Will you join me in 24 hours of prayer for persecuted Christians?

pray persecuted churchTonight Kevin and I will lead a marriage group in our home. It seems so normal. Such an everyday thing to do. It makes my heart shudder that if we lived in another country, this might not be possible.

The news of Christians being beheaded, pulled out of their homes, and having other atrocities committed against them breaks my heart. I watch the news and I can hardly believe what I am hearing.

I racked my brain for things I could do to help. I suppose if we really wanted to, Kevin and I could go over there and fight. But that is not realistic, and I feel certain I would last all of 1 minute in a battle and certainly wouldn’t be helpful. So I had to sit down and think about what is realistic.

How can we help?

Living life in a way that honors Christ is one way of helping. But what else can we do?

What about 24 hours of prayer?

I minimized this idea at first. What could 24 hours of prayer on a measly platform such as I have accomplish?

But when I really thought about it, it is 24 additional hours of devoted prayer that would not happen should I choose to stand by and do nothing.

Now, it is not feasible for me at this time to pray for 24 hours solid, but what if I asked some friends? What if I used the small platform God has given me to grab at least 23 other people to join me. That is do-able.

I am committing to pray one hour between now and this coming Sunday for persecuted Christians around the world.

Would you commit for an hour too?

If 24 of us commit to at least an hour in between now and this Sunday I wonder what God could do with that? It may not seem like much, but I have seen God work, and He does a lot with a little. We may not see any impact this side of heaven, and that’s okay.  But if even one of our brothers or sisters across the world experienced God’s peace because we are praying for them – wouldn’t that be worth it?

If you are willing to pray for an hour in between now and Sunday, please comment below. Don’t know how or what to pray? Click here for ideas of verses and things to pray for.

Let’s see how many hours we can rack up!

 

the center of who you are…

instaquote-06-02-2015-19-43-42I have a weird job. There are days I’m squishing play dough with a sad 1st grader…days I’m addressing homicidal and suicidal thoughts with teenagers…and other days I do some of both and everything in between. I see the sheer innocence of childhood and the raw shrapnel of trauma.  Sometimes I get kids. Other times they shock me. Every new day brings adventure and a new shade of grey I haven’t seen before.

I know not everyone sees life the way I do. Not all mental health providers believe in God. Or maybe they do but they don’t pursue Him with fervent gusto. But me…when I see mental illness…I see Jesus.

Sounds weird right?

What I mean is…I see why Jesus came to die. I see the fragile balance of humanity. How quickly it can be taken and the delicate nature of sanity.

I know without a doubt that God’s design is perfect. But I see the invasion of evil that began thousands of years ago with a serpent and an apple.

And it breaks me.

My heart breaks over brothers and sisters suffering from anxiety, depression, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and so many other things. It seems so unfair. So uncertain. So beyond the human grasp that we try to understand but sometimes we just can’t.

And I believe that He breaks. He breaks over us…over and over again. Breaks to save us and pull us beyond the tight grasp of evil.

Mental illness stirs my heart and mind with questions. I know God could make it stop and heal the broken in a heartbeat. And with some He does…but others He doesn’t. It’s not mine to understand why or choose how. His ways are far beyond mine. But the lines get blurry. And all I can do is choose to remember that my job is to love.

Not superficially, but from the core of who I am. And that core is Jesus, who died for the sinner – broken, lost, and hurting – the least of these.

He ran from evil…but ran too people. Seeing past what was broken and into the healing.

I like working in mental health, in a weird it exhausts me sort of way, because it’s here I see the flux. The battle of spirit, mind, and soul.

I get to love no matter what, offering unconditional positive regard, for those who might not see Jesus any other way.

And what about you? You don’t have to work in mental health to love the broken. We all know somebody who struggles. Let’s decide to love them. Set boundaries. But love them.

From the center of who you are.

the place where real hope is found…

instaquote-25-01-2015-09-22-31

The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11

I know what they might say. That you don’t need Jesus to have hope. And maybe you don’t. But my belief system begs to differ.

The number one indicator  that a person might actually follow through with a suicide attempt is this…hopelessness. Not a past history of sexual or physical abuse, not a previous diagnosis of bipolar  disorder or depression, not the experience  of a recent loss or death – although all of these things can certainly contribute – but the big surrounding encompassing factor is hopelessness.

Hopelessness is an indicator of the state of our heart and mind. A place utterly devoid of pleasure  and filled to the brim with pain. Writhing pain that refuses to stop. It can’t wait. It must be ended. And so countless individuals take their own life.

How can we combat this? How can we be givers of hope and life? How can we give sight to the blind? Light to those living in stark barren fearful darkness. The one true, the one lasting,  the one faithful always answer is Jesus.

 

Am I saying you can’t have hope without Jesus? No. People claim that they do.

What I am saying is that hope without Jesus places a tremendous  responsibility on the part of the hop-er. A responsibility I don’t believe we were ever meant to bear.

If it is our decision and even our damnation  to provide ourselves with hope we are certainly destined for failure. There are good things in this world but other than Jesus Christ these things will let you down. There are good people but people eventually pass away. And if the burden of keeping ourselves hopeful is ours to bear alone, well that certainly brings hopelessness and fear of failure to a level beyond my comprehension.

The answer is clear to me. The anchor for my soul has to and can only be Jesus. He is my hope. When countless things and people have failed me time and time again Jesus holds me to ground floor of His love. When I mess up over and over again Jesus holds me to ground floor of His grace. I exist surrounded by an ocean of His unending love and mercy. That is where my hope comes from. Only through and in the Lord.

Psalm 29:11 calls this hope a blessing. Something the Lord has given to His people to be a basement, a rooting, for growth. Hope is the beginning, the birthing ground, of our faith. The knowledge  that someone far greater than ourselves charts the course of our destiny. This is our God. This is our hope. This is the absolute  truth we bank our lives upon.

So for me when it all comes crashing down – I can be as barren as Job crying out to God is desperation – but no one can ever take the hope God has given to me. Depression may knock on my door…but hopelessness stays away because of Jesus.  I operate as a child of God under His blessing of hope. The anchor for my soul. Whom and what shall I fear when my indestructible God is the foundation of my life?

 

Dear friend if you have stumbled across this place and are feeling hopeless I can’t help but ask if you have Jesus? Because lasting hope comes only in this: the blessing of God through Christ Jesus. Accept Him into your heart and your life and you may still feel as if your life sucks. But one thing will change. Your hope will rest in Jesus. You will have renewed power and strength. And together He will help you rebuild the ruins and unhinge the shackles of bondage. In Him you will have new life. Life abundantly.

Stop trying to rescue hope from the pits and dry wells of the world. This is not a place where hope can be found. True and lasting hope is found and held only in Him.

Everlasting God…

instaquote-23-01-2015-20-37-28There’s a holy thing about writing. The fact that scripture is written…not video taped..or drawn…not an audio file or download…but written. The scriptures were written.

I realize there weren’t news crews and cameras in every pocket when Jesus walked the earth or Abraham gazed at the stars, but had God wanted them there…there could have been. The original scriptures could have been documented hundreds of thousands of different ways. Ways our minds can’t even fathom.But God chose the written word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Jesus is even described as The Word. The Word that was with God. The Word that was God. God’s Word. The Scriptures. The Gospel of Christ.

I find the written word so sacred…so Holy…so remarkable. The ability to express the thoughts, the waves tunneling around in our brains into a compounded conglomeration of squigly lines that actually have meaning and make sense. It’s mind blowing when you think about it. 

So why then do we treat The Word so recklessly? God’s Word. The Word. We toss it about too and fro as if nothing more than a meandering collection of thoughts.

Of our own writings this might be true. Our sin stained hands have not in thousands of years scrawled the Words of God. The Bible. But at one time they did. So why not now. Why not new scriptures with new meaning.

Why does the Word of God never change? Why doesn’t it get an annual update or a revised edition?

Because the Word of God unlike the flesh of man is everlasting.

Everlasting upon everlasting.

His Word refuses to change with the wind or the swinging of political tides. It does not change with trends or legalization or seemingly new and fresh ideas…nor does it need to.

I the Lord do not change… Malachi 3:6

His Word, The Word, is written by Him. True and Holy. Everlasting. Never changing….This is our God.

I do not apologize for the state of my God or the truth of His Word. The fact that He shows anger, jealousy, mercy, grace, and love all in the perfect measure at the perfect time. With perfect and mighty purpose.

My hands and my words are bound by humanity. I am certain to get things wrong. But I know for sure when I post His Word I at very least get one thing right. And that right thing is what keeps me writing, sharing, and hopefully inspiring you to dig a bit deeper. To look a bit closer into His infallible written Word.

Because THAT my friends, The Everlasting - Never ChangingWord of God, is where every good and perfect measure of heaven and earth exists…for always.

 

Grace lessons learned from my husband’s laundry pile…

b4f99f6e1b5fdf9679fe1afc47e5fa49As I was doing my husband’s laundry today I was fascinated by a feature of his work shirts. They have mesh vents in the armpits. It’s so awesome. I found myself wishing my shirts had vents in the armpits. There are certainly days that I would find this feature useful. Days when my anxiety  takes flight like a bad dragon destined for the island of gloom and doom. Days when I wonder if I can do anything right and my fear of failure leaves me paralyzed.

Anxious paralysis is such an interesting state. It’s having the desire to move but lacking the ability to make it happen. We scare ourselves into a cease fire that ultimately results in the enemy overwhelming us and suddenly we are trapped without the necessary resources  to escape. Robbed of productivity we resign ourselves to the fact that we never should have thought ourselves capable in the first place and then sets in  the dark side…depression and self hate.

Yep these are the thoughts that bombard me when I see something as simple as armpit sweat panels. Either I’ve spent too long studying anxiety, depression,  and mental health,  or God just wired me this way. I lean towards believing the latter. Either way, I’m glad my husband’s laundry gave me something to think and write about.

And since I don’t think they are going to start making the trendy tops  I enjoy wearing with armpit sweat vents I suppose maybe it’s time to think of other things I can do to decrease my anxious thoughts. One thing that has worked lately is making the choice  to rely heavily, and I mean heavily, on the grace of God.

Why does this change things? Because when I choose to rely on His grace I free myself from the responsibility of action on my own. I know full well that I can’t do things up to God’s standards on my own and He knows it too. That’s why grace is an option. If He expected perfection, grace wouldn’t have been given to me. But it has. And because I operate under grace I operate under freedom.

If I make a mistake I don’t have to hide it. I acknowledge it, move on, learn what I can, and try to do better next time.

I don’t have to let anxiety paralyze me because with grace no matter how bad I mess up, there’s enough grace for that. Enough grace for every single mistake I will ever make. God has made a plan and a way to cover it. To free me from it. A way even when it’s dark to dismantle all the shadows.

So anxious sweats or not, it’s good to know I am free. Free to live minus anxiety. Not to say it doesn’t creep up, because it does. But I don’t have to invite it in for coffee and let it hang around. Grace will escort it right to the exit point and maybe even  keep it from coming around again. His grace is so much cooler than armpit sweat panels. So…instead of sending a request to my favorite  store to redesign their shirts, I think I’ll stick with grace.

 

 

 

The Jesus grace elephant has already arrived…and He was big enough for you the day He walked in…

instaquote-19-01-2015-08-23-16Yesterday our pastor preached a sermon about an elephant called grace. The massive elephant in our lives that makes it possible  to do anything.

He spoke of how we think we need a larger measure of grace, or faith, or love…or whatever we think we need more of…when He’s already provided everything we need.

 

So this morning when a burden hit my heart, I caught myself. I wanted to help God take care of the predicaments I am in. Certainly I could help him give me some clarity by sending a few emails and seeing how others respond. Wouldn’t that help you out God? And while I’m at it maybe I could have a bit more faith, a bit more of your presence and then you could certainly do more with me. Right?

 

Interesting thing is, I don’t need more of Jesus. I have all of Jesus I need. He doesn’t just give me a small measure of Himself and then hold back until I ask for more. He gave me all of His grace, all of His love, all of His ability to work in my heart and mind the moment I called on Him to save me. I can certainly study His Word and get to know Him more but that simply strengthens my knowledge base. It doesn’t qualify  or disqualify  me from the full measures of His love.

 

Perhaps that’s hard for you to take in? It can be for me at times. But maybe today instead of praying for more or praying for deeper we could simply pray for refreshed.

 

A refreshed touch of His presence. So that we might feel the ALLNESS of Him that’s already there. A refreshed infiltration of ALL that He is into ALL the we feel He might be powerless against so that we might realize it’s only the limitations we put on Him that are holding us back. We are fully forgiven, filled with grace, touched by mercy, and changed by love – right here right now.

What are we going to do with that today?

Busiest barren woman I know…

Fruit

I have an announcement to make. I seem to have fully mastered the art of the no. Over the past year I have said a great deal of no’s. No’s given so that I could be more intentional with my time. So that I could do amazing things with my family. So I’m not sure what happened…but instead I seem to have also unintentionally mastered the art of being the busiest barren woman I know. Days filled with task after task, but never really getting to the very most important things I feel God has called me to do! My phone bubbling with all sorts of notifications about crushing candies and the latest gossip on Facebook. So rather than spending time with family after work, I have apparently decided it is much more valuable to bust imaginary bottles of soda and set the gummy bears free.

But that’s not all I do. There are responsibilities like getting lunches made, going to work, doing the dishes, helping kids with homework…things I get done. But when it comes to studying the Word of God or sharing him via the avenues He has given me…I find myself making the excuses and screaming, Lord Jesus, AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!

So I sigh, make me a cup of coffee, and start up another game of Candy Crush Soda Saga – after all the gummy bears need to be set free!!!! And then I go to bed at night and pray, Dear Lord, please give me more time to do ministry.

How ridiculous am I? But I have to laugh at myself. Because I know I am not the only one who complains about no time to pursue the calling God has placed on my life, only to fill the time He does give me with mindless activity without even realizing how I am self-sabotaging any chance I ever had at success with this desire He has placed on my heart called ministry.

I remember reading a Lysa Terkerust book one time and she suggested just doing one small thing each day that led to whatever I wanted to accomplish. Be it writing a paragraph of a book I want to write, or taking the time to study the Bible every day so I can be a better teacher…whatever…just take small steps that lead in the direction I want to go. That sounds reasonable. So why don’t I do it? Why don’t we do it? I would venture to say it’s because we get distracted by things like those dang electronic gummy bears and Facebook “news” stories about how Robert Downey Jr. aged way better than anyone he thought he would.

It’s crazy and I can’t believe I allow myself to get distracted each and every day by things like this when I clearly understand that I should not. And maybe you do these crazy things to. Or maybe I am the only mom who sometimes is just completely unreasonable with what she does with her schedule and this is my place to vent. Either way, I have to be done being the busiest barren woman I know.

For my life to bear fruit, I must plant seeds. And I’m afraid that planting seeds at this point is going to require some sacrifice. Not the kind of sacrifice that requires me to say no to good things for better things. But the kind of sacrifice that requires me to say yes to good things because if I don’t I end up saying yes to terrible things! I need to fill my time with the good stuff so I don’t get distracted by all the empty stuff! Because when I look back at my days on this earth nobody is really going to care how many Candy Crush gummy bears I rescued or Facebook quotes I posted on my wall.

What’s going to matter is my family and what I did to share the love of Jesus. I may not be able to do all of that during the work day, but I certainly can when I come home, and I hope and pray that I will. I want to be the busiest budding woman I know. Budding with everything bright and beautiful that Jesus and His love has to offer.

a little late…but here are the winners!…

5e5d4894aa869422acdcc79cf575aaa0Overly excited,  under exercised corgi Bella jumping in my lap causing me to spill hot coffee all over myself = number one time I tried to write this post.

 

Man of the house using light pointer from work causing said corgi to bark incessantly while he laughed hysterically – number two time trying to write this blog post.

 

Oven beeping at me, daughters stinky feet aroma lurking in the next room reminding me she needs a bath, work computer reminding me of appointments, and mail piled to the moon on the counter reminding me of so many other things, and husband still harassing corgi – what I am writing in the midst of right now.

 

Life gets plain crazy. And it gets that way fast. Writing doesn’t demand my attention like work and home do so it’s easier to set aside. And here I find myself 2 weeks into 2015 wondering if God really meant the promise He placed on my heart January 1st. Does He really want me to spend time in this space? And as much as my schedule screams no, my heart screams yes.

 

So what is there to do when the promises and promptings of God seem impossible? We pick up our staff and watch Him part the waters. We get out of the boat and step onto the water. We take up our splintery cross and lay down comfort for the sake of sacrifice. We do what He asked us to do even when we don’t understand how or when to do it.

 

So what about you? Are you already questioning or giving up on promises you felt so strongly just a few weeks ago? I hope not, but if you are, let me encourage you to keep going. Keep running, walking, or crawling. Just keep moving towards Him.  That’s really all it takes. Because He’ll meet you even more than half way.

 

And last but not least…the winners are…

 

Sarah C – Wounded Women of the Bible

 

Judy Dickson – Stressed Less Living

 

Linda N – A Confident Heart Devotional

 

Please send me an email at stephkevinryan@hotmail.com with your name and mailing address and I will get them sent out to you! Congratulations and thank you to everyone for taking the time to comment and share!

 

 

un-bare-me

c6aaf4bdcd597eaef1a42e8284df2ec8As I sat in church listening to Rabbi Johnathan Kahn, it felt surreal. There were so many things I wish I could explain but the power of the Holy Spirit is often inexplicable.

Early in the service one of our pastors began to pray and a phrase popped into my mind. I felt as if my heart had sprung a leak from God.

 

Un-bare-me.

 

“Un-bare-me”, I thought. “That’s an odd phrase.”

 

So odd in fact that I knew to take notice.

Then something even stranger happened. As the pastor went on praying he asked God to remove baren-ness from our lives. That word again. Bare. Barren. Un-bare-me.

 

Could  this be a Word from the Lord? Will this be the year the desires in my heart and mind, desires I believe lie heavily in His will, might come to pass? 

 

All of the sudden I felt like Abrahams wife Sarah. Joy combined with utter shock and disbelief made me want to laugh as she did. He filled my barren heart with gladness.

 

Could it be this is His desire for all of us. That we become unbarren as He removes our broken hearts and fills them again with purpose and blessing.

It feels like a fresh download. New information. The slate wiped clean but quickly refilled with Holy letters and marks of His fame and glory. Could this be the breakthrough I, we, have been hoping for?

 

Sweet sister, I believe it is, but time is short so we must move now. We must go where He says and follow how He leads. Because if not now then when?

You are un-bare-en. Bare no more. Never to be again. Filled with the Holy Spirit and a fresh agenda from God. Do you see it? Let’s decide together that it’s time to live in the fullness of His purpose rather than the baren-ness of waiting and uncertainty.

A new home and a new thing giveaway…

new thingMy husband and I recently purchased his grandmother’s house. It was time for her to have less maintenance and us to have more space. But along with more space came challenges. Difficult challenges like putting in new flooring, fixing a water leak under the concrete slab, and painting. It’s been a fun process, except the slab leak. A week without hot water  was rough…rough indeed. But we are finally at a place where we can begin enjoying our new home. So, I figured while I was at it, why not renovate my blog space as well.

I wanted to refresh the look and purpose so I prayed for a verse that would define and set parameters. The verse He brought to mind was…

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

I didn’t like it. I hope that’s okay to say, LOL, that at first I didn’t like a scripture. My blog design was only going to be new for a short period of time. Then it would be old, and what good would this verse be at that point? But as I thought about it, He showed me how perfect this verse really is.

You see, this space is all about a new thing. God’s new thing. Because when it comes down to it, God is always doing new things. And unless He continues to do new things here…there really isn’t reason for this space to exist.

He is showing me that this space has purpose.  I contemplated deleting my blog. I spent the past few months exploring what it would look like to stop writing.  To keep the Gospel and voice of the Holy Spirit only inside my heart. But my growth suffered severely. I am finding that growth restricted to internal parameters really isn’t growth at all. True growth happens when we allow Him to stretch and bend us by stepping out of our comfort zone and sharing the transforming truth of the Gospel with others. We grow when we walk out our faith, and for me that walk involves writing – right here, right now.

I welcome you back to stephanieclayton.org with renewed and blessed assurance that this space is His. I pray God fills you with joy, peace, wisdom, renewed purpose, and strength every time you visit. I pray you begin to believe that God IS doing a new thing in your life and that you CAN believe and trust Him for ALL of His promises…nothing less. I love you sweet friends and it’s good to be home.

To celebrate I want to give a few things away. A copy of Tracie Miles book Stressed Less Living, Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart Devotional, and Dena Dyer/Tina Samples’ Wounded Women of the Bible. These are all books I have contributed to, and books I would recommend to anyone and everyone. To enter to win leave a comment below stating which book you would like to win and why and share this post on social media of some sort. I will announce the winner a week from today!

Love and Blessings,

Stephanie Clayton