The Potter

Recently, while my family was on vacation, we visited a pottery shop & took a tour of the makings of how beautiful, detailed pottery is created.  We were able to watch a live demonstration, of how a potter places a lump of clay on the spinning wheel & creates a vase from what started as an abstract mass of clay.  If you have ever watched a master craftsman perform a very skilled task, you know their skill can make the craft look so very easy. 

So after watching this graceful & seemingly effortless demonstration for a bit, the potter asked if anyone in the audience would like to try their hand at making pottery.  My son had been watching closely & jumped right up & said he’d like to give it a try.  So he stepped up onto the platform where the potter had been sitting & they gave him his own clay & a few basic instructions.

Probably less than a minute after he began the adventure it was clear his confidence was dwindling.   He realized quickly that forming a lump of clay into a sculpture was not as easy as the skilled potter had made it look.  The master potter stepped in & gently held my son’s hands, showing him where to apply pressure, where to ease off & how to move his hands in order to form the clay into a vase.

In the Old Testament, God gave this literal picture to Jeremiah as well.  He told Jeremiah to get up & go to the potter’s house & see what the potter was making.  When Jeremiah got there, the potter had just finished an attempt at a pot that turned out badly, but the potter simply crushed the clay, started over & made a beautiful sculpture. 


“Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter simply started over, using the same clay to make another pot.”    {Jeremiah18 MSG}


God very clearly told Jeremiah, that He was the potter & His people are the clay.  As soon as we will allow Him to take hold of our life, our lump of clay, He will mold us into something beautiful.  It will take crushing, it will take time & it will take the hands of the Master Sculptor to be able to make us, in all our humanness, reflect the work of the One who makes us righteous.

The problem is, we are the amateur sculptor, who with too much confidence in our own ability, jumps in & says we can make it beautiful on our own.  We try hard & we may even realize we’ve messed up & make a decision to start over.  But until we release the clay into the hands of the Master, we will continue in our turmoil.  Our sin, our selfishness, our own desires, spurred by our adversary, keeps us thinking that we can mold our own lives into something beautiful.  But God wants us to stop worshiping a lie & let Him be the truth that guides us.  The truth is, if we will repent from our own ways & allow Him to be control & He will start over with us, making us into a beautiful thing.

The big question is how we stop controlling & start allowing Him to make us into a reflection of His love.  Here are some things we can do to let God be the Master of our lives:

Release control ~ Once we can release control to the Master, He will make things beautiful.  Don’t confuse what He calls beautiful with something that is perfect, easy or comfortable.  That’s not what He promises.  He promises to always give us His strength in place of our own weakness when we allow Him to.  God can’t make us into a masterpiece when we are busy doing it ourselves.  {Psalm 27:14, 2 Corinthians 12:9}

Return to Him ~ Sometimes we get off track in our way of life.  Do you know the story of the prodigal son who felt that he could handle his life better on his own than under his father’s care?  He made the choice to leave the safety of the father’s house & live on his own, only to find himself as a complete failure.  But when the son returned home, the father ran to him & swept him up, receiving him whole-heartedly back with love & mercy.  This is a picture of God & His children & it will be no different for us.  When we return to Him & just repent, He will sweep us into His arms & give us an unimaginable love that will make us into a perfect reflection of who He is & who we are in Him.  {Luke 15:11-20}

Walk in His finished work ~ When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are given complete access to a river of grace that can never dry up.  However, though we have full access, we must go to the river of grace & let it wash over us, we must drink it to quench our thirst, we must wash in it for our healing.  We are not robots; we are humans with full free will to choose.  We can be free & yet not walk in the freedom we possess in Christ.   We must choose to walk in the finished work of the cross.  When we trust God’s accomplishments instead of our own we will find fullness in life.  {Philippians 2:12-13, Romans 8:1-7}


What areas of your life do you need to let the Master do His work?  How have you been trying to control your own life?  Can you release control today & let the Father create a beautiful masterpiece out of your life?


Love,
Cara

 
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Praying for Your College Student

Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord & lift up your hands for the lives of your children....Lamentations 2:19

Having a child in college changes your prayer life.  When kids are at home under our roof, we sometimes pray for them with the belief that we are in control of the situations they are facing.   Though God has made us a spiritual authority in our child’s life, ultimately, the decision to claim faith & live it out, comes down to the choices our children make.   

Children enrich life in a profound way & the sudden absence that is left when they leave for college can’t be filled by anything else.  Though it is an exciting time in the lives of families, college is as new of an experience for parents as it is for students.  When children are out of the house & away at college, they are in essence, on their own.  Which is a very different scenario from the 18 years they spent living at home. 

Parents & kids enter college with expectations of what will be, but we also are grieving what was.   The way things were in our family dynamics will change and will never again be the same as before we took our child to college.    Parents will become increasingly less of a critical part of their children’s daily lives.  We become advisors to our kids & no longer disciplinarians in their day-to-day activities. 

We have once again moved our son away for another year of college & I am once again filled with the same desperation I felt last year for God to move into the vast expanse of the miles between us & fill my child with the grace only He can give. I want God to show up in my child’s life & reveal Himself in ways that will refine my son’s walk as a mighty man of God.

Here are some of the prayers I’ll be praying for my son as he’s away this year.  I hope these will be helpful to you as you build a reserve of scripture prayers for your child as well.

  • Lord, I pray that _______________ will develop a heart for You & Your ways.  I pray that You will silence all the ways the enemy wants to call out to her {him} in this world & that she {he} will hear Your voice as her {his} true guide.  {John 10:27}
  • Thank you God that you have given _______________ a calling and gifts that are irrevocable.  I pray that he {she} will have the wisdom to seek Your ways in those areas & use them to further his {her} sense of purpose in what You have called him {her} to.  {Romans 11:29}
  • Father, as _______________ deals with the pressures of school workload & social relationships, in addition to other responsibilities, I pray that You would keep her {him} free from any anxiety that would weigh her {him} down.  Keep her {his} spirit & attitude in a good place of focus on You & keep her {his} mind on positive things.  {Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 12:25}
  • Lord, I pray that _______________ will have clear discernment to choose right over wrong.  I pray that he {she} will shape opinions & choices about life based on Your Word & what is right in Your sight.  Reveal Yourself to him {her} as he {she} walks through life & let him {her} trust in You with all his {her} heart & not lean on human understanding. {Proverbs 3:5-6}
  • I pray that in the midst of living life independently, that _______________ would learn to live life in discipline as well.  Show her {him} that there is a path that leads to destruction & a path that leads to an abundant life.  {Matthew 7:13-14}
  • Father I pray that you would keep _______________ in complete health.  I pray that _______________ would see that good health is a gift from you & that he {she} would be smart in all decisions regarding his {her} body.    Would You touch & heal anything in his {her} body that is not fully well & let him {her} know that you are the Healer. {Jeremiah 17:14}
  • I pray that _______________ would have fulfilling, godly friendships that will have a positive influence in her {his} life.  Enable her {him} to be discerning about who she {he} spends time with & trusts with the inner parts of her {his} life.   I pray that those friends will be influencers of Your love & give her {him} good guidance & advice.  May all her {his} relationships be equally yoked.  {Proverbs 13:20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15}

 

related topics:  7 Scriptures to Pray for Your College Student

Photo by Catherine Price

Photo by Catherine Price


Love,
Cara

Praying Scripture

No matter how long we have walked with Christ, prayer is one thing that will continue to be a necessary part of our walk.  However, prayer does not need to be a dread as though it is just a task to check off the list.  In fact, with time & practice, prayer can become second nature to breathing.  

I believe with all my heart that every situation in our life that does not reflect God’s love & truth is tied to a sinful stronghold.  Whether it is mental, physical or emotional, a worldly stronghold is anything “that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. {2 Corinthians 10:3-6}  According to the dictionary definition, a stronghold is a “well fortified place”.   This sounds much like the things in the world that keep us in bondage & keep us from living an abundant life.  

Over 15 years ago, I came to a serious realization that my marriage was in the bottom of a dark pit.  I remember clearly the day I cried out to God & told Him if He didn't do something, it would all be over.  I tell you in all seriousness, that without praying scripture over my situation I don’t know how things would’ve turned out. 

What God did was change my perspective.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, my prayers were somewhat wasted with my own agenda & desires for what I wanted for my marriage & what I wanted my husband to be.  

After realizing this method was wearing me out & allowing my circumstances to get the best of me, I knew I needed a different battle plan.

I began praying scripture over the circumstances that had brought my marriage down.   The shift in my mindset was nothing short of miraculous.  I began to realize through praying God’s word over my husband, my thoughts about my marriage & my spouse aligned with what God wanted, instead of my flawed human desires.  Over time, God’s desires for my marriage became my full focus.  It was an amazing turnaround that used the power of God’s Word to rescue my marriage & restore us to a place of living in love & grace daily.  

I have found a passion for praying scripture over every relationship & area of my life because it pulls me out of my own tunnel vision & takes me to the One Who’s ways are higher than mine. {Isaiah 55:8-9}  I have also come to realize, in opposite contradiction to the spiritual warfare of strongholds, that according to Psalm 18:2, God can be a stronghold as well.  This means that I am not bound to my own failures or this fallen world but I am bound to the stronghold of God Almighty & He is my “well fortified place”.

Too often, we pray with our own agenda...

...we don’t see changes in life or relationships that we want, so we just give up.  We stop praying because our natural eyes don’t see God at work, but when we pray His scripture, our spiritual eyes are opened & we begin to realize that God is not slack concerning His promises. {2 Peter 3:9}

Praying scripture is simply taking the words of a verse or a passage & applying them to whatever situation you are facing.  Here are some examples:


If I need to make a decision, I might take Isaiah 30:21 to the Lord.  “Whether you turn to the right or left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’.  I would quote that verse to the Lord & ask Him to help me to hear His voice specifically guiding me in the way He wants me to go.  

If I have a relational conflict that needs divine guidance, I might pray Ephesians 4:29-32.   I would say, ‘Father keep me from unwholesome talk & let my words be life giving.  Cleanse my heart of any bitterness & anger & let kindness & compassion fill its place.’

If I am in a situation where my mind {or someone else’s mind} needs to change, I would ask God to help me set my mind on things above & remove my thoughts from earthly things.  I would also ask Him to transform my mind & renew my thoughts.  {Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:2-3}


Of course these are only a few examples {I have made a list for you of a few other scriptures & topics below}, but you can see how our own pre-conceived thoughts or emotion about a situation can change to line up with what our Father wants for our lives.

Here are some ideas about how to begin to pray scripture in your own life:

Ask Your Father For Help ~ The only way praying scripture works is if we enter in to it with a heart that is willing to hear from God & receive what He wants for our lives.  He has greater plans for us than we could ever dream up, but a hardened, selfish heart isn’t open to what He wants.  We must set aside our own thoughts & intentions for situations & be willing to look at them through the Father’s great plan.  {Ephesians 3:20, Ezekiel 36:26}

Write It Down ~ I keep a stack of Bible verses that move my heart when I read them.  This can be a good place to start when we need to find a scripture to pray. We are in a battle against an enemy that wants to destroy every part of us including our relationships, identity, faith & our heart.  Having a stack of scripture cards is like keeping the ‘shield of faith’ readily at our side to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. {Ephesians 6:10-18}

Don’t Stop Short ~ It is so easy to have good intentions about prayer without full follow through.  Because there is a holy mystery about exactly how God uses this specific channel of communication with His children to bring Heaven to earth, we too often stop short of giving our full passion to prayer.  The fact that God ordained this way of inviting His holy power into our circumstances should be enough for us to keep at it, but too often we stop just short of His breakthrough.  Praying scripture truly helps keep us engaged by focusing on God’s will over our own desires, because it will bring a movement of God that we might otherwise miss. {Matthew 6:5-13}


What area do you need to apply scripture to in order to shift your perspective from earthly to heavenly?  Where is your Father calling you to give up earthly strongholds & let Him be the stronghold of your life?


Here are a few more topical scriptures you might want to consider:

Related Topics:  How to Pray, 7 Scriptures to Pray for Your College Student, 7 Scriptures to Pray for Your Teen


Love, Cara

How to Pray

Prayer is something I love but this wasn't always the case.  I used to be extremely intimidated by prayer.  When I was a little girl, I thought prayers had to be long & very formal with big words that needed Webster to define them.  I believed that somehow when I was grown my prayers would naturally morph into a liturgical ballad.  As I got older, my angst for praying grew as I felt like everyone around me could pray amazing prayers, hear clearly from the Lord & speak words that made angels stop in amazement.

My desire to have a good line of communication with God, however, spurred me on to keep at it.  After reading countless books on prayer, I began to gain understanding that prayer is an intimate & crucial part of our relationship with our Father who loves us.  Practically, I forced myself to pray in group settings, to spend time praying daily & keep a prayer journal.   I also learned to love praying scripture, which has been the key for me to unlock consistent & perpetual prayer with God. 

I have 2 kids & I love it when they talk to me.  They have completely different styles of communication.  One is bold & says everything that comes to mind, the other is more analytical about words & gives me pieces of thoughts over time.

Either way, I don’t care.  If my kids want to talk to me, I am willing to listen.  I don’t care if it’s about deep details of their day or silly antics of time spent with friends.  I just want them to tell me about it. 

God is the same way.  He understands we all have different ways of communicating with Him because He created us all differently.  He doesn’t care how you communicate; He just desires that you do it regularly. 


We need a prayer life that is persistent enough to keep discouragement from derailing us  


He wants us to keep praying, keep talking, and keep communicating.  His desire is for us to tell Him the good, the bad & the ugly.  We need the kind of prayer life that believes that God wants more for us than we could ever imagine.  {Ephesians 3:20-21}

We must stop over-spiritualizing prayer by making it all about religion & begin to measure ourselves through the eyes of God to make it all about relationship.  He sees us as His righteous child.  He wants to hear from us & He doesn’t compare us, or our prayers, to anyone else. 

Here are some things I’ve learned about communication with the Father:

A willing heart is all it takes ~ Take a tip from Nike & Just Do It!  Start with a few words, start with the Lord’s Prayer, start by writing out things you can thank God for, but just start.  You would never dream of having any relationship with a human being that you didn’t talk to.  God is your Father & your Friend & if you do not talk to Him, your relationship can’t grow.  Ask Him to show you how to make prayer a more comfortable action in your life.  {2 Corinthians 8:10-12, Colossians 4:2}

Let God’s words be your words ~ Jesus Himself gave His disciples words to pray.  If Jesus pointed people to pray scripture, we need to take special heed to how important God’s own words are to Him.  It’s not because God is boastful & thinks His words are the only words, but it’s because He wants to know you value His principles & hide them in your heart.  Praying Psalms is also another great place to start because they are so real.  There is so much praise & so much real life wrapped up in the book of Psalms.  {Luke 11:1-4, Psalm 119:105}

Be relentless in your prayers ~ Your enemy is scheming constantly to do harm to you.  If you stop praying you will essentially be giving your victory over to the devil.  In Ephesians, not only does Paul tell us to put on the Armor of God to stand firm in our faith but he tells us that we need to pray persistently at all times.   Being a person of prayer lays claim to the victory God wants for you.  {Luke 11:9-10, Ephesians 6:18}

What is your next step in prayer?  Do you need to make it a daily habit, pray out loud in groups or be bold enough to pray for a neighbor or co-worker?  Ask the Lord to help you to deepen your communication with Him. 


Love, Cara

 

 
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The Struggle is Real

If God is for us, who can be against us?  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31, 38-39

When my phone rang, I answered it quickly because I knew the caller was scheduled to be in a meeting & unavailable for hours.  The voice I heard on the other end of the line was shaky & gave me the news that someone very dear in my family’s life had died unexpectedly that morning.  My loved one was gone without warning.

This life is so fleeting and there are so many struggles on a daily, constant basis that if I don’t focus on Jesus and His reality, I will be crushed beneath the weight of the world.

While my struggle with the news of a death in the family & others we face constantly are very real, when we keep our eyes on the Rock of our souls, He becomes more real than our circumstances & He shows us what the real struggle is. 

There are so many things in life that push us down.   Death, divorce, job loss, sickness, broken relationships, just dealing with the stress of a whining child all day can be the last straw to break us.  But the real struggle of it all is when we begin to let the weight of our situation be bigger than our Father. 

There is a saying used in the fitness community:  “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.”  When thinking of a healthy body, this would point out the importance of a strong core for stability in every other movement of the body.  But think about this in the realm of the stability of our soul.  We cannot handle life when our spiritual core is not strong in Christ.  If we are not strong in the depth of what we believe about our Father & about who we are in Him, then we will be unstable when the hard things of life come.  

We will not be able to trust in God’s good plan for our life if we don’t believe that He is bigger than what we struggle with.  How can we even take the first step to run to Him for shelter when we think He is allowing things in our life that are un-loving?

Through seeking His perfect love instead of a perfect life God will give us comfort in our trying times.  We cannot seek Him only for how He can fix all of our problems.  When we look to Him for who He is in our lives not just what He can do in our lives, then His power & grace begin to flow freely to us.  When we Praise Him for who He is & when we are grateful for who He is, then

His grace fills in the gaping hole of pain. 

Our struggles are a tool that can put His glory on display.  Being a believer, doesn’t give us immunity from struggles in life; being a believer gives us access to the power that can defeat our struggle.    

Here are 3 things that help me when I am burdened by a struggle:

·      Put on the whole armor of God ~  When I think clearly about what God offers me to stand against the attacks of the enemy I remember that He has made me strong through the power he has given me in Jesus {Ephesians 6:10-14}

·      Walk in the character of Jesus ~ Jesus was never afraid because He knew who He was & who His Father was.  When I remember my identity as a child of God, I have no need to fear {Matthew 3:17}

·      Praise God for His blessings ~ When I start to focus on God’s blessings in my life, my tunnel vision of struggle diminishes.  It is impossible to be overwhelmed by the world when I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness in my life {Philippians 4:4-7}

There is a battle waging against us on all sides, but when we trust in our God & His unfailing love for us, we will not be shaken in the struggle. 

The struggle is real but the power of God can defeat our real struggle.   

Can you rest in the fact that God is big enough to handle your struggle?  Do you believe He still loves you even when things are difficult?  What is your next step in trusting the LORD with your current struggle?


Love, Cara