One Prayer Most Christians Don’t Say

At 10:30am I finally sit down on my bed, open my Bible and ask God to speak to me from His word. I had a full day of accomplishment. I worked out for an hour and made a new friend at Planet Fitness. I started drafting an e-mail newsletter and had an hour-long conference call with a client about a marketing project. I landed a ghostwriting contract and posted my stories for tomorrow. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep because of an unsatisfied crave.

Crave is an urgent desire that must be satiated. This could be a good thing if you crave healthy, good-for-your-soul food, music or books. Or a crave can drive you to do things you would never think of doing such as selling yourself for drugs. Either way, God has put in our soul a desire that only He can fulfill.

I dutifully read my assigned readings following the ‘read through your Bible’ in a year plan. And then suddenly, three scriptures kept commanding my attention. I wrote them down. I journaled my thoughts and tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t.

Several scriptures convicted me to the core. I bolted upright and imagined King David in his might and glory penning these words. He was the one who slayed tens of thousands, commanded armies, caused a pagan queen to cross an ocean and a continent because of his renown.

An emperor and heroic commander penned these words that pierced my soul:

With your hand you drove out the nations
    and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples
    and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
    nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
    and the light of your face, for you loved them. (Psalm 44: 2-3)

God’s right hand, His arm and the light of His face brought victory.  David declares:

You are my King and my God,
    who decrees[c] victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
    through your name we trample our foes.
6 I put no trust in my bow,
    my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
    you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
    and we will praise your name forever.[d] (Psalm 44: 4-8)

David’s source of might was God’s right hand and His arm and the light of His face.  David’s accomplished his mighty exploits because he had an intimate, hand to hand, arm to arm, face to face, touch to touch, breath to breath relationship with God. He was utterly dependent on God.

I was convicted of how much I depend on myself and my own strength, might, connections and smarts to get done what I need to get done. I can get A LOT done WITHOUT God. I was terrified by my own independence.

I repented of depending on my own strength. I laid down my giftedness, my skills, my talents and connections. I asked Him to teach me how to depend on Him. I laid down my sword and trust in myself.

I don’t hear Christians saying this prayer because we don’t like depending on anyone. We celebrate independence and the self-made millionaire who doesn’t need anyone. We don’t want to need anyone or count on someone.

I’m immersed in a world chasing likes and shares as an editor of an online publication and social media manager. We want our video or our post to go viral. We want fame, fortune and popularity and we can deceive ourselves into thinking we will use this for God’s glory.

The chase for likes and shares creates pressure to hype or manipulate information to get people to read your post or share your video. We become a prisoner of our own hype. God’s victory doesn’t depend on my fame, fortune or hype. Winning God’s way comes by relationship alone.

A friend of mine at the International House of Prayer Kansas City told me how he quit writing for several years to get to know God. His relationship with God was more valuable then his journalistic ability.  I tried to imagine myself not doing what I’m good at for several years to seek God. Frankly I don’t see how I could do that because my family financially depends on my writing and business. God knows my situation and He has opened doors to people I would have considered 10 years ago out of my league.

The prayer coursing in my soul is to know how to depend on Him. To know victory by His right hand, right arm and the light of His face. A win that comes from a touch-to-touch, breath-to-breath walk with the living God.  A win that doesn’t come from my own ability to wield the sword or my talent to shoot the bow.  But a win or victorious season from hearing and responding to Him.

 

5 Dangerous Signs You’re a Control Freak

Control Girls often don’t realize that they’re Control Girls. I sure didn’t.
I spent the first 35 years of my life completely oblivious to my control issues. I knew I was arguing with my husband. I knew there was tension with coworkers. I knew I was frustrated with friends and family members. I just didn’t know these things all stemmed from my unhealthy craving for control.
Recognizing I’m a Control Girl hasn’t solved all of my problems, but it has given me a starting point for change. So I want to invite you to ask yourself the question I should have asked long before age 35: “Am I a Control Girl?”
To help you answer, I’d like to provide five common traits of Control Girls:

1.       You tend to be bothered by other controlling people.

Do you become easily annoyed by that bossy woman who always tries to take over in the committee meeting? Do you get frustrated when someone interrupts you (which, by the way, is a classic control-seeking move)? Does your controlling mother drive you nuts?
I’ve noticed that the women who are most bothered by controlling people are often quite controlling, themselves. They butt heads with the other Control Girls in the room who are all lunging for exactly what they are-control.

2.       You struggle with anger.

Are you likely to respond angrily when someone doesn’t meet your expectations? Do you erupt when someone interrupts your plans? Do you inwardly seethe when someone cuts in or takes whatever you had your eye on?
Anger is common for Control Girls. Our anger flares when we lose the thing we want, which is control. And as a rule, both of these-losing our grip on control and losing our tempers-happen far more frequently than we’d like.

3.       You struggle with anxiety or fear.

Do you tend to worry about safety precautions, germs, or symptoms you’re experiencing? Do you obsess over what family members might be saying about you, or what your boss might be thinking?
What about fear? Do you imagine the worst when your teen is ten minutes late? Do you suspect the worst when your husband doesn’t answer his phone?
Fear and anxiety are common for Control Girls because we constantly have to face things that we’d like to control but can’t, such as the future, unknowns, risks, and the opinions of others.

4.       Others send you subtle hints.

If you’re a Control Girl who doesn’t yet know it, chances are, other people have tried to tell you. Now, they probably haven’t said, “Stop being a Control Girl.” Instead, they tactfully give you subtle cues. Such as when…
  • Your husband says, “Honey, the mechanic couldn’t hear the sound either. The car is fine.”
  • Your adult daughter says, “We’ve been over this, mom. We want our kids in this school district.”
  • Your teenage son says, “Mom, for the tenth time. I’m not coldI don’t want to wear a jacket.”
All of these are cues that the other person would like you to back off and stop trying to control. You might not see it as controlling, but they apparently do.

5.       God seems distant and uncaring to you.

Does God seem like He’s too far away to notice you or hear your prayers? Do you think of God as too indifferent, apathetic or disinterested to concern Himself with things that matter to you?
If you’re suspicious of God’s motives or you question whether He cares, you won’t surrender to Him. It wouldn’t make sense! Only the person who sees God as both sovereign over creation and lovingly involved in the details of everyday life will choose to surrender to Him. The rest, by default, will live like Control Girls, doing the best they can to get control and keep everything on track.
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About Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible

“I control because I care.”
“I just want to be sure of a happy ending.”
“I worry that everything is spinning out of control.”
Many women can identify with statements like these. They have a compulsion to make everything turn out just right and are willing to do anything to make it happen. But this unbalanced pursuit of control makes those around them anxious and defensive. And when they realize control is slipping from their grasp, they lose control of themselves and react in anger or fear.
Shannon Popkin knows this struggle inside and out. Keeping her inner Control Girl hidden is a full-time job. Thankfully, she also knows another very important truth: no woman has to be a Control Girl.
In this encouraging book, Shannon invites seven Control Girls from the Bible into the conversation. She examines each story for the moments in which grasping for control circumvented God’s plans for good, whether it was Eve’s desire to know instead of to trust, Sarah’s inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah’s controlling hand on her family’s future. Finally, Shannon finds God’s perspective on each of the problems and then reveals how readers’ can have their own happy endings in similar situations.
The author shares from her own struggles and follows each Bible study with questions for personal reflection. In the end, controlling women will find insight into their own experience, peace in the knowledge that God is in control, and relief that they are free.
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  Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker and Bible teacher who combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She is a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman blog and author of the book Control Girl. Popkin and her husband live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens in Michigan.
Connect with Shannon Popkin and learn more about Control Girl by visiting www.shannonpopkin.com, following her on Facebook (shanpopkin) or following her via Twitter (@ShannonPopkin).

4 Reasons to Not Drop Out of Church When You Have Multiple Littles

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At 6:05pm I just walked into the door from a long day at work and the kids have not been fed. We grab a bowl of cereal and load our toddler into his car seat. His big brother straps himself into the back seat of the van. The van floor is riddled with crumpled wrappers of hamburgers, cheerios and sippy cups.

We’re five minutes from church and Alex got out of his car seat. Again. He is hitting me on the back of the head. We pull over and I put Alex back into his car seat.

We’re exhausted and I’m wondering if hauling two kids on a week night to church is worth the effort. After all, they have school tomorrow morning and I have no idea what they are going to wear. We drop off the boys at their ministries and go into the church prayer service.

We start singing worship songs and refreshing strength surges in me. “Wow I feel good,” I tell my husband, Jerome, standing next to me. He smiles and squeezes my hand. As we worship together, we feel the presence of something bigger and stronger pulling us together.

When we go to pick up the boys from their ministries, they don’t want to go home. They are smiling and talking to their friends. Jerome has to literally pick up Alex and drag him out of the Infant Toddler Ministry. We chat with some of our friends who are in the same boat as we are, struggling to pay bills and bringing their multiple littles to church.

I spent several years in the foyer with my daughter with special needs who struggled to sit still and had issues with the sound. I wondered if it was worth getting her dressed just to get to church so I can stand in the foyer with her. There were many years of tears and frustration with her situation.

Today the squirmy toddler, Alex, who couldn’t stay in his car seat is a worship leader in the youth group. His big brother, Chris, also loves God and helps at church when he isn’t working or going to school. And my special needs daughter, D’Andra, literally runs us over to get to church.

I’ve seen single guys and girls pray for a mate. God answers their prayers and then kiddos show up. Then they quit attending church or drop their participation dramatically because of the struggle of bringing multiple littles. I totally understand the struggle of getting kids cleaned, dressed and ready for church.

But here’s why I encourage you to continue to bring your child to church even though you may need to feed them fast food to get their:

  • You’re establishing the priority of going to church. There are so many benefits of going to church. A 2010 Child Trends’ review indicates that kids from religious backgrounds are less likely to be involved in violence, theft and vandalism or to struggle with substance abuse problems than their peers. Here’s a link to the 10 Benefits of Attending Church. More importantly, the Bible is clear as to how this is a priority for God. “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 MEV)
  • Your children can develop social skills in a safe, faith-based setting. Church is the perfect place for children to learn how to get along with other people who don’t look like them; how to share and how to carry on a conversation.
  • Your children will learn about God and values that will set a strong foundation for their life. I have never had to have a long, drawn-out conversation with my kids on why they shouldn’t do drugs or commit crime. We’ve touched on those issues but they already have within them teachings and training from years of hearing sermons, delivering sermons themselves and participating in prayer and a faith community.
  • Your children will develop relationships with key people in their community of faith that could mentor them and open doors for them. I know that God brought certain people into my son’s lives that have influenced them as musicians and creatives who want to change the world. Our senior pastor, Steve Gray, has been an incredible example of a passionate creative with a message who is not afraid to experiment and take risks in writing, movie making and music. They have had other models in their life to follow such as Integrity Music recording artist Dustin Smith and Pastor Eric Thomason, another Integrity Music songwriter and artist. If I never brought them to church and they never participated, they would have never made these incredible connections.

So moms and dads of multiple littles, I know how hard it is to get the kids bathed, dressed and fed to get to church. But the benefits far outweigh the temporary season of hardship. Don’t cave into our culture that makes faith secondary to sports, success in business and entertainment. Don’t give into the voices of your family that tell you that you don’t need to bring your kids to church. My heart goes out to you and I pray that God strengthens you and backs you up as you do what is right. Believe me, bringing all the littles to church is well worth the investment.

My Dad is on Ashley Madison

As the fallout explodes in our nation with suicides, divorces and broken families in the wake of the massive exposure of men signed up on a web site that facilitates adultery, I’ve often wondered would my dad have been a client if he was alive today?

My dad’s philandering was often dismissed by jokes that he just lived a colorful life of a “rolling stone.” But underneath the veneer of lighthearted revelry and joking about his multiple women, I was stung by the shame, rejection and unworthiness. I was ashamed that he was the object of family jokes. I felt rejected because every new woman in his life meant he had no time or interest in me. I felt unworthy of his attention and care.

The shame, rejection and unworthiness grew into a deep hatred towards him. I hated the story of how he tricked my mom into believing that the box of pictures under the bed of a woman and her children was his sister. My mom discovered later that the woman was a wife that he abandoned in the Philippines.

I hated the disdain, the scorn and mockery of his life that stained mine. During those years of growing up in the shadow of his affairs, there was no one to talk to. I had no one to talk to about the pain of rejection or the shame of being associated by name only to an adulterous man.

When I read the news stories about the men exposed by Ashley Madison, I immediately thought of the child who has no one to talk to, no one to explain to them that their father’s indiscretion
isn’t their fault.

If I could have been the adult in my life when I was a little girl overhearing whispered jeers about how my dad couldn’t keep his “you know what” in his pants, I would tell her:

* I see your hurt and your pain. This is not a joke to me.
* Your father loves you but has a problem that he needs to get help for.
* This is not your fault. You didn’t do anything to cause your father to wander.
* I accept you. You have a lot of people who love you and accept you. I care for you.

While Christians are saying that this is God’s judgment, don’t forget the children who can’t speak up for themselves or don’t know how to express their pain and frustration. Let’s pray for God to heal our families and our marriages.

Let’s pray that we have the heart of God towards the children, their struggling father and the family. Don’t gossip about the parent or family struggling with marital infidelity. Pray for them instead. Pray that God heals and restores them.

If you’re family is suffering from the throes of marital infidelity, please message me. I want to stand with you in prayer.

For the Love of a Godly Man

After 20 years of marriage, my husband, Jerome Haywood, is still pliable under the hand of God. I don’t know if women realize the value of a man whose heart is soft towards God. I think most women value other qualities that are useless in 20 years.

We got married on the first day of spring in 1993.

Just last weekend we both received prayer several times at our church after the service. The glory of God swept over us. In one moment of God counseling us at the altar, my focus for the purpose of our marriage was restored. God brought us into each other’s lives for His glory.

Since that one moment, we’ve prayed together and went on a date. We have a zest about being with each other. This would not have been possible if my husband didn’t have a soft heart towards God.

My advice to young women who want to marry a godly man is to become a godly woman. Marry a man who has a soft heart towards God. A man who hears and responds to God is a treasure to his friends and his family.

And choose a guy based on his potential in 20 years. I see too many woman that want the hunk or the guy flowing in cash. How about the quiet guy at church who serves faithfully and works hard? No, you want the bad boy who just walked into church or maybe you met him at work and hope he comes to church with you.

When Sarah married Abraham, he wasn’t a father of nations.

When Bathsheba married king David, it was after he sent someone to kill her husband.

When Ruth married Boaz, she was a widow in a foreign land.

God called Abraham to be a father of nations and to a land he had never visited. How would you like your husband to come in and say, “Honey, pack your bags! God spoke to me and told me that we were to go but I don’t know where.”

Or how about when Bathsheba’s first son dies because David killed her husband. How do you handle that tragedy because of your marriage to the king?

Or Ruth who has to follow her mother-in-law’s instructions to the letter to catch Boaz’s attention.

These remarkable women married remarkable men. Do you really want a godly husband? Then plan to have no control. Plan to let him lead you to God only knows where because he is trying to figure it out himself. Be resilient, flexible, trusting God.

When I married Jerome, I asked him what was his 5-year-plan. He said his plan was to take care of me and his kids. He had no specifics but his goal was to be a good husband and father.

I remember his marriage proposal at Shelter Rose Garden in Columbia like it happened yesterday. He shared with me his heart and the calling on his life, then he asked me if I was game for the adventure. “Will you join me in walking with God?”

Marrying a man who is after God’s heart is marrying someone who is walking with God. He is changing and growing in his own walk with God. There have been moments where I was frustrated with Jerome.

Instead of harping on him about my frustrations, I cried out to God. Every time, God would change me. Then my husband would repent of the very thing that I was frustrated about. I’ve always been amazed at how faithful God is to keeping our marriage together.

I think this dynamic of God is a lost treasure for most marriages. Most couples don’t even consider God’s concerns or cares about their relationship. They are focused on what they want to get out of it.

I know I was self-centered, manipulative and critical when we first got married. The poor guy had no idea what he was getting into. He thought God was answering his prayers but was he in for a surprise. I needed to be changed!

Jerome worked in retail so he came home late at night. I would go out with my girlfriends for coffee and get home around 9pm to throw dinner together. One night he came home to a piece of chicken on a plate.

Jerome never complained. He made himself mashed potatoes to go with his piece of chicken and told me about his day. I’m amazed at how resilient and uncomplaining he has been all these years.

When the kids arrived, he never complained about going out in the middle of the night because we ran out of formula or Alex wouldn’t sleep without his pacifier. Or he had to change diapers or stay up with the boys because I was too exhausted to get up at 3am to feed them.

Girls, if you want a godly man who will be a great dad, look at that guy you’re dating and ask yourself if he would go out in the middle of the night to buy a pacifier for your kid. Or does he read his bible everyday and pray? Does the guy have any interest in God or church?

I’m telling you that what you’re dating is what will be laying next to you in 20 years. You cannot change him. Only God can change him but you have to change too. For the love of a godly man, what are you willing to do to prepare yourself for him?

I believe there are godly men in my church who are always overlooked by gals wanting the flashy types with hardly any character. These guys are not going to be on the cover of GQ Magazine but neither are you going to grace the cover of a magazine. They will go out in the middle of the night to buy the pacifier to your child to sleep. Or get up at 3a.m. to take care of your child so you can sleep.

For the love of a godly man, become a godly woman. Let God have His way in your life now. Trust Him to bring you the person you want to be with. And trust Him completely while you’re waiting.