He heard my voice

Imagine growing up with no one to answer your cries of distress. Imagine falling with no one to comfort you or attend to your injuries. Imagine being bullied, picked on and abused with no one to hear.

This is the all too common lament of the orphaned child. Here at the Joy Home, they are just learning to trust an adult. When I ask the older children, “who is there to comfort you when you have a bad day?” The most frequent response is “no one, there is no one to comfort me.” This, of course, is no longer true because they now have a mother here at the Joy Home. Each set of eight children have their own mother who functions as “mom” in every aspect of mothering. Yet, their perception is still that there is no one to comfort them.

I gently urge the children to tell their mother when they have a bad day as I urge the mothers to ask about their children’s day. This will be a long slow process of gaining trust because for most of these children their first good memories began when they arrived here.

Lord, help these children know that you have placed someone in their lives to parent them. Continue to open the eyes, ears and hearts of these wonderful women who are “called” to parent. Soften the children’s hearts so they will learn to trust that their new mothers will hear them. Help them trust so that one day they can join King David in saying, “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”*

*Psalm 116

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“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”

Most of the children here at the Joy Home have had to be self-reliant from a very early age.  As preschoolers, they had to learn to comfort themselves and find their own food.  They learned very early that adults are to be feared.  Once they arrive here, they have to learn the long process of obeying, trusting and even loving an adult. 

Many of the children I interviewed today feel that they are dirty and/or bad.  They do not understand that bad things happened to and around them, but they themselves are good, precious and beautiful. 

Because they feel they are intrinsically bad/broken or dirty, they often act out in ways that are consistent with this self belief.  Thus, when they hear, “you are a bad girl or boy”, it only reinforces what they already believe to be true about themselves. 

As I work with the children, I am hoping that they will receive a new truth and a new way of viewing themselves.  They have lost the truth that they are made in the image of God.  They have lost the ability to proclaim with confidence, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.*”  I told several of them, “I wish you could see yourself with my eyes and then you would know that you are lovely and loved.” 

Today, I prayed with a nine year old girl who felt dirty. We ended our session by asking that the Lord would remove this feeling of filth and “cleanse her with hyssop so she will be clean and wash her so she will be whiter than snow**”.  I prayed that the Holy Spirit would “restore to her joy…and a willing spirit to sustain her.**”   As we finished the prayer, she said that she no longer felt dirty.  God is good! 

Join me as I pray, “Lord, help these precious children receive a new truth.  Anoint them with your love and joy.  Help them to know that they are beautiful and beloved.  Take away the shame of their abuse.  Let their abusers wear this heavy yoke of shame so they will be brought low and then they will look to you for their salvation.” 

*Psalm 139     **Psalm 51

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“Surely, I had a mother”

The true cry of every heart is to be loved unconditionally.  We want to know that someone greater, wiser and more powerful cares for us and will protect us.  This is a universal yearning that can only be fully satiated by God.  Yet, here on earth, we receive hints of God’s love through good parents. 

In my work as a therapist, I am keenly aware of the long-term implications of growing up without a mother or of not having a psychologically healthy mother.  As these children grow into teens and adults, they suffer with feelings of low self-worth, depression, anxiety and anger.  It is hard to undo years of abuse or neglect. 

Yesterday, I interviewed the mother’s of the Joy Home to find out why they were doing this meaningful, yet difficult job.  All of these women feel called by God to minister to these children.  Mother Joyce stated that her reward will be to know that the children will one day say, “Surely, we had a mother.” 

These Joy Home mothers will make an eternal difference in the lives of their young children because these children will have their “mother hunger” satiated through experiencing the love, nurture and discipline of a loving parent. 

The love a good parent points to our good father in heaven.  We have a father who loved us sacrificially and put on flesh and blood to suffer a humiliating and painful death on the cross as atonement for our sins.  

Lord, let these children join us as we cry out “Abba, Father” (Daddy, Daddy) to you.  Help them to know that you are a good father who cares about our everyday lives, challenges and troubles.  Father, help these children accept the love of their mother that points to your eternal love.  I pray that these children will know that they are precious, valuable and beloved.  Lord, let them know beyond a doubt that you are good, that you are present and that you care. 

Let them one day say, “Surely, we have a father in heaven who hears our cries.”

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That which you gaze upon, you become….

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:5)

Who are the pure in heart?  They are the ones who only look toward Jesus Christ.  They do not gaze to the right or the left.  They seek the Lord’s answers and do not look toward the world or self for guidance.  His priorities become their priorities.  There are no desires, but His desire.  They have no will, but His will.  Their heart is undivided…pure!

It is a generally accepted truth that what we gaze upon, we become.  We subconsciously and consciously reflect the values and norms of our culture.  Many of our thinking and behavioral patterns are actually a reflection of our societal paradigm.  Most of us never realize what we are reflecting until we visit another country.  Thus, we have become what we have gazed upon.  

To incarnate a pure heart, we must gaze upon the Christ.  To incarnate His love, gaze upon the cross as this is the very definition of love.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   If I reflected the love of my Lord and Savior, then I would love without restraint.  I would love someone who will not or can not love me in return.  The love of Christ is a costly love.  Yet, I would be able to spend this love extravagantly toward others because when the love of Christ pours through us, it is constantly and supernaturally refilled and renewed.

So today, I invite you to pray this prayer:

Lord, give me your heart…a pure heart.  I acknowledge that there is a veil that covers my heart and prevents me from fully reflecting your love.  So today, I claim your promise that “whenever anyone turns to [you], the veil is taken away….and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [your] glory, are being transformed into [your] image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from [you].” (2 Corinthians 3: 16-18).  Lord, hold my gaze toward you so that my heart becomes your heart and my will becomes thy will.

© [The Center for Prayer & Spiritual Growth; a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk,Virginia] and [www.thewayofprayer.com], [2012]

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1000 Reasons Not to Pray

I woke up early to pray and wouldn’t.  I don’t know why I wouldn’t pray.  I found 1000 reasons to not pray.  I didn’t have to be to work until noon and wanted to devote a portion of the morning to prayer.  Instead, I looked at the front page of the paper and then I washed some dishes, started a load of laundry, answered email and began a small project.  

None of these things were urgent.  Last night, when I went to bed, I had every intention of waking up early to pray, but I couldn’t.  Wouldn’t??  Ugh!  

What is wrong with me? Like the apostle Paul, “what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”  (Romans 7:15).  Why is it so hard to pray some days? 

I summoned all of my strength and finally sat down to pray.  Immediately, I realized the folly of my morning.  I felt a strange mixture of consolation and remorse as I prayed my opening petition, “Lord I acknowledge you in all my ways, make straight my path. (Prov. 3:6)  Walk before me, behind me, surround me with your presence and most importantly, walk through me.” 

As I finished my prayer time, I realized that I had wasted the morning.  By not praying first, my work was only my work.  I missed the opportunity of allowing him to establish the work of my hands for His glory.

© [The Center for Prayer & Spiritual Growth; a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk,Virginia] and [www.thewayofprayer.com], [2012]

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No turning back

As we continue to journey through Lent, let us not forget to pray for those who worship Christ at great personal cost.  Recently, I was reflecting on the intense persecution of Christian believers around the world and I was reminded of the following story. 

About 150 years ago, a group of missionaries traveled to a small village in northeast India and led a man, his wife and two children to claim Christ as their personal savior.  Their conversion story spread throughout the village and angered the village chief. He summoned the man before the village and demanded that he renounce his Christ or face execution. 

As the man was considering this crucial decision, he began to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” 

Enraged, the chief ordered the archers to shoot the man’s two children. As both of the boys lay dying on the ground, the chief asked, “Now that you have lost both of your children, will you renounce your faith?   If you don’t, you will lose your wife too.” 

The man replied by singing, “Though no one joins me, still will I follow. Though no one joins me, still will I follow. Though no one joins me, still will I follow. No turning back, no turning back.” 

The chief became enraged and ordered the wife put to death. He asked for the final time, “Now I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live. There is no one for you in the world.” 

The man then sang, “The cross before me, the world behind me. The cross before me, the world behind me. The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.” 

Eventually the courage of this man and his family would lead to the conversion of this chief and the entire village, but he didn’t know that at that time of his death. His call was simply to be unashamed of the gospel. The death of this man and his family was a tragedy, but “what man meant for evil, God can use for good.”  Gen 50:15. 

Let us remember that an estimated 150,000 Christians are martyred each year because of their faith (17 Christians are martyred per hour).

Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who practice a courageous and dangerous faith in Christ.  As you pray today, please take the opportunity to watch the following video (the images are powerful).  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lgEh66-F_0&feature=related

 © [The Center for Prayer & Spiritual Growth; a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk,Virginia] and [www.thewayofprayer.com], [2012]

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“Too busy not to pray”

I woke up this morning worrying about how the day would progress.  I had too much to do and too little time.  I almost skipped my prayer time, but decided that I had made a commitment to this new prayer practice and I need to stay consistent.  So, not praying was not an option. 

My devotional time included meditating on the verse “for with you is the fountain of life; in your light, we see light.”  Psalm 36:9  

Only in the light of Christ is hope.  The hope of Christ drives out all fear (worry), for he is life and light.  By living in the light of Christ, we will cease worrying.  

My prayer for today:                                                                                                                 “Lord, I desire to be productive and successful. I confess that I worry excessively about the outcome of events.  My worry about fruitfulness robs me of the joy of today.  How can I live fully in your light if I am anxious about the next thing or a future event?   Lord, I place my day completely in your hands.  Lord, I have faith that you are a good God and that you are in charge of today.  Let me fully accept the gift of today.   Let me receive all that I need today for you are the “fountain of life and in your light, I see light.”  Lord, let me dance in your light! 

The result:                                                                                                                                   When I went upstairs to get dressed for the day, I discovered that I had spent an hour in scripture meditation and prayer time.  I was fighting with the thought, “you spent too much time in prayer. How will you get everything done?”  Yet, I felt great peace all day and I kept lingering on the image of myself dancing in the light of Christ.  As an additional blessing, all the things on my to do list were completed and I actually had some unexpected free time at the end of the day.  By relinquishing the day and the glory to Christ, he interceded by providing some unexpected workers who volunteered to help for an hour.  What a gift.  God is good.

 © [The Center for Prayer & Spiritual Growth; a ministry of First Presbyterian Church inNorfolk,Virginia] and [www.thewayofprayer.com], [2012]

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