It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name. Ezekiel 36:22 (NIV)

In my earnestness to pray for things, I all too quickly forget the most significant reason why God chooses to grant answers.

Yes, He loves me. Yes, His loving-kindness knows no bounds. Yes, He’s compassionate, the God of comfort. And I believe He delights in answering prayers, the heart of a father who is excited for a child to open a gift.

But at the heart of His blessings and the reason He wants to answer my petitions—even those gifts that cause my hands bleed when I open them—aren’t about me.

Let’s say I received a gift from God, an answer to prayer, and you asked, “Who gave you that gift?” 

What if I shrugged and said, “I got what I wanted.”

God’s answered prayers aren’t for the sake of answered prayers, to make us comfortable, ease hardship.

They serve the purpose of exalting His name. And if I’m asked, it’s on me to direct attention to the gift Giver.

Multiple times God intervened for His people. Still does today and remains forever in sovereign governance over us and all the happenings in our world. (I expect He’s especially busy these days)

But He doesn’t mince words about the reason why He supplied their needs.

In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me…All the nations You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord; they will bring glory to Your name. Psalm 86:7, 9

Glory to…God’s name.

Unlike the Psalmist, I might indulge in a default response where you just listen to me babble on about the fact that the thing that’d been bothering me is no longer an issue, that my burdens were lifted, finances taken care of, marriage strengthened, family or friends healed.

God doesn’t give me stuff just to give me stuff like an undisciplined parent catering to a spoiled child.

He gives me stuff for the sake of His holy name.

Same is true when He withholds answers in order that I may grow to know Jesus more intimately in my suffering.

God does all He does for the sake of His holy name.

“I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the sovereign Lord. Ezekiel 36:32

Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel…then they will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 36: 37-38

It couldn’t be any clearer.

When we receive answers to prayer, it’s not really about us.

In what ways can you more readily turn attention to the Lord and exalt His name when He faithfully answers?

Mary

✏️If you’d like to receive weekly story-style devotionals and a quarterly author newsletter with giveaways, simply scroll down to the bottom to subscribe via email.

✏️ Two of my 2019 inspirational articles that were published in Refresh, Online Bible Study Magazine, are featured in this 40 short Bible studies compilation, The Power to Make a Difference Available on Amazon.

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful.

Psalm 25:10a

If I had a husband who was easily manipulated (he is not), I’d probably request foolish things like, “Today would be a good day for red roses, you know.” And my front door would be ringing within the hour with an impressive floral delivery.

Leaning over the large, glass vase to sniff the romantic bouquet, I’d be pleased.

For a while…

If I said, “A box of dark chocolates – minus the coconut, please – would sure put a smile on my face.” And there on the kitchen table I’d find a heart-shaped box wrapped in red cellophane.

Biting into the dark chocolate-coated candy filled with sweet caramel, my cheeks would chill with delight and I’d be pleased.

For a while…

If I said, “You know that new Chanel perfume I told you I was particularly fond of…?” And, wha la! A lovely new bottle would appear on my bathroom counter, taking its place among other unfinished bottles.

Spraying the scent of tuberose, jasmine and orange blossom across my wrists and neck, inhaling those floral notes, I’d be pleased.

Or would I?

Because soon the rose petals would wilt and curl to brown on the edges, the chocolate candy would be eaten (trust me), and I’d tire of the perfume I was certain would bring me lasting pleasure.

~ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father… James 1:17a ~

Getting real here, how about prayers for physical healing, the saving of a marriage, shelter… food… financial stability? Courage to share the Gospel? Maybe God will answer those prayers more readily.

Can you imagine serving a God Who allowed Himself to be subject to the whims and selfish petitions of a fallen human? Because more than I’d like to admit, those myopic prayers get mixed in like chaff with sincere heart cries before Him.

While God instructs me to give Him no rest in prayer (Isaiah 62:7), to pray without giving up (Luke 18:1), He won’t be manipulated. Rather, He answers me when and how it pleases Him to do so.

Sound unloving? Feel heartless and unkind? Quite the contrary.

He’s the only One who truly knows what is good and perfect for His children and He’s incapable of being anything less than perfectly loving in all His ways.

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful. Psalm 25:10a

If I received what I want when I wanted it, at some point those gifts wouldn’t satisfy. They might bring me harm. At the very least, they’d carry the drag of being given by a lover who wasn’t wholly pleased to do so. 

Ick, bleh and cough-cough 🙁

When my prayer reaches God’s heart, I can trust He is governed by a sinless pleasure to bless me with the very best.

That’s what good husbands do.

My challenge is to wait patiently – and with grace – until it pleases Him to answer.

 

 

 

 

E-book available for purchase at the following online retailers:

Amazon ➱ here

Barnes&Noble ➱ here

Apple Books ➱ here

Google Play ➱ here

E-book and hardback available for purchase on Pelican Book Group ➱ here

What if saying yes to love means trusting the kind of man you said you’d never marry?

What if pursuing a woman’s heart means restoring a painful past?

About Call to Love

Tracy Cassidy, a fiercely independent ER nurse, must choose between her dream job or staying in her hometown to help support her mother’s faltering ministry. Even if it means risking her heart in love with the kind of man she said she’d never marry.

Why sign up to be Laurelton’s next cop widow?

Tom DeLaney, a hyper-vigilant cop and new hire from Texas, is wearied by years of failed rescue attempts to save his marriage to his ex. A free man, he moves to the foothills of North Carolina. Thing is, he hadn’t expected to fall for Tracy, his supervisor’s sister. But when his adolescent son is diagnosed with a chronic illness, he faces the risk of loving another woman with keep-out issues.

Fears related to the death of Tracy’s cop father and Tom’s inability to forgive the past threaten to sabotage any chance at love.

To trust again means surrender. Will they risk their hearts and answer the call?

What early reviewers have said:

In her debut novel, Mary Felkins offers a story of redeeming love.  From the ashes of poor choices, loss, and brokenness comes the beauty of forgiveness, reconciliation, and life made new.  Soli Deo Gloria. ~Karen Mosteller

I finished reading your novel last night- couldn’t put it down!! What a faith-building and grace-filled process your characters went through! Great job for a first novel. ~Dr. Margaret Eomurian, PhD., Spanish Professor and Program Coordinator, Houston Community College, Department of World Languages

AUTHOR ENDORSEMENTS

“A well-crafted romance with deeply layered characters and touches of humor. A story about moving beyond loss; choosing forgiveness; and finding the happily-ever-after God has for each of us. A must-read.” ~Lisa Carter, author of His Secret Daughter

“Call to Love is a beautifully written, heartwarming story about the scars left by loss and the healing power of love. Both Tom and Tracy learn to trust God, themselves, and each other to find the one they are truly called to love. I adored this book. It was a emotionally engaging read from beginning to end.”  ~Pattie Frampton, author of Repossessing Christmas.

“Call to Love is a tender story of forgiveness and second chances. Mary writes with wit and wisdom.”  ~Alice J. Wisler, award-winning author of Rain Song.

“A heart-warming story of facing and overcoming some of life’s great struggles. Call to Love hits at the heart of real trials, personal and professional, faced by single parents in nursing and law enforcement service work. Felkins weaves a story that not only deals with the struggles but shows how they can be overcome. Take the call and settle in for a heart-warming read.” ~Sally Jo Pitts, author of And Then Blooms Love.

“Mary Felkins has penned a memorable debut complete with vivid descriptions, relatable characters, and a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Call to Love will stay with you long after the story ends.” ~Kelly Goshorn, award-winning author of A Love Restored.

 Click for free download: Questions for Discussion

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?

If I were still trying to please men I would not be a servant of God. Galatians 1:10

In general terms, divorce means a total separation; disunion.

I’d been wrestling with niggling guilt about an unpleasant situation that occurred recently, frustrated and astounded that forgiveness for unintended wrong was not granted. Apology rejected.

Seriously? Who does that? 

Hurt people hurt people.

As I shook my head and blew out a labored breath, the thought came to me, ‘Man, this individual has the art of divorce down pat’ 

Turned out, there’d been wounds inflicted long before our lives intersected. I learned of others who’d been cut off. I’m guessing refusal to extend grace had become a well-rehearsed, defensive response.

Yet there were still those in the person’s inner circle who’d managed to meet the high standard of acceptability. I used to be one of those, but was cruelly cast out like a leper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thus, I experienced my first bonafide divorce. An unrepairable disunion.

As a result, a disturbance rattled inside my soul…

Why did I long to have our differences ironed out with a happily ever after? 

Why weren’t my verbal apologies accepted? 

What would it take to put a peaceful end to this conflict?

Code for: Mary struggles with idolatry and loses sleep over the fact that SOMEBODY out there has found fault with her.

Yes, I admit it. I need peace and kindness and get-along-ness among those I interact with…husband, kids, neighbors, cops (always wise to keep them smiling), my pastors and congregation. Even fellow shoppers in the mall.

But the fact is, I share the planet with fellow sinful, fallen peeps.the-art-of-divorce-2-picmonkey

And here’s the thing, if I’ve made every effort to live in peace with men (Hebrews 12:14) and reconciliation is just not happening, then God urges me to practice the art of divorce. Meaning, to establish healthy boundaries and separate myself from those who do not (or can not) show kindness and humility and grace. 

The art of divorce means I should not want peace so much that I desire to please man (people) more than to please God. 

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?

If I were still trying to please men I would not be a servant of God. Galatians 1:10

But I’m to pray for them. Perpetually. This will inevitably develop a heart of compassion for the deeply wounded individual.

I must also divorce myself from reckless slander, to exercise respectful silence. Because, believe me, others will be itching to know, ‘What’s up with you and…?’

While I’ve never experienced marital divorce, I’m called to be a divorce survivor of a different kind, to separate myself from unyielding individuals who may be harmful to my spiritual well-being.

How about your inter-personal relationships? Is God calling you to practice the art of divorce?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Following the fourth of four ballet auditions for a summer intensive program, my daughter emerged from open double doors within the lobby. She was in the company of several other dancers. I fixed my gaze on her face, studying it for those signs. You know, the ones that tell momma what might really be going on inside the soul (Because they typically tell a different story than the one on the outside).

From a distance, her countenance glimmered with satisfaction. A weary smile even tipped the edges of her lips. 

But it was plastic.

She trudged across the carpet toward me and lowered to the floor near her dance bag. Then shook her head. Her cheeks were aflame with a deeper red. And it wasn’t the result of an hour’s audition en pointe, either. Tears glistened beneath the fluorescent lighting.

Drat. My shoulders sank as the breath left my lungs. 

“What’s wrong?” I whispered.

Head shake again. She didn’t want to talk about it. 

Typical. 

I gave her space to feel whatever it was she was feeling. Then she offered her assessment on how the audition went. All negative.

Listening to her self-critique, I imagined flailing arms and legs (all fifty feet of them), her shoulders banging up against the girl next to her, faltering pirouettes. Sheer disaster. Major humiliation.

it-wasnt-perfect-picmonkey

With ever so much caution, I asked, “What makes you say that?”

She captured my eyes. “It wasn’t perfect.

Ah. The dastardly ‘P’ word.

In that moment, I wanted to toss my head back and laugh – out loud – and rebuke her with something like, “Do you mean to tell me that you’re this upset because you made a…a freaking mistake?”

But I didn’t. My bottom lip still bleeds from clamping it shut. 

I let her words hang thick in the air. Because, for her, it wasn’t perfect.

How could I criticize? When my performance isn’t perfect by the standards that I set, don’t I tend toward scathing self-assessments, too? Against better judgment, don’t I fall into that comparison trap? Do I wrongly apply unachievable, unrealistic standards to myself?

Or worse, to others? 

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

it-wasnt-perfect-2-picmonkey

Yes, the Lord calls me to be perfect, meaning, to make being ‘perfect’ my moment by moment goal. But that requires me to conquer the pride monster and accept that sinlessness is a state reserved for God, His Son and the Holy Spirit…none of Whom are vacating their seats.

While I know my daughter’s true felt need was to have performed with minuscule error, she’s aware she can’t achieve perfection this side of heaven.

May God Himself…sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.

I Thessalonians 5:23

He will do it.

The trying to be perfect falls on me; the accomplishment of my being perfect is God’s business.

In view of this niggling call to ‘Be perfect’, I need Him. I need His grace. And, honestly, that’s a really good problem to have.