Day Twelve: Watchwords

Have you ever been reading the Bible, when suddenly, a verse seems to leap off the page and into your heart? It’s as though God is sending you a personal word of encouragement to help you right where you are.  I like to call this my “watchword.”  God’s Word can actually ignite our faith.  Paul tells us in  Romans 10:17 that faith comes from hearing the Word of God.  And if faith is the antidote to fear, it makes sense to strengthen ourselves daily with God’s Word.

I’m hoping the 21 Day Watch builds my faith.  That’s why I am on the lookout for ways to become more alert to God’s work all around me. “Watchwords” from the Bible remind me of God’s strength and power.  It doesn’t happen the same way every morning.  Some days God gives a more dramatic watchword than others.   But I never walk away empty from my time reading God’s Word.

During my years of struggling with infertility, I would often find a personal watchword of encouragement that would give me hope.  Verses from my Bible study would inspire my faith, just when I was losing hope that we would ever have a baby.   I remember one watchword which gave me an anchor for my soul:  He settles the barren woman in her home, the happy mother of children (Psalm 113:9) I sensed God encouraging me through that verse to stand firm in my belief that He would eventually give us children, which He did. 

If you long to see signs of God at work in your life, I’d suggest you start by seeking His message to you from the pages of Scripture.  The way I see it, God spent over 1600 pages (in my Bible) telling me of His will, His plans, His instructions, and His love for me. That’s why I go to His Word first thing each morning. I take the problems and needs that are heaviest on my heart and I ask God to speak through His Word. I also take my hopes and dreams, and my concern for people and places, and ask God for wisdom from His Word about how to pray.

Let’s ask God to open our eyes to His WORD.  Before I read the Bible, I ask Him to reveal promises that relate to my concerns.  My simple prayer is from Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Dare to go to God’s Word with an honest and thirsty heart.  Ask the Lord to speak to you through the pages of Scripture.  I believe the Holy Spirit will inspire you with a special watchword which will strengthen your faith today, and give you hope.

 

 


Day Eleven: Donna’s Miracle

Sometimes God speaks to us in His “outside” voice and shows up big with a miracle.  While we are cautioned against demanding such signs and wonders, it’s clear. Miracles leave us forever changed.  Our view of God is dramatically enlarged.  My friend Donna was eyewitness to a true miracle. Her story leaves me a bit breathless, and thankful that she’s alive to tell the story.

GUEST BLOG:  By Donna Elyea

When I was in my mid-thirties, I prayed an audacious prayer.  I asked the Lord to allow me to see, first-hand, a miracle during my lifetime. I believed He is a God of miracles but I wanted to know that I know what I know, so to speak. I say this was audacious because I should have recognized by then that having four healthy children after three miscarriages and a diagnosis of infertility was miracle enough.  Four miracles, in fact.

But I did dare to ask.  Several years later, an extended family member was accidentally shot in the face at close range and lived! I knew I had seen my miracle because the bullet entered and lodged in just such a way that, though hearing was lost in one ear, there was no trauma to the brain, vision, or any other long-term injury! The doctor all but called it a miracle.  I am certain that it was and just knew that I had witnessed, personally, the miracle for which I had asked.

Never did I dream that I would be the one in whom God would work out a miracle for others to witness. Almost three years ago, without warning, or any prior known risk, I collapsed in Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA.) We now know this was due to an electrical issue within my heart causing a sudden, extremely rapid heart rate which made my heart stop beating– no pulse, no breathing, no life.

Fortunately, my family was close by and my husband, Chuck, began CPR. Without immediate intervention I would have certainly died. Medics were called and my heart was restarted before I was transported to the hospital and again on the way. I had been without much oxygen for enough time to cause long-term brain damage. Once I was somewhat stable and in a medically-induced coma, my husband was told that if I survived he should expect minor brain impairment at best.

So many people were praying for me and for my sweet family at that time. I am alive today and my brain, apparently, is 100% normal, except for some short-term memory loss surrounding the actual cardiac event. I am so thankful for the gift of more time here with those I love and give God all the glory for His miraculous healing of me. Truly He is in the business of present-day miracles!

Thank you Lord that you are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You continue to do mighty works; may your receive all honor and glory for the great things you have done.

Living Expectantly,

Donna


Day Ten: Don’t Travel Alone

We’re about half way through our 21 Day Watch.   So glad you’ve stuck with us this far!  I hope you are becoming more intentional about “keeping watch.”  A few of you have shared examples of how God has been showing up as you’ve been on the daily lookout.  It’s fun to compare notes and hear about your “God stories.”  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus intended?  Throughout His teaching, one thing remains clear.  He doesn’t want us to travel alone.  The Christian life is a team sport.  And while regular times of silence and solitude alone with the Lord are necessary,  we’re to “do life” with others.

I went on a run this morning with my buddy Susan.  It takes only half an hour, but we go very early and there are steep hills along the way so our trail is a bit grinding.  It’s a push for me, since I didn’t start out as a morning person.  But my running buddy, an early bird,  has helped me change that.  And honestly, I could never have developed this habit without her encouragement.

But it goes farther than just a pep talk.  Because running with my buddy actually feels physically easier than running alone.  Why is that?  As we were running up a long, steep hill this morning,  I was chatting away about something random.   I was finishing my story, and a bit out of breath, when it hit me.  I’m at the top of this hill, and I hardly noticed the climb.  When I do this hill alone, it feel brutal.  With with a friend, it was bearable.

I asked her if this was her experience.  She completely agreed, and added that she’d made the run alone last week at the same early hour, and realized that it was a bit darker than she had realized when we run together.  Even a little scary.  And much harder.

Dear friends, our Christian journey is not without its hills.  There are battles from without and within.  At times, we have to wrestle.  Against our own flesh, the world, and the devil.  It’s best not to try this alone.  Jesus knew that humans were created by God as “community” creatures.  We’re hard wired to depend on each other.  Teammates not only make our journey easier, they can help us avoid pitfalls along the way.  They help us to “watch” for God, and “watch out” for evil attacks. The Bible is clear that part of our job as Christians is to look out for each other.

You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God (Hebrews 3:13). 

So as you are looking for ways to watch for God, and growing in your love for His Word and prayer, don’t forget to stick close to His people.  And don’t travel alone.

 


Day Nine: Five Life-Changing Minutes

It’s Day Nine of our 21 Day Watch.   Many today wrestle with anxiety, a sign of the troubling times in which we live.  A good way to calm anxiety is to watch for signs of God at work.  We grow in our faith as we enlarge our view of God.  Sometimes it helps to look at God’s “big picture.” My friend Rebecca was pouring out God’s love to the hurting and broken in a small village in Haiti, when God surprised her with a glimpse into His larger purpose. As she was serving others, He brought healing to her own heart and renewed her hope.  As you read Rebecca’s words, I pray your hope is restored, too.

GUEST BLOG: By Rebecca Bradley

Over Thanksgiving 2014, my eight-year-old daughter and I traveled with a team from our church to serve the amazing people of Haiti. I experienced a life-changing five minutes on that trip. On day three, we ventured into the heart of a village to pray over the people and simply give away God’s love. We wandered through the dirt-clad streets filled with beautiful brown people with the biggest smiles you have ever seen. We happened to come upon one particularly special corner of the village.

A strikingly beautiful woman came out of her home. We sensed that she wanted to talk. She told us that she could not go to church because she did not have the right clothes to wear. Uninformed about the local customs, we were quick to reassure her that God was not concerned with clothing. But our translator began explaining that in the Haitian culture, it does matter that you have the appropriate garments to wear to church. So, the prayer then became that God would provide the necessary clothing. After more conversation, she told us that she wanted to know Jesus completely. This lady then got down on her knees and prayed the prayer to ask forgiveness of sins and for God to fully reign in her heart and life. Our hearts leapt with joy!

Haitian+woman

As if that mountaintop were not enough, I began to stand up, wiping the tears away just as three Haitian children started pulling on my skirt and leading me over to another woman.  We walked up to this dilapidated fence and she begins to hand her infant son to me. Of course I am utterly confused by this gesture, so I ask the translator, “What are these children trying to say to me?” He says, “She wants you to have her baby.”

Haitian+baby

She wants you to have her baby.” My husband and I have longed to adopt since first meeting in college. We have always believed that we would one day have an African-American son through adoption.  But our journey has been very confusing for us, filled with much loss and trauma. After three easy, healthy pregnancies with our daughters, we delivered our first stillborn son, Owen Charles, on February 21, 2012. Medical personnel had no explanations. Then, several months later I became pregnant with another child. It seemed that it could only be God when we learned that it was another boy and he was due one year later to the day of Owen’s due date.

We prayed fervently and had a community surrounding us who believed that this second pregnancy was part of God’s redemptive story. God had different plans that we still don’t necessarily understand or like, but that is what faith is all about. We delivered our second stillborn son, Levi Bradley, on February 7, 2013.

We now step back and continue to process what God may have desired for us to understand through those very powerful five minutes in Haiti. We believe He was pulling back the curtain to reveal that somewhere He does have a baby for us to adopt. Knowing that our dream/calling was to adopt a dark-skinned son, the gesture of this woman holding her son up for me symbolized God’s promise that He would provide a child one day who would be handed to us in love. And, if we are incredibly blessed, it will be a dark-skinned boy just as our hearts desire. We believe in faith that there will eventually be a son who shares our name and we are able to live out the gospel in our living room, all because of a life-changing five minutes in Haiti.

Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see {Hebrews 11:1}.

*To read more about Rebecca’s journey, click here.  Follow her on twitter @becwoodman


Day Eight: Pray and Walk Away

When our children were small, I taught them a practical lesson in prayer using what I called the “Secret Mailbox Club.” I made a mailbox out of construction paper and encouraged the children to write out their secret prayers on a piece of paper.  We sealed them in an envelope,  put the prayer requests in the mailbox and raised the flag.

“Now let’s go about our day, trusting God to answer our prayers in His time.”  The children would be surprised to discover later that some of their prayers had been answered while they weren’t looking.  I explained that our little mailbox game was similar to mailing a real letter. “When I put a letter in our mailbox, I’ve done my part, right?” “I have to trust the United States Postal Service to deliver my mail to the right place.  So I raise the flag and walk away.” I added, “Wouldn’t it be silly for me to camp beside the mailbox anxiously waiting for the response to my letter?”

When we pray to God, we’ve done our part by giving Him our request. The Bible says it this way: Commit your way to the Lord; trust Him and He will do this (Psalm 37:5). “Genuine faith hands its circumstances over to God, allowing him to work. He will never work until we commit” (from Streams in the Desert).  There are times when genuine faith means we pray and walk away.

This is Day Eight of our 21 Day Watch. We’ve been watching daily for signs of God at work. It seems odd to say “don’t watch” when we’re so focused on watching.  But I have learned that sometimes, when I am gripped by a really big problem, the best way I can show God I trust Him is to pray and walk away from the problem.

I’m talking about those painful and stubborn problems which, short of a miracle, are not going away soon. I battled with infertility for many years before God answered our prayers for children. Perhaps you’re wrestling with a debilitating disease, a rocky marriage, an unpleasant job situation, financial hardship, or a wayward child.

Perhaps we have confidence that God is working in these troublesome situations.  But if we watch too closely, we can get discouraged by the sheer magnitude of the problem and the seeming slowness of the answer.  That’s when it helps to put that prayer in the “Secret Mailbox” and walk away.

I discovered there are lots of ways to find joy while our prayers are in the “Secret Mailbox” awaiting God’s perfect timing:

  • Use this “waiting time” to learn something new or start a new hobby
  • Grow in your knowledge of God’s Word; be part of a Life Group
  • Experience a missions trip
  • Further your education
  • Work on you eating or exercise habits
  • Clean out the clutter in your home and give things away
  • Explore your life’s calling
  • Take time for fun and laughter
  • Serve those who are hurting worse than you are.

Over the years, I’ve found that some of the largest prayers I’ve entrusted into God’s hands, my “big asks,” have been answered in the most surprising ways while I am not watching!

Now I know who I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve entrusted to him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).