Tag Archives: Prayer

Realistic Goals

First, I would like to say that any goal is realistic if it is God’s will and you humble yourself to depend on Him even when things don’t seem to be going right. Lately there has been a lot of talk about goals, especially in my career and blog and other more personal areas of my life. Over the years I have learned one of the major keys to setting goals is a willingness to keep trying even after you have not met one of your stepping stone goals.

In 2014 I successfully became debt-free. I’m ecstatic about that! But I haven’t been so successful at other financial goals after becoming debt-free. Despite the little hiccups along the way I have still kept trying, and become a little more successful every month. Here are a few little reminders that have helped me along in goal setting.

  1. Avoid piling on too many goals. People have a tendency to pile them on during the New Year or around their birthday. Make one goal, and when you start to find success in that goal start considering implementing new goals.
  2. Find an accountability partner, someone that will check in with you on your goal. For me, my mom made a good accountability partner, but for others it could be a mentor, pastor, or close friend.
  3. Pray constantly. When I was working on my goal to be debt-free, I continually thanked God for His gifts and prayed that God was in control of my finances, that I would use His gifts wisely and be mindful of my spending.
  4. Make stepping stone, shorter term goals that will ultimately lead to your big goal. Becoming debt-free is a big goal for most people. Setting smaller goals really helped me achieve my big goal. I set timeframes for when I wanted each debt paid off.
  5. Do your research. Read up on how other people have achieved their goals. Make sure that your goal is the right goal for you. Perhaps you are aiming for a degree in a field you are really not that interested in or isn’t a best fit for you. It’s okay to adjust your goal even after you have made it.
  6. Don’t give up. Keep at it even when you stumble, and look for the opportunities to learn from those stumbling blocks.
  7. Thank God and your accountability partner every step of the way. Giving gratitude encourages, not only the person you are thanking, but also the thanker.

Remember even the best fail, but it is the transformation that happens with the failure that really pushes you to succeed.

Happy New Year!

The Deeper Issues

It is easy to judge a book by its cover. If we are honest, we all do it. When is the last time you passed a beggar on the street and completely fabricated their life story in your head before handing them a few coins? Or how about passing a screaming kid in the grocery store and glaring at the parent as if they aren’t already doing everything they can? Sometimes this judgement even happens when we are praying; maybe not in this exact way, but it does. For instance, say I am preparing to pray for a woman who is in a wheelchair and would like to someday walk again. From appearances I may only pray for her legs to be restored, but what if there is something else going on in the emotional or even spiritual realm, and I failed to pray for it because I didn’t wait on the Lord to reveal it or for some other reason.

Recently I have been frustrated with my lack of control over my Sunday School classroom. I almost always pray for the kids the week before, but inevitably I at least partially lose control. I feel very supported by my fellow teachers and Children’s Ministry leader, however I’m at my wits end. After teaching today I attended another class my church is doing on healing. Today’s topic and discussion spoke right to my heart,, but it wasn’t instantaneous. It took some time for me to realize that these two things were God speaking to me personally in this very specific moment. The first thing He said was, “You are a great teacher.” Well, that made me feel better. The second thing was, “Here is the way I want you to pray for these students and their families.” See, I was only praying for the surface problems, not the root of the issues. I was convicted that I hadn’t prayed for the parents who are the covering over the children in my class. I hadn’t waited on the Lord to reveal the deeper issues and their root causes. Lord, forgive me.

God is so gracious to give us the authority to pray over others. He is so gracious to pour out the Holy Spirit and to describe our prayers as sweet smelling incense. He is so gracious to know our heart’s desire and respond with generous blessings. Today, although the morning had its challenges, I am honored that God gave me the opportunity to pray for the families of my students and to be a part of his refining process in young people. Great is our God.

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Coincidence or Destiny?

Last Wednesday I had such a fantastic walk. I ran into the college student with whom I listened, shared, and prayed. This week my walk seemed more or less uneventful until I was in the same exact spot where I met the girl. I looked around. ‘Perhaps she is here again,’ I thought, but as I looked around it was apparent that she wasn’t. At this time of day so close to campus young people are swarming the streets. It’s hard to tell one person from the next. I gave up looking and began taking photos again, since I didn’t get to finish last week, when I hear a voice say, “Chelsea? Chelsea, is that you?” I turn, excited and surprised, but instead see my fellow church member Joannie standing behind me.

I tried to hide my disappointment that she wasn’t the girl I thought she was, still happy to see her. I asked what she was doing there, and she explained that she is there to minister to some students across the street. We exchanged stories, and I found out that they too experienced an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit in their meeting last week. How funny that God would use each of us separately on the same block, at the same time, on the same day, to minister to college students.

For the last 40 days my church and several other churches have fasted and prayed. The fast ended Saturday with a massive prayer rally at the campus. Joannie suggested that perhaps this movement of the Holy Spirit is result of the recent prayers. Is this God’s motivation for us to keep praying and looking for opportunities to share our faith, or is this just a coincidence? Either way, it looks like every Wednesday is the perfect day for movement, both physically and spiritually. As my friend Winnie said, “Sunshine with a high chance of divine appointment.”

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Similarities and Differences

10273723_10203055034391835_2567822666850805537_nGod blessed humans with the gift of empathy, to identify with others’ situations, feelings, or motives. Because of this we have the capacity to pull from an encyclopedia-sized life of experiences and circumstances to find the one moment, the one time that mirrors what another person is going through. This is a precious gift that births compassion, kindness, generosity, and on and on. All too often we lose sight of compassion, kindness, generosity when met with people who are nothing like us. They have had totally different childhoods and lifestyles. They are from a different country, generation, or religion.

Perhaps Jesus was so empathetic because, as God, He had experienced our lives already. Of course an all-knowing God can empathize with His children, show them limitless compassion, kindness, and generosity. When we are asked to do this it’s sometimes a different story. If we can’t draw on our life experiences to relate to those different from us, then where do we start.

First, I’ll admit that I did a personal study on myself regarding my bias toward certain pedestrians. Anyone who has driven in Berkeley knows that pedestrians definitely have the right of way. In some areas there they will walk right out in front of you no matter if you are going 10 mph or 60 mph. My morning drive to work is where I do a lot of my “outside work” thinking. I wondered if I subconsciously decide to stop for some people and race by others. I observed myself, and found that I am much more likely to stop for someone that is more like me; someone who looks like they are on their way to a similar job, maybe they are a similar age, usually the same gender. I started thinking that maybe I’m a bigot of sorts. I felt so ashamed until I reminded myself that my behavior was done subconsciously.

So, again, I ask, where do we start if we can’t relate to someone through our personal experiences? Well, one place to start is on our knees. “Dear Lord, I do not know how to relate to Jane. She is so different from me. Some of the things she does just get on my nerves. How can I possibly love her the way you ask me to? Please help me. Amen.” God will change your heart. Secondly, you can relate through your differences. Recently I was speaking to a new acquaintance about his religious and cultural customs. In many ways they are the polar opposite of my experience and practice, so I related to him by talking about the differences. As we talked we found similarities in our thinking that we didn’t know existed.

God told us to hate sin. Sin is the act, not the person. If you can’t relate to a person because they are living a sinful lifestyle do not run in fear. God calls us to be light in the darkness, and in everything God calls us to do, he calls us to love. So instead of running from those that are different, we need to run toward them with our lights lit, which is not to say we should tell them all they are doing wrong, but all the ways God sees them as right.

Epidemic Evangelism

Last night was my birthday and, wow, did I have a good dinner. My boyfriend and I went to Burma Superstar, an amazing mix of cultural dishes packaged into one bustling Oakland restaurant. I could not write enough Yelp reviews, tell enough friends, or Instagram enough photos to explain the absolute heaven it was to my taste buds. This is how I feel about Jesus.

Despite our somewhat fanatical culture of Tweets, Instagrams, and Yelp people still run in fear of their evangelist neighbor. Could the evangelists of yesterday (or maybe the movies) be painting an ugly picture of today’s everyday evangelists? Perhaps the fear lies in the guilt and shame of having someone virtually hit you over the head with the Bible. Even Christians fear the bully evangelist.

Have we considered though, that our everyday actions and words speak volumes about our faith? If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ it’s likely that you discuss your faith or at least your faith in the context of your life with people other than Christians. Take for instance, and maybe I’m just a chatterbox, but I went to get my haircut yesterday. I told my hairdresser that I grew my hair without cutting it at all for the last year and a half. I had decided after my last haircut that I wouldn’t cut my hair again until after I paid off all my student and car loans. I said, “It kind of reminds me of Samson from the Bible. Do you know his story?” He replied saying he didn’t know this story, so I went on to explain that God gave Samson remarkable strength and that when his hair was cut he temporarily lost that strength.

Now my hairdresser most likely did not go home and give his life to Jesus last night, but this is a seed among many that could someday sprout. He may look back on that simple conversation one day and say, “Hey, that client mentioned the Bible to me once, and how God had given a man remarkable strength. I need some of that strength in my life.” I’m sure I didn’t offend him by mentioning this Bible story in passing because it was part of my story. When you make Jesus part of your story, it will become contagious. People will see what you have, maybe it’s debt-freedom, maybe it’s a joyful spirit, and they will seek it out. Some will seek in wrong places, but as long as we are praying for that individual, our only job is to share what He gave us to share. We cannot control that person’s heart and decide when they become Christian, but we can keep on being mouthpieces for God simply by telling how our stories have changed because of the Gospel.

Give me Attitude, Prayer Attitude

Ever been at a prayer meeting when someone breaks into tears of desperation? “Lord, we need you!” This heart cry made my heart ache. How could I pray without desperation in my heart? Words are not enough to show God how desperate I am. I need to change my attitude to that of desperation.

Time and time again David cried out for help, sometimes accusing God of turning away from him, even ignoring him. I never know whether to be offended for God when reading these Psalms or to be comforted that I am not the only who feels the way David did. God knows we need him, but when we come to Him in desperation, whatever the prayer request may be, He knows that we know we need Him.

When I heard this cry of desperation from my friend I remembered what I had heard on the radio just the other day. A speaker on one of those 30-second segments explained that the older she gets, the more she knows God, the more desperate she is for Him. She said this brings her comfort knowing that she will always know she needs Him. My friend’s cry for help was a shocking reminder that all of us desperately need Him no matter how good or bad our circumstances are today.

Heavenly Father, we need you. Alone we are damaged goods, but with you we are the Bride of Christ, made pure in Jesus’ blood. Lord, we accept your gift of salvation as we begin this Holy Week. We reflect on the suffering Jesus endured, His death, His resurrection, and our anticipation for His return. Only in Him are we made whole and clean. Help us to cry out to you with tears in our eyes, desperate to receive what you have for us today and desperate to give back some of what you have given. Help us to be desperate in our confession as well, that we may recognize our need for forgiveness. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Breathe by Michael W. Smith

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