Category Archives: Answer God’s Call

21 Day Experiment-Day 21

Way to go! You made it to the finish line! You’ve been faithful to seek the Lord during our 21 Day Experiment. I hope you’ll take time to reflect on the ways the Lord has spoken to you.

I repeat this little experiment about once a year—usually when my faith needs a pick-me-up. This morning I’m listing some of God’s fingerprints I’ve noticed along the way.

I even have a special box for spiritual momentos I’ve collected over the years—they tend to show up when I’m doing the 21 Day Experiment.

An ordinary penny taped to a card is one of my favorites. The penny reminds me of a surprising answer to prayer years ago. I hope this story encourages you to keep watch for God in your ordinary moments:

Pennies from Heaven

I don’t remember the first penny that caught my eye. I had been noticing pennies in the strangest places—just as I was praying. Funny, I thought. It’s almost as though God wants to let me know that He hears my prayers.

I sure hoped so. I was going through a spiritually dry season. I was a young mom at the time with two small children. My husband David and I had worked hard building our church ministry for over ten years. Sometimes, the sheer load of caring for so many people became exhausting.

Could these pennies really be little messages of encouragement from God? Perhaps it was wishful thinking. After all, the world groans with the weight of earthquakes, famine, and war. God has better things to do than send me pennies.

Still I hoped. And there it was—another penny. This one in the heel of my shoe! The last one, under a glass on the kitchen shelf. The one before that, in the middle of my bed!

I happened to share my penny story with my friend Kenna. Pretty soon, Kenna began finding pennies of her own!

Pennies from heaven—that’s what I called them. Every time I found a penny, I dropped it into a pretty jar on my kitchen shelf.

I happened to be doing the 21 Day Experiment at the time. John’s Gospel never failed to encourage my faith. One morning I was reading in John 20 about the man we know as “Doubting Thomas.”

The chapter tells about Jesus’ death on the cross and how His followers felt hopeless. But suddenly, Jesus appeared to His disciples—alive! They all saw Him. That is, except Thomas. I could imagine his face fell as the disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

Discouraged, Thomas vowed, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, I will not believe!” I felt for Thomas. For I, too, was in need of encouragement.

Jesus appeared again eight days later. This time, He singled out Thomas. But instead of scolding him, Jesus said, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:22-24).

Could it be that God cared enough to encourage doubters like Thomas—and like me? Maybe all those pennies really were God’s way of speaking to me.

Lord, I prayed silently, I do believe You’re sending me those pennies. But I need something more. As an afterthought, I added, Lord, You showed your nail-scarred hands to Thomas. I want to see Your nail marks, too!

 I never told anyone about my prayer. How could God possibly show me a nail hole? A few days later, I received a card in the mail from Kenna.

“Dear Marilynn,” she wrote, “I found this penny in my dryer and I thought of you. Perhaps the Lord sent this penny as an encouragement to us both.”

Taped to her card was an ordinary penny. But as I looked closer, I caught my breath. Right through the center—was a nail hole! I sat transfixed. And suddenly I knew. God had sent me a nail mark, just as I’d prayed.

As I touched that penny, I felt like Thomas touching the nail hole in Jesus’ hand. What could I say but “My Lord and My God!”

Suddenly, it was clear. God is awesome. He is powerful enough to rule the entire universe! But He’s also personal. And tender enough to send a nail-pierced penny to another “Doubting Thomas” in need of encouragement—just like me.

Now What?

Over the years, I’ve learned that God’s signs are often quiet—like a whisper. And ordinary—like that penny. So if I’m not watching, I just might miss them! That’s why it’s important to develop a daily habit of watching for signs of God at work.

Why not commit to making time in God’s Word and prayer your top priority? I call it my “daily launch.” A friend of mine, one of the busiest women I know, recently shared how her life was transformed when she began having a morning quiet time. Now it’s her favorite hour of her day. She’s collecting plenty of “God stories” of her own.

Something extraordinary begins to happen when we give God our first fruit. The 21 Day Experiment is a good way to jumpstart this habit. Carry this momentum with you to the next portion of Scripture. I’ve used this same simple method to read through several books in the Bible. If you like to study, you might choose to invest in the Key Word Study Bible. Bible Gateway is a great online resource to read the Bible in multiple versions.

For further reflection, answer these questions:

  1. Before I began the 21 Day Experiment in Prayer, I was struggling with _________.
  2. After reading through John’s Gospel, I’ve noticed____________________________.
  3. One tangible sign I’ve received from the Lord is _____________________.
  4. A verse from the 21 Day Experiment that has special meaning:_______________.
  5. As a result of my experiment, I commit to take this step of faith:___________________.

Just for fun, why not find a box and start a collection of your own spiritual momentos? It’s a great way to become more alert. More watchful. More thankful!

Morning by morning I lay my requests before you and eagerly watch for the answers (Psalm 5:3).


21 Day Experiment-Day 19

I noticed my well-worn Bible sitting on my bedside table; the collection of prayer journals stacked below. Reminders of the times I’d seen God move in my life. Answered prayers, healings, even a few miracles. A testimony to my close walk with the Lord.

Then, it hit me. If my Christian life was only about my relationship with the Lord, my world of personal concerns, and my blessings, then so what?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly thankful for my relationship with the Lord. I treasure those prayer journals—their record of answered prayers; footsteps of my journey with Christ; knowledge I’d gained through years of Bible study.

But as important as these blessings are, they were given to me so that I would be a blessing to others.  As God said to Abraham, we are blessed so that we will be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2,3).

I sensed the Holy Spirit quietly whispering, “Your life is either a so what or a so that.”

That scenario—just as I described it—happened over twenty years ago. My epiphany that day marked a dramatic shift.  I began to look for ways to step out of my well-managed life and into a broken world. That shift has since taken me to those who are hurting in my own neighborhood. To fragile communities all over the world.

So many are thirsty for the good news of Jesus Christ. As we approach the final chapters of John’s gospel, we catch a glimpse of John’s purpose in sharing his eye witness account.

He writes, “The man who saw it has given testimony…He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe” (John 19:35).   John’s words are for us.  He told his story of Jesus so that you and I, and all that have come before us or after us, may believe!

No doubt John was blessed by his close relationship with Jesus. He was also blessed to be an eye-witness to Jesus’ signs and wonders. All of these blessings were so that he would be a blessing. So that others will believe. How can we do less?

Prayer: Lord, once again, I ask this same questionIs my life a “so what?” or a “so that?” I listen for Your whispers today, alert to Your nudges. Who is on Your heart? Show me how, even in a small way, I can be a blessing to someone who needs Your touch.


21 Day Experiment-Day 1

Welcome to Day 1 of the 21 Day Experiment in Prayer.  In prayer as in life, it helps to begin with the end in mind. What’s your goal? What do you hope will happen?

My goal is simple: I want to hear God’s voice. Why? So I can pray His will. Remember the second part of our Lord’s prayer , “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”  Just think.  Our prayers are part of the way God gets His work done here on earth!

I also want to hear God’s voice so I can do His will.  I want to follow his instructions, gain His insight, be protected from unseen snares, and delivered from the devil’s messes.

My short answer on how to know the voice of God is this:  “Read his words”. No kidding. God spent about 1469 pages (in my Bible) revealing His power, His plan, His pattern for living, and best of all, His promises.

But we must give God time to speak to us. A few minutes each day to read and reflect on His Word sharpens our “inner hearing.” Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Each time I perform this 21 Day Experiment, God speaks in special ways.  More often a whisper than a shout, but always personal, just for me. I use a simple prayer method to go along with my daily reading in the Gospel of John.

My tools include a Bible, a fine point Sharpie, and an ordinary, wire-bound booklet of 3×5 cards, which I call my Chubby Book.  Now you’re set to go!

Ground rules:

  1. Set aside fifteen minutes each day to read one chapter of John’s Gospel.
  2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to impress one verse upon your mind for that day. Write the verse on a 3×5 card in your Chubby Book.
  3. List your prayers on the adjacent card.  I take my Chubby Book with me throughout the day.  I like to pray while going for a run or walk, waiting for an appointment, folding clothes.
  4. Ask God for practical ways to be a doer of His Word.

This morning, while reading John Chapter One, I was struck by Andrew’s reaction when he realized that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah:

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who…followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus (John 1:40-41 NIV)

Did you catch that?  The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him about Jesus.

Be a doer of the Word:  Today, I’m prompted to pray for those in my own neighborhood–especially the young moms–who don’t  know the Lord:  Lord, show me some practical ways to “bring them to Jesus.” And like Andrew, may it be the first thing on my mind.


21 Day Experiment in Prayer

It’s one thing to talk to God.  But what do you do when He talks back? It’s a question I ask myself every day.

If you want to pray with power, you do need to talk to God.  But you also need to listen.  So how do we find time to listen to God in such a busy, noisy world? I’ve learned that if you truly commit to listening to God’s voice, amazing things can happen.

Now I’m just an ordinary wife and mother. I married the love of my life—a kind-hearted, basketball player-turned-preacher—over forty years ago. David and I have shared four awesome decades of marriage and ministry.  But my journey is not the one I originally planned for myself.

Years ago when I was in college, I vowed I would never become a Christian.  And most certainly, I would never, ever marry a minister.   Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?

Over the years, I’ve learned that listening to God is not simply a matter of hearing His voice. It’s also about doing His will.  One day I realized that my life was either a “so what?” or a “so that!” If listening to God took me no further than my own little world, then so what?

The whole point of hearing God’s voice is so that I’ll do His will.

So I told God I would devote myself to listening to Him and doing His will.  And I would pray not just for my own little world, but also for His larger world.  That’s when the real adventure began!

When you begin to be a listener and doer of God’s Word, you could end up traveling to genocide-torn regions in Africa as I did. Or you might come face-to-face with the needs of your neighbor next door. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll meet people and go places you never knew existed—starting within your own neighborhood.

I invite you to join me in a 21-Day Experiment in Prayer:

Starting tomorrow, let’s read through the Gospel of John together.  It’s one of my favorite books in the Bible.  Plus, it has helped me learn to hear from the Holy Spirit.

Plan to devote fifteen minutes to reading one chapter each day.  John has exactly twenty one chapters so this works well.  Read slowly and thoughtfully, praying for God to help you understand what you’re reading.

Next, ask the Holy Spirit to impress one verse from that chapter on your mind.  I like to copy that verse on a 3×5 card in my Chubby Book (more about the Chubby Book tomorrow).  I simply ask God to show me one way to be a doer of His Word that day.  I  also list people and places that are on my heart  for prayer and carry the card with me.

This 21-Day Experiment sounds simple.  But I’ve discovered it can energize your prayers–and your life.  I know of no better way to learn to hear God’s voice than to read His words.   Something mysterious happens when we read and obey God’s Word.

Everyone’s journey will look different.  But I truly believe that if you listen to God and follow His leading right where you are, your ordinary days will no longer feel ordinary. I invite you to come journey with me!


Mighty Man of Valor

Valor comes in all kinds of packages. Perhaps you or someone you love is in the military—bravely guarding our freedom. Or maybe you’re a first responder. Or a caregiver holding the hands of the dying. You might be quietly and faithfully caring for your children—raising up the next generation. Or nursing your spouse through a long illness. People show courage in different ways.

Perhaps you don’t feel strong enough or brave enough to do what’s required of you. If so, you’re in good company. Some of God’s most courageous men and women started their journey in weakness. But God’s power transformed them into mighty men and women of valor.

Take Gideon. He was the youngest son in a family and tribe that were the weakest in Israel. The people had fallen into great evil, so the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. “But Israel grew weak and cried out to the Lord” (Judges 6:11 CEB).

So the Lord sent His angel to Gideon with a message: “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). To which Gideon said something like, “Who me? I’m just a frightened nobody.” “Mighty man of valor” was a term that described warriors. Heroes. Champions.  Not a scared young man from the weakest tribe in a beaten down nation. The word translated “valor” is chayil, the very same word that describes the “woman of valor” in Proverbs 31.

God must have seen something special in Gideon and said to him: “You have strength, so go and rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not personally sending you?” The Lord promised, “Because I’m with you, you’ll defeat the Midianites as if they were just one person” (Judges 6:14-16 CEB).  And that’s just what happened. It took some persuading, but Gideon took courageous action to save his nation. He became a new man in the process. A man sold out to God. A mighty man of valor.

Friend, God sees within you the strength and courage He put there—even if you’re anxious and full of fear. Even if your family is a mess. He loves us when we’re weak; but He delights in making us strong. Men and women of valor.

We may feel exhausted, rejected, ignored, or afraid.  If so, His words to us are His words to Gideon: “Because I am with you, you will defeat your enemies. Enemies like job loss, depression, anxiety, marriage problems, a rebellious child, the inability to have a child, or loneliness. Maybe you struggle with fear like Gideon did.

God is whispering to you right at this moment: “The Lord is with you mighty warrior, man or woman of valor. And because I am with you, you will have strength to prevail!”