Tag Archives: Christian military

Faith Works Like a Horse and a Cart

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Vains, La Bond, Mont Saint-Michel

Does your faith work like a horse and cart?

What is faith? If someone stopped you on the street and asked you that question for a a survey, how would you answer? Would you tell them it is positive thinking? A sense of hope? Or following a list of spiritual disciplines?

In its most basic form, faith is a gift to us by God. “For my grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). This concept of a free gift makes me think of a scenario that we can slip into every so subtlety. It goes like this:

Let’s say you receive a birthday gift from a friend. Instead of thanking your friend for the lovely gift, instead you say, “I love it, now how much was it so I can pay you back?” That kind of a response neither feels right nor is the appropriate response. However, that is what we are doing when we think we have to work for God’s gift of faith. The right response to my birthday example is to either send her a thank you note or tell her thanks in person. However, in our humanity we can get our wires crossed and find ourselves slipping into the mindset that we have to prove ourselves worthy of such a gift. God, in His grace, gave us the gift of faith and the only right response is to simply accept it in joy and gratitude. Continue reading

Penned Prayers

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When was the last time you wrote your prayers down in a prayer journal?

Recording our prayers in a journal offers three benefits.

A journal is a place where we give expression to the fountain of our heart, where we can unreservedly pour out our passion before the Lord. -Donald S. Whitney

Ask yourself, when was the last time you wrote your prayers out using a prayer journal and a pen? If you’ve ever studied the book of Psalms, you’ve likely noticed many of them are penned prayers. You may have also noticed that many of them were written by King David at a time when he fled from his son, Absalom, who rallied up an army in an attempt to overthrow him.

“O God, you have declared me perfect in your eyes; you have always cared for me in my distress; now hear me as I call again. Have mercy on me. Hear my prayer…” (Psalm 4:1). Or Psalm 5:1-3, “O lord, hear  me praying; listen to my plea, O God my King, for I will never pray to anyone but you. Each morning I will look to you in heaven and lay my requests before you, praying earnestly.”

From these prayers we can sense the despair and anguish in David’s heartfelt petitions.

There have been times in my own life where my prayers have been a reflection of a desperate heart. Later, when that season had passed I re-read those prayers and gave God the praise for how He came through for me or gave me victory in a certain area. Often times, I see God’s answer in a whole new perspective.

Another prophet, Jonah, recorded his prayers on the written page, too.

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish: ‘In my great trouble I cried to the Lord and he answered me; from the depths of death I called, and Lord, you heard me!’”(Jonah 2:1-2). I guess if I was in the belly of a large fish, I’d be praying too.

Benefits of Penned Prayers

I also find that journaling my prayers helps me to stay focused and achieve three goals:

  1. Recording my prayers forces me to clarify what my prayer needs actually are rather than just a vague generality.
  2. Recording my prayers allows me to write Pen-Point Prayers where I focus on the specifics of my petitions.
  3. Our lives are busy and we often just snack on God’s Word, reading a short devotional or grabbing a Bible verse and running out the door.  Writing out my prayers mean keeping an appointment with God. This slows my mind and body down so I can have an honest heart-to-heart connection with the Lord.

Legacy of Faith

One of the blessings that come from a life of penned prayers is the legacy of faith you leave your children and grandchildren. When my grandmother passed away, I received one of her journals. It’s a mixture of her daily reflections on life, family, faith, but also some very gut-wrenching prayers. I can say that it was her prayers that I most treasure. They allowed me to get a glimpse of her pained heart laid raw and hurting before God.  Underpinning her petitions to her heavenly Father was a heart of humility, recording her failings as a parent, her shortcomings, fears, sorrows, and even some regrets. But for all the grief that filled her life towards its end, she remarked how thankful that Jesus stood in the gap as well as the void, between what was all wrong and missing in her life, and the forgiveness and acceptance Jesus offers.  Her repentant heart reflected in the truth that she needed God – every day.

And there’s more, something I will always carry with me- her prayers for me and referring to me as a blessing in her life. Of course, she wrote letters to me often and expressed her love for me and offered affirmations, but to know that I was a blessing to her life impacted me when I was a young adult. She wasn’t perfect, but I know from her prayer journal that in all her weaknesses, she placed her confidence in God, and trusted in His love and forgiveness. Her prayer journal, in turn, was a double blessing back to me.

Blessings to you,

Lisa

Tweet/Post: One of the benefits of penned prayers is the legacy of faith you leave your children and grandchildren.#PenPaperAndPrayers@lisanixonphillips.com/blog

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Our Immovable Rock

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There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1Samuel 2:2

In recent months we’ve seen images on television of unimaginable tragedies, here in the U.S. and abroad. It may be a financial crisis, a flash flood, category five tornado, tsunami, a devastating earthquake, or a whole country of people fleeing an evil army. When I see the look on these people’s faces I often wonder how they go on. How do they rebuild their lives when all of their resources were swept away? When we witness such losses in the world it reveals just how fragile the tangible things we depend on actually are. It also reveals another truth. It shows how fragile we are! And what’s really haunting is contemplating when a large-scale calamity will hit America.

Trusting in things or systems will not prevent us from being shaken. God designed us to depend on Him for what we can’t see coming or control. But “those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125:1).

In life, we view mountains as immovable or fixed. The ancient Israelites saw Mount Zion as a symbol of God–immovable and unshakable. We can be like Mount Zion which resembles stability. When we trust God (believing that what He says He will do, He will do) we can be inwardly fixed and established (sheltered, assured, and immoveable).

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forevermore. (V.2).

Doesn’t it seem like our world is rapidly falling apart? However, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have something of priceless value. When we cling to Christ He provides stability and security. In my backyard is a huge boulder. It’s impossible for my husband and me to move without machinery, so it remains where it is–a permanent fixture in the backyard of our country home.

The Rock

Similarly, our Heavenly Father is referred to as the Immovable Rock. He is completely stable and secure. He is immovable. Things that have the potential to shake us do not shake Him. Nothing can move Him from His place as our cornerstone. He can’t be undermined by any human plan, ruler, evil or secret plot. He is unchanging. And if He is unchanging, then we can trust Him when all else falls away. We can also trust His Word because it, too, is unchangeable. His Word never becomes irrelevant and it never goes out of style.

Focus on the Rock

When waves of insecurity about the future cause me to be shaken, I remember that huge rock in our backyard. It reminds me to focus my thoughts on the One Rock that has a secure foundation and has everything in His control. When your family sees you remaining stable, trusting the Immovable Rock, it will be a source of strength for them to do the same.

Know the Rock

We’re often reminded to prepare for emergencies. We are encouraged to have bottled water, non-perishable foods, batteries, flashlights, blankets, an emergency route and plan, and etc. for when a real emergency comes. Likewise, we need to prepare spiritually too. We need to know the Rock. When we place our trust in Christ, we not only have stability, but also perseverance to endure any type of storm with the Lord’s everlasting and immovable presence.

Blessings,

Lisa

Post/Tweet this today: God designed us to depend on Him for what we can’t see coming or control. But “those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” #OurImmoveableRock#LisaNixonPhillips.com

 

 

 

Three Subtle Attacks on Military Marriages

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A sailor kissing his new wife.

Use your marital struggles to grow together not further apart.

In 1987 I was a new Navy wife–straight from the land of Oz. And I didn’t know the first thing about the Navy lifestyle; There are no warships in Kansas! So, when I moved to California and met and later married my husband, Ray, I became a member of the larger military family and Uncle Sam became my father-in-law. Thanks to my friend, Vernel, a Navy wife I met at my new job upon arriving in California, she offered a quick lesson one Saturday afternoon on Navy life 101. I learned to expect occasional squalls between my husband and I brought on by rotational deployments with following seas of emotional anxieties. I realized there would be repeated adjustments, unique challenges unlike traditional marriage, intermittent miscommunication, with large doses of trust a certain requirement. On the up side, moments of well-deserved joy at homecomings would be the pinnacle of pride and honor in our beloved military member, all to say this lifestyle is worth it. Either way, I embraced my new role as a supportive Navy wife, determined not to throw up the white surrender flag when the stormy seas crashed in.

Marriage is hard in the 21st century, but a military marriage is not for those with one-sided expectations or a casual commitment. Like a warship undergoing sea trials to test the limits of the workings and maneuverability to determine its seaworthiness, there are also difficult hardships inherent in  military marriages. These challenges will test a military marriage to see whether or not it is seaworthy. Three of the top concerns for today’s military marriages are outlined below.

Selfishness. Last year while driving to work one morning I heard that selfishness is the number one destroyer of relationships. John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” In any marriage, selfishness is a deterrent to a lasting relationship, but in a military marriage, its tolerance is short-lived, potentially sinking your military marriage soon after it departs the pier. Other than infidelity, selfishness left unaddressed, is the fastest channel to sabotaging your marriage, deeming it unworthy for a sea-faring relationship.

There is a new viewpoint out there in our marital culture. Dr. Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has written about this new perspective of marriage and its enemy, selfishness. “In the new psychological approach to marriage, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage–usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse.1

This new view, contrary to the Christian belief of marital love, which highlights Christ’s love for the church, involves freely giving of one’s self to his or her spouse, is short on roots of generosity but deep in self-serving motives and entitlement. One way to stop or prevent selfishness is to focus on spiritual readiness. Instead of asking, “what will make me happy and fulfilled in my military marriage?” ask, “what will make us blessed and fulfilled in our military marriage?”

Unwarranted Expectations. Like selfishness, having idealistic expectations will send tempests into your marriage. Young military marriages in particular will benefit from recognizing that your military spouse has a job unlike most civilian jobs. Even on shore duty, he or she can’t be expected to always be available for wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, or even funerals for in-laws. Although the military understands the importance and value of these milestones and events, they can’t appease every request, nor can they be expected to. They must continually balance the needs of the military with military morale and sensitivity to family. I recall halfway into my husband’s military career, he was underway three consecutive wedding anniversaries. I was disappointed, but when I reflect back, was there really anything he could do about it? Try the following to increase the sea-worthiness of your military marriage:

  • Focus on the purpose and value of faith and discuss together whether or not your expectations are warranted and fit the example of faith Christ modeled.
  • Resist the urge to punish your spouse for what he or she can’t change or control.
  • Refuse the impulse to blame your spouse for being in the military.
  • Comparing your military marriage and family’s rhythm and schedule to that of civilian marriages only creates discontentment and plants negative thought patterns that the military lifestyle isn’t honorable service. Even in the civilian sector, there are unattractive job requirements. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Deception and Distrust. These two undesirable traits are linked. If there’s deception, distrust soon follows. In  military marriages, getting to the first base of trust between you and your spouse is a must. Trust is a raw material that has to be cultivated. Trust is the cornerstone of marriage. It is what binds and links the other walls–unconditional love, commitment, transparency, communication, and honesty together. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. And our jobs as marriage partners is to navigate through trust issues, with sound resolutions, not around them, believing they will fade away on their own. Otherwise, the same storm returns over and over again, threatening to shipwreck your marriage. For trust issues related to infidelity, a couple can’t go wrong with biblical counseling. It may be a needed first step. Doing so will take hard work. There are no easy fixes, but if you’re committed it can lead to necessary discovery and growth. Pastor Chip Ingram, author, and radio host of Living on the Edge said about marriage, “conflict is an opportunity to grow.” Other ways to build trust are:

  •  Be transparent – While on deployment or even short underway periods, be emotionally responsible with your spouse to maintain trust. Share your day, the good and the bad. If you’re the spouse at home, tell your husband or wife what you did that day or week, where you went, people you met with, the money you spent, the bills you paid as well as those you forgot to pay. If you’re the spouse underway, do the same. If on a port call, share the places you went to, venture out in groups with the same sex, how much money you spent, and interesting events you encountered.
  •  Forget being right or wrong. We’ve all been there, but there comes a time when this mindset has to end if what is truly wanted is a healthy and working marriage. Strive for solutions that steer you in the direction of unity.
  •  Reconfirm your commitment to your spouse throughout the deployment. Think of ways that honestly convey emotional trust. Start with “I appreciate that you ________________ (fill in the blank).
  •  When failure happens, don’t give up. If trust was breached, it’s normal to feel hurt and want to shut the offending spouse out. However, if you’re willing, let your spouse know he or she can earn your trust back, but genuine changes that bear results must happen. Put accountability steps in play, but be realistic about time frames. Seek out a counselor trained in dealing with military marriages. Rebuilding trust takes time on the part of both spouses.

 Unfortunately, in a military marriage there are no sea-trials to determine if your marriage will be seaworthy. Once married, the marriage must depart from the pier and the challenges and complexities of this military lifestyle will prove its readiness. But with the support of Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches that offer a military ministry, and keeping your military marriage as a high priority will help ensure it is lasting and fulfilling.

Blessings,

Lisa

Lisa Nixon Phillips is a retired Navy wife and author of Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent. Visit Lisa at www.LisaNixonPhillips.com and check out her blog page for additional articles on the military lifestyle.

You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/faithstepsformilitaryfamilies.

 Notes:

1 Richard P. Fitzgibbons, “The Selfish Spouse/Relative, www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfishspouse.php (accessed 17 June 17, 2014).

 

Holiday Deployments: 6 Ways to Make the Holidays Notable

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Is there a deployment that runs through your holiday season this year?

Is there a deployment coming that runs through your holiday season this year?

Holiday Deployments

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Even though we’re still several months away from the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it isn’t too soon to begin planning for them, especially if your beloved military member will be on a deployment at that time. Deployments that run through the year-end holidays have the potential to cause loneliness and isolation. Communication and feeling connected are vital components for powerful growth during  holiday deployments. During my first deployment that stretched through a major holiday season, I found six strategies that kept a sense of aloneness from completely sabotaging my holiday season.

 1. Have an Agenda in Place. Even before your husband (or wife) has left on deployment, focus on nailing down your holiday plans. Putting plans in place communicates to your children and to yourself that yours and their world hasn’t stop when your beloved service member has deployed. Planned experiences also aid in bringing about the kind of growth you want to see manifested.

Do you live far away from family? Instead of traveling to see them, mix it up, and invite members of your family to spend Thanksgiving with you. Then, if the budget allows, switch, and travel to spend Christmas with them. If that isn’t possible, and you’re the wife at home, join forces with another military wife with a husband also on deployment. Invite her and her children to your home for a potluck Thanksgiving meal. For a more festive event, invite several women and their children over.

For the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend, put on the calendar one or two activities with just you and your children. Take advantage of the command’s sponsored activities for the kids, plan a day trip to an event or place you and your children have been looking forward to. If staying home for the long Thanksgiving holiday, incorporate simple at-home activities like putting together a care package for the deployed parent and include his or her favorite cookies or treats.

 2. Get Moving. If you are a seasoned military spouse with teenagers, or you want your children to acquire the skill and desire to help others, consider volunteering in a worthy cause. It is widely known that the most effective way to build personal growth is by serving others. In fact, one of the best benefits of volunteering is improved mental and spiritual health. Since deployments have the potential of creating isolation, by volunteering, you reduce your risk of depression. Other benefits include the satisfying feeling of making a difference in other people’s lives and bettering your community. You’ll may even make a new friend with someone you volunteer with, which can then become one of your support systems. Volunteering also builds bridges with other people who share a common interest with the cause you choose to help. If this is new for you and your children, start small and simple. Depending on the type of volunteering, fit your children’s age and skills, including communication skills, to the volunteer activity.

 3. Learn a New Skill. During my husband’s third deployment, I returned to school. He was nearing his time to rotate off of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and go to shore duty. You don’t have to return to college in order to learn a new skill, but a six month deployment may afford you the opportunity to learn a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Have you always wanted to take a course in creative writing, PowerPoint or Excel? How about something fun like learning to watercolor paint or take a dance class? The key is to find something that contributes to your spiritual and mental health and development. Even your volunteer activities may lead you to discover a new skill you’d like to enhance. By homecoming, you’ll feel more confident about yourself and your abilities.

 4. Seek Out Spiritual Experiences. If leaving a legacy of faith to your children is important to you, participate in your church’s Christmas activities. In each of my husband’s duty stations, we found a church home. As a military family today, you can benefit from churches that have implemented a military ministry. When God is a part of your family, He establishes your home. A family that incorporates faith creates its own unique spiritual bond, enabling the family members to see the military lifestyle through the lens of faith. It is this spiritual bond in which God’s strength is infused and enables the military family to overcome challenges that result in deeper relationships and spiritual unity. When there’s spiritual unity in your military home, it makes togetherness a richer experience and diminishes a sense of discontentment and aloneness associated with deployments.

5. Incorporate Fun and Reflection. The military lifestyle seems naturally bent towards seriousness. To even the scales, we must be intentional about incorporating periods of fun and reflection. Plan simple, yet fun activities like playing board or card games with your kids, or put up a tent inside the house and for one night everyone sleeps in it. Here’s one idea I did with my kids and it was a big hit. Create a story together. The idea is to make the story funny, meaningful, crazy, or amazing. It doesn’t even have to make perfect sense, just have fun.

The parent at home begins the story with his or her paragraph, then each child adds to the story with their own paragraphs. If your child can’t write, have your that child speak their part of the story and another family member writes it down. When everyone has added their part of the story, send it to the deployed parent to read and enjoy (and laugh). Then the deployed member builds on the story by adding in a twist or a surprise. He then mails (or emails) the story back home. Repeat the process several times so you have a beginning, middle, and end to the story. When the deployed parent returns, share the entire story at a special homecoming dinner. This can also be a time when everyone shares points of reflection about the deployment. It is through the exercise of reflection that we can truly measure personal growth.

6. Begin a Deployment Journal.If you enjoy writing in a journal, consider keeping a separate Deployment Journal. Record people and events you’re grateful God put into your life during your deployment. Include your circumstances, prayers, concerns, praises, or anything that was notable during your deployment. You can even include the fun story your family created above (for great laughs later).  When you spend quiet time before God, His peace will still your heart. His peace will protect your heart from rampant worry. And years from now when you reflect back on your deployment journal you’ll seen fresh insights of God’s faithfulness. That is a gift in itself. 

Blessings,

Lisa

 Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness from the Psalms of Ascent uses fifteen psalms to convey biblical concepts for building spiritual readiness in military homes. Each psalm carries a theme and Faith Steps for Military Families translates these relevant themes into the lives of twenty-first century military families. Through vivid pictorial metaphors, the themes cover:

  • Hope for when life as a military family is on hold
  • Understanding how God’s strength and love protects His own
  • Honoring God while living out the difficult military lifestyle
  • How unity builds resiliency in the military home
  • The danger of a complacent faith
  • Seeking God for a downtrodden spirit
  • A deeper understanding of God’s nature as Protector, Keeper, and the Night Watchman, and other topics.

 To order a signed copy of Lisa’s book, send an email to info@lisanixonphillips.com to order a copy. Books are $12.50 and includes shipping and handling. You can also order from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Christianbook.com.  

The Unseen Commander

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“For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28).Pharaoh

What is it about the amusement we receive from watching ungodly people in positions of power and authority fall? We saw this with the former dictator, Saddam Hussein, of Iraq and the head of the al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and other rulers in recent years.

 In the Old Testament there were several evil rulers, or commanders, who wouldn’t listen or alter their minds or decisions in light of God’s authority and might. Their hearts were hardened by their own proud estimation of themselves. When God sent Moses to go before Pharaoh and request that he let the Hebrew slaves go, Pharaoh gave it no attention. He saw himself as the supreme commander and even claimed himself to be a god. The Pharaoh didn’t give the Hebrew God much credibility. After all, how could their God be powerful if His own people were lowly slaves?  

Pharaoh’s doubt in a God above himself boosted his own confidence and he put some of this confidence in the strength of his army. Moses’ efforts to speak God’s truth to the Pharaoh at first failed, but in the end, God prevailed. The Pharaoh had to learn God’s truth the hard way. The death of his young son with the tenth plaque made his life uncomfortable, and he conceded, but only briefly. After letting his slaves go, His pride resurfaced again. God had to strike that final blow to his trusted army, by drowning them in the Red Sea.

  As God did then and still does today–He maintains control over earthy rulers. He sees their evil deeds and it will only prevail as long as God allows. In Psalm 125:3 it says, “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous…” A scepter is a rod or a staff symbolizing authority. In other words, God will not allow ungodly rulers to reside and maintain authority in the land he designated for His people indefinitely. Nations and rulers continue to rise and fall as we have seen in recent years in the Middle East. There will be a day in which God will allow them to stumble and eventually fall. But He, at a time only He determines will execute His judgment and eradicate those with a scepter of evil. We can trust our God on this truth. Because He never changes He is completely trustworthy, consistent, and steadfast.

Delight in the Lord’s mighty power today,

Lisa

To order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families, click here. You can find me on Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and Twitter @lisanixonphilli

 

Prayer: Ask God to Be Their Protector

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"He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler" (Psalm 91:4)

God is Your Protector. “He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:4)

Lord,

If I can’t understand Your ways, I can take comfort in the truth of Psalm 25:10. “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

Thank You, Lord, for every member of our armed forces. Each one serves from the heart with a strong sense of duty for his or her country. Each one has voluntarily given up certain freedoms in order to answer to a higher calling. Lord, may their sacrifices be appreciated by the citizens of this country. Bring a revival in the hearts of the people of America to pray for our military so that under God we remain the strongest military force. May each military operation be just and carried out with a clear and honorable vision.

The challenges are many, Lord, and I pray for daily strength as they march into unknown dangers. Arm them with courage, shield each one from evil intentions, injustice, deceptive tactics, and reveal every unknown threat that would undermine their safety and the mission. Protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3), no matter where they are, no matter the circumstances. In the light of day or the darkness of night, shield them with Your protection. When exhausted, be their Source of strength.

Lord, like You did for the pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem be the Keeper of our men and women in uniform (Psalm 121:5). Should any return home wounded, physically or from the effects of posttraumatic stress syndrone, I pray that immediate help would be theirs for a complete healing and for the return of a sound mind. For those who have already given the ultimate sacrifice, comfort their families by encamping around their hurting hearts.

Faithful Father, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22). May the mercy You provide be experienced by my loved one and all our troops. Let Your compassion be theirs and give them opportunities to see Your faithfulness daily. Psalm 25:21 says: “May integrity and uprightness preserve me.” May our military leadership be men and women who value Your vital role in the affairs of our country. May our military commanders call on You for guidance, and give them understanding of things they don’t know (Jeremiah 33:3). In doing so, may Your name be exalter. In addition to physical readiness, may our leaders be dedicated to preparing our service members with spiritual readiness, so faith can make a difference. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.

Blessings,

Lisa

-Prayer taken from “Faith Steps for Military Families

5 Habits to Do While Waiting on God

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What unanswered prayer are you waiting on God to answer?

Still got unanswered prayer? Try these 5 habits while waiting for God to answer them.

Like you, I have unanswered prayers. And it is from a place of deep longing to see those prayers answered that I write this post.  Waiting on God is just plain hard. And sometimes we wonder why it takes so long to see the hand of God move in our circumstances or in people’s lives.  I’ve been a Christian for forty years now, but twenty-eight of those years there’s been one prayer request in particular that I’ve been waiting for God to answer.  Sometimes the waiting just overwhelms me. My heart is torn and I’ve written in my journal the words, “How long, O Lord? How long before You answer?” (Taken from Psalm 13:1) (nrsv)  It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer my prayer request, but there may be some serious behind the scenes work that must take place first. And it seems like it takes longer for people to change then it does for circumstances.

Do you have a prayer request that has gone unanswered for many years? Are you praying that your next PCS move will be to the place you want or need? Are you a military spouse who is praying for a certain job to come through? Are you praying that a possible deployment won’t take place so your husband or wife can be home during a critical time in one of your children’s lives? Do you or a loved one need a healing? When praying,  do you wonder what He wants you to be doing while waiting? I’ve asked myself that question, too. Here are 5 habits worthy of doing while God is working on your requests:

1). Recollect God’s Faithfulness. When we become restless over unanswered prayer it has the potential to turn our attention inward and to focus on ourselves. This mindset might even lead us to accentuate other things we perceive to be wrong in our life.  As soon as you notice you are doing this, turn your heart and mind back on God. Focus on what remarkable things God has done for you in the past. I often start my journal with a psalm that reminds me of God’s faithfulness. For example, Psalm 40:5:

 “O Lord my God, many and many a time you have done great miracles for us, and we are ever in your thoughts. Who else can do such glorious things? No one else can be compared with you. There isn’t time to tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

 All through the Old Testament are accounts of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites. So often they were the targets of oppression and persecution by their enemies, but many times over God intervened on their behalf.  God was for the ancient Israelites, and He is still for us today.

Remember, if God could be trusted in the past, He can be trusted also for our tomorrows. We have hope as the anchor for our souls. Since God’s Word is unfailing, it’s also true that God does not fail either. He will answer your prayer requests, but it may not be exactly as you expect.

If you keep a journal, record those times where God came through for you. That way when you grow weary in waiting, go back and read those accounts when He proved His faithfulness. It will refresh your soul and restore your confidence in God.

 2). Allow God to Do a Character Make-Over. One of the truths about God is that He doesn’t want to leave us in our current spiritual state. His goal is to mold our character and grow us into the mind of Christ. But, for this to happen, we have to allow God’s Word to do a make-over in our minds. As this process takes place, we become more Christ-like.  His character is manifested in our life. What I’ve also found to be true is that while I waited for God to answer a prayer request, He was also working on some aspect of my own character. Instead of resenting this process, take God up on the challenge and ask Him, “What aspects of my character do you want to change?” Ask Him to show you, then when He does record it in your journal.  You’ll discover new ways to react to circumstances.

 3). Safeguard your heart from A Complaining Spirit.  If like me, you’ve been waiting for many years for God to answer a prayer request, the years of longing can take their toll. It’s easy to grow impatient. When we become impatient we tend to complain. Complaining comes out of a sense of dissatisfaction. The Israelites found themselves in the complaint department while on their journey to the Promised Land.  They had become dissatisfied and stopped trusting God. In doing so, they became rebellious (Numbers 14).  Their rebellion led them to complain about their present circumstances. What’s worse, when they succumbed to the emotion of the people, they lost their perspective on God’s nature. They forgot about God’s faithfulness.

 While waiting for God to answer our prayers, reframe from complaining, verbally or in our thought life. Instead, cultivate a habit of thankfulness.  It will safeguard your heart from becoming rebellious which leads to stepping away from the Lord. Psalm 37:34 gives us clear instruction:

 “Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing…” And God’s blessings are worth the wait.

 4). Seek Godly Discernment. Sometimes God’s answers don’t come in the way or in the time we expect. Then there are times when we don’t even understand what He’s doing at all. It just doesn’t make sense or we can’t figure out the reason why a situation went this way or that way. While waiting for God to answer, seek His face for understanding. He is a generous God and wants us to know we can come to Him for clarity on our prayer requests.

 Psalm 119:27 says, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (nrsv) When we make seeking His face for understanding a habit, it helps us to assess what course of action is needed. It will give us insight into people and circumstances that we might not otherwise have.  Discernment is one of those habits that will serve us well all our lives.

 “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…” (nrsv).

Did you catch that last part? God stores up wisdom and understanding for those whose hearts are His. How marvelous is that! Our job is to ask Him for it, and He will gladly supply it. This will help us to know how to pray for a situation or person. At the same time, be still and wait. This is called, “active waiting.” We are not throwing up our hands and saying, “oh well, I’ll just let the chips fall where they may.” Instead, we pray for discernment, so that when God supplies it, we will know how and for what to pray for.

 Psalm 119:169, “Let my cry come before you, O lord; give me understanding according to your word” (nrsv).

 5). Praise and Honor Belongs to Him – The Book of Psalms is a treasure trove for how to praise God. One of my favorites is Psalm 118. Praise is acknowledging God’s greatness, His power, His forgiveness, His authority, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, and other attributes. When we feel powerless to change our circumstances or people’s hearts, our praise catches God’s attention. Authentic praise helps to drive out doubt, and in particular, discouragement over unanswered prayer.

When I take the time to write out a psalm of praise in my prayer journal my hope in God is restored. Complaining focuses on the problem, but praise focuses on God who has the solution. Praise changes my outlook and I can trust God with my personal concerns and requests. And praise quiets my restless heart. And this gives me the endurance to keep praying for that one prayer request I still desire to see to fruition. If what you’re praying for is in alignment to His will, You can be confident God will answer. You have His Word on that.

 Delight in the Lord today,

Lisa

Step by Step

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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

God not only orders our steps; He orders our stops. -George Muller

The Christian walk of faith is just that–a walk, one day and one step at a time pace. Think about the idea of taking a walk. This implies a short stroll; we amble along at an unhurried but comfortable pace.

 Understanding God’s Blueprint for Trust

When my son was growing up he was fascinated with Legos. He spent hours in one sitting putting together colossal cranes, three foot aircraft carriers, boats, airplanes, semi’s, tractor-trailers, and other structures. His level of understanding of how the Lego pieces fit together was uncanny.  With each new Lego set, he immediately spread out the directions and then categorized the Lego’s into piles, and more times than not, just by looking at pictures he could figure out how each piece went together.  Perhaps you have a child with the same skill. By trusting in the directions or the pictures given, he was assured his Lego creation would come out right and he would be satisfied and content.

Deployments are another example done on a day by day basis. Our impatience wants to rush ahead and get to “homecoming day” so we can skip the middle part that brings about disruption and longing. But God created time in order for us to grow into His likeness. He’s interested in the final outcome – what growth He’ll see as you keep your feet firmly planted on His path. As you mark off the days and weeks of a deployment, you’re making incremental steps and that produces deep roots of growth which reaps blessings of satisfaction and being content.

 The Key Word is “Daily”

Matthew 6:11 says, “Give us this day our daily bread” (nrsv).  When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God provided them with manna one day at a time. Matthew 6:11 doesn’t say, “Give us all the bread we will need for our entire journey.”  There was no bulk ordering for the duration of their road trip through the wilderness. God only gave them enough to eat one day at a time (Exodus 16). And they were satisfied. Step by step is God’s way of guiding us along. And the keyword here is daily.

 Jesus also taught with daily in mind. Again, in Matthew 6, Jesus teaches this idea of trusting for our daily needs in a prayer He modeled for us. This prayer, often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, is our example for day to day needs. It begins with a praise: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed [holy, blessed, sacred) be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (vv. 9, 10). We start with a praise to God for His work in the world1 and then we address our daily needs,2  and our daily struggles. By praying this way on a daily basis, just imagine, if we recorded in a prayer journal, all the various ways God meets our needs and blesses us in return.

 Let God and His Word guide you by building your faith one step, one day at a time.

Delight in the Lord today!

 Lisa

  Notes:

1Bible Note for Matthew 6:9, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1989).

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

 Lisa is also on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsforMilitaryFamilies and on Twitter @lisanixonphilli, Google+ at www.Google.com/+LisaNixonPhillips4487 and LinkedIn at LisaNixonPhillips

 

 

In A Little While

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“In a little while.” These four important words can change our perspective on waiting.

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Jesus said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16)

In the verse above, Jesus was referring to his death and then His resurrection three days later. The disciples were saddened about Jesus’ impending death. But they didn’t understand the language Jesus used to explain that after He died they would see him again. To clarify, Jesus used the metaphor of a woman about to give birth. She experiences severe labor pains, and the hour has come for the baby to enter the world. “…you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 1:20, nrsv).  After the birth of her baby, the mother no longer dwells on the pain because of the joy of finally seeing her new baby.

I cried at my grandmother’s bedside the night she took her final breath.  It was Mother’s Day 1986. When the doctors discovered she was full of cancer it was too late for treatment. She was sent home to live out her final days. Twelve days later she went home to Jesus.  While caressing her soft but lifeless hand in mind, my heart was conflicted. I was relieved that her suffering from an aggressive form of cancer was over, but at the same time, my heart ached. I wasn’t ready to let her go. Her unexpected illness and sudden death seemed surreal. She and I had always been close.

As a teen, I occasionally spent my Saturday afternoons visiting her. She always baked a fresh loaf of bread and brewed our favorite flavor of tea. We spent the afternoon talking about the things on our hearts, how school was going for me, my friends, college plans, spiritual things, stories about my grandparent’s early days, and family history.  As we sipped hot tea from her best china tea cups and enjoyed the warm bread, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac played in the background. My grandmother had a sense of humor, too. And it always floated to the surface of her stories sending us into long spells of deep belly laughs with tears rolling down our cheeks.

Not only did her passing away leave a huge hole in my heart, but I was troubled over God’s timing. I wondered, Didn’t God know that I still needed her?  Nine months earlier, my husband (at the time) had left for work one morning and never come back. Heartbroken from his rejection, I couldn’t see past the hurt. However, in hindsight, it was my grandmother whom I believe God used to help discern my situation. My husband had literally abandoned me and broke our marriage covenant. 

For the next nine months, my grandmother was like Jesus with skin on. Living four hours away, she wrote letters every week professing her unconditional love and support, as well as Scripture verses to encourage and strengthen my faith.  More than anything, she wrote about God’s compassion towards those abandoned, rejected and crushed in spirit.

Like it did for the disciples, John 16:16 brings hope to Christian’s today. Twenty–nine years have passed since my grandmother went to be with Jesus. His words “in a little while” still apply and continue to bring hope. With the passing of the years, sadness has been replaced with joyful anticipation.  Faith says to wait on God because “in a little while” I’ll not only see my grandmother, but Jesus as well.

Who or What is Your “In A Little While?”

Are you waiting for your spouse to return home from deployment? When he or she left your heart ached, but take comfort in Jesus’ words “in a little while.” In a little while, you’ll rejoice at his or her homecoming. Are you praying while waiting on a situation to be resolved? Remember, there is an invisible hand working behind the scenes and “in a little while” He will make straight what is crooked. Trust Him to do what’s best. Do you feel agitated, pray, and “ in a little while” God will provide the calm. In cases in which you don’t understand something, pray and maintain obedience and “in a little while” God will bring clarity to the situation. As the days of deployment drag on and you feel discouraged–draw close to–and put your faith in the Lord, (James 4:8) and “in a little while” He will be the “lifter of your head” (Psalm 3:3). Those four words are significant. They were for the disciples when Jesus spoke them. When there’s a longing of the heart involved, “in a little while” becomes alive with new meaning and fresh hope.

Blessings,

Lisa

If you would like to order a signed-copy of my new book, “Faith Steps for Military Families” send me an email at info@lisanixonphillips.com. Ordering through me, the book is just $10.00 and $2.69 for shipping.

Also, come visit me on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies, and also on Twitter @lisanixonphilli