Sunday, September 28, 2014

From Just Sitting To Real Living

It’s a standard item of furniture in many churches.

You can pick one up at an antique store, flea market or random garage sale to decorate your home. I've spent years sitting in them on Sundays. Me, all dressed up with my hands folded in my lap, politely nodding as the Pastor pours out his soul from the riser in front of the congregation. Indeed I've sat there with my back pressed against the hard wood seat, listening to sermon after sermon, about a powerful and awesome God, but honestly didn't experienced it.  

On top of that, I have to admit, I like to sit in the same pew every week at the nine o’clock service. I have my reasons. In the front there are fewer distractions for my wandering mind. The pew doesn't have my name on it, but it seems like it could. And I join in to sing about God and hear about God and even talk about God, but there has not always been a real, heart-beating relationship with God.

For decades I thought church was a place where people disagree about the doctrine, the music, and what day to have the pot luck dinner. In those dry years of going through the motions, filing into narrow rows and taking my place on the hardwood bench affixed firmly in one place. I arrived moments before things started and slipped out as quickly as possible at the conclusion. 

If someone asked me how I was - well the answer was, “I’m fine.”

Nothing deep.

Nothing personal.

Just look like a nice church person for an hour or so and let’s get on with the rest of life.

I wonder how many other people believe that's all there is to church?

Sometimes it’s hard to find Jesus sitting in a church pew.

I longed to experience this powerful God, to hear His voice and to live like I really believed that the whole Bible was true and applied to my everyday life. 

There were things that began to happen that took me outside my comfort zone. It began to effect how I lived for Jesus on Sunday and every other day.

It involved me, opening my heart and life to the people around me who had needs. Needs that I could meet, so they could catch a glimpse of Jesus outside the church walls. 

It involved being completely wreaked by hard things, such as children not living the way I would have hoped and people closest to me not loving me like I have longed for. In small steps I learned to love them all anyway, because that is what Jesus says we are to do. 

And then there was cancer. Those words that rocked me deep in my soul like an earthquake shakes you out of bed in the middle of the night and you realize that this life isn’t going to last forever. 

I guess you could say I began to see Jesus outside of the box. 

I had learned a lot of things sitting in church, but I needed to put my faith into action. When we move into serving Jesus with wholehearted abandon He will unfold the amazing plan He will breath out His plan one act of love at a time for each of us. 

One of the highlights of my week is to join the people who gather on Sunday and worship Jesus as Lord and Savior. But Jesus longs for us to move beyond the trappings of religion. 

He wants us to influence the world around us. 

For me there is always another step to take away, from just sitting in church with a sincere yet shallow faith, ignoring what is really important.

God is real, powerful and amazing and He wants us to not just sit in a pew taking in information, 

He longs that we really live it out in a world that desperately needs to see Him.

Could I challenge both of us this week?  

What would it look like if we stopped just sitting and started really living for Jesus?

Monday, September 22, 2014

When Your Prayers Matter

The heavy wood door stood like a wall between me and the room I was about to enter. 

I ran my fingers along deep grooves that had been ornately carved in it. The door handle showed years of natural patina. I hesitated. It felt as if I should knock before I turned the knob. Brass hinges creaked lightly as I pulled the door open. Soft light pushing through a single stained glass window, revealed three short wooden pews centered in the tiny room. Sinking down in the back row, the gentle quiet settled over me. I had come here to pray.  I visited that little chapel many times over the years, trying to find God, trying to figure out how to talk to God and this thing called prayer.

Decades would pass before I would read how our prayers are so important to God that He holds them in golden bowls. 

For me, prayer seemed mysterious, something Bible scholar types do or men in long brown robes who live in the mountains. You know, people who are trained, who speak well, or live a really good life, or who have nothing-else-to-do-ever. 

But I was in a desperate state and needed answers to things that were bigger than me.  Going to a building where there were pictures of Jesus hanging on the walls seemed like the place for me to go to get an audience with God.

The truth is, my journey with prayer is kind of rooted in pain. It seems like I am a slow learner who had to get my heart broke, before I found much need to talk to God. Indeed, my world had to shatter, I had to fall flat on my face in the mire of life with no energy to do one more thing in my own strength, before I looked up and called out to God.

Even then, I’m not sure I believed that God cared to listen, but I hoped He did.

My journey to learn how to pray is not easy to explain. Once I wrote a bit about impossible prayers. 

It is still one of the most frequently read posts on my blog. Not because the words are so eloquent, but because hurting people go to the internet and search “impossible prayers” and my blog post pops up on some search engines. 

That says a few things to me. First, it says that there are people who have big problems and thank goodness some of those people believe that God might have the answer.

The thing I wish we could grab a hold of, is that God longs for us to communicate with Him.

Mostly we make praying too hard.

Call to me. I will answer you. I love that.

In the most pure sense, prayer is just communicating with God. 

Communication always involves, two principals. Speaking and listening. 

The most important element of prayer is faith. Faith is not based on things that can be seen or understood. So in simple faith and pure trust we bring our words to God. 

Recently I was reminded of a prayer that I had prayed decades ago. I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at that time I prayed this prayer. I was pouring my heart out to God all the same and I can tell you with deep conviction, that I am seeing the answer to that prayer today. 

God knew me, and heard me before I even gave Him credit for existing, little long allow Him to be Lord of my life. 

That is the sweetest thing about God. Humans can deny Him, but it doesn't change His status as God. The Maker of heaven and earth. The Creator of all things seen and unseen. That is what makes prayer so amazing. 

Creator God wants to have His created one talk to Him.

God wants us to have a relationship with Him. And His Word says that He wants us to be people of prayer. He wants His Church to be a House of prayer. Not a house of preaching. Not a house of singing. A House of prayer. It is possibly the most neglected and most needed thing in the church today.

Seeing prayer answered that I prayed thirty years ago, reminds me that when I am gone from this earth, my prayers will remain. 

One of the most powerful and simple prayers I've experienced was one my friend Janie prayed over me. I was exhausted, over-committed and in a meeting that was taking more time away from writing. Weary, I asked her to pray for me. She didn't feel comfortable praying aloud. She said she didn't have the right words. Finally, with great hesitation, she began talking to God on my behalf. Her tender heart moved me to tears and it moved God to have mercy on me. I went home that evening and wrote a blog post as fast and as powerful as any words I've ever written. That seems like a small thing next to world peace, but the Lord seemed pleased we asked. 

So often we don't know how to pray, but we can ask the Holy Spirit, who knows what we need and He will pray for us.   You should go read about that. It's beautiful.

I also hold on to the verse where the father is asking Jesus to heal his son. If I'm praying for something that seems too impossible to believe it could ever be different, I often pray like that father did, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

In that same story, Jesus says, "All things are possible for the one who believes." 

In one session of Women's Bible Study, I handed out cards with that verse and challenged us all to take that card and on the back write out prayers that seemed impossible to ever be answered. There is no magic formula. We intentionally thought through the most impossible things in our lives and wrote them out in a prayer. Some simply listed them. I don't even know that I prayed over mine so often, but there was something about handing them to God and with a verse of His promises, saying, "Here God, see what you can do with these requests, for Your glory." 

Many of those women saw their prayers answered. 

Can I challenge you, to keep one of these cards on hand, and list your impossible prayers on the back and date it? Trust me, the enemy of our souls, hates this.

There are all sorts of ways to pray. Sometimes I sit in my favorite chair. I may start by reading scripture and praying it back to the Lord. Sometimes I'm silent. (Okay, me being silent is kind of rare.) I might listen to music and praise Him and pray as things come to mind. I pray as I walk, as I drive, as I eat, Sometimes I pray spread out over the ground and get as low as my body will allow and sometimes I dance. Sometimes I journal as I pray. Later, when I run across that journal entry and see that the prayer has been answered it increases my faith and encourages me to pray more. 

There is that verse about praying in secret and there are the verses where "two or more agree and pray, it will be done for them."

My friend Cherri has taught me by her life a lot about prayer. Once when we were traveling together. She was going to speak that day at a conference for women, I thought she had gone downstairs to get breakfast. I was surprised to find her prostrate on the ground in a corner of the room praying for God to use her that day. That woman lives a powerful life, because she lives a prayerful life.

Don't think I'm some expert in prayer. I am not. In fact, with all the things going on in the world and all the people who are hurting, and all the loved ones who I desire to impact their futures, I know that I need to pray more.  

What I do know is that the Holy Spirit is the one that prompts us to pray, teaches us how to pray and helps us while we pray, 

All those years ago, I stood before that door of a tiny chapel, looking for God, The imagery is sweet and rich. The truth is that God was pursuing me all that time, all those years. Jesus is the door and He says this; "For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened."

God still answers prayers. Nothing is too hard for Him. I don't know how He decides to answer each request, but I know that He works all things together for our good and for His glory. 

And my prayer today is that when we stand before God in Heaven some of those golden bowls will hold our prayers. 

If you live around my part of the world, would you consider joining us 
Tuesday September 23rd from 8-9 p.m to pray? 
Those who God brings, will join other women around the globe to pray with IF:Pray. 

 IF:Pray North Platte

Personal message me with any questions.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Your Work Is Important

The nectar of wildflowers and clover are gathered on translucent wings to spin an amber liquid. They ride on the breeze of dawn to gather the thick syrup of blossoms. A single hive of bees can travel over 90,000 miles, to produce between 2-5 pounds of honey. That is the equivalent of three spins around the globe with their tiny wings stroking at over 200 beats per second. It’s practically impossible for humans to fully grasp the majesty and importance of bees.

I have a long-standing fascination-love and a healthy fear-hate for bees. The hate only comes if I get stung.

As a result of hanging over clumps of gold and burgundy flowers, crawling on my stomach, and generally looking ridiculous in my neighbor’s front yard and kneeling in her flowerbeds, for over an hour, this picture was captured.
(Thank you Lynette for all of those flowers!)

Now you know what some people have found out.

I will go to great lengths to capture a little wonder. Even then, this picture was more of an accident. I would focus and depress the button, causing my camera to snap photos in succession, at a high rate, and out of a rash of flower pictures this one emerged.

It is hard to freeze a moment in time, of insects being busy.

Just down the road from where I grew up, there was a honey farm. I really didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Those neighbors wore strange, white, moon-walking looking suits. The job was hard, the hours long, the pay low. They stacked and moved weathered boxes filled with bees to open fields of clover and in late summer they gathered them back up to begin harvesting their liquid gold.

That’s where I came in.

Equal parts of real butter and honey were whipped together and served with fresh baked biscuits alongside steaming bowls of soup in the chilly days of fall and all through winter months.

A few decades ago I began buying grain in fifty pound bags and milling my own wheat to make bread. Yes, that is a little crazy, in this busy world, but that is what started me on the honey craze. To make bread, essentially you need flour, a leavening agent, and a sugar. Honey makes whole grain products especially light and tender and is one of my favorite sweeteners to use for baking. 

Honey never spoils.


We buy it raw from local beekeepers and right now the harvest is in full swing. It is a gift to be able to buy it before it has been processed.

It really is like gold, since a single bee, gives its entire life to produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.

1/12 of a teaspoon.

A few golden drops.

That may not seem too significant.

What fascinates me is that honey bees never get up in the morning and wonder what their purpose is. They never look at another insect and wish they had their job instead. They never pause to think they have too much to do, too far to fly, too little time-.

They just give themselves - to the vital work they have to do.

We, as people, can learn from the laws of nature.

All of God's creation gives.

Birds give their songs, roses their beauty and scent, fields y the fruit of seed planted in them.

And the honey bee? That tiny insect whose life is spent yielding such a small amount of visible fruit, plays a critical role pollinating many agricultural crops and helping to maintain balance in our entire ecosystem.

What if they didn't do what they were made to do?

It is not overstating that there would be an entire breakdown in our food sources.

That is honestly how God's economy works.

We work.

We do what we were made to do and we see that work multiply itself in many ways. 

If we contrast that to a life that is self-absorbed, one that is selfish and self-focused... there is a dying.

Not only to the person who doesn't give, but to the many who would have been blessed by that person spending themselves to do the things that only they can do. 

There are different season in our lives, but they should all include giving ourselves away and working.

That is how we are hard-wired by God.

And friends, when we live this way, we are most fully alive, satisfied and a blessing to others.

This week there will be golden chances to give of ourselves to others. Once they pass us by, those opportunities are forever gone.

On the flip-side, when we take those moments and work or serve others, there is a reward. Not as in earning our way to God, but as in fulfilling our purpose and living life with meaning.

God's Word says that we can take that to the bank.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When The Days Are Like Gold

Wild sunflowers are pushing their petal framed faces to the sky, along the ribbon of road and open pastures. Large clusters of golden rod fill the ditches and speckle fence lines while a few gilded leaves peek out of cottonwood trees, whose heart shaped foliage, shimmer and clatter softly in the late summer sun.

Things are honestly golden here.

Someone just said this to me again, “The golden years aren't so golden.”

I understand what they mean. 

These bodies we travel our one spinning globe in, they wear out and fail us. We are each a walking reminder that earth is not our forever home.

That's why we have to have our minds set on things above and not on things we can see.

Truly, one of the deepest blessings of this season of life for me, are our children and the children they have brought into the world.

Every hour spent with them is a bit of a party. The fact that five of our grandchild live a few minutes’ drive from our home and that they like being together, makes it even more of a gift.

They gave it a name, what we do when we are all together. They call it having.a “cousin day.”

I actually had one, kind of organized, Grandma Camp. It was somewhat darling with little crafts and t-shirts, and sandwiches cut out to look like hearts and stars.

Yes, it was pretty adorable.

But, since then we have had more informal free-for-alls, here at Grandma's.

I like to think of them as mini-adventures.

Just getting them all securely placed in legal car-seats, is a challenge. In fact it is an aerobic workout. Some days my goal has been to simply, keep the children alive and return them home to their parents mostly unharmed.

When they are all together I listen to their conversations and interaction with each other it makes my heart so tender to how each of them are uniquely designed and gifted, all weaved together in skin.

I hear what is in their hearts and most often I remember what I learned, but forgot, when I was raising their mommies.

I just love them.

I love them for who they are.

Not as in, "My grandchildren are the cutest children alive and make all of life more worth living."

Though, there is that feeling too.

Most deeply, I love them as in, "It makes my heart hurt thinking about their futures and I would honestly die for every single one of them."

One of our recent mini-adventures at Grandma's was a little end-of-the-summer, kind of get together.

We drug out the water slide and pulled up a few lawn chairs and just let things happen as they most naturally do when we are hanging out together.

This boy and his deep brown eyes and profound thoughts. 
He can only tell the truth. 
He talks long about things that make his eyes dance, 
and is quiet when he is overwhelmed. 
When he is in a competitive situation, his tenacity comes out and 
clings on for all he has to give. 
That will serve him well in life.

The one you cannot see in this picture....
well I include this picture because it is typical of this boy. 
He is always finding a new way to do an old thing.
He doesn't understand gravity. 
He lives full out with his passion and physical strength but,
he has a tender heart that never fails to hand out a hug 
and say the words, "I love you." 

She says, "I just like to talk grandma."
Her tender heart is easily broken and
she likes all things pink and girly.
Especially tiny dolls with rubber clothing and sparkles.

And this girl!
If we had one single dollar for every time someone commented on her hair,
or tells a story about someone with red hair...
well, we would have a college fund well established.
She has a fire in her tiny soul and if you ask her what she loves,
she will tell you that she loves babies.
That is a noble thing for a three year old girl to know most deeply about herself.

Little man with his steel blue eyes and flaxen hair....
I love you boy.
He adores guns, his food and just being in the mix of things, 
while doing his very own thing. 
He's easy to have around. 
When he calls me, "Ma," I come running. 
It never gets old. 

No words can really capture how I love them.

I don't love them for how they look or what they do.  

I love them, because God made them and they are enough just the way they are.

When I look into their eyes I see the future. 

I see my legacy. 

I see God's goodness and blessings. 

It makes me cry and laugh and pray hard.

Oh how I want them to know that Jesus is all of life and 
to serve Him with their whole hearts, minds and souls.

I want them to know that Jesus is the only thing
that will ever fill them up and satisfy their deepest places.

I want them to know they, are not the plans that others have for them,
but that God Himself has plans for them
 that are beyond anything they can think or dream. 

I pray they use their voices, not to build themselves up,
but to help others and to speak truth.

I pray they will be strong and brave and bold 
for the things Jesus gives them to do.

Thank goodness they are each so different. 

My prayer is that they dare to be different 
from what the world tries to conform them to be.

I pray that they use their talents, their influence 
to bring light and love into the world.

I pray that they will set their minds on things above,
so they can keep in perspective the things of this earth.

In the meantime I will keep lots of snacks and juice handy. 
We will read more books and take little mini adventures together
and I do hope you all figure out that chalk is not candy.

To me, days with these people are like gold.

Your Grandma

Missing this little tiny person. 
Can't wait until she is fussing and fighting 
for the pink cup along with her girl cousins.

© Rhonda Quaney