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. (Mark 6)

This is what Jeff and I are called to do. We are being sent out to walk with people towards Jesus. We are doing discipleship with people, showing them how to repent and believe, urging them to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling them they need to repent of and what He is telling them to do about it (not in a legalistic kind of way, but rather Holy Spirit-led, growth kind of way).  And this is done only in the context of community.

God has put us in community with other believers who are seeking Him. This happened almost overnight. He called us to take small steps, and we simply had to listen and obey. This was not easy. It felt like there was much opposition; there was fear and doubt and insecurity on my part, but we obeyed and put one foot in front of the other. And God is flinging His kingdom wide open here in Nashville. We are letting our light shine so that people will glorify God and the great things He has done in us and through us.

In the eight weeks since our community started, we have seen God’s Spirit break in, and there is life. Beautiful, abundant life. The people in our community are starting to really love each other, not just in word but also in action. And Jeff and I are committed to walk the journey out with these believers.

And this is just the beginning. God has put in our hearts to start these small communities of 20-50 people all over Nashville. One of the guys Jeff is doing discipleship with already wants to start one on his side of town. We are excited to be a part of God’s kingdom here in Nashville…we are simply blooming where we have been planted.

The word for what can happen in our culture with these small communities, focused on Jesus, loving each other and caring for one another, is virus. If people get a whiff of the life that happens when surrender occurs, following Jesus with other believers in these small communities could go viral here in our cities, states, country. This is the way it’s already happening all over the world. I’m humbled and grateful that He has called me to give my life for this.

He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  (Mark 6)

Jeff and I are called to put on our walking shoes, take our walking stick and put on our jacket. But how does this translate in our culture? How do we “earn” a living doing this?

Simply put, God’s provision. The expectation is 100 percent on Him to show up to provide for our family’s needs. However, He uses His people to share their resources with those who are ministering, and as Paul urged the Philippians, he said it was to their benefit to share in the work of the ministry. I’m excited to see how God does this. Because this is not done out of duty or obligation but the Holy Spirit working and His people listening.

Our family is called to this. And everything else is a distraction. I feel an urgency to share our journey with others and see others grow up in Him. I am very much in process, but I know this–that Jesus and His kingdom are worth giving my life for.

Please pray that we would continue to stay grounded in God and the things of God, that we would have listening ears and receptive hearts, and that our community and the others that are started would bring glory to Him. And consider being a part of what God is calling us to do. We’d love to hear from you.

For the love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5)

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072

lovegracepeace@gmail.com




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