The Power of Prayer Part 2

by Rhonda, April 27, 2022

Communication is at the core of every relationship, including our relationship with God.  Prayer is simply communication with God.  It is our avenue to talking directly to Him, and hearing directly from Him.  Have you ever tried to have a close friendship that is based solely on a few meaningless texts?  It won't happen.  Have you tried to get to know someone without a heartfelt talk?  Its difficult to do.  Have you gotten close to someone by simply reading about them, without ever talking to them?  Impossible.

Prayer is an amazing gift.  

1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

The God of the universe hears us and we can have confidence in approaching Him.  The smallest, dumbest prayers are not lost.  Yes, even when you pray that you don't have lipstick on your teeth while you're talking, He hears it.  He heard it when you prayed for the sick loved one.  He heard it when you told Him you feel like you can't take it anymore.

I know when I was going through my divorce there were times I didn't feel He could hear me.  Things didn't go my way.  My marriage wasn't saved.  We didn't put things back together.  God didn't take me down the path I felt I should have gone down.  Surely, He must not have heard me.  

The Bible says otherwise.  When I really think about it, the heart of my prayers were that I would have a happy, peaceful marriage.  I prayed for a total turnaround, with both of our eyes on Christ.  It didn't happen.  But, it doesn't mean God didn't hear me.  He simply, in his infinite wisdom, knows right now reconciliation is not possible in my situation.
In the meantime, He reminds me the heart of my prayer, the request for happiness and peace is available through Him.  If I can keep my eyes on the things He's given, instead of what I don't have, my prayers turn from "Why didn't you do this for me?" to "Thank You for seeing me through the worst years of my life."

Prayers of gratitude will change your life.  Human nature pulls our eyes away from being thankful, but a focus on gratitude changes our prayers from a request list to a relationship.  Instead of asking for more, gratitude reminds us to look at what we have.  In the chapter of Luke, Jesus heals ten lepers.  However, only one returns to thank Him. Isn't that story telling of our human nature?  We can forget to be grateful in the greatest of blessings.  However, the one leper who returned to thank Jesus is the one who was changed on the inside as well as physically healed.  

Psalm 92
1It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
5 How great are your works, Lord,
    how profound your thoughts!

Prayers of gratitude bring joy.  Focusing on God and the blessings He brings into our lives brings joy.  It isn't material things.  It isn't the promotion at work, or the ten pounds you want to lose.  More of what doesn't already make us happy isn't going to magically make us happy.  Its time to look for joy somewhere new!  Every day we have breath in our lungs is a blessed day.

One thing that I still use as a help in this area is a gratitude journal.  On the days I struggled to find anything good, especially immediately after our separation, I would look back on my gratitude journal to remind myself of the blessings God gave me during that time.  A gratitude journal also trains your mind to be looking for things to be grateful for.  When you're looking for blessings, all of a sudden, you'll begin to see more and more of them.  You'll start to notice things you typically would have missed because you're completely focused on your problems.  On the dark days, a gratitude journal is a good tool to help pull you out of the pit.

I remember when Alex was diagnosed with cancer at age 7.  We were in the hospital prepping for brain surgery, and I was in a very dark pit of despair.  As we waited for him to go back for surgery, the nurse had informed us we would be pushed back an hour.  "Why?" I wanted to know.  "Another child, more urgent, has been flown in this morning" was the answer.

I later heard the entire story.  A little girl had been flown into the hospital from overseas - paid for by her family.  Our neurosurgeon told the family his devastating diagnosis.  He could do surgery and give them hopefully another year with her, but the recovery would be very difficult.  Or they could say goodbye over the next few days.  

In my worst moment, there was another family going through more.  Alex's diagnosis wasn't fully known, but he wasn't dying in the next few days.  I remember God showing me the importance of always keeping my eyes on Him during that time.  Even if we only had a few months left with Alex, it was a blessing.  In our darkest hour, we had something to be grateful for.

Gratitude turns a terrible situation upside down, and causes you to view it differently.  Gratitude adds God into the situation, showing you His fingerprints, His presence.  Prayers of thankfulness are simply saying to God "I saw you today.  I know You were there."

He gives us so much to be grateful for.  

The Power of Prayer

by Rhonda, April 24, 2022

I drug myself out of bed on a Tuesday.  I've never been a morning person, and this day was no exception.  I had a work meeting an hour and half away, so today's alarm was set for 5:30 a.m.  I asked God to please stop time for one more hour for me, and then opened one eye to check the time again.  It was now 5:35 a.m.  I flung one leg over the side of the bed, then the other.  No time stopping miracles were on the agenda today.  

As I got ready for the day, my back started to ache.  I thought about how I should be exercising more so I don't wake up all achy.  Welcome to your forties, I thought to myself.  I took a seat on the little stool I keep in my bathroom to sit on when I put on my make-up.

My back pain started to intensify.  I must have really slept wrong on my back.  Feeling somewhat dehydrated, I went to the kitchen and drank a full glass of water.  About fifteen minutes later, I was lying on the floor, sweating through my pajamas, trying to understand why I was in so much pain.

I sent my Mom a text.  I think I need for you to take me to the hospital.  I started vomiting and then, I checked my phone again.  No answer.

I made my way to Alex's bedroom.  

"Son, I need for you to get up and take me to the hospital."  

It was about the only words I could get out, and as a Mom, I'm pretty proud of his response.  Alex doesn't have his driver's license yet, but he has a learner's permit.  He got up, took one look at me, and quickly grabbed his socks and shoes.  He just knew without asking a single question, even though I know he was nervous about driving me.  

We didn't say another word to each other as we made our way to the car.  He grabbed the keys, and within five minutes we were out the door.  I sat in the passenger seat, sweating, contorting myself into all kinds of positions trying to get comfortable.  

Alex slowed the car down as traffic came to a stop.  I've never seen it happen in our town before, but early in the wee hours of the morning, we were stuck in a traffic jam.  

"You've got to be kidding me," I whined.

"Mom," Alex's voice was breaking, "what's wrong?"

"I think I have a kidney stone.  I'm not dying, but I'm just in a lot of pain."

Alex nodded.  We said nothing else to each other except the occasional direction from me on where to turn, and even in my pain, I managed to remind him to use a turn signal.  Once a Mom, always a Mom.

I was so relieved when he pulled up in front of the emergency room.  As luck would have it, a man was standing outside with a wheelchair.  I opened the door and instructed Alex to park the car without me.  He looked a bit alarmed but nodded his head and said okay.  

"Do you need this?" the man asked me.  I nodded as I climbed into the wheelchair.  I still don't know why he was standing outside with a wheelchair when no one else was there, but I am sure glad he was.

Alex parked the car and returned to the waiting room with me.  Soon, they were taking my vital signs, and trying to find me an empty room.  As I was being wheeled back to a hospital room, I felt the pain suddenly lift.  Slowly at first, then I began to experience a significant amount of relief.  

I turned to my son.  "Alex," I said.  "I'm beginning to feel better."

Alex grabbed my hand.  "I prayed for you as hard as I could in the car."

By the time I got to the hospital room, I stopped sweating.  They asked me if I needed painkillers, and ten minutes earlier, I would have given my right arm for a painkiller.  But, I turned it down.  The pain had literally gone from about a level ten to about a level one.  

"Maybe the stone dropped into your bladder." the nurse said.

"I don't know what that means, but if it means the pain stops, then I'm happy." I said.

A scan confirmed that's exactly what happened.  "That's rare that it happens so quickly," the nurse said.  "But when it does, the pain usually goes away and now you'll feel much better."

I looked at Alex.  We both knew why it had happened.  

I took the rest of the day off of work.  Going through something like that tends to be a bit draining.  But, I can't help but think about the power of prayer.  I don't even know if I prayed for myself going through it.  I know I probably did, especially when I was lying on the floor, but I don't really remember. 

I think something special happens when someone else prays over us.  It reminds me of how important it is to pray for others when they can't pray for themselves.  Alex's faith is so inspirational to me sometimes.  His first response is always to pray when he's confronted with a gigantic issue.

James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

So often, we think of praying as a last resort.  When we've tried everything else, we give up and pray.  But, praying should be our first response.  Its our avenue to the God of the universe, and the power of prayer can never be overstated.  Miracles happen as a result of the power of prayer.

I am going to be doing a few more posts this week on the power of prayer, after I was so inspired by the events of last week.  The ability to know and be known by God through prayer is such an abundant blessing.  

I'm feeling much better this week.  I had to slow down a bit, which always gives me time to reflect and of course, write.  I am so grateful we have such a faithful, caring God who sees us when we struggle.  He never leaves us.  He hears the sweet prayers of a teenage boy praying for his Mom in the parking lot.  

We have a God who listens.  

Uniquely Designed

by Rhonda, April 20, 2022

Romans 12:6-7 "God has also given each of us different gifts to use.  If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have.  If we can serve others, we should serve.  If we can teach, we should teach."

Did you know that all snowflakes are unique?  There was a man named Wilson Bentley who dedicated his life to photographing snowflakes.  He perfected a technique where he captured snowflakes against a black velvet background.  The results of his photography are stunning.

Yet, none of them are the same.  Wilson Bentley was the first to argue no two snowflakes are alike, andhe was right.  He was enamored with these small ice creations, and sadly he died of pneumonia as a result of - yes, you guessed it - being outside photographing snowflakes.  He died pursuing his passion.

God's creativity is infinite.  I can't imagine a mind so endless it creates unique snowflakes. Snowflakes sometimes last a few seconds before melting!  Yet, He finds it worthwhile to create these tiny masterpieces.

God isn't into creating copies.  If God creates billions of unique snowflakes, imagine how many ways He makes each one of us unique.  He created each of us with unique personalities, looks, mannerisms, viewpoints, and even unique voices.  No two people look exactly alike.  No two people think exactly alike.

Yet, we spend so many of our days comparing ourselves to one another.  We want to be equal to, or better than, someone else.  It may be someone at school.  It may be someone at work.  It may be a sibling, a spouse, or even a friend.  We look for affirmation by comparing ourselves to others in our lives.  Depending on how we come out in the comparison game, we end up with either feelings of superiority or inferiority.  Neither is healthy.

Judging ourselves was never our role.  Comparing ourselves was never in the plan.  The only source of true affirmation is God's unconditional love for us.  We were never meant to be anyone but who God created us to be.

Comparison forever keeps us focused on all the things that are wrong with us.  When our focus stays on all of the things that are wrong, we become increasingly discouraged.  Comparison steals our energy and saps our strength.  

I remember when I was in the torturous confines commonly referred to as Middle School.  I hung out with a pack of pre-teen girls, complete with braces, who dressed alike, acted alike, and they all sounded alike.  The most popular of the bunch was a tall auburn-haired girl with a high pitched voice named Lisa.  Everyone wanted to be like her.

Being the weirdo I am, I even wanted to sound like her.  I remember one evening when I came home from school, I began to talk in a high pitched voice just like her.

My mother, never one to give dishonest feedback, stared at me.  "Why are you talking like that?"

"Like what?" I asked innocently.  "I always talk like this."

Mom laughed at me.  "No you don't."

"Yes," I argued back.  "I do.  I've always had a high voice."

Mom nodded.  "All right," she said.  "But you know, Rhonda, I've always thought you had such a nice voice.  Lisa, on the other hand, doesn't have as nice of a voice as you even though her voice is higher."

"Lisa's voice is annoying," my brother chimed in.

I got the point.  I was pretty embarrassed being called out like that. I immediately quit talking like Minnie Mouse and my mother graciously never brought it up again.

In our adult world, we may not walk around talking like a cartoon mouse, but we try to be like others in different ways.  We compete.  We become easily offended, defending our fragile egos as if they were actually important.  We let our self esteem rely on other people's opinions, allowing our moods to fluctuate like the wind, since they're dependent on other people's views.

But God says, I have made you unique, designed to move along a path I've designed just for you.  Is that new guy at work outperforming you?  Be his biggest cheerleader.  Let him have the spotlight.  Is your sibling getting married and having kids before you're even on your second date?  Good for them, but that's not your path right now.  Is your best friend the mother to perfect children while yours continue to struggle?  Maybe its because God designed you to be the perfect mother for your children.  You're not perfect, but you're the perfect match for them.

We're not supposed to run someone else's race.  We weren't designed for it.  Our unique gifts from God are needed specifically for the life path God has designed for us.  God gave you the exact gifts you need to navigate your life, your situation.  Your gifts aren't designed for someone else's life.

You don't have to compete.  You don't have to prove your worth.  That task has already been accomplished.  You're priceless in your Father's eyes.  After all, He created you and He died to be with you.  

That, my friend, is true affirmation

The Center

by Rhonda, April 18, 2022

The alarm clock went off on Easter Sunday and I groaned.  Sunrise services (not truly sunrise service) started at 7:30 a.m. I pushed the snooze button.  It was an indecent time for a weekend.  

Fifteen minutes later, the alarm went off again.  I heard the water running in the basement, a sure sign my daughter was taking a shower.  If the kids were up, Mom needed to get up and get ready for church.  I drug myself out of bed and began to get ready.

I thought about how we could go out to breakfast after church.  I wondered if they would have fresh cookies or maybe even donuts to reward those of us showing up at the 7:30 service. I got into the car, and looked at my tired kids.  "Mom, not to complain, but I'm glad church isn't at 7:30 every weekend."  I nodded.

It began to rain.  It was chilly, I pulled my sweater over my shoulders.  The image of Christ hanging on the cross immediately flashed into my mind.  I wondered if it was this cold on the actual day of the crucifixion.  I wondered if He was cold.  I shuttered.  Horrible.  

I thought about my grandmother, when I was at her bedside as she died.  I remembered laying my hands on her feet, and they were cold.  If her feet were cold while she died in bed, then He must have been freezing.  He must have been so miserable.  

Yes.  He was cold.

Yes.  He suffered.

In that moment, my focus changed.  My morning wasn't supposed to be centered on my story.  My morning was supposed to be centered on His story.  Isn't that what His death and resurrection is supposed to do?  To change our focus?

We were never meant to be the focus of our own lives.  His story is always supposed to be the focus.  It was always meant to be this way.   When our lives are viewed in the light of His story as the center, we see the bigger picture.  We see the whole story.

Have you ever seen the movie the Sixth Sense?  Once you know the ending, you can never watch the movie again in the same way.  Everything in the movie makes sense because you understand the bigger picture.  Our lives are the same.  Jesus is the bigger picture and once we center our lives around His story, all of a sudden everything makes sense.

Take the disciples for example.  After Jesus was crucified, they went back to their old jobs.  Peter was fishing again.  They were defeated, not understanding the bigger picture.  But once they were first-hand witnesses to the resurrection, their focus changed.  After Christ revealed himself (to hundreds of people, by the way), the disciples saw the bigger picture.  

Now, they worshipped.  Now, they began to live their lives with one purpose and one purpose only.  To spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth.  If it meant their lives, so be it.  They were no longer the center of their own story.  They understood they were part of a much larger picture - an important part - but not the center.

How radically different our lives would be if Christ was truly the center.  How radically different the world would be.  

We sat through a riveting Easter service at church.  Afterwards, both of my kids said they were so glad we got up early and went to the sunrise (not really) service.  I explained to the kids when I grew up, the sunrise service used to be at 5:30 a.m. and it was outside.  

"That would be so early," my daughter said.  "And cold."

I looked up at the sky and nodded.  "Yes," I said.  "It was."

The Love of A Crowd

by Rhonda, April 12, 2022

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” - Luke Ch. 23

The same crowd who celebrated and welcomed Jesus just months earlier had turned on Him.  Even one of His disciples betrayed Him.  Now, the crowd chanted for his torture and execution, even after the chief government officers could find nothing to justify His death.  The truth didn't matter.  The demands of the crowd were eventually honored.

Isn't the love of a crowd unpredictable?  Crowds are conditional, transactional, and fickle.  They give to get back, they build up to tear down.  One look at Hollywood tabloids can tell us how conditional the love of a crowd can be.  A celebrity might be on the top of the popularity list one week, but a few months later, the same celebrity has been "cancelled".  

I knew a family with a daughter in high school.  It was a fairly small town, and their daughter was a popular girl.  She made good grades, excelled in sports, and had a large network of friends.  She soon started dating one of the most popular guys in school.  Many girls had a crush on him, and out of jealousy, her network of friends began to disintegrate.  Rumors began to spread about her that were untrue.  Gossip turned dangerous when lies were told about things she supposedly said about other girls.  She was attacked one evening while out with friends by another group of girls.  She became suicidal and eventually (wisely) her parents moved her to another town, another school, and sought treatment for her.

How fickle the love of a crowd can be.  How cruel our world can be.  

The love of Christ is different.  It is unconditional, strong, and reliable.  

When I went through my divorce, I had no idea I was about to embark on a journey to learn about the love of Christ.  I was so disheartened by the people I had disappointed in my life.  I felt like such a failure because I couldn't make my marriage work.  But, nothing is more freeing and marvelous than God's compassion and grace.  We're not here to please the world.

We can't live a peaceful life when we are living to please the crowd.  The Bible tells stories over and over about how blessed people are when they align their lives with the will of God, and how miserable and wretched they are when they don't.  The crowd sways with the wind, and will turn on a dime.  So often, we chase after fleeting acceptance, trying to win the approval of those who - if we're honest - don't even know us that well.  Meanwhile, the love of Christ freely offers abundant life to everyone who turns towards Him.

A few years ago, my daughter came home from school, refusing to wear her glasses.  She is visually impaired, and her glasses are vital for her to see properly.  I asked her why.

"They make fun of me."

"Who?" I asked.

"The other girls.  They say my glasses are stupid."

My first reaction was to show a few girls just who was stupid.  But, after I calmed the spark straight to my red hair, I had a talk with my daughter.  

"If you listen to those girls and you refuse to wear your glasses, what will happen?"

"I can't see."

"Right.  You can't see.  Do you think the other girls can see fine?"


"So, the one who loses if you quit wearing your glasses is you.  You can't see, you won't be able to do well in school, and nothing will change for those girls.  They'll just move onto the next thing they don't like."

It wasn't our last conversation around the glasses, but isn't the same true for us when we try to lead life pleasing the crowd?  We change drastically to please them, and the one who loses is out is us, not the crowd.  We spend our time and energy trying to achieve an ever-changing goal to please the crowd.  Once the crowd is happy, don't forget, we have to keep them happy.  Meanwhile, our Savior waits, with His arms open wide, reminding us that we were never designed to pursue an unachievable goal.

I'm so glad He is so faithful. 

Perhaps its time to stop worrying so much about the crowd.  They'll never love you like Christ does. 

Seeking Peace

by Rhonda, April 09, 2022

Isaiah 1:19  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land

Peace is the result of a lifestyle obedient to Christ.

I've been rolling that thought over in my mind this week.  I remember when I was a teenager, growing up in a small town.  My Dad, being a talented mechanic, had painted and restored a Mustang he found for $400.  When he was finished with it, my $400 car got quite a bit of attention at my small high school.  I remember zipping around town in my new car, feeling like I had the world by the tail.  I was sixteen, thought I knew it all, and I had an awesome car to boot.  

I was sitting at the stop light in my Mustang one day, and a strange thought entered my mind.  What if you started living the way Christ wanted you to?  I immediately shook the thought out of my mind.  I'll be a good Christian someday when I get older, I reasoned to myself.  But right now is my time to be free and have fun.

Its funny how nearly thirty years later, I still remember that conversation with the Holy Spirit in my car.  I didn't know it was the Holy Spirit at the time, but now of course, I can recognize God's prodding a bit better.  Isn't interesting how we view obedience to Christ as limiting?  We think by choosing Him, we somehow give up our freedom?  Our peace?

The problem with the teenage girl at the stoplight is she was struggling.  She was either completely egotistical or on the floor in despair.  There wasn't much peace happening in a life of such extremes, and she was always grappling to understand her pain.  But, she wasn't willing to follow the calling of God on her heart.  

I'm glad I eventually made the decision to listen.  I've had plenty of humbling moments since then, and I can honestly say the one thing I've learned is saying yes to God doesn't mean I'm losing my freedom.  My freedom is lost when I take ultimate free reign to do whatever I want.  If thirty years has taught me anything, it has taught me that I am rather incapable of running my own life.

I'll give you a humorous example.  About ten years ago, my anxiety was on fire and I was looking for anything to give me some relief.  My job was overwhelming, I was drowning in Mom guilt on a daily basis, and I was honestly just exhausted.  I felt like a failure because I couldn't keep up with everything.  One thing that brought me peace was spending a few minutes in the evenings with our Mastiffs.  I decided since I enjoyed our dogs so much that in my spare time (none) I would start a large dog rescue.  I researched the land I would purchase, made plans on the debt I would need to obtain, and sketched the kennels.

I prayed to the Lord to help me make this happen.  But, I could never quite get my plan to come together.  Instead, I kept hearing sermons on living a simple life, and I read verses that reinforced the "less is more" message.  One night, after some lengthy time in prayer, I was deeply convicted that God's calling on my life was not centered around dog rescue.  (Please note I have great admiration for those who run dog rescues, but it would have been a ridiculous endeavor for me at the time). 

I am so glad I did not obtain a bunch of debt and overwhelm myself by needing to care for fifty dogs when I could barely keep up with my current life.  Sometimes I have to chuckle at myself.  I can come up with some pretty hairbrained ideas.  But, God's plans for my life are always the right plans.  I was seeking peace in the wrong place.  Instead of buying some land, building a dog kennel, and overwhelming myself with more responsibility, I needed to turn to the Lord and find my peace in his promises to me.  His plan was much simpler than mine.

His plan for me wasn't immediate, though.  It required my obedience to Him.  I had to get some help.  I sought counseling, and I committed to going every week even though I didn't feel like I had the time.  I went on medication for about a year.  I studied His word daily, looking for all passages that pertained to my situation.  As I gained strength, I took control of my schedule.  One piece at a time, He simplified my life as He led me out of a very difficult season.

God's word is a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path.  Jesus illustrates His relationship to His followers by example of a loving shepherd to sheep.  Sheep don't have the pressure of having to lead, having to make all of the decisions, or having to map out the route ahead.  Their job is to trust and follow where they're led.  Even when they're led through rough terrain, the shepherd cares for them, binding up their wounds and leading them to stable ground.  The only thing that's asked of the sheep is to follow, and the shepherd leads them to safety.  Well-developed trust brings God's peace.

Obedience to God requires setting aside our stubborn wills to listen to His calling.  I've found with God I almost always have to let go of something old to pursue something new.  Leaving behind old ways is hard, and we're often tempted to revisit them in times of stress, but separating ourselves from our old ways frees us to move into something new with God.  

The price of being stubborn and foolish is often the loss of our peace.  It isn't worth it, not when our Savior has something new and exciting in store for us.

God Is With Us

by Rhonda, April 05, 2022

Isaiah 43:2  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  

There's been a few times in my life that I knew, without a doubt, that God was with me.  I recall one time I had to give a big presentation for work.  I struggle with severe anxiety.  Nothing heightens my anxiety like the requirement of giving a presentation.  For some, this wouldn't be a big deal.  For me, it was a terrible trigger.  

In a boardroom full of people, on a topic I honestly wasn't an expert on, I was going to be in the spotlight.  The night before my big day, I practiced and I practiced, flipping through my paper presentation.  I rehearsed while walking around my bedroom, in my pajamas.

But, no amount of rehearsal was going to save me from what I knew was coming.  I would be tortured for the entire night with fear and anxiety.  I knew I wouldn't get much sleep because I would lie awake convincing myself I was unprepared.  I shook from the fear.  I was sick to my stomach.  I could feel the adrenaline surge through me, as I sat on the side of the bed begging God to give me some relief.  

It was around midnight.  My body was racked with fear, and after I prayed for what must have been the twentieth time, I felt relief began to course through my body.  I've never felt anything like it before, and I've never had it happen since.  It was a physical sense of relief, almost a cooling sensation, that slowly made its way through my body.  

I knew it was God.  

I said nothing, I prayed nothing.  I slowly crawled back into bed, not wanting to disrupt the peace I was experiencing.  I slept heavily the rest of the night, not tossing or turning once.

The next day, He gave me the strength to pull off the presentation well.  

One of the Bible's biggest messages to us as believers is that God is with us.  He won't leave us, even though fear tells us otherwise.  In fact, fear is banished in the presence of The Almighty.  His presence is so powerful that fear can't withstand it.  God's love is the most powerful force in the universe.  His love is eternal.  Put that into math terms, and your instructor would say it is infinite.  There are no limits to His love.  Yet, He turns His powerful, infinite love towards us, vowing to never leave for forsake us.

In his powerful, infinite love, He says no issue is too insignificant to bring to Him.  Afraid of a presentation?  Talk to the God who knows communication.  Afraid of being alone?  Talk to the God who knows comfort.  Afraid to start over again?  Talk to the God of new beginnings.  When fear is welling up in you, come to God and pour out your heart.  

The most powerful force in the universe loves YOU.  He loves you in that perfect way you've been looking for, but haven't been able to find.  He loves you when you'd had a bad day.  He loves you when you don't get your work done.  When you lie, He loves you anyway.  When you fail, He wants to pick up the pieces.  He sees you out there, trying to make everything work.  

Our Savior died for you, He loves you so much.  

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  John 3:16

To Love God

by Rhonda, April 03, 2022

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

My daughter arrived home from work looking tired.  She'd been on her feet, working in a busy restaurant, and she was ready for a break.  Her face was pale with exhaustion from studying for midterms, and dark circles below her eyes told the story of late nights of schoolwork.

As she walked in the door, she collapsed onto the couch.  Glancing into the kitchen, she asked me, "What's Alex up to?"

"He's getting ready to bake a cake," I said.  "He has to bake a cake for his culinary class this week.  I don't have time to help him because I have to work.  Would you mind?"

She sat quietly on the couch for a minute.  "Just answer his questions," I prodded.  "You don't have to bake the cake."

Slowly she nodded.  "I will, don't worry Mom, we'll get it done."

She took her tired self into the kitchen, sat on a barstool, and began to read Alex's recipe.  He was trying to determine the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, and his frustration was starting to boil.  As I headed out to the office, a thought entered my mind.

She is loving the Lord with all of her strength.  

When God commands us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it is because all are needed to fully love God.  If we love God with our mind, but no strength, then we have a head full of knowledge with no action.  If we love God with all of our strength, but not our heart or mind, we have worthless, empty good deeds.  God in his infinite wisdom knew that we needed to love with all four to fully love him with all we are.

The Heart:  Loving God with all of our heart is the core of a person's identity.  Have you ever heard the phrase The heart wants what the heart wants?  What if our hearts wanted Jesus?  Loving God with all of our heart means we have a high priority on maintaining our connection with Him.  We fall away from God when we don't maintain a personal connection with Him.  Our heart can be set on many things.  We can set it on money, status, relationships, or whatever else captures our attention.  But, when we set our heart on God, that's where our affections will live.  

Loving God needs to be the central theme of our lives, even when we've made mistakes.  Even when sin seems to creep back into our lives.  We can be determined that we will continue to reset our course over and over, continuing to pursue a personal connection to Him.  Without constant correction, we'll end up in Siberia when we want to be in the Bahamas.  When our heart strays, we can ask God to please help us to finish the race to continue seeking Him.  Returning to God over and over is part of loving Him with our whole heart.  What is it that your heart dwells on?

The Soul:  Loving God with all of our soul means we love God deep down inside, regardless of whether our emotions are up and down.  There's a part of us, deep inside, that knows our Creator.  When the heart stops beating, the soul will continue on, and our souls are continually searching for God.  When emotions are up, our souls can still love God.  When our emotions go wacky and want to rage when there's no chocolate in the house, our souls can still love God.  Soul love for the Lord is a deep love, an unshakeable devotion to the One who loves us perfectly.  

Circumstances can certainly wreak havoc in our lives.  Emotions can trigger us into sinful actions.  But, we can't live by what we want, think, and feel.  We must live by the word of God, and our deep soulful love of the Lord can remain, regardless of our wayward actions.  The flesh will always fight to satisfy the soul with things of the world, but the Holy Spirit, when given control of the soul, will continue to grow a deeper love for God.  

The Mind:  I personally believe the hardest part of this commandment is to love God with our minds.  Our minds, without being continuously led to the Lord, will be full of doubt, fear, and unforgiveness.  But, God is leading us alongside a way He designed just for us.  Whenever we are struggling with problems, we must guard our thoughts and spoken words carefully.  If we focus too much on all of the thing that aren't working in our lives, it won't take long for our discouragement to increase and our strength to be sapped.  Instead, we can take time to praise God.  We can read words of scripture that help us rejoice in Him.  

The wonderful thing about working to love God with our minds is the greater ability to make right decisions.  When we study and spend time in the word of God, our hearts began to become aligned with God's will for our lives.  Love is a choice, and loving God with our minds is a daily choice.  Our minds must be trained and taught to love God.  The devil never seems to let up, and he is always delivering consistent attacks.  His goal is to gain control of your mind, moving you to away from loving God, and dragging you into a terrible pit.  But, we can train our mind to turn from these things and focus on God.

The Strength:  Loving God with all of our strength is loving God with all of our physical energy.  As humans with limited energy, each day only holds so much strength for us to use.  I came to the conclusion a while back that I should not put my devotions off until I am exhausted, wanting to go to sleep, causing me to rush through God's divine appointments with me.  I should be giving God the best of my day when I am energetic, not the worst leftovers.  

We are commanded to serve each other by praying for one another, encouraging each other, teaching each other, honoring each other, forgiving each other, and even bearing each other's burdens.  We can love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.  But, we can't fulfill the list above without using our strength.  Where we spend our energy matters.  God doesn't command us to work nonstop, make as much money as possible, and retire early.  While working is important, our energy is given to us to also love others.  When we use our energy to do the right things, without tiring of it, God will take care of everything else.

Tonight, as we ate Alex's cake, I looked at my weary daughter.

"Today, you loved God with your service to your brother.  You did the right thing even when you didn't feel like it."

She smiled, gave me a hug and headed to the basement for some much-needed downtime.  

This week, I want to refocus.  

My goal is to love God with everything, and more than anything.  Because He loved me first.