Friday, April 30, 2010

Creating a Prayer List

Think about all the people you know who could use a prayer today. They may include:

• A family member who is ill

• A friend who is struggling

• An acquaintance who has lost a job

• An elderly neighbor who is lonely

• A co-worker who is grumpy

• A boss who is overbearing

• A stranger who looks overwhelmed

• A driver who appears angry

• A clerk, waitress, or doctor who seems exhausted

• An associate who is depressed

• A colleague who is struggling with an addiction

It is helpful to write down the names of each person who needs your prayers. You may want to jot down a special need that person may have beside his or her name. Then, when you are waiting for an appointment, spending a quiet moment at home, or spending a few minutes on hold on the phone,
you can pull out your list and pray for those people.

Right now my list includes:

• A son who struggles with a chronic illness

• A brother-in-law who is dying of cancer

• A close friend who is having surgery for uterine cancer

• A sister-in-law who has congestive heart failure

• A niece who is hospitalized with bipolar schizo-affective disorder

• A neighbor who is fighting colon cancer

• An elderly friend who is losing her vision and her hearing

• A single friend who has no close relatives who live nearby

• An acquaintance in an abusive marriage

• A son who recently joined the military

• A colleague whose has scoliosis of the spine and whose back is hurting

• A granddaughter who has severe asthma

• My husband who has recently had surgery

• A friend who just had her hip replaced

• A friend’s son who is an alcoholic

My list is much longer than this, but perhaps this gives us a few ideas for people you might include on your list. There are so many people who need and deserve our prayers. Recently, my husband asked our granddaughter to bless the food. Hailey, who is eight, not only blessed the food but prayed for those who are hungry and lonely, for those who do not have a home or warm clothes, for everyone who is sick or dying, and for all the people in the world who do not feel loved. I feel certain that God heard her sincere pray.

Imagine how the world would be transformed in people in every nation were praying for peace, living peacefully, and seeking for peaceful solutions to serious problems. Imagine how much smoother traffic would flow, families would function, and communities would operate if all of us were praying for one another and then allowing God to make us instruments of His peace.

When we write down a list of those for whom we are praying, we can remember who needs our prayers and then note when and how our prayers are answered. I have been praying or months for my brother-in-law, Ray, who has lung, liver, brain, and bone cancer. Although I realize he will not be cured, I knew He needed God’s comfort and blessings. Recently, his son-in-law was transferred to the small town where Ray lives. I know that this transfer that this exact time is not a coincidence but is an example of God’s tender timing.

Think of the many people that you know. Perhaps there is someone today who desperately needs your prayers. And, while you are making your list, don’t forget to put yourself on it. Each of us needs God’s protection, mercy, comfort, and compassion every moment of every day.

Prayer needs to include worship of God, thanks for His gifts, His goodness, and His mercy. God wants us to worship Him, and our prayers need to reflect our reverence and adoration of our loving Father. He wants us to ask for forgiveness in our prayers and to plead for strength to resist evil. Then, after we express our heartfelt gratitude for the many gifts He has given us, we can freely ask for those righteous desires of our heart. Paul’s counsel is so powerful: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Peace of Integrity

Whenever we live in a spirit of honesty and kindness, we experience greater peace of mind. Many cultures today do not honor business or political leaders or employees who are trustworthy. Whistleblowers are fired. Banking regulators who expose fraud are ridiculed. Leaders who steal from their customers are rewarded with huge salaries and bonuses.

To be a truly peaceful person, we need to select values that promote true happiness and then choose actions that reflect our values. When our values and our actions mesh, we are living with integrity.

Although few are totally honest, and some are so brutally honest that they offend others with their rudeness, we can live lives of integrity and still be kind and merciful to others. Job, who lived in Old Testament times, was such a man.

We know that Job suffered great adversity, losing his children, his wealthy, his health, and the respect of his wife and friends. Even though he had lost everything that he held dear, he still retained his integrity. He refused to curse God and die, even after his wife counseled him to do so. He was one man on the earth who held fast to his integrity, even when no one seemed to appreciate or honor his courage—no one, that is, but God.

God rewarded Job for his integrity and his faithfulness, restoring his health, doubling his riches, and giving him seven sons and three daughters. But, if Job had never been rewarded for his integrity, he would have continued to remain faithful to his God and his values. Job said, . Job said, “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”

So how can we live with greater integrity and how will integrity increase our peace of mind?

First, we can keep our promises. When we follow through on our commitments, we feel greater serenity and those who trust us feel more peaceful as well. Today I had to decline a request that I really wanted to do but which I felt I could not complete to my satisfaction. When I declined the offer, my loved one stated, “Thanks for being honest. I would rather hear now that you cannot complete this assignment rather than learn later that you are unable to do so.”

Sometimes we may over-commit ourselves and find it impossible to do everything that others want us to do. In those situations, we either need to delegate, decline the offer, or discuss with the person to whom we have committed our services how we can work out a solution. Often the kindest thing we can say to someone who asks something of us that we are unable to perform is “I’m sorry. I wish I could help you, but right now, I’m unable to do it.”

Next, we need be financially honest. Living with credit card debt, evading taxes, and spending more than we earn does not increase our peace of mind. I have learned that I can be happy living on minimum wage in a restored chicken coop as long as I am free from debt. I can wear second-hand clothes, eat simple meals, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life and still be happy. Media attempts to convince us that a new house, car, wardrobe, or furniture will make us happy. It suggests that having the best foods, electronics, vacations, or “stuff” will make us happy. Certainly, these things may provide immediate gratification, but if they are purchased with funds that we cannot repay, they will not provide lasting peace. Nearly three thousand years ago, Lao Tzu said, “Be content with what you have. Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Finally, we need to be faithful to our spouses. Integrity in any relationship is so precious that it is invaluable. In a world that celebrates promiscuity, nothing brings greater sorrow that knowing that our loved one has broken his or her marriage vows. Like Joseph of old, we need to flee when we are faced with temptation, whether it appears on a computer screen, in our place of business, or in a chat room. Thankfully, we worship a God who is quick to forgive, but many broken hearts could be avoided if husbands and wives chose integrity over instant gratification.

When our actions are consistent with our values, we become whole. We experience greater serenity and inner peace. Imagine the number of marriages, jobs, homes, and lives that would be saved right now if spouses, businesses leaders, mortgage brokers, and politicians lived with a spirit of integrity. W. Clement Stone, a successful business and philanthopist, said, “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity."

© Carol Brown

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Week

This week has been a bit difficult. The following are a few situations that have caused stress:

• My husband had surgery on his foot, and he’s not following doctor’s orders very well (about not walking much for 3 days). He was climbing a ladder this morning to repair a clogged drain on the roof and is back to work already.

• I burned my finger badly when I dropped a casserole from the oven into the oven door and floor, making a terrible mess in the process. (I had made the dish for a dear friend who is very ill.)

• A family member is going through a difficult divorce and needed my help at a busy time.

• I learned some very disturbing information about a family member that I dearly love.

• I have not felt well.

I know you have weeks that are just as difficult—if not more so. Fortunately, I have not allowed my sorrow to destroy my peace of mind. I’ve focused on serving others, especially my neighbors and grandchildren, remembered to count my many blessings, and have focused my thoughts on God’s loving kindness and his goodness.

I love this quote by Mother Teresa: "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin."

Thanks for reading this blog. Your comments always bring me peace. May you find joy in the journey as you face the challenges, joys and sorrows of life.

© Carol Brown

Monday, April 19, 2010

Peaceful Living in a Stress-filled World

We live in a world that will destroy our peace if we let it. Media often sensationalizes contention, conflict, and crisis. Sometimes even turning in the television or radio can plant seeds of worry or fear in our hearts.

In his book God's Power to Change Your Life, Rick Warren describes three types of peace. The first is spiritual peace or peace with God. Romans 5:1 say, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As we seek to know and love God better, we experience more of his peace.

Next comes emotional peace. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since….you were called to peace.” I love the thought that God wants to call us to peace, to give us peace. I picture Him with open arms asking us to come to Him, that we might have peace. Remember that shortly before Christ was crucified, He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Third, we need relational peace or peace with other people. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I have discovered that when I seek to strengthen my relationship with God, I experience greater emotional and relational peace.

So how do find the perfect peace that God wants us to experience? Rick Warren suggests that we can do five things.

First, we find peace when we obey God’s principles found in his Word. The psalmist says, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble….I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly” (Ps. 119: 165, 167). God has taught us the secret to living a peaceful life, and we discover those secrets as we read his words.

Next, if we want peace, we must accept God’s pardon, his forgiveness and release from punishment. We suffer torment and misery when we fail to repent of our sins and experience the healing power of forgiveness. Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a god like you, who pardons sins and forgives…transgression?...You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

Third, we must focus our thoughts and hearts on God. Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” What an amazing promise! I have discovered that when I lose my feelings of peace, I am focusing on problems, concerns, worries, or fears and have forgotten to focus on God. As we always remember God and recall His infinite love for us, we experience His peace.

Next, to experience God’s peace, we must trust in Him. Proverbs 3 5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NKJV). I know that when I trust completely in God, I allow Him to guide me and comfort me. This is not always easy to do, but as we remember that He knows and loves us more than we can imagine, we can begin to accept His will in our lives, even when we do not understand the meaning of all things.

Finally, we need to ask God for peace. In Phillippians 4, Paul tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6-7, emphasis added.)

I have discovered that sincere and earnest prayer can overcome worry. Jesus told his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in me” (John 14:1). Rick Warren reminds us, “You will not experience true or lasting peace until Jesus Christ is in charge of your life. Remember: peace is not a trouble-free life; it is a sense of calm in the midst of life’s storms.”

All of us experience trials that would destroy our peace. As we give our worries to God in prayer and allow Him to direct our lives, we will find peace. Perhaps the Serenity Prayer can help you to do this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

As we obey God’s teachings in His Word, accept His forgiveness, focus our thoughts on Him, trust in Him, and ask for His peace, He will give us peace. Then, we can meet the sorrows of the world with serenity, knowing that God is walking beside us and that He will direct our paths for good.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Never Alone

When we feel that no one cares for us or understands us, we suffer. Yet, it is easy to feel forgotten, forsaken, or forlorn in a world that promotes busyness at the expense of relationships. Mother Teresa said that loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

God wants us to remember that we are never alone. He says,

• Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

• And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

• I, the Lord Your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, "Fear not. I will help you."

So how do we feel God’s presence when we feel alone? How do we recognize that He is with us?
A powerful way to experience God’s power in our lives is to follow Him, to walk with Him, to yoke or bind ourselves to Him.

Farmers yoke animals together so that their burdens are lightened and their work is easier. Christ challenges us to yoke ourselves to Him, to bind our hearts and thoughts to Him and to lean on Him. Imagine yourself literally bound to Christ as you meet with the oncology doctor, when you talk to an abusive boss, or when you grieve the loss of a child or spouse. Imagine Him standing beside you when you deal with your impertinent teen, when you hear that your best friend is terminally ill, or when you face a painful surgery.

Consider His words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Picture yourself walking beside Christ, yoked to Him by the power of His love. Imagine that He is carrying your sorrows, your pain, your grief, your loneliness. See Him making your burden light because He is lifting your burden from you and, then, through the power of His grace, carrying you every moment of your life.

When we yoke ourselves to Christ, we try to live as He would live. We choose friends, entertainment, and thoughts that bring us to Christ. We seek to love as He loved, speak as He spoke, and serve as He served. We chose to love Him with all of our hearts, knowing that He always loves us with all of His heart.

As we yoke ourselves to Christ, we realize that because of His power, we can do all things that He wants us to do because He strengthens us. We can find rest and comfort for our souls. We can become whole.

© Carol Brown

Friday, April 9, 2010

Be Not Afraid

Sometimes we suffer because we are afraid. We fear that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough. We fear that we won’t do well enough, that people won’t like us, that we will die a painful death, or that someone we love will leave us.We fear that God may have forgotten us and that no one cares about us.

Many times the Savior asked us to cast away our fears and to trust in Him. When Jesus travelled to the home of Jarius, the ruler of a synagogue, who had asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter, Jarius told the Savior that his daughter has recently died. Jesus told Jarius, “Be not afraid, only believe.” Then, Jesus asked all the unbelieving people to leave the home and took the girls’ hand and said simple, “Little girl, I say to you get up!” And the 12-year old girl did just that.

We can literally destroy the monster of fear when we trust in the Savior’s promise, “Be not afraid, only believe.” We can conquer addictions, overcome self-defeating behaviors, and eliminate constant worry and anxiety in our lives when we trust completely that God loves us and cares for us.

God wants to take our fears away from us. He wants us to experience peace. He wants us to remember:

• Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

• The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

• Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

• For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

• There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

So how do we move past our fears so that we can find peace?

• We remember that Jesus already suffered everything that we will ever suffer. He knows exactly how we feel, so we can trust that He alone understanding our pain perfectly.

• We give our fears to Him and let Him carry them for us.

• We trust that He is always with us, loving us, caring for us, even when we may not feel His presence.

• Since we know God never lies, we believe his promise, “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.”

When fear assaults us, we can release that burden to a Higher Power, remembering that God waits to lift it from us. God has amazing plans for our lives. As we cast our worries, cares, fears, and anxieties upon Him, He will sustain us. The prayer of surrender is a a powerful thing. As we give our lives to God, He makes of them more than we could ever image. As we love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, and might, we discover that we have nothing to fear, for God is with us.

© Carol Brown

Monday, April 5, 2010

Learning from Suffering

“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh knew suffering. Her first child was kidnapped when he was 18-months old and found dead two months later. Her husband, Charles Lindbergh, once lauded as a hero for making the first trans-Atlantic airplane flight, was later vilified as being pro-Nazi when he said he admired the German Air Force. Media scrutiny and ridicule forced the couple into hiding, and they moved to a small island off the coast of France. Eventually, they moved to a secluded town in Maui, where her husband died and is buried.

So how do allow suffering to mold us into someone who is kinder, more patient, and more loving?

• When we are suffering, we can meditate and, in the process, we can surrender our pain to a Higher Power.

• We can ask, “What can I learn from this experience?” rather that cry out, “Why am I suffering so!”

• We can remember that suffering, when endured well, helps us feel great compassion for others who are suffering.

• We can allow the wisdom we learn from our life’s journey to help us bless and strengthen others.

• When we feel overwhelmed with physical pain, grief, or sadness, we can let life to teach us lessons that we would not learn in any other condition.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, “If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” She seemed to draw on power of mindfulness instinctively as she found peace amid the sorrow of losing a son and later a husband to death.

In her book, Gift from Sea, Anne wrote, “Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid. And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket. They are only there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally.”

In that book she also wrote, "The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea."

What has suffering taught you? How did you learn from it?

© Carol Brown