God is Always Right on Time

Karen O'Connor - When God Answers Your Prayers - Book CoverWhen I was at the Christian Writers Seminar, I discovered Karen O’Connor’s When God Answers Your Prayers: Inspiring Stories of How God Comes Through in the Nick of Time.

 

I wanted the book because I needed it. But my husband, who has been unemployed since June 2012, reminded me of our budget. We had agreed on a one book limit and had already purchased the 2013 Writer’s Market Guide. Bummer!

 

 

I couldn’t really complain, though. After all, we had received full scholarships to attend the conference. I was thankful God provided and was reminded that we had no idea how we were going to pay our rent in March.

 

Over the last eight months, we prayed for peace. God gave it to us in abundance. We prayed God would provide a job for Alan. The crickets kept singing as my husband received one ‘no’ after another.

 

But, we keep right on believing that our Heavenly Father is in control. We’re praying He will continue to open and close doors as He sees fit.

 

Even though we have faith, our flesh struggles. “We’re trusting You in the job search, Lord, but we could use a miracle to help us pay the rent that’s due in a couple of days.”

 

On Monday we reviewed our options. Could we borrow against our retirement? That would mean in April we’d have a brand new bill to pay back, praying Alan would have a job by then.

 

“If only the insurance company would send back the $1,500.00 they owe us!”

 

Yes. If only.

 

On January 1st, COBRA took out $1,700.00 from our bank account even though we had cancelled our account. My husband called weekly to find out why our refund had not come in the mail. Every week he was given the run around.

 

But on Monday, the woman on the phone promised she would get us the check, possibly overnighted. We’d heard that before, so we asked God to help us not to give in to worry and doubt.

 

He knows our needs. He’s in control. And He’s always right on time! “Lord, help me to believe these words that are coming out of my mouth!”

 

At 9:30am on Tuesday, our doorbell rang. As soon as my husband walked upstairs, check in hand, we thanked God for His perfect timing. Although we don’t know how we’ll be able to cover our other bills, our rent will be paid on time! Hallelujah!

 

Scripture says: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9, NIV)

 

The Apostle Peter is talking about salvation in this passage. He’s reminding his listeners that God understands us and is patient with us. He’s affirming God’s mercy and love, reminding them that the Lord doesn’t want anyone to perish. God’s gift of salvation is offered to everyone who will believe in and love Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

 

Peter was declaring the Day of the Lord, asserting that God will return according to His perfect timing. And he’s telling us to be ready, to be on our guard, living in righteousness and growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 318, NIV).

 

But this verse also reminds me that if God, the Maker of the Universe, is patient with us, how can I be impatient with Him?

 

I believe the Lord hears our prayers and cares about the details of our lives. He is good, faithful, and always working for the good of all who love Him.

 

God is always right on time, even when His watch isn’t synchronized with mine!

 

Hallelujah!

 

When we’re waiting on God to answer a prayer, we can be sure that He will show up in the nick of time!

 

I’ll be buying Karen O’Connor’s book with a Kindle Fire gift certificate I received last Christmas. I’m ready to be inspired and encouraged as I wait expectantly for God to move in our situation.

 

How about you? What verses help strengthen your resolve when you’re waiting on God to answer a prayer or entrusting Him with your longsuffering?

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A Writer’s Prayer: Writing with a Worry-Free Heart

Lilies and Roses Feb 2013

 

 

 

 

 

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothed the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (Matthew 6:27-30, NASB )

 

Thank You, Lord, for blessing us with the power of the Holy Spirit Who opens our eyes with understanding and strengthens our resolve with the peace of knowing You’re in control.

 

Help us to remember You, our Provider, know and care about our deepest needs.

 

Align our will and our heart’s desires with Yours.

 

Keep our eyes steadfast on You.

 

Empty us of self so that we can experience the peace of trusting Your plan, Your provision, and Your timing.

 

Pluck worry from our minds and hearts so that we can serve You through writing, pursuing You above any form of publication.

 

Help us not to concern ourselves with the possibilities of rejections or acceptances, as we work toward excellence of craft and write for Your glory in obedience and faith.

 

May our main goals be to please You, to serve Your people, and to honor You through the ministry of love You’ve placed in our hearts.

 

In Jesus name, amen

 

What verse or verses does the Lord use to help you place your worries in the palm of His loving hand?

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A Week of Joy Wrapped-Up in a Box

Surprised by Joy Feb 2013I was surprised by a Joy Box on Saturday, February 16th and had to wait until Monday, February 18th to open the first gift. I didn’t think it would be this exciting, or this difficult to only open one small gift at a time!

 

 

Feb 2013 includes Engagement 003On Monday, I unwrapped this amazing cup and encouragement devotional. The handwritten card melted my heart as I read the words: “Trust Him with all your needs.” Hallelujah! I needed that word to start my week off.

 

 

 

Joy Box and Misc to Feb 20 2013 003Tuesday, I was overjoyed when I opened this precious pink, porcelain shoe! The notepad says: “Walk in the footsteps of faith! (Romans 4:12)”

Yes, Lord! Yes, You know exactly what I am needing to hear during this time of affliction and transition in our family.

 

 

I could hardly wait until Wednesday morning to open the next gift. In fact, late Tuesday night I actually pulled Wednesday’s present out of the box twice, asking God if it would be bad if I didn’t wait until the morning to open the tiny wrapped square. With a smile, I placed the wrapped package back in the Joy Box and decided it would be more fun if I stuck to the rules of the game.

 

I’m so glad I waited!

 

On Wednesday, I opened the card and read: “With God, everything is possible (Matthew 19:26)” Inside the card, someone had written the following: “Praying God will grant you the gift of provision, reminding you His love and care are never far away.”

 

 

With my husband laid off in June 2012 and still searching for a job, this gentle reminder overwhelmed me with peace.

 

Joy Box and Misc to Feb 20 2013 005Then, I unwrapped this simple frame with Jeremiah 29:11 inscribed on the front. “For I know the plans I have for you . . .”

 

 

 

 

In big bold letters across the top of the frame is the word, JOURNEY. And that is exactly what I am trying to embrace, the journey. The journey of longsuffering, perseverance, and victory. The journey of love, healing, and courageous faith.

 

This Joy Box was sent to me by an anonymous lover of God. Every gift has been a reminder of the Lord’s constant care and amazing love for me.

 

If there is someone you know who needs a little encouragement, I pray you will consider using this FREE service provided by The Joy Box Ministry.

 

I am itching to see what message of hope tomorrow’s gift will tuck into my heart.

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Is God Parked in Your First-Level Friend Zone?

Big Rig SignI had an “in-your-face” moment with God, as I was driving my son to school. I took the freeway exit and grimaced when a big rig pulled in front of me. My view of the cars lined up ahead of me was obstructed.

 

 

With the back of a semi trailer “in-my-face,” I couldn’t count how many more carloads were keeping me from my turn at the stop sign. I couldn’t tap my thigh, counting how many seconds it took for each driver to make the left turn that would lead us straight to the school. All I could see, as the minutes inched by, was the back of the huge truck.

 

Then, I notice this small sign: “Caution: This vehicle makes wide right turns. Please give way.”

 

There it was. Clear as day. The image of what can happen when we keep God in the first-level-friend zone.

 

First-level friends are the ones we call when no one else is available. These friends are perfect when we need something, or when we want to vent. These are the friends we’re happy to chat with while we’re en route, but the minute we get to where we’re going, we can’t hang up fast enough.

 

We don’t invest time in our first-level friend relationships. We certainly wouldn’t commit to meeting them for coffee every day just so we could get to know them better.

 

No, first-level friends are the ones that might come to mind throughout the day, might bring a smile to our face, but they aren’t really on the top of our priority list.

 

We’ll gladly dump our problems on their lap, but we won’t waste time sitting still long enough to listen to what they have to say about our situation.

 

We might pretend we’re listening as we multi-task. We might even try to convince ourselves that it’s okay to keep them parked in the first-level friend zone.

 

After all, who has time to spend hours with them? True friends forgive us we neglect them, right?

 

The sign on the big rig trailer got me to thinking about the consequences of when we keep God in the first-level friend zone.

 

The Lord, in His sovereignty, makes wide right turns all the time. His way is always right. And He takes His sweet time turning safely and according to His mapped out plan.

 

So, when we’re too busy zipping through the day, too anxious to go our own way, we can miss His signals and end up causing our own collision.

 

God doesn’t ask us to fit into a mold that attempts to determine what quiet time with Him should look like. He does, however, invite us into intimate relationship. And if our relationship with Christ is truly important to us, it will be evident in our actions.

 

Intimacy is two-sided and requires sacrifice and commitment.

 

We don’t need to spend hours upon hours a day reading the Bible. But if we’re not even making time to consistently nurture our relationship with God through the study of His Word, then we’re only cheating ourselves.

 

I can only imagine how much it grieves God’s heart when we treat the Bible like a vending machine. We snack on what we’re in the mood for, instead of eating healthy, balanced meals of his truth daily.

 

When we keep God in the first-level friend zone, we might say we love him with our words, but our deeds demonstrate He’s not worth our time or effort.

 

First-level friends are fine when we’re in a pinch, but they aren’t the ones we want to live for, the ones we just can’t seem to spend enough time with, the ones that make us hang on their every word.

 

Are you treating God like a first-level friend?

 

If so, what will you do today, to bring Him out of the friend zone and place Him on the throne of your heart, where He belongs?

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A Writer’s Prayer: Empowered by the Vine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5, NIV

 

 

 

Thank You, Lord, for nurturing us with Your truth, dwelling within us, and empowering us to enjoy a life of fruitfulness.

 

Cultivate grace and courage in our hearts.

 

Prune us with gentle hands so we will bloom, as we obey Your Word.

 

Help us praise You with reckless abandon, with every word we write.

 

Like a row of lush grapevines, intertwine our lives as we support, encourage, and offer accountability to one another in love and truth.

 

Saturate us with Your presence as we stand firm against the storms that come our way.

 

When we can’t see the fruit of our labor bursting forth, help us continue to plant and water the seeds faithfully, trusting You are working to grow from the root.

 

Give us peace and rest as we draw near to You.

 

While it can be tempting to focus on results and pursue publication more than we pursue You, please give us an eternal perspective and keep our hearts devoted to You above all else.

 

Help us write in obedience and faith, developing and using our gifts for Your purpose, not our own.

 

Strengthen our resolve, Abba. We want to be nestled in the center of Your will.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

 

How can serving in faithfulness grow our faith when the fruit of our labor seems scarce?

 

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Portions of this prayer were previously published on the Inspire Christian Writers Blog on March 18, 2012.

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Photo by X. E. Dixon

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Surprised by a Joy Box

Misc Jan-Feb 2013 Pix 111“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV)

 

 

 

 

Last week, when Alan and I went to check our post office box, we were surprised to find a strange package addressed to him. The plain box looked innocent enough. But, neither of us were expecting a package. So, quite frankly, we were just a little bit wary about opening the box.

 

After a while, I took a closer look at the address label: Joy Box Ministries.

 

Hey! I got one of these boxes years ago.” I took the package out of my husband’s hands and held it in front of me. “It was during one of the toughest times in our marriage. I remember someone sending me a Joy Box to encourage my heart.”

 

“Well, who sent this box?”

 

I shrugged. “It wasn’t me!”

 

As we drove home, I explained that Joy Box Ministries ships anonymous boxes filled with gifts, and cards with hand-written messages. Each gift is marked for the recipient to open on a specific day of the week. The program was designed so that the receiver wouldn’t know who requested the Joy Box on their behalf.

 

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4, NIV)

 

Since Alan was laid off in June 2012 and has been searching for a job while working on his dissertation, this small affirmation of God’s sovereign care was timely and impactful.

 

As my husband opened the last of his gifts and read Friday’s card, he expressed great appreciation for the prayers and thoughtful encouragement.

 

“It was surprising and exciting when I picked up the box at the post office. I didn’t know what it was. Each gift that I opened refreshed my spirit.” (Alan Dixon, Sr.)

 

Joy Box Ministries Feb 2013 001I was overwhelmed with gratitude, praising God as I watched my husband opening his gifts and reading the cards out loud. So, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when he came home on Saturday after running errands with our son, Xavier.

 

 

 

He walked into the house with a smile, carrying a Joy Box addressed to me!

 

Joy Box Ministries Feb 2013 003According to the note, I’m not supposed to open the first gift until Monday. I’ll be sharing my week of Joy Gifts and messages of hope through my blog.

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to find out more about Joy Box Ministries, or if you’d like to send an anonymous package of encouragement to someone who could use a reminder of God’s lovingkindness, check out their website.

 

You can help spread the word about this heart-touching ministry by liking the Making a Difference Foundation Facebook Page and sharing this post with your friends and family.

 

And you can bless someone’s heart by sending them a Joy Box to remind them that God has not forgotten them.

 

I can hardly contain my excitement as I look at the simple box of encouragement God has in store for me next week! I look forward to sharing the experience with you.

Have you ever received a Joy Box, or another surprising form of anonymous encouragement that God used to lift your spirits and refresh your heart during a difficult time?

 

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When We’re Running on Empty

Cancun Aug 2012 999“How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up to those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men!” (Psalm 31:19, NASB )

 

 

 

God’s goodness is stored up, continually on hand, built up as a testimony of who He is, who He was, and who He will always be!

 

The more we know about God, the more we fear Him.

 

I’m not talking about the trembling fear of a cruel dictator, but the revering respect of an Almighty, loving Creator, who gives abundantly more than what we can hope for or deserve.

 

His goodness is great, immeasurable, unfathomable. Goodness which He has “wrought,” worked out, accomplished, “for those who take refuge” in Him.

 

Yes, there will be troubles, hardships, and moments that have us teetering on the edge of hopelessness.

 

Yes, there will be seasons in which our patience feels depleted, our strength wanes, and our courage appears to have been blocked by the dark clouds of our circumstances.

 

But, praise the Lord, beautiful woman of God!

 

In the midst of our moments of weakness, our Savior offers us His strong embrace.

 

The love of Christ abounds for those who accept His greatness isn’t minimized by our weakness.

 

God is our refuge! “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24, NASB)

 

Lord, please keep our thoughts saturated with the truth that reveals Your unchanging and continual goodness, which breaks through our darkest hours. In Jesus name, amen

 

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Photo taken in Cancun (2012) by X. E. Dixon

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A Writer’s Prayer: Blooming in the Desert

Blooming Flower in a Barren Land May 2010“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25, NIV)

Lord, Your Word promises that You “will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

Your Truth nourishes the root of our hearts, helping us bloom in the desert.

Your love revitalizes us when circumstances threaten to dehydrate our faith.

 

 

When we’re surrounded by the dryness of uncertainties, fears, or change, please saturate us with Your presence, Father.

 

Pour Your peace into every fiber of our being until we radiate with resilience.

 

No matter where You have us planted, for this moment, please accept every word we write as a fragrant offering of love and worship to You.

 

Help us plant seeds of truth in the hearts of our readers and water those seeds with encouragement and hope, for Your glory alone.

 

We love You. We need You. We praise You, Lord.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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What verse can you share with our fellow writers that the Lord uses to strengthen your resolve?

 

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Portions of this prayer were previously posted on Inspire Christian Writers Blog, March 11, 2012

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Photo, Bloom in the Dessert, by X. E. Dixon

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No Matter What the Tide Brings In

DSC00132“Through each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.”

(Psalm 42:8, NLT)

 

 

 

As I read this verse, my eyes kept falling on the word ‘through.”

 

Through each day. Through each night.

 

No matter what the tide brings in, God keeps pouring His unfailing love upon us.

 

Because God won’t stop saturating us with His perfect and unconditional love, we can sing, even if only in a whisper.

 

We can pray, even if only with our sobs.

 

And we can count on the Lord to give us life, an abundant life of peace and joy that relies on Who He is and what He’s done.

 

Even when we’re feeling unlovable, unforgiveable, or unredeemable, God declares that the measure of His love for us doesn’t depend on us.

 

Lord, please help us feel Your endless adoration for us. Help us trust that Your love is as constant and sure as waves rolling onto sandy shores. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

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Photo by X. E. Dixon – Cabo San Lucas 2006

 

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Let God Put a Little Spring in Your Step

Misc Jan 2013 052It’s funny how Spring, the season of new beginnings, often pricks people with an urge to sift through what they already have and toss out the old, worn out and useless things.

 

 

 

Out with the old leather boots, soles worn and covered with scuffs, even though they’re the most comfortable pair I’ve ever owned.

 

Out with the stuff the kids begged for last Christmas, then shoved aside in the boring pile before the Valentine’s Day cards hit the shelves in the store.

 

Out with those jeans I’ve been saving for the last ten years, knowing one day I’d be able to squeeze them on and zip them up all the way!

 

Okay, so the jeans stay as a token of hope. But the rest has got to go.

 

Time to Blossom by LEP 2011Spring is the season of renewal, growth, and revitalization. Yet, we prefer to trash the old and replace it with the next new thing. It doesn’t matter how valuable we thought it was when we first laid eyes on it, either.

 

 

 

It’s not so funny when that same attitude of seeing the old as diminished in value infects our relationships, especially our relationship with God.

 

Bible Up Close - editedThis attitude often seeps into the way we approach Scripture. We find it boring, far from valuable, and not worth committing to.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the stories. I’ve heard that verse a million times.

 

 

Sometimes, we memorize God’s words and say them without thinking of the magnitude of truth we’re speaking.

 

Then one day at a time, the excitement we experienced when we were first introduced to the Gospel fades. Next thing we know, we don’t crave time in His Word, or even in His presence.

 

But this year, I’m spicing things up in my relationship with God.

 

Bible reading is one of my favorite ways to commune with the Lord, mostly because I’m forced to listen as I read.

 

Misc Jan 2013 017So, this year, I’m training my eyes to hang on His every word and honing my listening skills. I’m reading two translations as I participate in The One Year Bible challenge.

 

The first month was AWESOME!

 

I spotted slight differences in the wording, between translations, that God used to infuse me with a fresh perspective and a rejuvenated desire to truly listen to what He’s saying.

 

I’ve read Psalm 23, and recited it by memory, for years, not even realizing the danger of making this beautiful collection of promise into a meaningless mantra.

 

On January 28th, however, with eagle eyes and a prayerful heart, I read Psalm 23:1-6 in the New Living Translation.

 

Check out how God blew me away with the slight word changes that deepened my understanding of what He was trying to show me!

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Sheep Grazing by Mona Hodgson 2012Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

 

 

He leads me beside peaceful streams.

 

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to His name.

 

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid

For You are close beside me.

 

Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.

 

You prepare a feast for me

in the presence of my enemies.

 

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

 

My cup overflows with blessings.

 

Surely Your goodness and unfailing love

will pursue me all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

 

(Psalm 23:1-6, NLT, emphasis mine)

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December 2011 089I needed a reminder that “I have all that I need” (v1).

As my husband enters his eighth month of unemployment, we’re praising God for His past provision and trusting Him to meet our deepest needs during this season of uncertainty.

 

 

I needed a fresh perspective regarding the ongoing physical pain, the affliction, that has limited my mobility.

 

I used to recite v. 2 as: “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Being naturally bent toward stubborn rebellion, I can still feel the muscles in my jaw tighten when I say the words ‘makes me.’

 

Pride convinced me that I didn’t need rest, or help. The promise felt like being sent to the time-out chair!

 

But, the moment I read the word “let,” I saw my involuntary season of stillness as a privilege, an opportunity for God to be glorified as I trust Him through my pain, a blessing of spiritual growth.

 

Hallelujah!

 

I encourage you to join me in reading Psalm 23, or in reading the Bible in a year, in a different translation that what you’ve been accustomed to.

 

I’m interested to see how God reveals Himself in a deeper way as our eyes are forced to read every word, rather than skim over the parts we feel are old and worn out.

 

How did the Lord give you a fresh perspective in the way you heard His promises when you read those famous six verses in a different translation?

 

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Psalm 23, emphasis mine, was copied from The One Year Bible (New Living Translation). You can join me in an adventure through the Bible in a year by signing up at www.oneyearbibleonline.com

 

 

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Sheep: Photo by Mona Hodgson

Pink Flowers: Photo by Lauren Pfahlert

All other photos on this site are taken by Alan, Xochi & Xavier Dixon, unless otherwise noted.

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