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Linda Evans Shepherd
The best lesson I’ve learned about distractions happened one sunny December day in New York City. My friend Eva Marie Everson and I were in town to do on-location-research for one of our Potluck Club novels and so we were ready for a day of exploring. I’d come prepared with my huge, blue tote bag which I’d slung over my shoulder after stuffing it with everything I might need; an umbrella, my coat, snacks, bottles of water, all piled high on top of my wallet.
Eva and I caught the subway from our hotel so that we could walk down Canal Street to take in the sights. We browsed through the faux designer purses and fingered the bright wool scarves and smirked at the fake Rolexes on display. As we strolled, we were caught in a throng of tourists who flowed down the street like a slow moving river.
As I walked along gawking at the sights around me, a pretty, young woman appeared beside me. She turned to face me and with her arms opened wide, she side-skipped to my steps as if she was trying to block me from turning right and walking past her. What in the world is she doing? I wondered. I craned my neck for a better look and she seemed to disappear. Where’d she go?
Suddenly I snapped my head to the left, and there she was, her arm rammed deep into my tote bag as her fingers groped for my pocket book.
I instinctively jerked my tote away from her and instantly she disappeared into the crowd.
It seemed I’d been preyed upon, unsuccessfully, by a New York City pickpocket. But what struck me about the experience was the pickpocket’s maneuver to distract me–to cause me to not only take my attention away from my tote, but to place my focus in the opposite direction so that she would be free to snatch my wallet, something I’d wanted to hang onto throughout my New York adventure.
As I thought about it, I could see that distraction is exactly how the enemy tries to steal from me in an effort to keep me from my very important work; and I’m not talking about my writing. I’m talking about living my life with joy, peace and the presence of God.
However, distractions abound, like fiery arrows that the enemy zings at me when I lose my grip on my shield. The arrows sting and I’m suddenly distracted from my peace with worries, stresses, offenses and frustrations, not to mention a deadline or two breathing its hot breath down my neck.
That’s when I turn into a red-eyed zombie trying desperately to write about prayer and God’s love. In times like this, I have nothing worthwhile to say, at least nothing worth reading. (Though it’s all good for the recycle bin.)
I find that the real work of living distraction free involves guarding my heart, letting go of offenses and opening my soul to more of God’s peace.
When I can do that— that ol’ red-eyed zombie-girl with the coffee breath has to scram. And I am left with peace; peace to follow the joy of the Lord, and peace to finish my writing projects.
If you’re ready to bypass your distractions that will keep the enemy from robbing you blind, focus on what’s really important, try praying the following:
Shine your light of truth over my distractions; my worries, stresses, offenses and frustrations as I yield them all to you. I choose to forgive anyone whom I’ve blame for these distractions, including myself. For the truth is; I myself am to blame for lowering my shield so I could stare at all the arrows flying my way. You’d think I’d have noticed that every time I peek from behind my shield, I get zapped with even more worry, stress, offense and frustration.
Give me the strength to bypass the temptation to peek at my adversary instead of focusing on you. Heal me from the pain that my distractions have caused me. Now that I’ve chosen to focus on you, I yield to your peace and joy. I declare that my trust is in you, despite whatever battle is raging around me. And I make an agreement with Psalm 119:114, “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.”
Thank you that I can trust in you, my refuge, shield and hope.
In Jesus’s name,
Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 30 books, including her latest, Winning YOur Daily Spiritual Battles releasing October 18th from Baker Revell.
Linda Evans Shepherd
What if you could pick a blessing from God?
The best way to pick a blessing is to dig into His word for treasure. As you do, God will highlight promises for you to hide in your heart.
It’s said there are over 7000 promises in the word. The Lord may have one particular promise, or even several promises that He wants you to hang on to; living words that will come to fruition.
Some words will ground you. Some words will inspire you and give you the courage to stand against storms and other obstacles. While other words will bless you as they operate as an anointing you can live into.
The word I lived into last year was this:
“But in that coming day
no weapon turned against you will succeed.
You will silence every voice
raised up to accuse you.
These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord;
their vindication will come from me.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” Isaiah 54:17 (NLT)
Looking back, I am happy to say that the word I received remained faithful. I was able to stand in this word against many trials like legal wranglings, tornadic storms rotating over my home and other close calls against my life and the lives of my children. I was able to press through stormy ministry voyages and impossible deadlines and experience more victory than I ever thought possible. Why? Because at every turn, the enemy’s weapon, though set to strike, did not succeed in stopping me from my mission to thrive, accomplish my purposes, and enjoy God’s presence!
So what scripture should you pick to live into? I’ll share a promise that I know applies to you right now, but know this; God wants you to pick up the word and dig into it yourself. He wants you to do this because He loves spending time with you. He wants to quicken the words you read so that they become like a double-edged sword you can wield. He wants to take delight in your discovering, through His Spirit, those verses He meant for you.
So you have your assignment. And to help you get into the mood to spend some time in the word, here’s the ‘starter’ verse I promised you. When you read it, mull it over, pay attention to its nuances, not in fear, but in joy, for it’s a wonderful promise from Jesus himself:
“And I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20
Yes! Jesus is going into the future with you. How wonderful is that?
My disabled daughter Laura has no fingerprints. That’s because in order to have fingerprints, you must have busy hands. Laura’s hands are warm to touch, but have little movement due to the paralysis she received upon being injured in a car accident when she was only eighteen months old. Still her hands are far from useless as I find that they are perfect for holding. Clasping my fingers around one of Laura’s warm hands often brings a smile to her face, a smile I love to receive, a smile I reflect back to her. But when I hold her small, misshapen hands, I feel as though I’m holding love itself, a love so pure it brings tears to my eyes. And you would think that with all the many difficulties my daughter must daily face, she would be devastated by her condition. Yet, my daughter never complains, instead she sings – happy, wordless songs of praise to a God she knows and loves. She sings out of the joy of her heart.
Thursday afternoons are special as a dear friend, Karis, stops by to give my daughter a fresh coat of colorful nail polish, decorating Laura’s nails with swiggles, bright colors, stickers and designs. Though Laura can’t raise her hands to admire her nails, she still loves to have a new coat of polish. She also loves it when we lift her arms, bringing her hands to her face. That’s when a little miracle happens— Laura extends her fingers so to look at her nails as she giggles in delight.
I’m always amazed by Laura’s joy; a joy she gladly shares to all in her life. She has a heart that sings when we play hymns of praise, a heart that ushers in the holy presence of God.
How I want to live like that—always in the presence of God; never mind my disabilities, my lack, my frustrations, or my fears. Never mind because God is near and my trust in him is complete.
So in other words, Laura has taught me to strive to be like her; to not only continually invite God into every area of my life, but to thank God for his many blessings.
Does Laura have blessings? Yes, she answers God’s highest call which is to love and to be loved. No wonder she is so filled with joy.
But what about you? Did you know that despite your difficulties, you can find joy when you count your blessings? It’s the best shortcut to happiness that I know. Let’s try it:
In all the stress and busyness of the season, help me to open my eyes to your goodness toward me. Turn on your light of truth so that I can see your great love, your patience and your presence in my life. In fact, I want to stop and thank you now for several things that you’ve done for me, including: (list your blessings here before God.)
In Jesus name,
If you were having trouble thinking of blessings, then be glad that you had the opportunity to enjoy this article, or have access to a device on which you could view it. If you open your eyes, you’ll see that even though you have troubles and stressors, you also have blessings. Stop and focus on those and you’ll have no trouble greeting not only the season, but your life with joy.
Fingerprints of Joy from Linda Evans Shepherd’s book, The Stress Cure Praying Your Way to Personal Peace from Baker Revell. Click HERE for more information.
Linda Evans Shepherd
Sonja, one of my dearest friends, believed a terrible lie about me. Because she wouldn’t take my calls, I couldn’t address her misperception or even apologize for our apparent misunderstanding. All I could do was pray.
Sure, I asked God to restore our friendship with peace, but I also did something a lot of Christians are afraid to do. I called out to the enemy of my soul; the very one who comes to steal, kill and destroy, to push him out of the situation. “Enemy,” I told him, “I see your handiwork here and I cancel your lies that my dear friend believes about me in the power and authority of the name and the blood of Jesus. Instead of lies, I call forth God’s spirit of truth and peace.”
Days, weeks, and months went by and there was no change. Yet I continued in my prayer and warfare.
Then one day, months after the original miscommunication, the phone rang. My friend Sonja gushed, “I now know what I believed about you isn’t true. I’m so sorry I pushed you away. Please forgive me!”
I replied, “Of course! I love you and I am so sorry for the pain our miscommunication caused you. I’m so glad to be your friend.”
Why would I forgive Sonja for believing a lie about me? I did so because forgiveness breaks the enemy’s strategies against us. But so does praise. How I rejoiced that the enemy’s power was no match for the power and the blood of Jesus. (Rev. 12:11)
Sure there are battles of all sorts, but our battles are easily won when we:
Believe it or not Sonja is not the first or only person who has ever believed a lie about me. But each time I’ve faced this type of warfare, God has given me victory.
So if you need to fight for peace, try this battle cry:
Thank you that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. So in your power and authority, I declare victory over the enemy; the spirit of lies, strife, and confusion harassing me or my loved ones. I replace these spirits with your love, peace, forgiveness, truth and joy.
I cancel all the assignments of these unclean spirits over me and my loved ones — in the power and authority of the name and the blood of Jesus.
I praise you Lord that the enemy is defeated.
In Jesus’s name,
To receive a free report called Pray Toolbox filled with warfare prayers to pray over you and your loved ones, visit Linda at www.GotToPray.com
A few years ago I was feeling the wrath of an unexpected storm. With both of my parents in the middle of health crises, I found myself hopping in and out of airplanes so I could rush to help. But by dropping everything, my ‘to-do’ list threatened to drown me. Besides caring for my parents, there were conferences, book deadlines, and projects requiring my immediate attention.
Late one night as I lay my head upon my pillow, my mind begin to spin as I thought through all I had to accomplish in the next few months. My parents were still in crisis, one of my children had hit a difficult snag, and my heart literally ached with concern for my loved ones, plus my to-do list was growing faster than I could possibly respond. “Help me, Lord! Help me!” I cried from my bed as sheer panic drummed my heart.
With tears, I told the Lord, “I am only one little gal and how is it you’ve called me to accomplish so much in these next few weeks?
Behold me. I heard him whisper.
So I tried to imagine what Peter must have seen when he saw the Lord walking across the top of the water on the Sea of Galilee. But instead of ‘seeing’ the Lord, all I could ‘see’ was a blizzard of paperwork falling around me, each page scrawled with yet another ‘to-do’ written in black marker.
As I watched this paper blizzard fall around me, I saw the pages of my ‘to-do’ list landing, then floating on the turbulent Sea of Galilee. That’s when I saw him. Jesus was walking toward me, over the tops of the floating papers.
Behold me, he whispered.
As his face came into focus, I took a step toward him, my foot secure as it stepped on one of the many floating papers around me. Miraculously, both the paper and wave held my weight.
Behold me, he encouraged as I continued to look at him.
I took another step, then another as my eyes locked on Jesus’s face.
When I reached him, he said, “Linda, you can only walk through this storm if you behold me.”
My heart quit racing and my tears stopped falling. The Lord himself had shown me how to set my priorities by putting ‘behold Him,’ at the top of my to-do list. It’s as Isaiah 26:2-4 states, “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength. (TLB)
If I can be truthful, I am a woman with a to-do list bigger than I can manage. I now see that when I behold you, my to do’s will fall into place. Lead me and guide me every step of my every day – as I continue to behold you.
In Jesus name,
Based on story told in Experiencing God’s Presence; Learning to Listen While You Pray
In Les Miserables, the inspiring novel by Victor Hugo oft performed on Broadway and the silver screen, Jean Valjean, is caught and sentenced to nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s hungry children. His release came with impossible curfews and check-in points and continuous mistreatments. One night, Jean knocked at the door of the Bishop of Digne’s home. The bishop took pity on him and gave him food and shelter for the evening. However, after the household went to bed, Jean robbed the bishop of his silver. The next morning, Jean was caught and thrown at the bishop’s feet. The bishop had the power to send Valjean back to prison, but instead he handed Jean Valjean the silver candlesticks from his own table and said, “Would you leave the best behind?”
The bishop’s grace and generosity had an amazing effect on Jean Valjean’s future. No longer was Valjean a slave to the law, but a man who multiplied the grace he had so freely received.
This is silver candlestick living. It’s when we live into the idea of the abundance of the grace that we ourselves have been given. We are those who were redeemed by Jesus, God’s only son. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins through his own suffering and death on the cross. He, the resurrected Lord, gave us his love and grace freely so we can lavish it on others.
This means we are rich enough to spend our love, time, efforts on things of eternal value; family, friends, and loved ones in Christ, not to mention the poor, burdened, and heartbroken and those who need Christ. We can afford to give ourselves to silver candlestick living because we have been given so much. As we press into our abundance and give what we’ve received, God miraculously and abundantly replenishes our rich supply and graces our lives with joy. So let your light so shine on top of your silver candlesticks in 2015 so others can see and receive the same grace you have been given.
Based on story in The Stress Cure.
Linda Evans Shepherd
A friend of mine decided to try praying for three other people every time she sent God a request concerning her own needs. Angie said, “When I started this practice, I was amazed at how God’s answers to my prayers began to increase.”
That goes along with a study conducted over sixty years ago by a professor at Redlands University in California. Dr. Parker and Ms. St. John detailed this ten year experiment in their book Prayer can Change Your Life.
They describe creating three test groups made up of people with one thing in common; they were all desperate for an emotional or physical healing. The first group was made up of individuals who each met with a Psychiatrist for one hour a week. The second group prayed for themselves by themselves, while the third group met together and prayed for each other for an hour every week.
Which group do you think had the most dramatic results? You guessed it; it was the group that prayed for one another. The members of this group had a 72 percent answered prayer result, with 100 percent saying they had at least some lasting improvement in the areas prayed over. In fact, a non-believing husband of one of the members of this prayer group was actually healed of cancer.
As for the other groups, the group that met with thePsychiatrist had some improvements, but only as long as they continued to attend their weekly sessions.
But what results did the lonesome prayer people have? Believe it or not, they had little to no improvements.
I can’t say I’m surprised. I know when I’ve set out to pray for a need for myself, I find it’s easy to get discouraged in my prayers. But when I take this same need to a praying friend and we pray together, it seems to me that I can count on a swifter answer from God. In fact, I saw such a result this past weekend when my flight to Baltimore was in jeopardy of cancelation because of high winds. The airline attendant told me, “I think you’re grounded until tomorrow.”
Of course, I’d been praying all along, but it wasn’t until I reached out to my prayer team that the winds instantly died down and my flight was able to take off.
Carole puts it this way, “When we pray together, we have a more open heaven experience.”
I know that when I call out to God, I have a direct line to him. But when I come to God with a friend, it’s like our individual prayer lines are knitted together, creating an even stronger cord. Carole says, “I find that by adding a third person to a prayer circle, it’s like our cord of prayer grows even stronger. I’m always amazed at how much power these entwined prayers seem to have over the prayers I pray by myself.”
If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to start your own prayer group, even if it’s made up of you and one other. If you can’t meet in person, meet online or over the phone at least once a week. Share requests then step back and watch what God will do with your cords of prayer.
So, if you are seeking a blessing, be that blessing by praying for others and including the needs of others in your times of beseeching God. Don’t be surprised when God answers.
My heart goes out to my hurting friend. I well understand where she’s coming from. Besides, who can’t relate to even an occasional feeling of discouragement? The truth is many of us have received our share of blisters as we’ve walked an unintended path of pain. If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the middle of a road called despair, know there is a shortcut to freedom, a shortcut that has everything to do with LIFE and nothing to do with suicide.
That way is Jesus. He is the path that can take you safely through a world of difficulties. Not only does he provide a way through your troubles, he walks through your troubles with you. In fact, if my friend will give him permission, he will also walk with her and lead her to peace in her storm.
In Next Door Savior, Max Lucado wrote, “TheFort Knox of faith is Christ. Fellowshipping with him. Waiting with him. Pondering him. Exploring him. The heart-stopping realization that in him you are part of something ancient, endless, unstoppable, and unfathomable. And that he, who can dig the Grand Canyon with his pinkie, thinks you’re worth his death on Roman timber. Christ is the reward of Christianity. Why else would Paul make him his supreme desire? ‘I want to know Christ’ (Phil. 3:10 NCV).”
The words that could help you start your journey to peace could include a prayer like:
Jesus – thank you for taking the blame and punishment for my mistakes. Forgive me for my sins. I give you me. I give you my burdens, my troubles, my despair and worries. These are now your problems because I choose to rest in you.
A prayer like this can change everything. It will take you to peace. To life. To freedom. To Christ.
To take a test about faith in Christ, see www.GodTest.com
This article originally in the July/August 2014 issue of Leading Hearts Magazine for Christian Women. Free on issuu.com and Apple Newstand.