Prayer: What I (Apparently) Knew But Didn’t Do, Part 3

We read in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” In the past (although I wouldn’t have described it this way), I’d see that verse as evidence that I couldn’t really pray until I felt that I was aligned with the will of God more completely. In other words, that I needed to pull myself up by the bootstraps to a place of holier will and desires before I could pray prayers that “got results.” But that’s really backwards and giving myself an illusion of control or power that no person has. Through prayer, God changes me. I don’t change myself so that I can pray. Continue reading

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Prayer: What I (Apparently) Knew But Didn’t Do, Part 2

Here’s the thing: What we really believe about prayer is revealed in our prayer lives. [Ouch.] If we really believed that “Without God, [we] can’t, but without [us] He won’t,” how would the world – not just our lives – but the world be different? How would history be different? Or, to a more fruitful set of questions: how can and will the world be different? How can we surrender to and partner with God to change history?” Continue reading

Caring for the Bug

It’s not fun to have a sick little one. It’s not fun for her and it’s not fun for Mommy and Daddy. The weekend before Christmas, Paige was still pretty sick. She didn’t feel well – not like herself – and she was tired of not feeling well. She wasn’t into playing. She was not her sparkly, happy self. Her little eyes were still glassy and she was just a pitiful little thing.

Then, on Sunday evening, I got a text from a friend at church asking if I could come to the door. I missed the text at first, because Paige was just waking up from a nap. When I texted her back, she replied that there was a care package at the door. And what a care package! The box was full of lots of fun toys and even some fun family projects like Snoopy Doghouse Gingerbread Houses to decorate! But, by far, Paige’s favorite part was the light-up wand.

PicMonkey CollageWhat a blessing! That was the first time Paige’s eyes had lit up since she had been sick! She was our happy little girl who forgot for a few minutes that she didn’t feel well.

Our church family is a source of constant blessings for us. We were covered by so many prayers when we were in the hospital, and we knew it. The doctors were on the verge of admitting Paige because her fever was not coming down. They wanted to try one more thing before admitting her. I was not super optimistic. However, that one thing worked! In just one hour, Paige’s fever dropped from almost 103 (I don’t remember the exact) to 98.9! For sure felt the prayers of our families and church families.

It wasn’t our plan to stay in Lafayette. Jeffrey and I were planning to move back to Nashville where I did my undergrad after I finished my graduate work. But, in the first semester of my PhD, we realized that we felt more at home in Lafayette than either of us ever had before. That “home” feeling came from our church family, and we couldn’t imagine moving. So we made the choice to stay. I’m not doing what I thought I’d be doing when I grew up, but I actually work for my church family now, so you can’t beat that. We’re so blessed to be part of the Elmwood family!

Just keep breathing. Just keep loving.

Sometimes I just need to write my thoughts and prayers out to be able to function. Today is one of those days.

Today, a man walked in to an elementary school (they say it may even have been a kindergarten classroom) – a safe place full of precious, innocent babies. Today, that man fired guns in that school, at those babies. He killed them and the adults who have devoted their professional lives – and probably their personal lives, too – to teaching and caring for those babies.

It’s just too much. It’s just too broken.

It’s all too much for me to know, here in Lafayette, Indiana – more than 800 miles away from those hurting and devastated parents, children, and teachers. It’s too much for me to know here at my desk at work. It’s too much for me to think about when my own baby is 15 minutes away – too far away for me to hold her tightly right now. It’s too much to know. Too much to think about anything else.

If it’s too much here in Indiana, how are people breathing in Newtown? God, give them strength. God, give them air. God, give them numbness, if that’s how they need to get through today and the next day and the next. God, give them comfort – Your comfort and Your Comforter. The comfort from the Spirit. The only comfort that can heal.

I can’t breathe when I think about the parents – all of them. The ones who are holding their babies and thanking God that they were spared. The ones who are in the same firehouse watching those relieved parents, waiting to hear about their kids who are “currently unaccounted for.” Oh, God. The parents who see those relieved parents as they’re told that their babies were remorselessly cut down in their innocence, in their classroom, in their tiny shoes, in their pig-tails. The ones whose babies saw horrors this morning that even they –the adults! – can’t imagine. The wives and husbands of the school employees who won’t come home. The law enforcement officers who had to lead kids to safety and see the terror in their eyes while they wanted to be able to say, “It’s OK,” but they couldn’t. Because it’s nothing close to OK.

I. Can’t. Breathe.

God, I don’t want to understand this. I don’t want anyone to understand this, because it’s so far from what You wanted for us. It’s so broken. So fallen. So backwards. So painful. So. So. So.

God, You showed us how to love. You are love. You share that with us every day. How do we mess it up so much? What on earth (this broken, broken earth) has happened in the life of that man that made him go into those children’s school today intending to murder? Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want to know.

I can’t breathe, God, when I think of all those people. But, God, I can’t even think about You right now.

It’s not that I can’t think about You because I blame You. You share no part in the blame. You. Are. Good. All the time. You are good.

You made us for more. You made us to be more. You want to help us be more.  You long to guide us to be more.

You hate hate. You hate pain. You hate murder.

I don’t blame You. In fact, before I can think about blame, I think about my own sinfulness and it not only makes me sad and sorry and sorrowful, it makes me sick.

I don’t blame You, but I can’t think about You.

I can’t think about You because anytime I get close to thinking about Your pain in all of this, I not only can’t breathe, I just can’t be.

Father, Your pain in this is unimaginable. I praise You that, in Your mercy, You made this kind of pain – Your pain – unimaginable for me, because it would cripple my heart.

Oh, God! Your pain over seeing a man You love – a man You’ve loved from before the creation of the earth, a man You sent precious Jesus to die for, a man whose heart You’ve been desperately calling and calling and calling – Your pain at seeing him fall so far from Love and hurt so many other of your dear loves is too much.

Oh, God! Your pain at seeing – and not just seeing, but absorbing and feeling – the pain of your children! The pain of parents who lost their babies. (Oh, You know that pain all too well!) The pain of children – innocent babies – whose lives will be forever altered by this blood-soaked day. The pain of the family of that man who fired guns at Your people – his family who loves him, but feels like they can’t love him – can’t know him – now.

Oh, my God! Your pain is too much to think on. I can’t. I just can’t.

And to add to Your pain, there is the bitterness of Your loved ones blaming You! You! They cry out, “Why would God let this happen, if He is a loving God and all-powerful?!” Some people will use today as their own kind of “proof” that You aren’t who You say You are. In their hurt, they’ll blame You, the one who is hurt most of all by this! It’s too much. This is all too much. How do You bear it? Why would you bear it? You knew we’d hurt you like this. You knew it and You made us and love us anyway. Such hurt! Such pain! Such love!

God of we who are broken, make us whole.

God of we who are broken-hearted, give us healing.

God of we who are destructive, give us hearts to build up Your Kingdom.

God of we who are wayward, continue to call us back. Continue to be patient. Continue to teach us to Love. Continue to give us the strength to love even those who are unloving and unlovable.

God of we who are petty, give us perspective.

God of we who are sinful, forgive us again.

God of the universe, grant us peace.

Father of all, draw more hearts to You each day, but especially this day.

In their grief, grant them peace.

In their pain, grant them relief.

In their brokenness, grant them healing.

Father, I can’t think on Your pain. But I can praise You for Your amazing love. I praise You for Your promises. I praise You for keeping them. I praise You from the hope that I have and the anticipation of the fulfillment of Your ultimate promise of redemption.

Redemption of my heart.

Redemption of this broken world.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!

Redemption. Making new and beautiful the old, ugly, and broken. Making right the wrong. Making glorious the commonplace. Raising up that which has fallen. Turning back that which had turned away from You.

Redemption. Breathe again.

Behold, You are making all things new. Glory to You, O Lord!

Behold, Your mercies will be new tomorrow morning – the day after this terrible day will be a new day. Praise to You!

Thank You for being You, even when the world is rocked by people who act in ways that are more contrary to Your heart than I could imagine. I praise You for Your constancy. I praise You for the abiding hope of Your unshakeable promises.

Glory be to the Father! – Look! Behold! See? He is making all things (even this unthinkable day, even this hurt, even this brokenness, even this pain), all things new:

Pay close attention now:
 I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
create my people as pure delight.
I’ll take joy in Jerusalem,
take delight in my people:
No more sounds of weeping in the city,
no cries of anguish;
No more babies dying in the cradle,
or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime;
One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—
anything less will seem like a cheat.
They’ll build houses
and move in.
They’ll plant fields
and eat what they grow.
No more building a house
that some outsider takes over,
No more planting fields
that some enemy confiscates,
For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.

Before they call out, I’ll answer.
Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
anywhere on my Holy Mountain,”
says God.

                                    – Isaiah 65:17-25

So today –this day – God, help us all – help them all – to just keep breathing. Just keep loving. Just keep giving glory to You – the one who is making everything new.

Amen.

P.S. – To those of you who have been asking for a new blog post, I know this isn’t what you wanted. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a Paige update and I’m sorry. But, to own the truth, when I have time to blog, I spend it playing on the floor with my baby – and I’m not sorry for that. I do promise that we’ve been taking lots of videos and pictures, and I hope to share them with you soon. Paige is healthy and glowing and beautiful and fun and learning and we love being her parents more each day. My heart is full, which is, I think, why it hurts so much today for the parents who must feel like their hearts died today. Pray. Pray for peace. Pray for redemption. Pray for love. Pray for all things to be new.

…look at their faces

Note: This is a post I moved over from an old blog that, honestly, I forgot that I started. I remember now that I started it because of what had happened to me that week. It was a convicting week. Re-reading this post reminded me of some important heart-lessons God had for me. I’m glad He’s reminded me again. And again, I’m convicted. I’m convicted that I didn’t follow-through with the blog this came from and the goals that I had for it. I’m mostly convicted that I don’t live convicted by these heart-lessons each day. Let’s help each other stay convicted, eh? God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

 

August 27, 2010: Have you ever prayed something with the hope – the confident expectation – that God would really answer you? I think most of the time I pray with a vague sense of God answering my prayers, but mostly I’m just praying because prayer is important, so I do it. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that when I’m paying attention (or when God demands my attention, as in the following examples) and I see God’s answers to my prayers, I’m always surprised. That’s the case with my prayers and my week this week.

A new school year started on Monday and I’ve been praying earnestly (but maybe not expectantly) that God would really use me this year. I’ve been praying for God to show me how to stand out and to make a difference. As a graduate student in a large department on Purdue’s campus and a teaching assistant, I’m in close contact with a ton of people, and so I’ve been praying that God would help me see how I can have a kingdom-impact on the people around me. It’s a good prayer, so I’ve been praying it.

God’s answering me.

Here’s how God answered me on Monday: I felt His love. Monday was an excellent day. I was super productive. I met my totally great honors students. I went to one of my classes and it looks like it’s going to be great (so I’m a nerd). I met a great new master’s student with a passionate heart for God and we chatted for like half an hour after class. (2013 Note: Hey, Beth W. That’s you! We met on August 23! Let’s make it a friend holiday each year!) On the way home, the big moon was a powerful and gorgeous reminder that, even with all of the other people in the world, my life, joys, and worries are personal concerns of God. I got home and talked my poor, exhausted (but incredibly patient) husband’s ears off while I shared my joy in feeling God’s love that day.

Here’s how God answered me on Tuesday: I felt His pain. Tuesday was a rough day, because Tuesday was the day that I started to see the shape that God’s answer to my prayers to make a difference would take. It was a thoroughly convicting day, and those days are never easy (but always good). On Tuesday, I was sitting in my office before the class I teach and I was checking my Facebook page. At the top of the newsfeed was a status update from one of the other students in my department. That student was, essentially, commenting on how utterly disgusting it was to be in the Union and hear someone talking to some international students about how he could help them with their English by talking to them about Jesus and how they didn’t have to worry because he wasn’t one of those obnoxious Christians. Several of the comments on this student’s post (there were a lot of comments) were from other students in the department, all expressing their similar disgust (there really is no better word to sum up their reactions) with the situation. Here were my reactions in chronological order:

  1. Anger. How could these people who pride themselves on their openness to ideas and the broadness of their minds be so closed-minded and judgmental? You can’t call yourself open-minded and then categorically dismiss anything that smacks of Christianity.
  2. Sadness. If this was the reaction of my fellow students to anything related to Christianity, I would assume there must be reason. Either a) someone acting in the name of Christ had been very unChristlike to or near these individuals or b) they’ve bought into the nasty, highly-politicized, unChristlike image of Christianity so often displayed in the media and by people loudly claiming Christ and acting unChristlike.
  3. Bitterness. I don’t want to be lumped in with that media image of Christianity.
  4. Extreme sadness. God loves these students. God longs for their hearts to long for Him.
  5. Suffocating, life-changing conviction. God’s Word says that, ultimately, all will be “without excuse” when it comes to our final judgment because God has been clearly seen since the beginning of time. It hit me with a conviction that can only come from God that one of the ways that God and His Divine Loving Nature is (or should be) seen is through His people. Through me. I was instantly taken back to a conversation that Jeffrey and I had had several weeks ago about images of judgment in the end of Revelation. In revelation 20, John the revelator (for all my choir friends, now you can have that song stuck in your head all day just like me) sees the judgment of the dead. He sees it. He sees those whose names are not down in the Book of Life thrown into the lake of fire. He sees it. Can you imagine? Jeffrey had been listening to a preacher go through the imagery in revelation in a series and the preacher got to this part and made a point that I had never really thought about (honestly, I’ve never really thought about the end times much at all) – can you imagine the weeping and wailing as people watch others they knew and loved on earth whose names are not in the Book of Life become eternally separated from God? We may sing that there are “no tears in heaven fair,” (yet another song to get stuck in your head) but in Revelation 21, we read that God will wipe all the tears from the eyes of those who dwell in the New Jerusalem, which of course implies that were tears to wipe. I know I’ll be sobbing. Sobbying with grief for others I know. Sobbing with bitter regret as I recall times I could have done something else to show that person the love of Christ, and didn’t. It’s a sobering thought to think that, even in the joy of standing with Christ on that day, I will be there to see the people I’ve seen, known, and loved sent to eternal separation. There are no words for the thought that if I had only relied more on the Spirit’s guidance, or gotten out of my comfort zone and spread God’s love more openly, if I had only made other people uncomfortable and broken social patterns and been more bold for Christ while I was here and had the countless opportunities to do so, that those people might have made choices that would bring their hearts to God, instead of separating their hearts from the Father. There really are no words.

Needless to say, that conviction and those thoughts did not make for a very easy rest of the day on Tuesday. I lost count of the times that tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at those around me. I looked at their faces. I saw them. I looked at their faces and I saw their souls. I got a miniscule taste of the unfathomable pain that God must feel when people – His people – choose to harden their hearts to His pleas. The pain He must feel when we choose not to embrace the lives He intended for us. I looked at their faces and was completely overwhelmed  by a love for them when I realized that it would destroy me to see any of them be separated from the Father on judgment day. how could I not weep to think that, had I not been cowardly, they might have seen more of God and then chosen God. I was overwhelmed with the conviction (not the realization, because this thought had occurred to me several times before, I just chose not to let it reach my heart) that my everyday life is my mission field. I was overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed.

But being broken and being convicted so powerfully by the Spirit can’t be a bad thing. A scary thing, sure, but not a bad thing.

Here are the conclusions (so far) that I’ve come to as a result of God answering my prayers by breaking my heart:

  1. I need to stop being a comfortable christian. A comfortable christian is OK with just being an admirer, and not a follower of Jesus. (Not my distinction – but Clarence Jordan’s. Check out this lecture series based on Mere Discipleship by Lee C. Camp, when you get a chance. [Or, just read Mere Discipleship.] Also, check out this interview with Dr. Camp.) I don’t want to be that. A comfortable christian doesn’t make other people uncomfortable with her Christianity. I don’t want to be comfortable.

    I need to be bolder, more Spirit-led (instead of society-led), and less cowardly. In revelation 21, when God is talking to John about His offer of water from the Spring of Life for those who are thirsty and who “overcome,” He also mentions those who, presumably, didn’t overcome and are to experience the “second death.” The first group of people who He mentions who will experience the second death are “the cowardly.” He says “the cowardly” before he says “the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars.” I don’t want to be cowardly. I don’t want to put my fears (of social rejection, of being ostracized, of being mocked… whatever) before my love and life for God. As my wonderful dear friend danae put it, how wasteful fear – apart from the fear of God – is! The fear of God leads to love and abundant life in God. The fear of anything else only leads me away from (capital “L”) Life!

    Conclusion – I need to be more intentional about listening to the Spirit. I need to be more intentional about seeing the good works God’s prepared for me and for which He has equipped (and will continue to equip) me. Beyond that – I need to do what the Spirit leads me to do and go where He leads me to go. I need to do those good works and not just let them pass me by. I need to be more vocal and open about sharing my faith and the love of my Lord. It’s not enough to just avoid going to the non-God-glorifying activities that my fellow students plan and look forward to each week. That’s not sharing my faith; that’s just avoiding the hearts God is longing for.

  2. My biblical knowledge is sorely inadequate. When i’m in the Word, I devour it. I eat it. It becomes a part of me. But, that doesn’t really make that much of a difference since I’m so inconsistent about reading the Word.

    One of the first thoughts i had when i was overcome with conviction about my responsibility to share Christ’s love with the people around me this week was that I really needed comfort from God’s Word. I needed that reassurance from Him that He would guide me through sharing His love from others. I needed to turn to His Word, I just didn’t know where to look. I’m thankful for danae and the scriptures she shared with me from philipians 4:6-7 and ephesians 6:16-18. God provided comfort from His word through His daughter danae, but He also provided me with the gentle but firm reminder that I need to be in His Word more to so that I might be more familiar with it. So that I might be ready to offer comfort from His Word to others.

    Also, I was again struck by how important it is to have a intimate knowledge of scripture so that I may share it with others who don’t know Christ’s love and example. Shame on me for not being more disciplined in my reading and devouring of scripture so that I might be prepared to share it.

    Conclusion – I need to step it up and become more disciplined about learning God’s Word of Love.

So here’s why I’ve started this blog: (2013 note – The “this blog” I mention here no longer exists. However, I can certainly [and hope to] incorporate these goals into Dayenu Sufficient.)

  1. This blog can be a tool to bring glory to God by telling you (whoever “you” turn out to be) about His love, mercy, and his offer of Living Water to the thirsty.
  2. Having this blog can be a responsibility for me and a reminder. (2013 Note: Ouch. Obviously that that didn’t work out since this was the only post on that now-defunct blog.) If I approach my life each day looking for things to share with “you” about how God’s Love is working, it will help me to pay attention to God, His Love, His opportunities for good works, and His answers to prayers. He’s always loving, always setting good works out for me, and always answering the prayers of my heart. I’m just not always paying attention. I should pay attention.
  3. I hope this blog can keep me accountable to some degree by (2013 Note: Again. Ouch.)
    1. Those of you who read it keeping me honest and not letting me forget how I feel now – with my heart broken and convicted,
    2. Helping me to get into the Word more and then sharing with you how God is revealing Himself through it,
    3. And (as i mentioned in 2) helping me to pay attention to God in, around, and through me and others.

God broke my heart for Him this week. God called me to look at the people I see everyday and to see their faces. I pray (expectantly this time) that you’ll help me look at their faces and show them the love and peace of God that just don’t make any earthly sense. I pray that you’ll help me to not be a coward. I pray that you’ll help me grow. I pray that you’ll grow with me.

I pray that you and I both can be like Jesus. He saw the crowd that was around Him one day, and I think, instead of just seeing a crowd, He saw their faces. He looked at their faces and had compassion on them. He looked at their faces and showed them love. I pray that you and I can do the same.

May the grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you this day,

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