Just Rewards

… Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God… (Luke 18:9-14, NIV)

I’m really starting to hate exercise. Well – I like what it does for me but I’ve stopped fooling myself that there is any enjoyment to be found in it. That’s a lie people tell themselves to trick their bodies into doing it, LOL! I suffer under no illusions now. It’s become something I must do if I want to keep this old body of mine working and in good order. Plus, it makes me look good, too! 😉 Sunday I was feeling kinda antsy. I’d exercised every day except that day so my body was craving it but I was fighting it. I finally gave into the desire and went for a walk. I will say this; exercise is also good for clearing your mind. As I walked I began to reflect on things and the direction my life is taking.

I wondered why some things I prayed for still eluded me. God has done so much but he has yet to put that final cherry on top – the crowning pinnacle of all my achievements. I walked and I grumbled to myself: I deserve this, I said of my desire. Why hasn’t it happened for me? After all I’ve been through? After the life I’ve strived to live? I was feeling mighty self-righteous. Why didn’t God give me what I deserved? But then it struck me – there are so many things wrong with that argument. First, it assumes that God owes me something for doing the right thing. I’m only doing what I’m supposed to do anyway. Second, it presumes that life owes me something just because of some of the harsh things (I feel) I’ve had to endure – punitive damages, of a sort. Lastly, it claims a superiority and favor over others who’ve had to live this life, like I deserve more than anyone else. As if, life is supposed to be more fair for me than anyone else.

Even as I saw the flaws in my way of thinking, I still demanded of God, “When will I get what I truly deserve?” But then I thought of all the things that God has done for me that met and even exceeded my expectations. I reminded myself that he usually gives me more than I asked for. “Exceedingly abundantly above all I could ask or think…” And it came to me, suddenly – I’m praying all wrong. I’m asking God for what I deserve. I should be asking for more. If I get what I deserve, I limit myself to what I’ve done, instead of receiving blessings with no limit. Getting what I deserve also mandates that I receive just recompense and penalty for my wrong doing as well. What I needed was BETTER than I deserved. And that is where I found my definition of mercy.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1 NIV)

David, “a man after God’s own heart,” is one of my favorite characters from the Bible – not because he always got it right, but because he sometimes got it really, really wrong. But he knew how to repent. He would go to God and say, “I messed up. I really blew it this time. Forgive me.” And God would. I think that’s what’s so great about their relationship, why God loved him so – David recognized that he needed God to “get it right” and to forgive him when he didn’t. He needed God to bless him, not only because of what he’d done, but also, despite what he had done. In fact, I think one of the biggest lies of the enemy is when he convinces us to NOT repent, not ask for forgiveness because God isn’t interested in hearing our apology. God is always listening FOR that. He wants to heal and restore you and remove the stain of your offense.

Many of you will recall the story of King David and Bathsheba. She was beautiful. He saw her bathing and desired her so greatly that he had to have her, no matter the cost. He put his kingdom and legacy on the line, his relationship with God on the line and Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, literally, in the line of fire. Besides committing adultery with Bathsheba, he had gotten her pregnant. David had Uriah killed so that he could marry Bathsheba and cover up his sin. The more he tried to fix his problem, the deeper he became entangled.

Finally, the prophet Nathan came to see David and told him a story of a rich man who had everything but took, instead, from his poor neighbor. The story convicted David and let him know that, although it seemed he had gotten away with his crimes – which were punishable by death – God knew what he’d done. And here is where David sets himself apart from his predecessor, Saul. Instead of trying to justify or mitigate his wrongful actions, he accepts responsibility and asks God for forgiveness and mercy. He asks God for more than he a right to ask, better than he deserves. And God grants it, despite David’s crimes. God restored David to a right relationship with Him. He allows David’s dynasty to continue in the person of Solomon, the 2nd son of David and Bathsheba. Yes, there were consequences for David’s mistakes. He lived with them the rest of his life. But the consequences were tempered with mercy.

I pondered this revelation of mercy as I continued my walk. Without mercy, I would receive exactly what I deserved, good and bad. That was a scary thought. A humbling thought. I don’t want to go to God and demand he pay me what I feel he owes me. I don’t want to receive only what I put out. I don’t want to reap exactly what I have sown. I want the benefits of His “tender mercies.” By the end of my walk, I’d changed my prayer, my outlook and hopefully, my life. Lord, I prayed, give me better than I deserve! Have mercy on me! If there’s a consequence for a bad action that I must reap, temper it with your grace and mercy so that I may endure it. And if there is any good to come from anything I’ve done, let it be increased so that I get it back, multiplied, one-hundred fold! I desire your mercy without limits, knowing that you are able and very likely to give and do more than I could ever conceive.

Be blessed,


The Apprentice

Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it.”Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
(2 Kings 2:14)

Elijah came upon Elisha plowing in a field. The prophet tossed his cloak upon Elisha’s shoulders, thereby declaring his successor as God commanded. Elisha hedged, “Give me time to go back and kiss my mother and father goodbye.” In other words, he wanted time to put his affairs in order. The prophet responded a bit sarcastically, with words to the effect, “Take all the time you want – I’ve only offered you MY job!” I’m paraphrasing liberally but you get the gist. This was no small thing, to be sure. When Elijah dropped his cloak on Elisha, he transferred his position, along with all his power and authority. Elisha would be THE prophet for God’s people.

So Elisha followed his mentor, dropping everything. He sacrificed his plowing oxen and used the plow equipment as fuel to consume them, signifying that part of his life was over. As they journeyed, Elisha received repeated warnings that his master, Elijah, was to be called home this very day. God was taking Elijah away in a whirlwind. But Elisha already knew this in his spirit. It was the “why” behind the prophet’s “hurry up and follow me” vibe. There was a sense of urgency to his calling.

As Elijah and Elisha drew closer to their destination, the prophet tried to send his protégé on his way, signaling the end of their time together. Elijah made excuses, like, “Wait for me here.” But Elisha would not be put off so easily. He insisted on following the prophet to the end.

The two men came to a body of water, the River Jordan. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and touched it to the water. The waters parted and they walked across on dry land. When they reached the other side, Elijah said to his successor, “Ask of me what you will.” Elisha responded, “That I would receive a double portion of your spirit.” The prophet told him that was a hard thing BUT, he allowed, “If you see me taken away, your request will be granted.”

Suddenly Elisha saw chariots of fire, drawn by fiery horses, descending from heaven! They swooped down between the two men and took Elijah away. Elisha cried at the sight of it, tore his garments and mourned Elijah’s “passing”. After Elisha witnessed that miracle, he gathered himself together and walked back to the river they’d crossed before. He touched Elijah’s mantle, now his, to the water and cried, “Where is the God of Elijah?” And the waters parted before him, too. Same God. Same miracle. Same power.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:14-15)

His personal name – the name he revealed to Moses – has become a promise for me, as he meant it to be: I am. When I was afraid that I would lose my home, I prayed and He responded, “I am your shelter.” I lost my job and so I prayed and He answered, “I am your provider.” I left my husband, my security, to start all over again. I cried out to God and his name declared, “I am your husband,” to me. Time and again, God has proven and shown himself strong on my behalf. I think the only way to truly know him is to need him – to be at the end of your rope. He gave us a basis for trusting him when he identified himself as the same God who dealt with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His reputation precedes him. He wants us to know him by his miracles and make the connection that he will do the same for us.

While working at the call center, I made many friends – some of us are still friends to this day, some 10-15 years later. One of my friends was a new Christian like me and totally in love with the Lord. Back then, we would fantasize about being called into his service to do great things. We wanted to be used and know God like the heroes of Biblical times. My friend had a saying: Lord, I wanna know you like I KNOW you! Meaning, she wanted to have an intimate relationship with God. We both wanted to be able to say, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and ME!” We yearned for more, not actually realizing the extent of what we were asking. I have since come to the realization that the only one way to KNOW God that way is by having him repeatedly snatch you from the fire!

Recently, another friend asked me to pray for her because she felt I could “get a prayer through.” As if, I had some special power to influence God. I laughed (but I also prayed). I know God loves me and he hears me but I’m not arrogant enough to believe he hears me anymore than he hears anyone else. Actually, I’ve usually been that person in the past who has asked other, powerful praying people, to pray for me! It was funny and ironic that she asked that of me.

But it made me think: Did these prayer warriors have more sway with God than I did? Do I have more than my friend? I didn’t think so. Like Elisha, I’ve seen some of his glory – I know what he can do. Based on who he has revealed himself to be throughout the Bible and what he has done for me, I feel I can go to him and ask: “Where is the God of Elijah? Where is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? You did it for them; surely you can perform a miracle for me! I need you to be my God, too, here and now.” Then I hope and hold on, waiting for him to perform it because he’s been my salvation many times. When I ask Him to show up, I believe He will.

It came to me today, that the mantle and authority is still being passed – the power is no longer in the garment but in the relationship. It rests on me; it rests on you and all of us who are seeking that closer relationship with God and desire to be used by him. You, too, can go boldly to his throne because He is not a “respecter of persons” or, of your station in life. That is to say, you don’t need someone else (minister, prayer warrior, or me 😉 LOL) to speak on your behalf. You can say, “Where is this God of Elijah? Of Elisha? Of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Of Loria? I need you to be there for me, like you were there for them.” And then you will see your own miracle.

Be blessed,


The Battle

“… He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life…” (1Kings 19:4)

I love the Old Testament. When I was a young girl, my grandmother gave me a book called “Beautiful Bible Stories.” I read it from cover to cover, until it was pretty worn. That began my love affair with the His Word. One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament is the story of Elijah and the Battle on Mount Carmel. It was EPIC!

Israel had fallen into serving pagan gods (Baal and Asherah) at the instigation of Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife. Because of their idolatry, God caused a drought to come upon the land – no rain at Elijah’s word. Elijah was a wanted man so God hid him until the appointed time and then sent him to Ahab to challenge Jezebel’s prophets to a contest. Winner takes all.

Elijah, the pagan prophets and all of Israel (including Ahab) gathered on Mount Carmel. The contest was simple – build your own altar, prepare your own sacrifice, pray your own prayer BUT your god had to light the fire. So the prophets of Jezebel (450 for Baal, 400 for Asherah) prepared their sacrifice per the instructions and prayed to their god – all morning long. Nothing happened. They grew more desperate and began to cut themselves, trying to invoke their god as Elijah taunted their efforts.

Finally, Elijah took his turn – he prepared his altar and his sacrifice and then dug a deep trench around the altar. He had water poured on the sacrifice several times, drenching the wood and the offering until the trench was full of water. And then he prayed. God immediately answered by fire which rained down from heaven onto the altar. It consumed the entire sacrifice and licked up the water in the ditch! “Our God IS God,” Israel began to chant. Elijah prayed again and God sent rain to relieve the land. He gave Elijah a supernatural burst of energy so that he outran the horses of King Ahab’s chariot. I imagine Elijah running, giddy with victory.

Meanwhile, Jezebel’s prophets had been destroyed at Elijah’s command – she did not take that news well. She swore vengeance on Elijah, sending him on the lam. Again. And this is where we catch up with Elijah. No longer riding the wave of euphoria, he’s feeling worn down, maligned, mistreated, unappreciated. Attacked. He’s tired. He just wants to give up. He’s so overwhelmed that he lies down under a tree and goes to sleep, praying for death to overtake him. At this point, God sends an angel to minister to him. The angel awakened Elijah and urged him to eat because “the journey was too great” for him. (I sometimes wonder – what does food prepared by an angel’s hand taste like? Hmmmm.)

On the strength of that meal, Elijah was able to travel for 40 days to Horeb, the mountain of God. There he spent the night in a cave where God spoke to him, asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah listed his complaints, all he had done for God and, to top it off, how Jezebel was looking to kill him. Besides that, he felt he was the only true servant of God left. So the Lord told Elijah to step outside so they could have a little chat. The wind tore up the side of the mountain but God wasn’t in the wind. And the mountain shook with an earthquake but God wasn’t in the earthquake. Fire manifested but He wasn’t to be found in the fire, either. Finally, a gentle whisper came, in the stillness, in the quiet, God spoke to Elijah.

This is where my own story picks up. I’d been taking stock of my life and feeling pretty good about my accomplishments. I was feeling victorious. But last week was rough. I ended the week trying to fight back tears as I thought about how I had been treated. Like Elijah, I thought: Wow – this is the thanks I get? After all of the major battles (epic, for me) that I’ve fought and won, this is how it ends? Not with a bang but with a whimper? It just didn’t seem fair. And the more I thought about it, the more it hurt. Mentally, I was curled up in the fetal position. Then I got angry. The more I thought about how I was wronged, the more self righteous my anger became; it encased me, turning me hard. It felt all wrong – evil and insidious.

When I realized it was morphing into something else, I knew I had to let it go. I had to. I’d already lashed out and hurt someone – it had become a weapon. It didn’t feel good. So instead of fighting back the tears, I released them. I journaled my pain. Instead of complaining about how right I was and how wrong the other party was, I cried out to God and asked him to take that pain away. So that I could think about it without hurting. So that I could move on. So that I wouldn’t lash out. So that it wouldn’t change me. Talk about a battle of epic proportions! The fight between good and evil, inside of me. Would I continue to nurture that hurt and let it fester until I felt justified in hurting someone else? Or would I use it as an opportunity to grow and become a better person?

As it turned out, I didn’t have to make a conscious decision. Thankfully, I found the comfort I was seeking in the tears that I shed. Crying brought clarity. As Miss Sophia said in The Color Purple, “All my life I had to fight!” In my case, I’ve fought to appear strong. I hated to cry or for people to see me cry. It felt weak. But as I’ve matured, I’ve learned to embrace tears. Rather than making me weak, I feel it makes me strong. It allows me to get rid of the garbage that hurts me. So I cried until I forgave the person who hurt me. I cried until I could think of it without crying more. I cried until it no longer mattered what they did or why. It only mattered that I didn’t let it change me.

That’s what I was fighting for – that right there, was the real battle. And, as with Elijah, God sent a friend – an “angel” – to minister to me, to provide comfort and encouragement because I was feeling too overwhelmed by this journey. And like Elijah, I found God when I needed him most, where I least expected him but right where I needed him to be.

Be blessed,


Can You Hear Me Now?

“Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” Daniel 10:12

When a friend told me about the “100 Answered Prayers Challenge,” I was intrigued. It’s based on a book she’s reading, Surprised by Prayer by Karen Barber. Initially, I thought it was just recording your prayers and waiting for the answers. Being a person who sometimes journals, I am familiar with documenting and recording your prayers. I was never truly motivated to keep it up, finding it rather tedious. But my friend revealed to me the twist – you’re not recording your prayers, only your answers. That hooked me. I would record the prayers that God answered until I got to one hundred. I felt it would be a great way to be cognizant, always, that God is working in my life today.

So, a couple of weeks into it and a quarter of the way through, I had an epiphany. The reason that recording my prayers hasn’t worked for me in the past is because I pretty much used it as a wish list. Nothing really wrong with wish lists but it keeps you focused on what you want – not on what you are getting. You could be missing out on some wonderful blessings that are staring you in the face but all you see is that your specific prayer on the list hasn’t been answered.

My daughter is your typical teenager; she wants what she wants, when she wants it. One day, she insisted that I do something for her and when I refused, she treated me as if I never did anything for her. Now, mind you – we’ve had an exhausting school year, culminating in prom and graduation. Everything I’d done to make her senior year special was forgotten, all because I didn’t grant this request. Her attitude offended me and I told her she had a very short memory. She was too focused on what she wasn’t getting to appreciate what had already been done and the sacrifices I’d made. Thankfully, as she is maturing, she’s getting better – not so much “Me, me, me – now, Now, NOW!” I realize my job as a parent is not over as I teach her to appreciate what she has now and not focus so much on immediate gratification. As I thought about her, I thought of my own relationship with God. When we make lists of things we want, sometimes all we see is what we’re not getting.

This challenge has changed my focus. As I document answers, I am reminded that he is present and actively involved in my life, right now. Some of these prayers are long standing, ongoing prayers for me and my family. Like the day I realized that my son was surrounded by good influences, which is always a mother’s desire. Or the day he told me that he respected me. Me. One of the reasons I divorced was because I felt I was losing the respect of my children. I needed to be able to look them in the eye and say truthfully, “God is everything; with him you can do anything. He is always with you.” And then, I had to set about living it and proving it to them because children are quick to expose hypocrisy. It has to be real for you, if it is to be real for them.

Some answers are the result of prayers not even vocalized. When we went to my daughter’s orientation we found that if she didn’t take a class before the term began in the fall, she would have to do that in addition to her regular classes. I worried that she would have too much to deal with during her freshman year and would be overwhelmed. While I sat in the auditorium, trying to figure it out, God was already working it out. By the end of the day, the situation was resolved and she found the class was unnecessary. I recognized that as answered prayer because of the sense of relief that washed over me. God saw my problem and solved it, before it could even become an issue.

I realized that some answers are, surprisingly, almost immediate or soon thereafter. When I pray for favor on my job, God usually turns the situation into a favorable outcome for me. Or when I pray about a person who is being difficult, they do a complete 180 degree turn and are suddenly smiling and pleasant. Some answers are in a comforting word. When I wake up with a song in my mind, I know that He is comforting me. The other night, I went to bed feeling particularly discouraged because of an unkind word. The next morning, I awakened to the words of Time will Reveal by El DeBarge: “More precious than silver, more precious than diamond rings or anything …” That line played in a continual loop in my head and I knew God wanted me to know how much I am worth to him. A love song from God – the thought made me smile.

Some answers are in his presence. When I was newly single, I felt discouraged and out of my league as a homeowner. I was overwhelmed by all it entailed. I’d never taken care of a home before – I didn’t even know how to mow the grass. My pool was a real source of dismay for me. I couldn’t get the darn thing to remain clean! The water would turn a dark murky green. Every time I saw it, it became the symbol of my failure as a homeowner and my heart would sink into my stomach. Still, I would often sit on my deck overlooking the pool and meditate in the early morning or late evening. The humming of the pump and gurgling of the water was soothing. One day as I was talking to God, a shaft of sunlight beamed directly on the pool and the water suddenly turned a crystal clear, beautiful blue. Tears sprang to my eyes and I felt the presence of his Spirit. My dog came over to me and nudged my hand so that I could pet his head – I think he could see and feel it, too. He leaned his big body against me as I cried and was comforted. I thanked God for his Spirit, his manifestation. The vision cleared and the pool returned to normal but that experience remained with me.

So I remind myself now, rather than look at a particular unanswered prayer and feel discouraged, that He is ALWAYS answering me, in some form or fashion. Like Daniel, I have found that he hears me and may be devising an answer, a solution or comfort as soon as (or even before) my need is realized. I think about how I feel when my children only see what I haven’t done instead of all the good that I do. It seems mighty ungrateful. Like my daughter, I’m maturing – God is doing for me what I am doing for her. He’s helping me to change my focus so that I can see and appreciate everything that he does for me.

Be blessed,


P.S. For more information on how to do the 100 Answered Prayer Challenge, go to: http://www.personalprayerpower.com/php/100prayers.php. If you have a special story to share about how God has answered your prayer, I’d love to hear it!