Author Archives: Jorja Stewart

The Subtleties of Taking Control

The Lord periodically reminds me that I need to beware of trying to take control when I shouldn’t. It happens so subtly. Even though God has given me a helpful way to discern when I’m overstepping my bounds (see my article, “Communication: God’s Role & My Role” in the communication category), I still slip up now and then. I’ll share a recent example.

I have a 39 year old special needs son named Shon. Like all of us, he likes to have as much control over his life as possible. One day, I learned that he was sometimes feeding his dog human food from the dining table. There were two negative results: (a) the dog would sometimes jump up and take food and (b) the food sometimes made the dog sick.

I told our son I had an idea: he could put his dog into her kennel while he’s eating. He subtly resisted the idea. What I should have done, at that point, is said, “OK, it’s just a suggestion. What ideas do you have?” Instead, I tried to convince him it was a good idea. That only upset him. The ultimate goal is for my son to exercise self-control, and that’s a matter for prayer.

Later that day, the Lord revealed my mistake to me. So I told Shon’s helper to just ask my son if he wants to put his dog in her kennel when it’s time to eat, and then do as he says. Meanwhile, I just prayed. A few days later I learned that Shon was no longer feeding the dog from the table.

In short, it’s fine if I present ideas for someone to consider, but I shouldn’t try to persuade them to do what I’ve suggested.

Helping Children Keep Commitments

When my husband and I were raising our children, we had to learn how to balance a respect for their feelings with the need to teach them the importance of keeping commitments. This was a learning process for us.

Our children loved to sign up for extracurricular activities, but once they lost interest, they often wanted to drop out immediately. With our strong-willed child, this often led to a series of arguments and sometimes, unfortunately, we gave in. Then we learned to sit down with the child and tell them we respected their feelings and would give them the option of dropping out after they had completed a specified amount of time (usually a semester or until they had completed any obligations to be in a performance). At the end of that time period, we had them write out their reasons for quitting and state that this was their choice. They signed and dated the letter (and I kept it for future reference, if necessary.)

Eventually, we learned a better approach. We sat down with them before they signed up for the activity and discussed the expectations and determined how long they would have to keep that commitment. Then we wrote out a contract and the child, my husband, and I signed and dated it. This shifted some of the responsibility to the child’s shoulders and it cut down on the complaints because we all had copies of the letter. (This began when our children were mid-elementary school age.)

Some parents are naturally good at being consistent with their children. Tom and I had to learn the hard way. Thankfully, the Lord patiently instructed us and we gradually improved.

Focused Prayer

I don’t know about you, but I have often found that distracting thoughts bombard my mind when I’m praying. I’m going to share some things I do that help me to stay focused. Perhaps some of these ideas will help you.

  1. I ask God to protect me from demonic influence and to focus my attention on Him.

2. I use the Psalms to guide my prayers. (I might only select one verse, or work through the whole Psalm.)

Example: Psalm 1

(verse 1) “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

Lord, help me to seek Your wisdom and the wisdom of Your people rather than listening to what the world has to say. Help me not to hang out with the wrong kind of people (but to pray for them.)

(verse 2) “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Lord, help me to read, understand, memorize and think about Your Word (the Bible) throughout the day.

(verse 3) “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Lord, help me to yield good fruit for Your glory (Galatians 5:22-23). Help me to be patient and wait for You to work things out in Your time frame. Fill me with Your life. Replace my selfish desires with Your desires, so You may bless me as I serve You and others.

(verses 4-6) “The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Thank You, Lord, that someday the wicked will be dealt with and I will not have to be with them anymore. Thank You that You know the ways of the righteous (those saved by faith in Jesus). Please help me to walk righteously (obeying You) and please work in the hearts of those who don’t know You to draw them into Your kingdom. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

3) I can pray through a proverb.

Example: Proverb 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Lord, when someone speaks harshly to me, please help me to hold my tongue until You are in control of it. May my response be respectful and loving.

4) I can personalize prayers from Scripture.

Example: Ephesians 3:16-20 personalized

Lord, out of Your glorious riches, please strengthen me with power through Your Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith. Root and establish me in love and grant me (and all Your children) power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love, and help me know this love that surpasses knowledge–so I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Please work Your power in me, Lord, to bring glory to Your name. You are able to do immeasurably more than anything I could imagine or think to ask for. I put my trust in You. Be glorified.

5) As I go about my day:

a) Thank Him for every blessing I see (large or small).

b) Lift up my concerns to Him (concerns about others or myself), reminding myself that He already has the answers and I just need to trust Him, pray, and wait expectantly.

c) Continually seek His guidance: What do You want me to do right now, Lord? Please help me to do it.

My prayer life is far from perfect. But I’ve found these tools to be helpful in battling distractions. May the Lord continually help us to stay focused on Him!

Devotional: Countless Blessings

I can really relate to John 21:25! “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Journaling is like breathing to me. I love to write down as many things as possible about my daily journey with Jesus: how He blesses me, what He teaches me, etc. The problem is, I have closets full of journals! So, I have decided to only record major answers to prayer and keep everything else between God and myself (unless He leads me to share something). That’s like asking a woman to say very little about her beloved fiancee, but I’m trying!

In marriage, there are many experiences that are kept private between a husband and his wife. It’s the same in a relationship with Jesus. Some things are just too intimate to be shared with anyone else.

Challenge: See how many blessings, large and small, you can count today, and thank the Lord for each one.

Share Honestly

Because of my people-pleasing personality, I struggle, at times, with sharing my feelings and view-points. But I know it’s important to do so because, if I don’t, then I may be faced with a situation where I’m going in a direction I’m not at peace about.

Here’s a recent example. I have a little Facebook page that one of my daughters set up for me. I use it to notify people when I post on my blog. The problem is, I understand very little about how to use it. I know how to post on it, but that’s all. I don’t know how to read, or reply to, people’s comments. Until I learn how to do that, I want my readers to know that I’m not intentionally ignoring them. I would very much like to communicate, I just don’t know how to do it on that particular page.

So, I decided to tell my Facebook readers about my limited computer knowledge and ask them to respond on my blog, instead, where I know how to find their comments and reply to them. When I mentioned this to my husband, he felt I should simply ask them to communicate with me through my blog, without mentioning my lack of computer knowledge. He was being protective. As a retired businessman, he was watching out for my professional image. He felt my readers might not respect me as a writer if they knew I wasn’t technologically savvy and up to date. Therefore, initially, I just said “ok,” but later felt I needed to explain my perspective to my husband.

I was concerned about the feelings of those who had already sent messages (that I didn’t know how to read or respond to). I wanted them to understand why I wasn’t responding to their messages. So, I told my husband that I appreciated and respected his protective concern for my professional reputation, but I’d rather be transparent with my readers. He understood my feelings and was not offended that I decided not to follow his suggestion.

For those of you who, like me, have difficulty sharing your thoughts and feelings with people who have a different viewpoint, I want to encourage you to pray for the courage to do so, and for the wisdom to know how to do it. Then step out in faith, and respectfully share your thoughts.

Resource: Strong Families

I would like to recommend www.StrongFamilies.com (which has wonderful resources for improving relationships).

In particular, the books:

The Two Sides of Love by Dr. John Trent & Gary Smalley

The Blessing by Dr. John Trent, Gary Smalley, & Kari Trent Stageberg

Dr. Trent’s children’s books are also wonderful.

When you get to the website, click on “The Store” for resources.

A Matter of Perspective

I like to get up early for a time of prayer and Bible reading, while the world is quiet and still. This morning, I was enjoying that quiet until a group of crows started cawing loudly outside my window. My first response was to be annoyed, but then I decided they were just praising the Lord. They can’t help it if they don’t have beautiful voices. I have often been personally thankful for the Bible verse that says to make a joyful noise to the Lord, for, like the crows, I wasn’t blessed with a beautiful voice.

The change in my perspective brought a smile to my face instead of a frown, and joy replaced frustration in my heart. I pray God will help me throughout the day to see things from His perspective instead of mine.

In Nehemiah 8:10, after the people had repented of their sins, they were comforted with these words: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When I allow God to change my heart so that I see things from His perspective, I can experience supernatural joy. That makes the day a lot more pleasant!

Encourage One Another

“…encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Th 5:11

If God puts it on your heart to encourage someone, do it. They may need a love touch at that moment, and you might be surprised to discover that you need one, too!

I once wrote to one of our daughters telling her that I admired how she and her husband were handling a certain situation, especially in light of my feeling that I had fallen short as a parent in that area. She thanked me, and then proceeded to tell me all the ways she felt my husband and I had been successful in the way we modeled that behavior for our children. I thanked her (and God) for that love touch! My intention was to encourage them, but I discovered that I needed it, too!

When in Doubt, Pray

There are some lessons I need to be frequently reminded of. One of those is to take time to pray when I’m unsure about something. A typical example is that I’ll be writing to someone and I’m about to say something, but then I wonder if I should. I may think I have very good reasons for why I should share that particular information or thought, but God may have reasons for why I shouldn’t. It may be something that should never be said, or it may be a matter of timing. God knows the needs of the person I’m writing to, so if I care about their feelings then I should consult, and obey, the Lord.

If I’m lacking peace about something, that’s a good indication that I should pray for guidance and give God time to reveal His will. No matter what type of decision I’m making, large or small, it’s always wise to seek God when I’m not sure what to do and then wait until I am sure.

In short, when in doubt, it’s best to pray and wait until I come to a conclusion that brings peace to my mind and heart.