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THREE STEPS TO ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING:

In celebration of posting my 600th blog, I am pulling some of the more popular blogs out of the archives and posting them. I will also have guest bloggers over the next few weeks and maybe even a contest or two.

The first blog is “Three Steps to Accomplishing Anything.” This series of three blogs was originally posted in 2009.

STEP ONE: PRAY

On Monday, I posted a blog about not being able to write. I listed several different reasons why I believe I have had “writer’s block” for the last two weeks. The reasons were accurate, but I have realized since then, they are not the main reason I’ve been unable to write.

One would think at my age I would have realized that anything and everything I do should be prefaced with prayer. The more serious the project or challenge or change, the more time I should spend in prayer before beginning that work.

I can’t speak for anyone else of course, but I suspect I’m not the only one here that gets into trouble because she/he doesn’t pray before she/he says ‘yes’ in response to being asked to do something. Or we see a need and we speak up; before we know it, we own that need and its solution, that being whatever solution I develop.

Even when I think I have heard the voice of the Lord giving me something to do, I still will not take time to pray. I will go bulldozing my way ahead, taking charge and “get ‘er done.” Woe be unto man or beast who stands in the way of a woman on a mission!

If getting myself into trouble by saying ‘yes’ before I pray isn’t enough, it is disobedience to the Word of God:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33) I’m not a Bible scholar, but I think “seek ye first” means exactly what it says. In other words, pray first – before you make any decisions or take any action. The second part of the verse says, “all these things shall be added unto you.” This phrase means you will receive what you prayed for. Right? We know that God answers prayer. But not always in the way that we expect. His answers to our prayers may not be manifested according to our timetable, but the answer will come at the exact moment needed. His answer may not be what we had prayed for, but it will be even better – “far above what we could ask or think.” I am sure that God has answered your prayers and He has answered mine in ways we never expected, but always “exceedingly abundant” above what we requested and that answer came at the precise moment we needed it.

If we pray, and God says “Yes, I want you to do this” what’s next? We must prepare. The topic for the next blog.

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Ashamed to Pray by Guest Blogger Jennifer Slattery

I am delighted to have Jennifer Slattery back as my guest blogger today. Jennifer writes with the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, yet her words will convict, inspire, motivate and encourage you. Be blessed as you read today’s blog!

August 30, 2012 by Jennifer Slattery

Each day, we are engaged in a cosmic battle, a battle over self. It is a war between entitlement and sacrifice, between self-love and sacrificial love. And each day, God gives us a choice–to squelch His Spirit, His love, His still small voice as we fight for our rights, or to lay it down, allowing Him to reign and love others through us.

Are we aware of the consequences–of what’s at stake? When we’re consumed with self, we don’t even notice the woman in the grocery aisle, the man at the gas station, or perhaps our spouse coming home from work discouraged and exhausted.

In each encounter, God is whispering, tugging, urging us on as His embassadors. If we’re not careful, if we’re not continually focused on our Savior, our inner voice of self-love may scream louder.

Two weeks ago, our family took a trip to Odenton, Maryland to visit family. It was a wonderful time of fun and exploration–a time for me to see my brother, whom I hadn’t in over five years. But amidst our fun, I soon found myself on a cosmic battleground.

All week, God had impressed on my heart the need to lay myself down, to seek not my own glory, not my will, but His. To be like a wildflower tucked in a nook in the valley, ever-growing, reaching for the sun, even if no one notices.

And then Friday came–our last day in Maryland. I started the day at a surrender zenith, ready to die to myself and be an active instrument of God’s mercy and grace. I was determined to live out the truth God had showed me one morning in 1 Peter chapter four.

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NLT). (Emphasis mine.)

As I read the passage, I thought of a dear sister in Christ dying of brain cancer. She’s going through a rough time. She’s lost her sight, and her speech has become difficult. But through it all, her heart remains centered in Christ. Each day, her life shouts out His praises and points everyone around her to the cross.

I wanted to be like her! To praise God regardless of what I faced, to be so surrendered to Him, so focused on His love and purposes, that my life radiates His love and glory.

My determination was quickly undone, not by a fight against cancer but instead, something as trivial as crab cakes. And because of my quickly rising self-love, I tainted Christ’s name.

That afternoon, we decided to begin a search for crab-cakes. My husband had heard Baltimore was famous for them. This was the one thing he’d been looking forward to, the one thing he longed to do before we headed home. Being the loving, supportive, self-sacrificing … (uh-hem. I shift uncomfortably and avoid your gaze) wife I … long to be, I wholeheartedly agreed, and we all climbed into vehicles and headed downtown.

Stepping out of the van and into a dingy and smelly parking garage, my grumble meter sky-rocketed. When we reached street level, things–and the smell–got worse. A quick glance told me we weren’t in the best part of town. I clutched my purse to my chest, and my sister and I exchanged glances.

“Can we go somewhere else?” I’m sure my voice held a pleading tone.

All the women agreed. So, we clamored back into our vehicles and drove to the harbor, filled with numerous clean restaurants–any one of which would mesh well with my germo-phobe preferences. Yes, I was pleased. This would do quite nicely.

But unfortunately, we kept walking, leaving the trendy harbor area with its cute shops and alluring smells far behind. Memories of the area we’d just left still fresh in my mind, I watched the clean–did I mention clean?–restaurants fade behind us, my agitation growing. Snippets of my morning devotion came to mind, calling me to die to myself, embracing each moment (bacteria and all) in full surrender. Relinquishing all rights and expectations.

But I wasn’t listening. I was too focused on me.

The restaurant we ended up at was anything but five-star. The bathroom smelled as if it had been doused in urine. The carpet looked as if it’d been splotched with car grease, and the menus needed to be soaked in sanitizer. It was three o’clock, well past lunchtime, and I was starved, irritated … and a bit queasy, as my germo-phobiness waged war with my hunger.

Sitting with a firm scowl, arms crossed, nose wrinkled … Okay, so maybe I didn’t behave that badly–on the outside, but my heart was pretty grungy. Grungier than the floor, and needless to say, I didn’t hide my disgust well. Oh, what a role model I was for my daughter!

Then it came time to pray.

The reality of my witness–or lack there of–hit me in the gut. I thought of the waitress who watched me, frumping, longing to be anywhere else but there. Did I want her to know I was a Christian? Or would it be better, for Christ’s sake, if she didn’t?

Last Thursday, Nikki Arana asked a powerful question: Would you share your faith if it cost you your life. (You can read her post here.)

I’ve often wondered about that–how I would respond if I lived in a country filled with persecution. If, because of my faith, I faced unemployment, physical pain, or even death. I don’t have an answer, but I do know, in the day-to-day when I am called to *live out* my faith as Christ’s ambassador, I often fall short. Not in the face of extreme danger, but instead, in the face of self, over something as trivial as crab cakes.

Lord Jesus, help me to die to myself, not just in the big, courageous moments, but in those day-to-day encounters–standing in line at a grocery store or eating at a dirty restaurant. Help me, in all things, to be alert to my witness. Help me to radiate your sacrificial love–the love that drove you to a cross, for me.

 

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Just One Person

 

A few days ago, I was talking with the Youth Director at the church where I serve as the Business Administrator. In the midst of our conversation, he said, ”You know, just because something is good, doesn’t mean it’s good and right.” “How true,” I replied. And we went on with our day.

        As I thought about that statement later, I realized that we Christians have slowly allowed our eyes, our hearts, our minds to be deceived—a deception so subtle we were unaware of what was happening. We heard the message over TV, read it in magazines–“If it’s good, then it’s right. If it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then, it’s okay.” Many of us looked at situations that we knew went against our Christian beliefs, but we said to ourselves, “What can I do? I’m just one person.” And over time, the little things we allowed, snowballed, until we now live in a nation that is no longer recognized as a Christian nation, not only by many Americans, but also by other countries. In fact, there are more missionaries sent to America from other countries than at any other time in history. (And many of those missionaries are not Christians…)  I do acknowledge there are thousands of Christians who did not allow themselves to be deceived to this extreme. But the enemy’s deception is so subtle, at some point in our Christian walk, we are easily deceived.

We allowed one person – just one person – to speak her mind and prayer was banned from the schools and all school related activities. Today, we have seen tragedy strike a number of schools in America. Countless schools now have police officers patrolling the school during the day. Some schools have installed security gates, checkpoints, bars on the windows and the doors are locked from the first bell in the morning to the last bell in the afternoon.

        We allowed one person – just one person – to sue for the right to abort her child. Since Roe vs. Wade, millions of babies have been aborted.  And our country’s slow decline into the self-centeredness of “It’s good…it’s okay. I’m not hurting anyone,” exploded into a hedonistic, “live and let live” generation.

        The good news is there is One Person who can save our country. One Person whose heart’s cry is for His children to come back to Him. God makes this point very clear in II Chronicles 7:14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

        I don’t believe there’s ever been a time in the history of America when this verse was more relevant, more important.

        Selah.