God Told Me “No”

Any time you explore the topic of prayer, eventually you come face to face with a time when God says “no”.  When that happens, if you are not careful, you can quickly find yourself in a theological quagmire.

Through the centuries this issue has made some followers walk away, has made skeptics feel justified, and the rest of us….well, feel uncomfortable.

Quickly we get dragged down the rabbit hole of “why”.  I’m telling you now, there are some things you will never be able to reconcile. Things like why a child dies instead of being healed, or why, even with fasting and prayer, your marriage still falls apart. To try to answer “why” will simply frustrate you, and hearing platitudes like “God has a plan” or “There must be a purpose”, do little more than drive a wedge between your grieving heart and God.

For a few minutes, set aside your desire to understand, why, and instead, think about what you can learn through the experience. Now I can’t begin to tell you what your lesson from “No” is, but I invite you to look over the shoulder of my experience and let me share what I learned when God gave me the biggest “no” of my life.

I met my husband in Bible college. When I graduated, we married and moved back home to start our life and our family. That first year together was everything a young couple could ask for. We threw ourselves into youth group, our careers, and family. Life was good.

In those early years, we learned how God would deal with us the rest of our lives. When we had a decision to make, we would pray about it, asking God to either open or close the door of opportunity according to His will. That’s exactly what He did! Time after time He demonstrated His faithfulness, and we became quite adept at recognizing His direction.

We had four young nephews, and we adored them!  We dreamed of a house full of boys or girls, at least 3, maybe even 4. Those first few years passed by, but no children.

In year five I talked with my doctor. We began testing to see why we weren’t getting pregnant. The tests all said nothing was wrong. There was “no reason” why I shouldn’t be able to conceive. Another year went by childless. My husband went through tests with the same results, “everything was working correctly”.  There was a lot of prayer, but no children, only closed doors.

Once we suspected we weren’t going to have children of our own, we started to explore adoption… I can’t express how deeply I admire those who welcome children into their home and raise them as their very own. It’s a reflection of how God deals with us, adopting us as His very own sons and daughters.

I’ve always had one great fear, though…that we would adopt a child who would later feel we weren’t enough and would go looking for his or her birth parents. In fact, as I prayed I told God about my fear. We asked Him to open or close the door for us to build our family through adoption.

Repeatedly the door was closed. Often like this:

I worked for a number of years as bank teller. One year I was assigned to a branch where a young woman (we’ll call her Stephanie) worked.  As I came to know her, I learned Stephanie was adopted. My husband and I were once again beginning the process to adopt, and I considered Stephanie’s arrival a confirmation we were moving in the right direction.

I spent many slow afternoons asking Stephanie about her relationship with her adoptive parents, and sharing my fears that my child would feel the need to go searching for birth parents. Stephanie assured me that no matter what happened, her adoptive mom would always be her mom.   She was saying all the right things! I was convinced God was saying “yes”. It was finally time.

It was a Friday in October when Stephanie arrived in the office and announced, “I found my REAL mom!” and over the next few weeks, as the holiday’s approached, she lived out all my fears. The door shut.

The years passed and I continued to pray for children. However, door after door has closed, always in different ways, always shut tight.

Three years ago I accepted the reality that even though God has given me blessing after blessing over the years, what we wanted most is a “no”. Why? I have no idea. We haven’t done anything noble or spiritual with the experience. We haven’t been unhappy…just, a little empty.

Recently the Spirit tapped me on the heart and asked me a life-changing question.

“Why do you serve God? Is it because He gives you what you want?  Or do you serve Him because He deserves your worship as the creator and sustainer of the universe?”

I’ve wrestled with this question for a while now, examining why I serve God. Is it because He does what I want?  Is it because I live this charmed life and He gives me good things? Am I like my cat who hangs around for the tuna treats, or do I serve and worship God because of who HE is? You see, He deserves respect, honor, and praise from a creature He made.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

So that’s my 33-year lesson. Maybe I’m a slow learner. My friends, you are not likely to find peace if you are looking for “why” – but after the pain fades, look for the lesson. He’s a gentle, patient teacher.

 

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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Visual Prayer: A Gift for God’s Fridge

fingerpaintWhen I visit a friend’s house, one of the first things I do is check out what they have on their fridge. I find sport schedules, photos from vacation, pictures drawn by their kids, all kinds things important to them.

How many times have you been handed a masterpiece by an eager 5 year old with a “This is for you” – their eyes are expectant, waiting for you to hang it on your door of important things (the refrigerator)?

Monday, we started the conversation about Visual Prayer (click here to read it)…looking at art and how it can help us open our heart to God. I want you to think about your visual prayer project like a picture for God’s fridge. Something you create for His pleasure. And since it is from you, precious child. He is going to LOVE it.

So let’s get started with the rules…. THERE ARE NO RULES! This is totally about finding a way to let go of all the worries of your life and focus on you and your savior. Here is how I do it.

Pick a Purpose

Because visual prayer takes preparation (gathering materials and such) – I tend to approach it like a meeting with God. Meetings have purpose, and so does my time with God. Sometimes I need to vent, and lay my worry at His feet. Other times I long for Him to give me direction for an important decision, or I want insight. Maybe I want to pray for a friend’s encouragement.

Here is an example of when I put on my intercessor hat and prayed for someone special to me. I have been blessed with 5 wonderful nieces and nephews. I love them deeply and as they’ve grown up, I have made a prayer quilt for each of them. Every seam was filled with my prayers for their health, wisdom, their relationship with Jesus, blanketing their lives in prayer.

SEE IT

Pick a medium

After I have a purpose in mind, then I select a medium. It may be something complicated like a quilt, or quick like a coloring page. I’ve tried water colors, acrylic paints, and even scrap-booking.

Choose anything your imagination is drawn too. You were created in the “Image of God” – you are a creative being just like Him.

SEE IT

Open my Heart

The next two steps are the MOST IMPORTANT because this prayer time is about your heart connecting to the heart of God. So find your quiet place, turn on some music and get started. Lose yourself in what doing and you’ll find the worries of life fading away. Focus on the promises He has made and the faithful way God always come through.

Here is an example of something I did when my life felt out of control. Work and relationships were challenging. The result is not pretty, but neither was my life at that point. The funny thing is I was trying to make something beautiful… but it just wasn’t. That’s OK, it was a real conversation with my Savior…and He led me to a better place.

SEE IT

Create and listen

As you focus on what you are doing, open your spiritual ears. Some days when I finish I just feel peace, and sometimes God gives me insight or clarity into a problem.

One day I didn’t have a lot of time, but felt the pull of the spirit to work on a visual prayer piece so I decided to use a coloring page. I used markers, and the colors were very vibrant. Here is what the Spirit said to me and what I wrote on the back of the finished product:

bicycle

Put it on God’s Fridge

When you’re finished, put it on God’s fridge. Send a bookmark of encouragement to a friend. Give a gift to someone in need. Or share with us! You can do that by posting an image of your creation to our Project Prayer Pinterest board.  We would love to see what you and God are creating.

Ultimately, your prayer is between you and God. So keep a portfolio, then you can look back and celebrate the journey you and God take.

 

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When Your Prayer Life is Stuck-Try Something Different

QuietPlaceMy prayer life has long been a source of frustration. I can’t count the number of days I fall into bed, and realize I haven’t spent even 5 minutes talking to God. So I look at the ceiling, take a deep breath to pray at the end of the day, and the next thing I know my alarm goes off and a new day begins, yesterday’s opportunity to talk to God is gone.

So I decide to pray in the mornings… I bought a journal, and with coffee in hand, bible on the table, I was determined to succeed in this new method of prayer. I read 10-20 verses and start to journal. One or two days go by and all is well, then my journal starts to look more like a “to do” list. I start missing days because I get up late or have an early meeting and the house of cards comes down.

How about praying while I walk? Great idea, except rain for 3 days straight and walking no longer happens daily.

You see why I’m frustrated, right? It’s humbling to say I’ve been a God follower for 40 plus years and still have not mastered the most basic of Christian disciplines, prayer. I envy those who have that deep, intimate, daily time with the Savior. And if I’m being honest, sometimes I give up.

It was a couple years ago I had a life changing, guilt lifting, eye opening revelation! (At least it was new to me. I’m confident people much wiser than I have been telling me this since I was in middle school). Here it is: When I talk to my husband, I do so in many ways, we talk face to face, we text, I call him, he writes notes, we walk and talk, drive and talk, sometimes we even communicate in silence.

If I use all these ways to communicate to my husband or mother or father or friends, why do I think there is only 1 way to pray? Why am I constantly trying to corral God and confine Him to only one method of talking with me?

That one thought, prompted by the Holy Spirit released 40 years of guilt, and put me on a path to discover new ways to “Pray without ceasing”.

So now I mix it up and I try to look for new ways to pray. In that search, I’ve come across one method I’d be honored to share with you over the next weeks. It’s called Visual Prayer.

Sometimes I go through periods when I don’t know what to say. There’s not necessarily anything wrong in life, I simply am at a loss for words. Visual prayer uses art like painting, coloring, photography, sculpting, or even scrapbooking to help me focus on connecting with God. Now, before we go any farther I AM NOT AN ARTIST. In fact, sharing what I’ve done will be embarrassing, so please extend the cover of grace. You see, it’s not really about the product, it is about the conversation with God that happens during the process.

As we explore visual prayer, I try to give you some tips about how art can help your prayer life. I’ll interview a friend or two to gain some insights into art and prayer. Along the way, we will share some pieces, and I hope you will share too.

 

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