Reflections on Prayer – May

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Matthew 6:10 “On earth as it is in heaven…” By Lisa Espinoza What does planet earth look like to you? Not the whole thing…just your corner of it. Maybe your little plot of planetary is seeing some unexpected upheaval right about now. I remember one day while back enjoying the warm tile underfoot while washing dishes, until I discovered the cause of the warmth—a slab leak that led to a plethora of inconveniences including mold remediation and an absence of a kitchen and hot water. If this weren’t enough, in the middle of it all, my i-phone was stolen and the tile around our pool began falling off in chunks. I prayed, “God, what do you want to teach me in all this?”  I can’t pinpoint exact words, but the essence of His answer was, “Invest in the eternal.”  This month we ask the Lord to help us give ourselves to what’s real…to what will last and not be ruined by a slab leak. Week 1 Meditate on Matthew 6:19-21 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Ask God to show you this week what kind of investments you are making with your resources of time and money. Journal about your discoveries, but take it a step further and make adjustments in your life as you sense the Lord’s leading. Week 2 John 14:2, 3 Is there really a place called heaven? It’s hard to comprehend any other living quarters than the ones we’re in right now.  But heaven does exist, and it is more real than anything we’ve ever experienced. Jesus Himself said He is at work preparing this place for us so that we can be with Him there for eternity. When you experience setbacks or hardships this week, encourage yourself by meditating on Jesus’ words as recorded in John 14:2, 3. 2  “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Week 3 We know what earth is like—its contours, its aromas, its colors and sounds. But what is heaven like? Set aside a quiet time to thoughtfully read Revelation 21, or break it up into smaller sections throughout the week. Take time to dream about what heaven will be like. Picture every detail in vivid color. Each time this week you enjoy any of God’s limitless provisions—delicious food, the beauty of nature, the love of friends and family—remind yourself that this is just a preview of what’s to come…and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. Week 4 Heaven is heaven because it is a place where God’s will is done. We get to partner with Him in the carrying out of His will on earth. In doing so, we bring a glimpse of heaven to earth. Think of someone you know who could use a glimpse of heaven this week. How does God want you to partner with Him in blessing this person? Don’t let this week end without responding to the nudge of the Holy Spirit.      

Reflections on Prayer – April

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Matthew 6:10 “Thy will be done…” By Lisa Espinoza You’re headed out for dinner with friends or family, and someone asks, “Where shall we go eat?” You respond, “It doesn’t matter to me. Anywhere is fine.” Do you really mean it? If you’re like me (and you don’t have to admit it if you are), you actually have a craving for Mexican food. You end up at an Italian restaurant feeling more than a tad bit irritated at the fact that the evening didn’t quite measure up to your expectations. Enchiladas were calling your name, but here you are choking down a plate of high-carb low-protein fettuccine. Many times when I pray—OK probably most times—my lips say, “Your will be done,” while my heart protests, “Pick MY way…pick MY way.” This month we focus on the portion of the Lord’s prayer that teaches us to exchange our own desires for those of our heavenly Father. Week 1 As we recently celebrated Good Friday, we remembered the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…” This was a painful process during which Jesus admitted His desire for an alternative to the cross. This week practice getting honest with yourself and God about what you want. For every request or concern you lay before the Lord, ask yourself, “If I were God, how would I really answer this prayer?” Be honest. God already knows your heart. Use your journal to write about your discoveries. How often do your gut-level desires match what you see in the life of Jesus…in the Word of God? Week 2 Let’s get back to Good Friday. We hear Jesus crying out, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…” But His prayer doesn’t stop there. He continues, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Now that you recognize that your own will is often at odds with the will of God, you can take the next step in surrendering yourself to God’s will. You don’t want what God wants, but in the deepest recesses of your soul, you want to want what God wants. Here’s where God gets really excited. You’re getting real. You realize that left to your own devices, you are incapable of desiring God’s will in all things. Write a prayer in your journal confessing your insufficiency and asking God to work in you to help you want what He wants—“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 Week 3 Just days before He was crucified, Jesus told his disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)  Jesus was speaking, of course, of His own death. But He was also introducing a kingdom principle. When we die to our own desires, dreams, wishes and plans, we plant seeds that result in a harvest beyond what we could have ever imagined. This week ask God to reveal to you the “kernels of wheat” in your life that need to fall to the ground and die so that God can amaze you with His power to bring forth life from death. Week 4 Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), in his classic work The Imitation of Christ, shared four things one must do to learn “the way of peace and true liberty.” Two of these concern the will. “Strive to do another’s will rather than your own,” and “Always and in everything desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you.” He continues, “The person who tries this will be treading the frontiers of peace and rest.” Surrendering your own will can bring peace and rest. This week identify a situation or a relationship in your life that is causing you confusion, anxiety or turmoil. Each time you encounter this person or situation, pray this prayer. “Lord, I know what I want to happen here. But more than that, I want to want what you want. Work in my heart so that I have no desire except to see your will be done.”    

Reflections on Prayer – March

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Couple Praying Matthew 6:9-13 “Thy Kingdom Come.” By Lisa Espinoza What images and thoughts come to mind when you hear the word kingdom? Castles, royalty, riches and power perhaps? Something expansive and impressive right? No one awaiting the coming Messiah could have imagined that the kingdom they were expecting was essentially the opposite of their preconceived notions. It’s like God decided to play the opposite game we used to play as kids. Want to be great? Serve everyone.  Want to see God?  Humble yourself. Want to live a great life? Give your life away. Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy talks of God’s kingdom as “the range of God’s effective will, where what He wants done is done.” So when we follow Christ’s instruction to pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are asking that obedience to His principles would guide our hearts and infiltrate the world’s social and political realms. We see His kingdom increasingly established in us and in our world as we follow the example of Christ who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant …and humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7,8) May God reveal to us His kingdom ways and empower us to live them out for His glory. Week 1 Each day this week, read Matthew 5:2-12, often referred to as the beatitudes (from a Latin word meaning happy or blessed). Does this sound like the kind of people a king would want to populate his kingdom? Jesus includes the mourning, the merciful, the gentle in those inheriting the kingdom. In this season of your life, which of the beatitudes do you most relate to? Which are most perplexing to you? Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for making His kingdom accessible to you here and now through the grace of Jesus Christ. Week 2 This week play the opposite game.  Pay close attention to what is valued, applauded and rewarded in our society as you read the newspaper, watch TV, talk with co-workers, mingle with friends. Notice your own tendencies to move toward or away from God’s kingdom ways. Journal about your findings each day and pray that your heart would be captivated by the “opposites” that God values and rewards. Week 3 A powerful contemporary song by Clay Crosse entitled “I Surrender All” says, “I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams, though the price to follow cost me everything. I surrender all my human soul desires. If sacrifice requires that all my kingdoms fall…I surrender all.”  This week ask God to reveal to you any kingdoms in your life that need to be surrendered to His reign. Use these words from “I Surrender All” or write your own prayer asking God for the grace and courage to relinquish control in these areas of your life. Week 4 The Bible instructs us to pray for our leaders and those in authority (I Timothy 2:1,2). If you’re like me, you sometimes wonder, “Why should I pray for world leaders—does it really make a difference?” Reminds me of my kids when they ask, “WHY do I have to do this?” As a parent, I know why…though they may not “get it” until they have their own kids (and then discover what a brilliant mother they had after all). This week, in simple obedience to scripture, pray that the righteousness and justice of God’s kingdom would come to bear in the leadership of our country and countries throughout the world. Name any specific leaders or countries that come to mind.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a School for Your Child

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  1. What are the school’s mission, philosophy, and values?

From Kindergarten through 8th grade, a student will spend over 10,000 hours in school! Considering this magnitude of influence, it is important to choose a school that reinforces the values that you are teaching and modeling at home.  Thoughtfully consider the things that your family values most – faith, relationships, learning, health and fitness, serving others, etc. Now think of these things in the context of your child’s school experience and ask, “How will this school support and reinforce the things we as a family value most?”

  1. Are the faculty qualified and committed to helping each student discover and achieve their unique potential?

Teachers should not only be qualified by virtue of education and credentialing, but they should also possess a passion for teaching, a love for children, and a sense of calling to serve their students and their families. They should be involved in ongoing professional growth and demonstrate a desire to know each student in order to most effectively help him or her achieve their full potential.

  1. Is this a school where my student can thrive?

The one-size-fits-all concept simply doesn’t work when choosing a school. Just because a school is a good fit for one child doesn’t mean it is the best choice for another—even within the same family. Consider your child’s personality, learning style, interests, and academic capability when looking at school options.

  1. How large are classes, and what is the teacher/pupil ratio?

Class size is a key consideration in choosing a school. For some children, a small class size makes the difference between success and ongoing struggle. Fewer students means more focused attention toward teaching students and less time spent engaged in simply maintaining classroom order.

  1. How does the environment support each child to achieve to their potential?
If a school’s culture embraces the uniqueness of each child, believes in that child’s God-given purpose, strives to know and appreciate each student’s uniqueness, and creates a save, loving environment, a child is free to learn and grow to their potential. A visit to the school and conversations with current parents are effective ways to learn if the school’s culture creates this kind of environment for their students.
  1. Is parent involvement encouraged?
Studies show that students in schools with high parent involvement earn higher grades and test scores, attend school more regularly, have better social skills and like school more. High parent involvement helps maintain continuity between home and school and creates a relational community in which families feel a sense of belonging.
  1. What extra-curricular opportunities are offered?
Athletics programs, chess club, pottery class, and other activities apart from the regular school program allow students to explore various interests and learn new skills as well as build relationships with the other students they may not see during their regular school day.
  1. What enrichment programs are part of the school curriculum?
Programs such as PE, art, music, technology, and foreign language help develop well-rounded students and expose them to areas that may ultimately become careers or life-long interests.

Reflections on Prayer – February

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Matthew 6:9-13 “Hallowed be thy name.”  By Lisa Espinoza Week 1 In his classic work on the character of God entitled Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer writes, “To be holy He [God] does not conform to a standard. He is that standard.” How can we who are impure pray to a God who is perfectly, infinitely, incomprehensibly pure? Tozer continues, “We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God.” This week set aside at least 5 minutes each day to become still and quiet. Close your eyes and picture yourself in the light of God’s presence—standing, kneeling, lying prostrate, whatever seems right in the moment. If circumstances permit, you may even choose to physically assume this position. Ask God to reveal His glory to you, then remain quiet in His presence. Week 2 As we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are asking God to see to it that His name, a representation of Himself, be treated as holy. Our everyday lives are the grounds upon which we honor God’s name as holy. By exhibiting the character and purposes of God even in the mundane, we are bringing glory to the Lord. Begin each day this week with this prayer, “Holy God, by your grace and strength, may my life bring glory to your name today.” At the end of the day, reflect in your journal upon two of your actions or attitudes that reflected God’s character or purposes. Week 3 We cannot comprehend God’s holiness because it is separate from and beyond anything our natural minds will ever encounter apart from God Himself. In the light of His holiness, we can’t help but cry out like Isaiah, “Woe is me…I am a man of unclean lips.” Each morning this week, open your hands and symbolically offer up to God your unholiness. Admit your helplessness to make yourself holy and thank Him for imparting His own righteousness to you through Christ. Week 4 God’s creation declares His glory. Each time you go outdoors this week, make a point of looking at the mountains, the trees, the clouds. God’s glory infinitely surpasses even the most amazing wonders He has created. Imagine the unfathomable glory of God completely surrounding any circumstance that is overwhelming you.