He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs
in his arms and carries them close to his heart.
He gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:11
I looked at the ad in the local "Reminder" again, as I did every time I picked up that little hometown publication. I scanned it looking for the ad as I usually did. There it was looking back at me as if it were the only ad in the paper. I can't remember the exact words, but the name and number of the leader of the Mom's In Touch group http://www.momsintouch.org/ was listed and it said the group met weekly to pray for their children. It was important for me to see that little ad for two whole years before I finally gussied up the courage to walk into the charming country church where they met, to pray for my own precious daughter. Thank God for the faithfulness of that leader. It was her faithfulness, availability and dedication that allowed me to go deeper in my God confidence at a time when it would be instrumental to my faith. It's not that I hadn't been in "mom's" groups, or that I wasn't praying. I just felt so completely inept in my ability to be a mom, wife and parent that I knew I needed more than outings to the parks and advice about potty training with mom's who seemed completely at ease with all of the challenges of their "Momdom". It wasn't easy or encouraging being around Christian mom's at this time in my life. Some seemed to be so secure in their own answers I felt no connection to them at all. Others would offer advice or be quick to judge without really knowing the full story. I remember thinking WOW! Where is the Mom Camaraderie I assumed existed among mothers? It seemed Mom's wanted to criticize and tear down and instead of encourage and build up. It also seemed to me that unless you fit a certain mold, you might not be included - except for some very peripheral activities. Where was the Mom Squad? It felt to me there was something missing and of course it would mean taking a journey... beneath the surface. I also want to make sure to mention that I can certainly think of a few authentic and down to earth women who were available along the way- after all God is faithful- and I understand that sometimes when he holds back giving something, it makes us a bit more sensitive to others to whom we may have a heart and openness toward, because of our own experience, all in the end for His glory.
He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
~ Ephesians 2:14
I first called Lucy after an incident that left me feeling once more overwhelmed by the demands of parenting a wonderfully strong willed and smart child complicated further by my attempt at homeschooling in a new community. She was kind and I told her I was interested in coming to the group. She let me know I was welcome and gave me details about joining. A year passed before I finally dropped in one morning. I knew Lucy had prayed me there! I was welcomed and I sensed God's protection and peace in that small place with the few ladies who had gathered faithfully to pray. As I began to come regularly to meet with these praying Mom's I felt my trust and faith in God and others growing in a healthy way, as well as a special love and appreciation for them. Hearing Lucy's Co-Leader, Faith pray for my daughter one morning really touched me significantly. This is what I needed, to hear another sensitive, listening,caring mom, lift up my girl, when I was too entangled in my emotions to feel I could pray effectively. It was such a gift! I thank God still for these ladies who became friends and prayer partners in my life and journey of faith.
However God was about to blow my mind with one concept that would change my perception of Him forever...
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise,
give thanks to him and praise his name.
As I continued coming to the group and following the four steps of prayer - See them here: http://www.momsintouch.org/leaders-corner/getting-started/4-steps-of-prayer - I started to reflect more upon my own prayer time. There was something that wasn't quite right to me as we flowed through the time of Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving and Intercession. I realized that I often thanked God for all he did and acknowledged him for who he was but I did not yet fully grasp the Power potential of Praising God. I leafed through my prayer journals...lots of thanksgiving, yup. Ugly confessions (somewhat edited at times, just in case!) check. Intercession? Lots of that...names I knew well and random names that had made their way into my prayers but I didn't remember at all. Praise. Hmmm... my Personal Trainer mind needed to figure out how this fit into the regime. If my spiritual journey was like a fitness routine in some way I did not want to miss out on an important aspect that would make me better ie. bring me closer to the prize- the Lord Himself! It is just the way my mind worked. But praise became to me like the secret supplement coveted by the most serious athletes. Praise is critical to my spiritual well being because it does not depend on what God does, it is all about who He is! This is no small fact. It transformed my prayer life and relationship with God. It took discipline and effort to stay with Praising him and focusing on His attributes, His names and His revelation of himself in His Holy Word. Anyone who has endeavored to grow spiritually or to attain physical goals, knows it is not without persistent, sustained and intense effort. But to those who can claim the prize, it is well worth the effort put forth! In the book Every Child Needs a Praying Mom , Fern Nichol's writes, "Praise is a lifelong, treasure finding journey of getting to know your God. It's distinguished from thanksgiving in that praise is worshipping God for who He is while thanksgiving is centered on what He has done." Dear friends, this is muscle building for your faith! You want to be stronger in Him - Praise Him! Learn of His names and attributes! Spend time focused more on The God in your circumstances rather than the circumstances you're in- with God.
Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.
~ Psalm 150:6
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power
is made perfect in weakness.
~2 Corinthians 12:9
If you have not tried this before I promise you you will be greatly blessed as you get to know the Author and Perfecter of your faith and the power that comes through praising Him for who He is. Focus on one of his many name's (Shepherd, Holy One, Son of Man etc.), attributes (God is Love, Faithful, Supreme) or Old Testament Titles (Elohim, El Roi, El Shadday) learn, dig and study then Praise the Amazing, Awesome and Almighty God for who He is! I love the book by Ann Spangler "The Names of God" and use it sometimes when I want to dig deeper in my quiet time and reflect on one of the Lord's names in Hebrew and stimulate some new praise muscle with this wonderful tool. (Couldn't resist one more fitness reference.)
who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning it's
Well friends, this Praise post has been on my heart to share for some time! I pray it is a blessing to you- until next time- Keep digging beneath the surface! Don't forget to check back on Monday this week when my very special Guest Post will be featured on Trailing After God! Here is a hint: It will be about a certain woman Jesus met at a well. Shhh...wait for it!
*Some names have been changed to protect individuals privacy