Counsel That Leads Us Forward

“I don’t know what to give her.”
“I can’t decide whether I should let him go to that–or not.”
“I don’t know how to have this conversation.”
“I not sure how to handle this situation.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9.6)

Wonderful Counselor.
God desires that we know Him as Counselor—and He doesn’t specify ‘only for the big stuff.’

Any time of year, we have decisions to make, circumstances to deal with. Some are big; others are small. Yet sometimes the smallest matters stress us out or keep us up at night. Or, we think about it so much, that mental exhaustion plagues us.

Maybe we unintentionally categorize things that warrant prayer and things that are too trivial to ask God?

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4.5b-6)

“In everything” includes the trivial and every category of life. When we talk and listen to God, we practice having relationship with Him. We draw nearer to our Shepherd and learn to discern His voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10.27)  Relationship.

Instead of only thinking about something, ask God and learn to listen for His guidance. This season can be extra-busy.  Pause to practice prayer—to seek God’s counsel—as you drive to work, take a walk or jog, wash the dishes, shower, wait in line, sit on hold on the phone . . .

Practice with the small stuff. Consider this:  Your friend or child seeks your counsel or advice for a small matter like: Which shirt should I wear?  Do you think I should go to that? What should I give him for Christmas? Your availability communicates value, support, faithfulness. How much more does God desire that we experience His steadfastness?

The simplest of counsel is sorta like a recommendation: Lord, which would be the best appointment date? . . . Please show me who I should ask to lead this committee? . . . When is the best time to tell them the news?

When I began to practice praying about the small or trivial, God grew my confidence that He really is with me all day and all night. Plenty of times I didn’t receive a clear answer, but His peace guarded my heart from worry as I made decisions or moved through a long hour. He became my Wonderful Counselor, sometimes providing a person as His tangible vessel for me to talk with at just the right moment. He grew my understanding of his love as Father—He doesn’t grade what we seek His counsel about; rather, He delights that He is the One whose counsel we seek.

Practice. Then, when the big decisions or circumstances come, discover that God has built a solid foundation of faith in your heart. Your relationship is intimate, and your dependence is strong.

When we seek God, we decide to believe that God’s way is the wise way. And even if we aren’t sure of his answer, we trust that He is with us and leading. He grows us to know Him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dear God,

You know our need before we ask. Thank you for counselors that you provide in our life—professionals, family, friends, acquaintances—who seek you and serve as tangible vessels of your counsel and point us to you. Especially, prompt us to pray as we move through our day, to trust that you want us to come to you in everything, that we will know you personally as our Wonderful Counselor. Amen.

How To Pray When Our Mind Is Spinning

Sometimes my mind spins in so many directions that I stress my self out. I can’t focus or settle inside. Then I get frustrated, which seems to fuel my spin pace . . . and I just wanna scream or cry or run away for the day.

. . . There’s that project I need to tackle, but I’m not sure how best to approach it, so I just keep putting it off. There are calls I want or need to make, only I can’t seem to find the right time when there’s enough time to talk. Always, there’s that pile on the counter that I need to just deal with—but, y’all, every time I remove two items, at least four more materialize. What’s with that? And then there are those matters that I simply need to think through, process, and weigh, yet allotting time for those seems to require that I sacrifice  time earmarked for something else. Do you ever feel like this, or is it just me?

So the other day, when I was having one of those days, I vented, God help me! I guess I halfway expected Him to transform everything right there on the spot—which He can do, because He’s God. But that didn’t happen.

What did happen is God got my attention. All along He was with me . . . I just wasn’t with Him. My mind dwelt on the pile of things I needed to do and how inadequate I felt to accomplish most of it.

God waited for me to turn to Him—to take my thoughts and feelings to Him and dwell in Him. All along, He was right there, holding me. Our loving God holds you and me. Do we talk with Him as though He’s holding us? You and I are His Beloved. BELOVED. When this is my approach, I feel secure.
Try it.

When we turn to God, we practice trusting Him. We decide to rely on Him. Instead of leading our way, we ask for His.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5.3)

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56.3)

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62.8)

Welcome God in to your thoughts—as you drive, wait in a line, take a walk, vacuum, shower, or stare at that pile on the counter.

God, I commit this day to you. Help me be present to your presence today.
God, I am overwhelmed. Please help me unload all this to you.
You are faithful. You are with me. I am your Beloved.

Invite Him to join that conversation. Better yet, ask Him to lead you through—with your boss, a co-worker, your husband, child, a friend.

God, help me only say what you want me to say.
Give me understanding, insight, and grace.
Please heal, strengthen, and grow this relationship your way. 

Include Him as you think through that project or assignment, ponder that looming decision, or consider the best way forward in a challenging relationship.

God, I don’t know how to go forward. I need your wisdom and guidance.
Please protect me.
Help me trust you, discern your will, and follow you.

Live like a lifelong learner. Every day we learn and practice. When we pray, we practice relying on God. We draw near.  Try it.

For When It’s Hard To Be Still

Have you ever noticed how a photograph—of someone you know or a scene of nature—can cause you to be still for a few minutes or longer? It holds a moment in our life or a mesmerizing sample of God’s creation. When my computer screen is idle, my photo collection rolls, and if my husband or I are nearby, it’s inevitable that we just stop and watch and eventually get misty-eyed. The photos stir emotion and memory, gratitude to God, and sometimes reflective words that testify to His character.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10a)

These God-breathed words have arrested my heart countless times. When I’m overwhelmed in a years-long trial or stress is shaking me to the core, God makes this Word known again to my heart. All at once, I feel loved yet humbled. His words comfort me like I might comfort a child. Stop. Remember who I am, how you’ve experienced me, what you’ve read about me—and trust Who I am. He humbles me, too, and I realize I haven’t been still much lately, and the power of my will, mental wrestling, and self-determination are wearing me out.

You and I have opportunities every day to stop, give time to be present to God, and practice experiencing Who He is—and what that means for us. As LORD, He commands us, and as our loving heavenly Father, He guides: Be still, and know that I am God.

His aim is our heart, that we personally know Him as our all-powerful, all-knowing, always present, sovereign God—through firsthand experience in prayer, the scriptures, and being still with him. He calls us to stillness for our good and for His glory.

Be still.  Stop moving, be quiet, and be present. Stop moving our mouth and mind and maybe our body, too. Put down the phone, close the computer, turn off the TV, step away from that project. The rhythm of our work or family life challenges us to believe that we can give up some time to ‘be still.’ Yet, notice God doesn’t say how long. He doesn’t say, Be still for 5 minutes… 30 minutes… once a week. It’s an intriguing invitation and uniquely personal to each of us.

If you go to a presentation that requires your undivided attention, you stop everything else because you don’t want to miss the big moment. If you have a child, you’ve likely told him to be still when you want to tell or show him something significant. God requires our undivided attention, for us to truly know him and trust him.

Be still.  Where? When?  . . .  in the carpool line, while you sit in the bleachers alone, during your lunch break, in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee, or looking at the amazing sky, a flower that’s just bloomed, your child as he sleeps or simply fascinates you. Ask God when and where, and He will show you. He wants this time for you and with you. How? Close your eyes or watch, listen, reflect, wait, praise Him. God is always in our midst; yet in stillness, we step in to holy communion with Him. We obey and show him our love, being still WITH HIM. And He keeps his promise—He grows us to know Him, such that His peace anchors our heart and transcends every matter it carries.

In stillness, insight unfolds. Nature reveals His power and majesty. Quiet makes space for His voice. Reflection transforms hard life stories into testaments of His character.

Dear God,
You are mine and I am yours. You are all I need, my safe place, my strength. Quiet my thoughts now and help me be still. I want to know you. I want to rest in You as God. Amen.