A Patriot’s Prayer on September 11th

One Nation Under God (2)

 

September 11, 2001, 8:46 a.m.: The tick of time heard around the world. 2,976 people from 93 countries lost their lives in New York, at the Pentagon, and in a quiet field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania. Filled with hate and committed to kill, Islamic terrorists used four airliners as deadly weapons, ripping apart families and decimating dreams.

 

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Lord,

So many lives were affected by the attacks of September 11, and though time does not actually heal all wounds, you can. Though years have passed, you remain faithful, and are close to the brokenhearted, and save those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Wrap your arms of love around those who remember their lost loved ones on this day. May those who know and trust in you feel the sweet breath of your mercy and grace upon them. As you comfort those who have not put their trust in you, may they have such a quickening in their spirits that they will know, without any doubt, that you are drawing them with loving kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). God of forgiveness, bring light to those who wish us harm, and by your Spirit, enable your people to love and pray for those who hate us.

These acts of terror were designed and delivered with precision for a calculated effect. What the terrorists didn’t anticipate was the reawakening of tired patriotism and the rebirth of a dying national motto: In God We Trust. People began to value the freedoms they took for granted, seek the God they thought was a fairy tale, and treasure the family they still had.

In the blink of an eye, those who fought for themselves now fought for others. Those who needed love now gave love. Those who thought they didn’t have enough now understood they had it all. Those who presumed upon freedom’s unending providence without guard now stood as patriots in its defense.

 

Reagan

 

 

Father,

Thank you that what the enemy planned as evil against us, you made it turn for our good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). You are able to redeem destruction, beautify ugliness, sanctify unworthiness. Thank you that, as we fix our minds on you, you will keep us in the perfect peace that transcends understanding and mounts guard over us (Philippians 4:7; Is. 26:3). Thank you for the reawakening fires of revival and the renewal of right spirits within (Psalm 50:10). Continue to grow our knowledge of and faith in you. All honor, glory, might, and power belongs to you, Lord, our Rock and Redeemer!

With time, however, hearts turned once again. Twelve years after an attack that brought our country to its knees in grief and prayer, and to its feet in patriotism and victory, we have slipped into mediocrity, expecting the benefits of freedom without undergoing “the fatigues of supporting it.”

We no longer ask what we can do for our country, but what our country can do for us. We no longer look for what we can do for our fellow man, but for what our fellow man owes us. We no longer praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation, but instead hail entitlements and handouts. We no longer work to make one out of many, but seek to divide and shame. We no longer uphold virtue and religion and morals, but instead squash them and call them intolerant and hateful.

 

A Nation Gone Under

 

 

Lord of all,

We call upon your name, and ask forgiveness for the wickedness of our land. We turn to you and ask your grace and mercy on our people. May it not take another tragedy to turn our eyes to you in humble repentance. Restore unto us the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12). May your church rise up once again to boldly proclaim your truth, in love, regardless of the cost. May we be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). Forgive us when we cower and refuse to confront sin, both within the church and without. Forgive us also when we refuse to grant the same mercy and grace to others as you have to us. May we stand on the truth of your Word and lay claim to your empowering grace to live and love in a manner pleasing to you. Give us passion for your purposes and may our hearts break for what breaks yours. May we be open and sensitive to your conviction and guidance. Surround us with your Spirit, love, and mercy.

It is time for us to remember and proclaim that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all. It is time to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27). It is time to love our neighbor as we do ourselves (Luke 10:27). It is time we stand for truth, kneel in prayer, and lay down our lives for our friends (John 15:13). It is time.

 

Country

 

Sovereign God,

Draw near to us as we draw near to you. Do surgery on us and cut out the very root of all that is not of you. Replace those things with the fruit of your Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22&23). Enable us to be courageous as we stand for you and for our country, and surround us with a hedge of protection. Faith, courage, and prayer birthed and guided our great nation – may we return to them and put our trust in you. Give our leaders discernment, understanding, and knowledge. Protect us from physical harm and spiritual attack, and daily grow us more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Fill each home with your love, protection, and Presence. It’s in His name we ask, God, please bless the United States of America! Amen.

 

 

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What Do You See?

hannah-montana-1Miley Cyrus. What images flash through your mind when you hear her name? Hannah Montana? Her daddy and his famous mullet? Her hard-to-watch VMA example of fame’s all-too-often harsh implosion?

 

A precious and lost little girl searching in all the wrong places for an answer only provided in the blood-grace of a risen Savior?

 

Newspapers, social media sites, and blogs have Miley’s photo paraded across them, hoping that, like a horrible train wreck, we just can’t look away from them. And when we do see them, we have choices to make.

We can laugh, sneer, and look away. Or we can learn, love, and pray. We can talk about how no one is perfect and avoid talking about sin. Or we can stare sin directly in the face and talk about the Lamb who came to take sin away (John 1:29). We can speak grating lies about people who have become worthless. Or we can speak grace-full truth about souls who are worth the blood of Christ.

But not all blogs, articles, tweets, and status updates about Miley’s raw performance last Sunday night are brutal or crude. Two blog articles, in which the authors shared their hearts more than their minds, provide excellent perspectives on how we as Christ-followers ought to respond to Miley’s childish and uncontrolled antics.

 

Garrett Kell, senior pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church, wrote a powerful post titled What Would Jesus Say to Miley. In part, Kell writes:

Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she is the kind of girl He came to spend time with.

There are a lot of religious types who won’t like to hear this. Jesus came to spend time with people just like Miley Cyrus. In the Gospel of Luke 5:30 the religious conservatives of Jesus’ day grumbled and said “why do you eat and drink with…sinners?” The answer? Because Jesus has compassion on sinners (Matthew 9:36), He loves sinners (Romans 5:8), and He came to call sinners to believe in Him (Luke 5:32)…In fact, that’s the very reason He left the holiness of heaven—to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom to people just like Miley Cyrus.”

 Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that her sin is deadly for herself and for others.

Jesus would tell Miley that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10)…He’d say something like, “Miley, sin is deceiving you. It’s blinding you. It has told you it only wants a little, but it always wants a little more. Sin will never stop until it has consumed you.”

 Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus to come to Him and He will give her rest.

Sin gives us pleasure—but that pleasure is always short-lived and it always leaves us empty.

Jesus would tell Miley that sin will never satisfy her soul because she was made for so much more. As Augustine, who once found life in orgies and drink, said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

 Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she will be judged one day and that she needs to get ready today.

The good news is that God is a God who loves to extend mercy. In Ezekiel 33:11 He says “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?” Jesus would tell Miley that she will be judged one day and that she needs to get ready today. The way to do that is to trust in the One who died for sinners like her, and like me, and like you and turn from our sins and follow Him.”

 

We have all heard it said “love the sinner, hate the sin.” This generation, however, feels that is too harsh and judgmental. Rather than following the ways of Jesus, they have revised the saying to suit a more seemingly peaceful mantra: “Love the sinner, hate your own sin. Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.

But that saying is a gross misunderstanding of scripture and means death to a dying and hurting world. My heart yearns to write a post delving much deeper into that. Until then:

Indeed, Jesus loves sinners with a compassionate undying love, but He hates sin with a passionate undying hate. Love gives, saves, and protects; sin takes, damns, and destroys. The amazing thing about grace is that it is entirely rooted in and founded on truth…we can trust in God’s grace precisely because He tells us we can, and He always tells the truth (Numbers 23:19). Grace and truth do not fight one another – they are the paradox that saves.

 

Go and Sin No More

 

The second blog providing a Christ perspective, titled I Weep for Miley, is a powerfully tender and beautifully written example of the blog name: Kingdom People; Living on Earth as Citizens of Heaven. In part, Trevin Wax writes:

Tonight, I weep…

I weep for the lostness of a girl who doesn’t see herself stumbling around in the dark…

I weep for the American Idol culture that promises glitter and gold to children, then chews them up and spits them out.

 I weep for an entertainment culture that celebrates the breaking of every social taboo and the casting off of every restraint, only then to turn and mock the stars that follow suit…

I weep for men (myself included) who have failed to say, “Enough is enough.”

I weep for the broken, messed-up world we live in.

But then I weep at the power of grace.

There’s Jesus, lifting the head of a woman of the night and sending her away into the light. There’s Jesus in a crowd, healing a woman desperately trying to cover the shame. There’s Jesus at the well, transforming a woman tossed aside by multiple men.

 

For the hurt of the daughter of my people, I am hurt,” the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I am mourning, dismay has taken hold of me (Jeremiah 8:21). Like Jeremiah, may our hearts break over what breaks the heart of God, and may we pray, function, serve, and speak truth from a broken heart full of God’s grace.

 

Let your heart be tender and your vision clear.
See mankind as God sees, serve Him far and near.
Let your heart be broken by a brother’s pain.
Share your rich resources, give and give again.”

“Let Your Heart Be Broken.” Bryan Jeffery Leech

© 1975 The Evangelical Covenant Church

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The Way to Keep a Marriage

I once read of a woman who wanted to end her marriage, but she really desired to hurt her husband in the process; to make him pay for her misery. She visited an attorney who gave her this advice: “If you really want to hurt your husband, go home and live with him for 30 more days before you announce your plan to divorce.”

 

During that time, compliment him every day. Tell him he’s handsome and smart, strong and talented. Touch his hand, look into his eyes, and stroke his hair. Make him believe you are madly in love with him. At the end of the 30 days, tell him you want a divorce. That will hurt him more than anything else!”

 

The woman did as she was told. She went home and lavished love on her husband, complimenting and serving him every chance she could. The month came and went, but the attorney never heard from her.

 

One day the woman and the attorney met unexpectedly. The lawyer asked if she was now ready to end her marriage. Shocked, she replied, “No! He’s the love of my life!”

 

Intentional love changes hearts; changes feelings; changes people; changes marriages; changes lives. Grace. Is this not the love of Christ?

 

Marriage

 

Late one evening, my husband and I sat on our front porch, tiki torches lit, and light, sweet words on our tongues. We sat chatting as lovers do, smiles broad and laugh lines deep. Somehow, some way, a word wasn’t fitly spoken, a phrase stung, and the easy flow of conversation gave way to murky misunderstandings and frustrated feelings. Frowns creased, breath shortened, words were curt, and soon, silence hung heavy.

 

He reached for my hand.

 

You know what I think we should do? I think we should spend the rest of the night saying why we love each other.”

 

I looked at him, waiting in self-centered silence for him to begin.

 

I love you because you love to try new things. I love you because you’re beautiful. I love you because you’re passionately in love with God.

 

Convicted and humbled, I answered: “I love you because you’re trying. I love you because you make me laugh. I love you because you moved in with your mother-in-law. I love you because you’re honorable.”

 

I love you because you’re a good Mama. I love you because you play with the dog even when she drives you batty. I love you because you love books.

 

I love you because you’ve never even considered that changing diapers and giving baths wasn’t ‘your job’. I love you because there’s nothing that ever sways your dedication to those you love.”

 

I love you…always.

 

I looked over and smiled.

 

Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious.Ecclesiastes 10:12

 

Isn’t this the way to keep a marriage?

 

Successful Marriage

 

Intentional love, intentional grace, always.

 

I. Love. You. Always.

The Symbol of Thanksgiving

I number gifts and I snap photos and I write graces and I post them here. A continual boasting of His love poured out; rain drops of great grace. But what’s the point of eucharisteo?

Is it a mere Joel Osteen type attempt at a false prosperity gospel to bring health, wealth, and happiness by speaking bold “words of faith” and gratefulness to leverage victory and gain? Is it another postmodern system of relativism that preaches thankfulness without acknowledging to Whom we ought to be thankful?

The apostle Paul answers these questions for us in Galatians 6:14:

Boast in the Cross

With the words God forbid, Paul makes it clear that any other ground for boasting is counterfeit and contrary to the Gospel. The cross was an object of shame to the Judaizers, and means little to legalists, but to the wretch who grasps amazing grace, the cross is the only symbol of thanksgiving.

Romans 2:4-5 teaches that we store up God’s wrath if we think lightly of the blessings we receive, not grasping that His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance and boasting in His death and resurrection.

While the Bible itself speaks of boasting in other things – in the glory of God (Romans 5:2), in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30 & 12:9), in tribulations (Romans 5:3), and in the people of Christ (1 Thess. 2:19) – Paul is saying that all other boasting must still find its validity in the cross.

In his book The Passion of Jesus Christ, John Piper offers this truth:

Everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good, was purchased by the sufferings of Christ…every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing, to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.” (emphasis mine)

And so we boast in our blessings because they find their dawn and their legitimacy in the cross.

 

In the still, the Spirit comes and He whispers a name.

Christ.

The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One.” ~ Ann Voskamp

 

Thanksgiving Thursday: Unwrapping the Gifts

 

1146. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

Amazing Grace

 

1111. Writing at a coffee shop during a rainstorm

 

1096. Sundresses; because every girl feels good in a sundress 🙂

 

1101. Take out from Three Margaritas

 

1118. Taking our Peanut up her first 14er

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1134. Snuggling on the couch with my Love, watching a late night movie

 

1144. A family walk that ended just as the rain began to pour

 

1090. Playing games and eating pizza during Peanut’s nap

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

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Becoming Famous at Home

Family

Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker, says that fame and fortune, as the world sees them, mean nothing to him. “I want to be famous in my home,” he says, “That is the greatest fortune.

Gaining fame and respect from those who know you best is found in offering them the best in you. Showing respect and consideration toward one another should be one of the bedrock foundations of our homes – a high calling to treat those closest to us in a way that esteems them as honorable and deeply cared for.

All too often, we can be careful to extend the basic rules of etiquette to those who know nothing of who we really are, yet fill our homes with complaining, nagging, and condescension. But our homes ought to be known for the use of good manners and polite behaviors.

 

Here are some ways we can become famous with our family:

 

~ Put family second only to God. To live with sustainable authentic integrity requires maintaining a right relationship with God. Our familial relationships must come before any other earthly friendship (and our family needs to know it does), but our standing with the Lord must come before even our loved ones. God is the one who gives power to maintain all other relationships, so we must seek first His righteousness, then these things will be added to us (Matt. 6:33).

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~ Give your full attention to them when they speak. Our family members should never have to ask us to notice them. They are worth our undivided attention.

Pay Attention

 

~ Let them hear you pray for them. My husband and I have made a habit of praying together each morning, and there is not much sweeter sound on earth than hearing someone you love pray for you. Praying for others in their presence lets them know that you hear their deepest needs and desires, and that you care enough to come boldly before the throne of grace for them.

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~ Say please when asking for anything – no matter how trivial, and verbalize appreciation when you receive something by saying thank you. This isn’t just for kids, it’s for adults, too. We shouldn’t tell our children to say these “magic words”, and then refuse to act politely ourselves.

Fred Astaire Quote

 

~ Always speak the truth in love. I am always truthful – always. But I must confess: I am not always loving when I tell the truth. My prayer is that gentle honesty will reign in my home – and in my tongue.

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~ Speak the truth. While we must be kind, our loved ones need us to watch out for them; to love them enough to speak truth into their lives. If we see them slipping into sin, forming unhealthy habits, or giving place to the devil, we must treasure their hearts enough to risk their displeasure, because we cannot risk their souls. And we must be open to their admonition, too.

Speak-the-truth-even-if-your-voice-shakes

 

~ Allow others to finish their sentences without interrupting. This is another big challenge for me! I am quick to interrupt, but James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We should also listen with full intent to understand their point through their eyes. Love is patient (1 Cor. 13:4)!

Love is patient

 

~ Be quick to apologize for offenses, even the ones where we just don’t understand how someone could become offended over what we did. We don’t always have to understand exactly what we did or even believe that we were wrong, but if we have offended those we love, then we need to ask their forgiveness.

Go and be reconciled

 

~ Never talk against family members or make fun of them in public. Airing dirty laundry and intentional embarrassment are poison to familial relationships. I have heard wives defend talking against their husbands by saying they’re just “being realistic”. I have yet to find scripture to justify or advocate that position.

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~ Spend more of your free time with them than anyone else. We’ve all heard that quality time matters more than the quantity, but that isn’t true. The merit of the opportunities are hidden in the volume of the time spent.

Spend Time

 

~ Give them the gift of pointing them to the Savior. No spouse or parent or sibling or friend can give enough love and grace and space and time. God so loved your family that He gave of His family to save and deliver them from the enemy of their souls, and to adopt them as His own.

Point them to Him

 

~ Thank God for them every day – and tell them how grateful you are for them.

The Gift of Gratefulness

 

Please tell me, what would you add to this list?

 

 

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The Prescription for the Busy Life

I love the movie You’ve Got Mail. I dislike romantic dramas, but I have a heart for charming comedies, and I adore Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly. She’s sweet, uncomplicated, and sees the beauty and gifts unwrapped in the world around her.

In one scene of the movie, Kathleen is pondering life and says, “So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Life is always busy, always passing in the blink of an eye. But counting gifts brings you into the moment, opens your eyes to how to live a life that some only read about.

 

Enjoy the Small

It was somewhere around the beginning of June, though, that I missed days – then weeks – of counting gifts. They were there. My Father’s hand poured them out like rain. I just didn’t keep track of them.

Time flies when you’re having fun, but all too soon the fun turned into whining and fussing. Not the two-year-old; me. I began to moan about the 100-degree heat and gripe about the dog hair and grumble about the pull-up that contained something should have been in the potty.

 

A hard day of sniveling is quite draining, and a hot Jacuzzi bath and chilled glass of Chardonnay sets everything right again. I didn’t have a Jacuzzi tub or a great bottle of La Crema, so a bubble-jet bath mat and a glass of boxed Franzia had to suffice.

I sunk deep into the swirling rush of water and realized that our claw-foot bathtub in this house is better suited to a true spa-like experience than the tub in our old house. I spent the remainder of my time in the tub relaxing and repenting for my bad attitude and ungrateful heart.

 

Enjoy Every Moment

 

When I got out of my soothing bubble bath, I grabbed my thanksgiving journal to write the gifts of a perfectly sized bathtub, sweet conviction, and new mercies.

I knew it had been a few days since I had jotted anything down in my beloved spiral-bound book, but I was shocked to see how long it had really been – but not so shocked to recognize the correlation between my lack of thankfulness and absence of numbering graces.

 

I’ve since tried to go back and remember and number the gifts I was loved with that I missed. It’s been a sweet reminder of the joys and frustrations, smiles and frowns, beautiful and ugly-beautiful of the past weeks.

Like a gentle rain, the memories have washed my heart and soul with the love and grace and faithfulness of the unchanging One from whom all good and perfect gifts come. And I am determined to not miss His showers again.

 

All's Grace

 

 

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Living the Greatest Blessings

 

I swung my feet out of bed and grabbed a cup of coffee. I sat down with my husband to chat for a moment, kissed his lips then took his hand and we invited God into every part of our day. I heard chatter so I sat on a little girl’s bed and giggled and dreamed with my bubbly and bright-eyed child before getting her up. I fed her breakfast while reading Bible stories and trying to keep the dog from begging at the table.

 

I completed the near-daily chore of vacuuming and mopping the house, took my little one to the potty for the twentieth time, and praised and cheered for a job well done. I shooed a hyper dog away from a hissing cat for the hundredth time, and worked out while my daughter banged on a tin can with a metal hinge that I’m pretty sure was a fairly important part to a weight machine. I created sand castles with my tow-headed toddler, swept rocks from the walkway and collected sticks. I picked up my frightened child who got knocked down by the dog chasing a ball, and belly laughed with my mama over comical Facebook posts.

 

I said a prayer and fed my girl who fed the dog, cleaned the broken glass and spilled milk, arranged letters on a blackboard and talked about words and colors and numbers. I read a book about red fish and blue fish and sang about sunshine and happiness and gray skies. I settled the girl into bed for a nap, and sat down to work on a small client project, and then to try to put my heart on paper.

 

I grabbed my thanksgiving journal to jot a few things down and to read through the week’s gifts unwrapped. I smiled. I am living my greatest blessings.

 

   There are no interruptions in a day.

There are only manifestations of Christ.

You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things with His Great love.” – Ann Voskamp

 

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