Category Archives: Begin the Journey

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 Two: Moldy Showers

It’s Day Two of our 21 Day Watch.  Half the battle in “keeping watch” is simply having the desire to spend time alone with God. Do I truly want to know Him?  My friend Sara asked God to give her this “want to” and discovered the answer to her prayer in the most unlikely of places.

GUEST POST: By Sara Miller

As this year began, I had one consistent prayer request. I kept asking God for the desire to spend time with Him. That might sound odd to you. It’s not that I’ve never had a desire or that I don’t want to have the desire.  It’s just a real honest request from a wife and a mom of a toddler and a baby who works part-time and seeks a daily balance with all of her many hats. I started the year with a realization that I was at the end of myself.  I needed to go before God in confession and ask Him to plant this desire deep within me and then help me live it out.

 It’s been said that God works in mysterious ways. Since He answered my request by way of a moldy shower, I’m prone to agree! Curious? Well, read on!

We bought our home just over a year ago.  We soon learned that our master shower tile was poorly installed. Water collected around the drain, but didn’t drain properly, so over time MOLD began to grow. We cleaned–a lot–with every natural and chemical solution known to man. Nothing helped. So we hired a “grout guy” to come and re-grout the shower. He cleaned, scraped, and re-grouted the tile and then left us with one handy hint – squeegee. It seems that the only way to keep mold at bay is to use the squeegee every day. Daily. Every day. You get my point.

 It’s largely annoying to spend three minutes at the end of every shower scraping water off the walls and floor. As a mom, I hardly have time to shower, let alone clean it when I’m done. But, I dread mold. Each time I shower I choose to spend a few minutes with the squeegee at the end because I know the alternative is worse.

 So, how did God use a moldy shower to answer my prayer? One day while I was squeegeeing, it hit me. Just a few minutes of daily commitment to this task clears away the mold, the dirt, and the filth I dread.  In much the same way, won’t a daily time with God, even if brief, also allow a daily cleansing of my heart? Won’t a regular commitment to spending time with Him help me keep some of the “mold” out of my heart and mind, as I allow Him to use that time to fill me with His love and truth?

In the midst of a daily struggle to do it all and be it all I find God cultivating that desire within me to spend time with Him. What a blessing! God does work in mysterious ways, even through moldy showers.

Day One: God’s Fingerprints

So glad you’ve joined us for Day One of the 21 Day Watch. “Watching for what?” you may ask. Watching for signs of God at work all around us.  Looking for insights from His Word.  Watching closely for His “fingerprints.”  I’m asking God specifically to Open My Eyes so I may see Him more clearly.  God’s Presence holds the answer to all life’s problems. So why do we race around looking everywhere else for solutions?

The idea to do a  21 Day Watch was inspired by several recent conversations with friends.  Each confided they were overwhelmed by the same problem.  Anxiety.  They were consumed with worry about frightening events in the news.  Admittedly, the world can be a scary place right now. Terror attacks have been fierce. Persecution of Christians is at an all time high. Some say it’s the most dangerous time in history to believe in Jesus.

Frankly, it’s always been dangerous to follow God.  The Bible is full of examples of believers facing persecution.  John the Baptist met a gruesome death at the hands of the evil ruler Herod.  John had confronted Herod on his adulterous relationship with Herodias, his brother’s wife.  Herod wanted to kill John, but was afraid of the wrath of his followers.  The Message Bible tells us what happened next:

But at Herod’s birthday celebration, he got his chance. Herodias’s daughter provided the entertainment, dancing for the guests. She swept Herod away. In his drunken enthusiasm, he promised her on oath anything she wanted. Already coached by her mother, she was ready: “Give me, served up on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer.” That sobered the king up fast. Unwilling to lose face with his guests, he did it—ordered John’s head cut off and presented to the girl on a platter. She in turn gave it to her mother (Matthew 14:6-12 MSG).

Sounds remarkably like ISIS staged event.  But notice the reaction of Jesus to the death of His dearly loved cousin.  He doesn’t panic or lose heart. The Bible simply tells us He went away by Himself to be alone with God.  To be in God’s presence.  You can read the entire text by clicking here.

The biblical account tells us nothing about the grief He surely suffered.  But Jesus was fully human, so we must assume He needed time to process the tragedy, to pour out His heart, to be healed and strengthened by His heavenly Father.   Along the way, He is intercepted by a crowd of needy and hurting people.  Moved with compassion for their suffering, He heals their sick and even performs a miracle of feeding the 5000 plus.  God showed up big time.  I’m sure Jesus was exhilarated by this mighty moment.  But notice: He still needed time alone with God.

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.  (Matthew 14:22, 23 MSG).

Jesus needed time in God’s presence.  Time to pray, to heal, to grieve, to seek strength, to refuel.  Friends, if Jesus needed time alone with God, how much more do we?

My husband is fond of saying that kids spell love T-I-M-E.  I think it’s the same with God.  Time alone with God sets the stage to experience Him throughout the rest of our day. If you’re serious about this 21 Day Watch, I encourage you to carve out a daily T-I-M-E with God as your starting point.

Lord, renew my zeal to spend time in Your Presence.  Ignite my passion for Your Word and for prayer.  Fine tune my hearing to Your voice.  Make my eyes sensitive to Your slightest movement.  May I see Your fingerprints today.  -Amen.






Fasting Works

I can’t tell you why fasting is so powerful.  I just know it works.  Last week marked the end of our 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed Abedini.  Naghmeh  is convinced that doors were opened for her unexpected meeting with President Obama through the fasting and prayer of thousands around the world.

The Bible describes different kinds of fasts.  Fasting can be abstaining from food, as when Jesus’s fasted in the wilderness.  It can also include prayer and action on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, and the poor as we find described in Isaiah 58.

Fasting helps us break through long standing bondages. But there are also practical benefits.   I shared may own top ten takeways.  Some of you are telling me about yours.  I love hearing stories of what God has revealed to you during these days of fasting.

My friend Jan describes the encouragement she received from her “fast journey.”  A Bible teacher, prayer warrior, and one of the godliest women I know, Jan joined in the 21 Day Fast.  She fasted and prayed faithfully for Pastor Saeed and others.   But she also experienced some unexpected personal benefits. “I was fasting to make better life choices with my eating habits, ” she writes. “I fasted from sweets, junk snacks, sodas and wine.”  She adds,  “The Lord has really taken my desire for sweets away.  I’ve missed my diet cokes (but not enough to go back to the one per day I was drinking).  This morning I had lost six pounds!  I saw a weight on the scale that I haven’t seen in a year or more!! Could not believe it!  It meant so much to know others were in this with me!”  Jan plans to continue her good habits.  I feel sure she’ll see other unexpected breakthroughs and become even more effective in her ministry to those around her.

Maybe that’s how fasting works. It clears our vision.  Lightens our load.  Increases our focus.  Helps us break through the “stuck” places in our lives.  And although I still can’t tell you exactly how or why, I am certain:  Fasting works.  So I plan to keep practicing.  I’ll be on the alert.   I’m eager to watch for signs of God at work, both here and around the world. I hope you’ll join me.

Remember:  Be self controlled and alert for the purpose of prayer  (1 Peter 4:7).


Choose Life!

God’s words in Isaiah 58 are clear.  He loves it when we pour out our lives for the broken.  Sometimes, the call to obey can seem messy, uncomfortable, even dangerous.  But God promises we’ll  be blessed, often in ways that may surprise us.  Here’s what happened to my friend Laura when she made the choice to say “Yes” to God:

GUEST BLOG: CHOOSE LIFE        By: Laura Snow

At times, we all find ourselves at a crossroads. We have to decide which direction to choose. There are pros and cons with either direction. My crossroads came in the form of a call to adoption. My call to adoption was not a simple one. I already had two biological sons from a marriage that ended in divorce soon after they were born. A few years later, God called me to adopt two brothers (a kinship adoption). So I adjusted to the crazy life of raising four sons on my own.

Four and a half years ago, I received another call asking me to consider adopting a fifth son, brother to the other two. WHAT?? Life was good. We were smooth sailing. We were in a good place. I didn’t even know this little boy. It would be “easy” to say no.

I came up with a list of all the reasons to say NO.  I’m single. I already have four sons. I’m over forty. I won’t have enough money. I don’t have enough time.  All legitimate reasons. However, I kept imagining myself sitting in front of this little boy and saying to him, “I’m sorry I can’t adopt you because I’m tired.  I can’t be your mom because I’m over forty…”  All of my reasons just didn’t feel right in the face of a child that needed a home, a home where his brothers were already living.

God had me at a crossroads. I had to lean into Him to hear His voice and know which direction He was asking me to choose.  I thought back to an interview I’d watched years earlier by Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. He was talking with a widow from Africa. This woman had lost her husband to a tribal war and was left to raise four children alone. She was struggling to provide her family with basic necessities. However, when her neighbor’s children were orphaned because of AIDS, she didn’t hesitate to take on those four children as well.

Pastor Hybels asked the widow why she took on the responsibility of more children. Her response was so simple and yet so powerful. She said, “In a matter of life and death, you choose life.” The words struck a chord.  Later, God led me to a verse in Deuteronomy:  “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30: 19). It was clear to me that this woman made her decision based on Scripture.  In a matter of life and death choose life.

CHOOSE LIFE. So simple and yet you can hold it up to almost any crossroad and it won’t be hard to see the direction God is asking you to choose.  There were people more suited and better equipped to adopt this little boy, but God was calling me. I chose life and said YES to God, and I said YES to my fifth son.

I truly believe that God used this woman, along with this very specific Bible verse to prepare me for what was to come. Looking back, it is easy to see how perfect the timing was and how God was preparing me so that I would be ready when I found myself at a crossroads.

What crossroad are you facing? Today, I hope you choose life, so that you may truly live!

To learn more about adoption and foster care, follow Laura on twitter