Tuesday, August 29, 2006

So Ready

So I was standing in line in Walmart a couple of weeks ago, waiting to check out. The longest, loudest crack of thunder boomed overhead. It was followed by a deafening silence as everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at those around them. Then, just as unexpectedly, a spontaneous cheer erupted throughout the store as it occurred to everyone what had just happened. Thunder usually means rain, and we are so ready for rain!

I hurried through my checkout process (I’m one of those weirdoes who likes to check myself out), pushed my basket out the door and looked up, expecting to see dark, angry clouds. I was so disappointed to see that the sun was shining brightly and it was just as hot as ever.

So, it was a false alarm, but it did make me think. What will it be like when Jesus comes? If I’m standing in line in Walmart instead of looking up at the clouds, how will I know? Will there be a deafening silence as everyone stops what they are doing and looks around them? Will a spontaneous cheer erupt throughout the store as it occurs to everyone what is happening? Are we so ready for Jesus to come?

"You must be ready,

because the Son of Man will come

at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Luke 12:40

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Texas is hot in the summer by anybody’s standards. It just is.

Last night at the Dallas Cowboy’s football game against the San Francisco 49ers, the announcer said that the temperature was 120 degrees on the field at the start of the game. No doubt he was referring to the heat index, rather than the actual temperature, but hot is hot. He expressed his relief that an hour later it had dropped to a balmy 107 and added, “It’s really not that bad down here on the field.”

Julia Glick, in an article for Associated Press in Dallas, referred to “a searing Texas summer marked by drought and 100-degree days”.She went on to say that “the cities are sweating out their hottest year on record so far and the state as a whole is in the running for its most sweltering year on record.”

In addition to the heat, which we have come to expect in the summer, this drought is also serious business. We have been operating under water restrictions all summer. Basically, we are only allowed to water our lawns one day a week, depending on whether our address ends with an even or odd number. Check out: http://www.thepointhocc.blogspot.com for one congregation’s efforts to unite believers in prayer for rain. According to the National Weather Service, we have a 40% chance of rain today and a 90% chance tomorrow. Lord, open the sky and rain down on us!

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Now Pronounce You Man and Husband

I now pronounce you man and husband.

Hmmm... This is not what you think.

This, in fact, is what the preacher said when my beloved and I were married over 30 years ago, and I am to blame.

This poor man had conducted dozens of weddings prior to ours and I am sure he thought ours would be another routine ceremony with the usual vows. I was all of 19 (yes, it is embarrassing to admit that), but had very definite opinions about what I wanted.

In this case, I had a hang-up about the preacher pronouncing that we were man and wife. As I reasoned, he was a man; I was a woman. As a married couple, why is he still a man, but I have become a wife? I felt very strongly that the pronouncement should acknowledge that change was ahead for both of us, not just for me (even though I did have the whole name change thing). When we met with him to discuss the ceremony, I respectfully, yet firmly requested that he pronounce that we were husband and wife.

I could tell that this was unsettling to him. I could not imagine why. Maybe he had said the same thing so much that he did not even have to think. He could set the cruise control as he began the ceremony and reach consciousness in time to have cake. Nevertheless, he agreed to my request. So there we were, at the end of the ceremony, having said our vows, getting nervous about the big kiss in front of everyone, when he said it.

“I now pronounce you man and husband…er, I mean…husband and wife.”

With the maturity of a 19-year-old, I looked at him through slanted eyes, convinced that he did it on purpose, just to get me back for making him think during my wedding ceremony. However, he did say wife, and I liked the sound of that, so my irritation was quickly forgotten.

Isn’t it interesting that I remember nothing else that was said, except that my very nervous groom, while repeating his vows said, “Till dearth shall part us,” which, of course, marks another time that my immaturity reared its ugly head as I broke out in a fit of giggles. I was already crying (with happiness) at the time, so with the tears and the runny nose and the giggles I had a lot going on while trying to repeat my vows.

I look back on those two kids and how little they knew about life and about each other and I thank God for blessing that union of man and husband…er…wife.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:7-9

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Empty Nest

Who coined the phrase, “empty nest” to refer to the last child leaving home? Why don’t they more accurately call it, “hole in my heart”, or “deafening silence in my home?” It would work, you know. You’re making small talk and the subject of kids comes up. “Do you have kids at home?” “No, we have a hole in our hearts.” “Ah,” they nod knowingly. “Where are they going to school?”

After work some evenings, I go to a spin class. When I returned tonight, my beloved had started dinner. He asked, “How much pasta do I put in?” “I don’t know,” I answered perplexed. “I don’t think I know how to cook for two.” Ever the problem solver, he said, “I’ll just cook it all. We can have it again tomorrow night!”

We just dropped our baby off at college yesterday. Lovey chose the same college her brother attends, which is cool and, in a way, made it a little easier for us to leave her there. She also has cousins at the same school. They were joking yesterday that any boy who wants to date Lovie has to go through three people. I could tell her dad enjoyed that.

On Saturday, we lugged all her stuff up to her room (why are freshmen always on the second or third floor?) then began our first of several trips to Walmart. Between necessary shelving, room decorations, and food, we finally called a truce to the spending when we had exceeded our weekly grocery budget.

On Sunday after church, we went to lunch with the cousins. After yet another trip to Walmart, we returned to her room one last time to cover a bulletin board with fabric. The moment we were dreading had arrived. All we had to do was staple the fabric to the board and we would be through. I stapled while my beloved held the fabric to the board. The stapler kept jamming. Over and over I stopped, took the staples out, removed the offensive staple, and started again. As I became more frustrated, my beloved took over until he could not get the stapler to work either. Neither of us wanted to quit. Neither wanted to give up on the stapler, because once we finished the job, it would be time to go. Finally, Lovie said, “Mom, Dad, it is ok. I’ll finish it later. You need to get on the road so you will be home before bedtime.”

The next thing I know I’m enveloped in a group hug and totally losing my composure. As the tears are streaming down my face, I’m thinking, “When did she get taller than me? I need more time. There’s so much more I want to teach her. There’s so much more to share.” We said our goodbyes and rode off in silence with my beloved at the wheel. I chose the comfort of the fetal position in the back seat.

It’s hard to believe that we have had children living in our home for the past 27 years. This is the fourth time we’ve taken a child off to college. This is the fourth time that the hole in my heart has been exposed. I take comfort in the fact that our baby is safe and happy and has many wonderful adventures ahead of her. She is a Christian with a good head on her shoulders and a big heart. She loves people and she loves life.

In my head, I know she’ll be fine and we’ll be fine. In my heart…..now that’s another matter.

“But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake;

out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.”

Psalm 109:21-22

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tempted and Tried

There’s an old song that we sang in church when I was young. It has also been recorded by many artists from Elvis Presley to Dolly Parton. Perhaps you know it.

Vs. 1 Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long,
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Vs. 2When death has come and taken our loved ones,
It leaves our home so lonely and drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year.

Vs. 3 Faithful til death, said our loving Master
A few more days to labor and wait,
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing
As we sweet through the beautiful gate.

Vs. 4 When we see Jesus, coming in glory,
When He comes from His home in the sky,
Then we shall meet Him in that bright mansion,
We'll understand it all by and by.

Farther along we'll know all about it,
Farther along we'll understand why;
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine,
We'll understand it all by and by.

Words and Music by J.R.Baxter and W.B.Stevens
© 1937 Stamps-Baxter Music

Mr.Baxter is known as one of the most influential people in gospel music. He formed the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company and went on to write thousands of songs in his lifetime. He was clearly a talented man, and this has obviously been a popular song for it to have been recorded by dozens of artists.

I don’t mind listening to it on the radio, but I do question whether or not it should be sung in church. I can hear your collective gasps, but hear me out. You see, I think that if I am going to sing a song in worship, that I should mean what I am singing.

It occurred to me many years ago that verses one and two are whiny. Whining is something I ask forgiveness for; it is not something that I want to do collectively with other Christians set to music. Whining makes me shameful, because even though I can always find people who have things I do not, or who seem to do whatever they want when they want, I cannot ignore the fact that I am richly blessed.

Furthermore, the song does not make sense to me. Let’s dissect. In verse one, the implication is that only Christians are tempted and tried (all the day long, I must say) and that nothing ever happens to those who do not follow Jesus, even though they are in the wrong, as if what we really want is for something tragic to happen to these people. Judgment Day, apparently, does not satisfy our blood lust.

Secondly, verse two really throws me. I’m looking at cause and effect here. Our loved ones are dying all over the place while the wicked are making money. What does one have to do with the other?

Having vented, perhaps too strongly, let me assure you that when this song is sung in church, I don’t stand up and shake my fist or anything. I just wait until verses three and four to join in.

Now, I’d like to see the words of Paul in Philippians 4:12-13 put to music. Remember, he spent a good bit of time in prison for proclaiming the gospel.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and very situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Now, if somebody out there with some talent would put that to music, I would sing it every day.

I welcome your comments. Perhaps you see it another way.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I was on my way to baby sit my grandson today, when I saw something disturbing.

As I exited on to a mix master (one of those cloverleaf things that allow you to move from one freeway to another perpendicular to it) traffic came to a stop. I inched along for a while, unable to see what was holding things up.

About the time I was able to approach normal speed, I came upon an area where several cars had pulled over to the side of the road. My first thought was that perhaps some people had gathered at a spot where a loved one had died, maybe to place a cross and some flowers there; it is not unusual to see something like that along the side of the freeway.

I muttered to myself as I navigated my way through all of these cars which were parked haphazardly along the side of my lane. Surely this tribute to a loved one is not worth causing someone else to have a wreck. Some of the people were huddled together with concerned, almost frantic expressions. Others were talking into their cell phones. More cars were pulling over and people were moving quickly toward the spot where others were gathered. I was startled to see a shoe in my lane; as I passed by, I caught a glimpse of a young man in shorts sprawled in the grass behind the railing to the right of my lane. It was not until I was fully on to the freeway that I looked in my rearview mirror to see his motorcycle, about a hundred yards away from him, crashed on the other side of my onramp.

He must have been thrown from his motorcycle! I tried to imagine the helplessness these witnesses felt as they watched him crash, and then saw his body fly through the air, across their lane, and out of sight behind the railing. As I drove home, I prayed for this young man and his recovery, and thanked God for the compassionate folks who saw a need and stopped to help with little regard for their own personal safety. What a lesson for me......

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

His Plans Are Better Than Mine

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
~ Albert Einstein ~

One of my favorite movies, a series actually, is Anne of Green Gables. The main character, Anne, a very bright girl with a vivid imagination, lives most of her childhood in an orphanage. She is finally adopted and becomes best friends with her next door neighbor, Diana Berry. Anne loves to refer to Diana as her kindred spirit.

When my children were small, they watched this series as often as I let them. Whenever my daughter wrote me a note or drew me a picture, she signed it kindred spirit. Soon, this became my pet name for her. (I might add that each child has a pet name, so no, I did not actually name my children Sweet Pea, Kindred Spirit, My Buddy, and Lovie.)

From the time she was a toddler, K.S. loved sports. When she was 4, she announced one day that she was not coming in the house until she had made 100 baskets, using the goal over the garage. It was June, very hot, and there she was, dripping in sweat, making one shot after another…granny style.

In school, she made average grades, played all sports, but lived for basketball. After middle school, she was invited to play with an elite club team that traveled all over the state. The summer after her junior year, her team went to the nationals; that summer she was nominated all American. Colleges from all over the country were calling. Her senior year looked to be a great one. She was the leading scorer, the go-to girl on a great team that had a shot at winning state. Then the unthinkable happened early in the season. She stole a ball mid-court, dribbled to the basket for an easy lay-up, rotated, and completely tore her ACL, MCL, and medial miniscus. I will never forget that scream as she fell to the floor, clutching her knee. In one short moment it was over.

She spent the rest of basketball season in rehab. The calls stopped, except for one. Her former high school volleyball coach was now coaching at a Christian college and offered her the opportunity to join the team on injured reserve. She spent her freshman year in college traveling with the team while undergoing another surgery and continuing rehab. At the end of that first season, she decided to quit the team. She wanted more from the total college experience than playing volleyball was going to provide.

She called one night in tears to tell us of her decision. There were many nights that her dad and I had cried in the privacy of our bedroom, and now we were all crying together. This part of her life in which she had invested so much time and energy was over, and now she didn’t quite know what to do with herself. What would her identity be, if not an athlete? What was left for her?

As time wore on, she became increasingly more certain that she had made the right decision. She made friends at college who were not athletes for the first time in her life, and worked very hard at her major, exercise science. Shortly after her sophomore year, she announced that she wanted to be a physical therapist. However, this meant taking extremely challenging classes to prepare for acceptance into grad school, and studying like she had never studied in her life. She approached this with the commitment that before had been reserved for athletics.

What God did from this point on was truly amazing. Some time had passed since she had quit the team and I was trying to get a feel for how she was dealing with it. She said, “Mom, I used to think that I wasn’t very smart, that all I was good at was sports. God had to take that away from me to show me that He has given me other gifts and that I can do anything I put my mind to.”

That was five years ago. Today, she is nearing the completion of her doctorate in physical therapy, will graduate at the top of her class, and her favorite scripture is.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Happy 25th birthday, Kindred Spirit.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's Easier To Get Forgiveness Than Permission

When My Buddy was 16, he got his driver’s license. 16-year-old male drivers are usually easy to spot. They tend to be overconfident and resistant to instruction; they drive too fast, follow too closely, take off abruptly, stop abruptly, and rattle the neighborhood with their radio. I think testosterone interferes with the learning curve for driving altogether. My Buddy fell somewhat within this category, but probably was more careful than most because he had to share my car with me. He did not get his own truck until he was 17.

My Buddy and his little sister Lovie are pretty close, as brothers and sisters go. She was 14 at this time. One morning before school, they decided that it was time for her first driving lesson…..with My Buddy as the instructor…..in my suburban…..on our street (where neighbors park in front of their houses)…..in the rain no less. Lovie had received a call from a classmate who lived on our block, wanting to know if we could take her to school. As My Buddy and Lovie rationalized, this was practically an act of service. They could pick her up at her house so she would not get her hair wet in the rain. In their minds it was no big deal. Lovie would back out of the driveway under his watchful eye, drive to the end of the block, make a three point turn in the street as he explained how, drive back, and pull into the driveway again. No problem.

As they headed out the front door, Lovie yelled in the direction of my room that they were going to go pick up her friend. They felt secure in the knowledge that I “knew” what they were doing, even though they didn’t mention who would be driving, and I couldn’t hear them anyway as I was under the hair dryer. The fact that I could not hear them, and therefore did not respond, actually fit into their plan, as they sometimes subscribe to the theory that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Thankfully, they made it back ok. Once I found out what they had done, they had to endure a lecture, as well as individual sanctions (taking away things or privileges that each one values for a period of time).

As I reflect on this incident, I am reminded that I do God this way from time to time. I can honestly say that most times (if not every time) that I sin I do not take the time to think it through. If I do this, what could happen? Is this something I want to do before God? Does this action or word reflect the spirit of Christ? I just do it because I want to, or it makes sense to me at the time, and I deal with the fall-out later.

God uses my conscience to discipline me. He sends Shame to trip me. Then Remorse shoves me to the ground and Regret knocks the wind out of me. It is then that I seek His forgiveness. When will I ever learn? Kind of like the 16-year-old male driver, I tend to be overconfident and resistant to instruction; I drive through life too fast, follow my own desires too closely, take off on my own abruptly while I stop leaning on God just as abruptly. Although I am grateful for the lessons He sends my way, I seek to be more deliberate in my avoidance of sin.

I am reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica in I Thessalonians 5:22:

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God Himself, the God of peace, 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.”

Is it just me, or do you struggle with this too? I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sad News

I just received an email from one of my former teachers. There were two words in the subject box: Sad News.

As I braced myself before clicking on it, I reflected on my last phone conversation with her when she called me several weeks ago. It had been several months since we had talked and we were catching up. As the conversation waned, she blurted, “I’m pregnant.” In her late thirties, with a college-age child and another in middle school, she was still trying to deal with this unexpected news and sort out her feelings.

She asked me not to tell anyone, wanting to wait until the first trimester had passed before making the news public. She needed time to get over the shock and get used to the idea. She wanted to be able to prepare herself mentally for the reactions from well-meaning friends and relatives.

“You’re pregnant? At your age? Better you than me!”

“You’re pregnant? Did you plan this baby?”

“You’re pregnant? Again? But your kids are practically grown!”

“You’re pregnant? What were you thinking?”

I was touched that she wanted me to know, tried to say the words of encouragement that I would want to hear at such a time, and told her that I would be praying for her and her baby.

Coming back to the present, I opened her email and read:

I had a doctor appt today. He said that the baby no longer has a heartbeat. I will have a D&C later today. As shocked as we were to have gotten pregnant, we are equally shocked to have it end this way.

Thanks for all your encouragement!

That day when we were talking, she never intended to tell me. It just came out. It’s not that I said anything profound to her that day. I didn’t do anything special. I just said those things I would want to hear.

“You’re pregnant? I am so happy for you!”

“You’re pregnant? This is one lucky baby. You are a wonderful mom!”

“You’re pregnant? How wonderful that your kids are old enough to help!”

“You’re pregnant? I will be thinking of you and praying for you and your baby!”

It’s just a good rule of thumb, a good golden rule.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. “

Luke 6:31

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Do I Look Like An Idiot?

It is Saturday morning and the kids are all out. The house is quiet and I am on the computer enjoying the last bit of solitude before my beloved returns from Lowes. He is not a happy camper today. Actually, his bad mood began when he got home from work last night to find a flooded bathroom. For the rest of the evening he grumped and groaned and griped and muttered as he investigated the problem. By bedtime, the news was not good. Our water heater had died.

Now, I am one of the lucky ones. My beloved can do anything. He makes his living in construction and can build, remodel, fix, repair, patch, or rig anything and everything. This gift has saved us a ton of money over the years. The down side to it is that he is NOT going to pay someone to do something he can do himself. Consequently, if it is something I want done, it will have to wait until he is ready, willing to spend the time and money, has the time, wants to make the time, or sees the need. However, some things, like hot water, cannot afford to wait and must be done immediately, hence the bad mood. He can’t put it off and he WON’T pay someone else to do it.

Back to this morning. He comes home from Lowes. I am hiding in the computer room. He walks around the corner, completely fills the doorway, and booms, “Do I look like an idiot?”

Ok, ladies. On a good day, one should always take care in responding to this question. Compare this to, “Do I look fat in this?” But today? Today, I am not going there. I take in the obvious. He has not combed his hair today, nor has he shaved in a couple of days. His once white t-shirt is stained and coated with something chalky, as are his shorts. He is wearing those ankle socks shoved into the top of those combat-looking work boots that he loves. Apparently he left the house without by-passing Lovey. She has been known to stop him with, “Dad, no. You can’t be serious. You are not leaving the house looking like that. What will people say about me?”

My mind catalogues through the quips, the puns, and the sarcastic comments that are flooding my consciousness, but with the wisdom of 30 years of marriage, I ask, “How do you mean that, exactly?”

He launches into a story.

“I’m coming out of Lowes, headed toward my truck. There’s this little Oriental lady pushing a cart with about 15, 80 pound sacks of concrete mix toward the Volvo next to my truck. She opens her trunk and bends over to pick up the first sack. She doesn’t weigh 90 pounds sopping wet herself and here she is trying to pick up this 80 pound sack of concrete mix.”

Sidebar: I don’t know why, but if he is telling a story that involves a petite person, in an effort to paint the mental picture for me, as I am very visual, he always tells me what that person would weigh sopping wet. Now, I ask you, how often is this, an issue? How often are you called upon to lift a sopping wet petite person? In contrast, if the person is of hefty proportions, he will say something like, “Oh, he was 325, easy.”

Back to his story: “As I’m walking up to my truck, I say, ‘Whoa, whoa, ma’am. You don’t need to be lifting those. I’ll do it for you.”

She looks up, smiles graciously, and backs out of his way. After the last sack of concrete mix is placed in her trunk, he shuts the lid, dusts his hands off onto his shorts, and turns to hear laughter. Two oriental men are looking at the woman as they are approaching the Volvo laughing. “See, we told you. If we sent you out here alone, someone would load those for us!”

Bless his heart. My hero, who has never passed a woman stranded in her car on the side of the road without stopping to help. In his mind, these people had taken advantage of him and in an effort to do a good deed, he walked away convinced that all he actually ended up doing was looking like an idiot.

“So, I ask you. Do I look like an idiot?”

“No. You look like a man of God who saw a need and rushed to meet it, without thinking about whether or not the need was real or even if someone was trying to take advantage of you. We have no control over people’s motives. You did what you had to do. You did the right thing at the time and I’m proud of you.”

I wish I were more like him. I am so concerned with my safety as a woman, that I do wonder if the panhandler on the side of the road is for real, or if the hitchhiker will put his creepy hands on my window like in the Twilight Zone and say, “Going my way?” as he leers at me. These fears have kept me from being the Good Samaritan more times than I care to admit to you. Not my beloved, whose actions remind me of Matthew 25:34-40, where Jesus talks of rewards in the kingdom of heaven that are given to those who serve without thought of reward.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison, and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sleep Debt

I don’t get enough sleep and it’s my own fault.

Once I come home from work, there’s dinner to cook, the kitchen to clean, laundry to do, and anything else that needs our attention. My husband is great to help me, but he can finish loading the dishwasher and go straight to bed. I, however, must have some down time. Some time just to sit and be. Consequently, I crawl into bed too late and am sound asleep within 30 seconds of my head hitting the pillow. Literally.

Unfortunately, I get up rather early, 5:00 a.m., so that usually means about 6 hours of sleep. Sadly, my body really needs 8, so I am usually in debt to sleep. I choose to view it as a blessing that because of my debt, which rolls over with compounding interest from night to night, I cannot relate to the tossing and turning of which many speak.

The other night was a new experience for me.

I fall into bed at 10:44, am asleep by 10:45, only to be awakened at 11:30 with the realization that my youngest, whom I will call Lovie, is not home. I am certain that she will be in by 12:00 as she is very faithful to call when she is out, and has never broken curfew. However, once awake, I am afraid to go to sleep again. Will something happen to her in the next 30 minutes? If she calls, will it wake me? So I stare up at the ceiling in the dark until 12:00. Then, I wander through the house in the dark, only to find her safe at home. With a thankful sigh, I climb back into bed and drift off to sleep once again.

Approximately 45 minutes later, my beloved wakes me. Kindred Spirit is visiting us and her husband is on his way to join her at our house from out of state and has not yet arrived, even though it is an 8 hour trip and he left 12 hours ago. My beloved whispers, “Should I call him to see where he is? Should I wake kindred spirit?” With a groan and a flop to my other side, I mumble, “Sure, call him.” Then I wait in the dark as he calls. Finding out that he is ok, just stuck behind a wreck and taking it slow in the rain, I try, once again, to drift off to sleep. However, there is no drifting to be done. There appear to be pins poking through the mattress into my back. There is no comfortable position.

To complicate matters, a song we sang in church on Sunday plays itself over and over in my head: How Great is our God. Then, the unthinkable happens. I start thinking about work. Not just work. Problems at work. People problems. Unsolvable people problems. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, I am frozen in a supine position, staring straight ahead in the dark, with How Great is our God in the background and unsolvable people problems in the foreground.

At 3:00, fearing that the overpowering brain song will seep out my ears and wake my beloved, I tuck my pillow under my arm and head for the den. I’ll just watch a little TV and then fall asleep. Making my nest on the couch, I aim the remote toward the TV and see the message. You must load your cable access card. I try every channel and get the same message. What does this mean? Have I forgotton to pay the cable bill? So here I am at 3:00 a.m., firing up the computer, going to my bank statement to check. Whew, I paid it two weeks ago, but now I’m really awake.

At this point I am exhausted, brain dead, and frustrated. What is God trying to tell me? Ok, so maybe my prayers are more about thanks for my blessings, and petitions for those in need. Maybe if I will purposefully praise God in prayer, my brain will relax the song. So I begin. I try to think of every adjective that describes God and His majesty. As the seconds turn to minutes and the minutes multiply, I feel my body relax and slip into the deepest two hours of sleep anyone has ever had. How great is our God!

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
Psalm 62:1-2

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

When the Problem with Prayer is Me

"There are two kinds of people:
those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,'
and those to whom God says,
'All right, then, have it your way.'"
~ C.S. Lewis ~

Doing God’s will has always been important to me. It was important to King David. He desired to do God’s will (Ps. 40:8) and even asked God to teach him how to do his will (Ps. 143:10). It was certainly important to Jesus. He constantly reminded believers to seek and to choose God’s will.

In an effort to do this, I have, for most of my life, modeled my requests the way Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39, firmly believing that by tagging each prayer with, “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done” I was putting God’s will first in my life. There are still times when I am compelled to pray this way. In particular, if a loved one is seriously ill or injured, or out of work, or dealing with some type of tragedy, I will pray that God heal, repair, or provide what that person needs.

However, the prayers I prayed for myself were filled with, “Bless me. Help me. Keep me. Give me.” All too often, I was really asking God, “Please bless what I am going to do anyway” or, “Here’s something I want, please make it happen.” Then if I did it and it went well, or I got the thing I wanted, I determined that it must have been God’s will, but how could I really know?

In such instances, maybe he was saying to me, “All right, then, have it your way.”

Struggling with this over the years, I have found myself drawn to people with more spiritual depth than I. One common thread is their reliance on God, a deep faith that he has a plan for their lives, and a strong desire to discover what that plan is and to be an instrument of his will.

Realizing that I did not know this type of faith, I decided to change the way I pray about my needs and wants. What if, instead of asking God to bless my plans, I ask him to make his will for my life known to me? What if I offer myself to be his hands and his feet? What if I ask him to put me in situations that are uncomfortable so that I can grow? What if I ask him to make it known to me how I can serve him more? What if, instead of wanting God to be intimately involved in what is going on in my life, my focus is on being intimately involved in God’s will: wanting it, seeking it, finding it, doing it. What if the focus of my life is to know God and to be more like him, not just be known by him?

What if this small change in the way I pray changes my life?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him” I John 5:14-15.