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Friday, November 30, 2012

Pray

When I was a child, I prayed at bedtime a prayer taught to me by my parents and recited under my breath each night to a point at which I no longer thought of the words I was saying.  To the outside listener my mumbled prayers probably sounded like I was either talking in my sleep or overcome by the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.

It went something like this:

nowIlaymeodwntosleepIpraytheLordmysoultokeepifIshoulddiebeforeIwakeIpraytheLordmysoultotakeGodblessmomanddadandbrothersandgrandmasandandgranddadsandauntsandunclesandcousinsandeveryoneIknowandlovepleaseodn’tletourhouseburndownoranythinghappentoanyofusthankyouLordAmen.

It took me about ten seconds to say this prayer from beginning to end, and I couldn’t fall asleep if I didn’t pray it; I believed that if I didn’t say this prayer, my family and all my loved ones would be open to any and all horrific events waiting to pounce on our unprayed heads. 

Praying was my safety net.

I prayed this prayer each night until I considered myself too old to pray myself to sleep. As I grew older, I prayed for only the things I wanted, usually under desperate circumstances:  Please God let me get an A on this test; please God let there be no school tomorrow; please God don’t let me get in trouble; please God don’t let them find out about this; please God keep us safe.

Then somewhere along the line I felt bad for using God; I was praying, but rarely thanking. I was asking, but rarely giving. I felt demanding and hypocritical, and stopped praying altogether.  I stopped praying at a time when I could have used a safety net more than I’d like to admit.

As an adult, I started praying again as I went back to church and learned again that God is always there for each of us.  Even then I only prayed for things that I felt were important, and usually only at the bequest of others: Please God take away her cancer; please God show him your light; please God save this baby.  I still didn’t pray for myself much, and most certainly I didn’t ask God for minor things like finding my keys or having enough money to pay all the bills.  I figured that was my responsibility, and why bother God with my personal nonsense?

Then I started reading the Bible.  I read that God wants us to pray throughout the day for everything (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  I heard that some people do “breath prayers” where they pray a word or phrase to God as they inhale and exhale.  We can pray every day, every hour, every minute, every second.  God wants us to try and overwhelm him with our prayers.  God wants us to pray for everything (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18)

And this includes praying to find lost keys, for the traffic light to turn green, for the front door to be locked when you’re at the mall and can’t remember if you locked it before you left.

I still pray for the sickness to heal, the baby to be saved, the friend’s heart to soften.  I have seen enough answers to prayers that I know God is listening.  I have been in awe of God’s answers more times in my daily prayers than I ever thought a person could. 

Because of my praying, I have learned to trust God, his word, and his plan.  I have relied on him for things that previously I thought were trivialities and couldn’t be important to him.  What I learned is that nothing about us is trivial to God, and if we pray to him, he will listen.

*******
Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the immeasurable generosity of God in every single day.  Although his love is big enough and strong enough to cover the whole world's sins, he sees each of us individually and gives us each exactly what we need.  I am thankful; I don't know how he does it.

For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
John 6:33 (NIV)

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)

Thank you, Lord, for all that you are, and for all that you have given me.  I pray that the love you give me everyday shows in how I live my life, so that those around me could share it.  Amen.

But 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)

 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All Kidding Aside

There’s one in every family.

The prankster, the joker, the wit, the funny one.  The one who tries to bring the funny to any situation.

In our family there are three of us.  My husband and I can giggle and laugh at the dumbest stuff, bouncing funny comments off one another just because.  I used to muse that I was so happy that my son had inherited my sense of humor.  I said used to.

That was before he started leaping from behind walls and telling wild stories just to see my reaction, then saying “Joking!” when my eyes were about to bug out of my head.

My mother will tell you that I deserve every bit of it.  She’s right.

Our daughter is the odd one out.  Maybe it’s just because she’s the youngest, but she gets very indignant when the rest of us are joking around and she doesn’t get it.

Angry and teary, even.

I don’t blame her.  Sometimes our joking around is at each other’s expense.  No one likes to be teased.  No one likes to be laughed at, even if the laughing is from those who love us the most.  We have to be careful that we don’t damage her sensitive nature.  Someday she might get it, but that time is not now.  She doesn’t like to be reminded that she doesn’t get it.

Isn’t that how we all are sometimes?  Sensitive to others who know something we don’t?  Jealous and resentful that someone else has what we don’t, even if it’s just an inside joke?  We only want to belong, claim our seat at the table.  When we don’t get it, we sulk, are hurt.

One thing that God is not is a joker.  Sure, everyone says that God has a sense of humor, but it is never at anyone’s expense.  God doesn’t tease.  He doesn’t tell us something we find pleasure in, only to pull the rug out from under us.  God takes his word very seriously.  The Bible is full of commands and texts that convict us to reexamine our lives to better align with what he wants for us.

After all, God wants us to live with him forever.  There will be no room for someone who maligns another, who tries to one-up his neighbor, who teases and taunts to produce tears.

I am sensitive of this in my own family, for my daughter’s sake.   I fail every now and then, and am reminded of my failure when her face crumples and the tears roll.  At that moment I hope to stop and be reminded how many times God keeps his word with me, how many times I stumble and instead of laughing at me, he reaches out his hand and helps me to stand.

And I am thankful that God takes his love for me seriously, and there’s no joking around about it.
 *******


Well, I know a few things myself - and you’re no better than I am.  Who doesn’t know these things you’ve been saying?  Yet my friends laugh at me, for I call on God and expect an answer.  I am a just and blameless man, yet they laugh at me.  People who are at ease mock those in trouble.  They give a push to people who are stumbling.  Job 12:3-5 (NLT)
If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.  Galatians 5:15 (NIV)
Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.  Psalm 109:26 (NIV)


Thursday, November 15, 2012

'Tis the Season

Now that Halloween is over Thanksgiving is soon here, businesses and retail companies are free to fill our minds and neuroses with as much Christmas season frenzy as they can.  Anyone who has a chance to make money from consumers is marketing the heck out of whatever they’re selling. 

Sometimes all they’re selling is the idea of a gift.  Make this Christmas the one they’ll remember.  If you buy this second you’ll get 80 percent off.  This offer will not last.  Don’t be a chump.

This is enough to make my heart beat faster and for me to pull the covers over my head and concede my defeat to the holiday season. 

Just pass me by, already.  I can’t keep up.

Last year I confided to my husband that I really don’t enjoy the holiday season.  He responded with shock and awe.  He relishes frenzy and chaos, infinite options, shopping to shop and deals, deals, deals.  He can’t understand that all I want for Christmas is PEACE.

He kicked into action by ramping up his helpfulness with shopping, the kids, the house.  It helps, but it doesn’t stop the constant buzz of external pressure to get out there, take Christmas by the horns, and make it the best one yet by doing and buying everything.

I have to say in past years I haven’t been very good about remembering the reason for the season.  I allow the commercialization to get to me.  I make the season a chore because I am so grumpy about it.  I resist what Christmas has become, but I have had a hard time doing anything about it.

This year, I’ve decided to pray.  Pray when the season gets away from me, pray when I feel like I’m drowning, pray when things get a little too loud and fast and annoying and I focus on those things that have nothing to do with what’s going on in my heart.

And let me tell you, I have never prayed so often during a day than I have the past couple of weeks since those Christmas commercials started.

But it’s working.  Jesus has talked me down from the wall every time, without fail.  He reminds me in times when the blood rushes through my ears after a particular flood of anxiety that he is there.  And he causes tears to well in my eyes when he quietly says, “It’s my life you are celebrating.  Don’t forget that.”

I may not be able to stop the onslaught of all things Christmas, but then again, I don’t have to.  All I have to do is look away from the chaos and into the one who makes everything right.

And there is the peace.
*******

But as for me, I will sing about your power.  Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.  O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love. Psalm 59:16-17 (NLT)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Longsuffering

If I’m in a mood, I can really see myself as longsuffering.

Especially when it’s week 10 of college football season and I’ve spent nearly every one of the past ten Saturdays listening to my football-fanatic husband hoot, holler, clap, and scream at the television at the people on the screen, who cannot hear him.  THEY CANNOT HEAR YOU PLEASE BE QUIET THANK YOU

Especially when I’m looking down the barrel of a scowly kid who I’ve just told, like I have every other morning this week, that she cannot wear a tank top to school when it’s 30 degrees out and I don’t care if you are wearing a jacket.

Especially when I find myself at the grocery store for the third time this week because I keep forgetting one item that I need for any given meal.

Especially when I want to browse Facebook to see what my friends are up to, and all I see are political rants and smack-talk about each other’s sports teams.

Especially when we decide to do some home improvements and two months later the oven dies, then the air conditioner, the hot water heater, and the battery in my car.

And especially, ESPECIALLY, when I ask my family for helping tidying up their messes in the house and I get many levels of whining, excuses, and grief as a response.

Longsuffering.

 Sigh.

Look, I know people have problems, bigger ones than the ones I’ve outlined.  I don’t suffer illness, drug addiction, abuse, poverty, or oppression.  Humanity can sling dirtier evils than what I’ve experienced.

Maybe I can't say I'm longsuffering, exactly.  Maybe I'm more world-weary.  Maybe just whiny. 

But when I'm feeling bad about what I'm suffering through, my call is the same as everyone else’s: to “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…" Colossians 3:12 (NKJV)

and I need to remember that

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

Do you see what else abides with longsuffering?  Mercy.  Kindness.  Meekness.  Gentleness.  Temperance.

And I would do well to put these characteristics into effect while suffering long.

I guess I can practice those, too.  Now if I could only get my husband to watch football more quietly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading and Writing

If you're new here, you may not know that I have another blog called About 100%, where I write about the ups and downs in my little corner of the earth, and pretty much whatever comes into my head.  It's heartfelt and kind of funny, but mostly embarrassing.

I have partnered with our local newspaper via their Read and Write for Literacy Program
to promote the Adult Literacy program that my community's YWCA supports.  In today's post at About 100%, I have written about literacy and what reading and writing means to me.

In short, literacy means so much to me that I don't even remember not being able to read or write.

Sort of how I don't know what it's like to not have a head.

Please read my post over at About 100% and help me support our YWCA's program.  You have an opportunity to help that won't cost you a single penny.  Thank you for reading!

About 100% blog post:

http://www.about100percent.com/2012/11/reading-for-life.html



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What I Got

Now that it’s November, many people start talking about what they are thankful for.  Frequently mentioned items include a home, a job, good health, a loving family, many friends, children, enough food to eat and clothes to wear.

Those things are all good things.  They are all things to be thankful for.  I am thankful for them, because without them I would be cold, lonely, sick, and sad, four things that I’ve been before and I can say that being cold, lonely, sick, and sad is no good at all.

My husband and I teach our children to be thankful for what they have.  Not many of the things we give to them are necessities.  They can do without a fifth pair of shoes, dance lessons, Halloween costumes, even their own bedrooms.  Yet they have each of these things.  They live luxurious lives, and they don’t want to hear us lecture about how they should be thankful, how children and adults all over the world don’t have a fraction of what they do so eat your green beans because there are starving kids in China who don’t even know what a green bean is, for goodness’ sake.

I believe that they are thankful for what they have.  They speak the words every day and pray the prayers every night.  But are they – am I? – really thankful?

This past week the issue of thankfulness has surfaced many times for me, which could just be the timing – it is almost Thanksgiving, after all – but more likely it is God trying to tell me something.

It came up as a quote in the newspaper:  “If you are really thankful, what do you do?  You share.”  (W. Clement Stone)

It came up in my Bible, some text from a hymn that I wrote in large scribbly handwriting several years ago:  “We Thank Thee, Lord, for daily food, For plenteous store of earthly good; For life and health we still possess, With house and home so richly blessed.” (J. S. Mohler)

Then, while catching up on Bible study homework:  “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Jeez Louise.  I get it.  I didn’t know I was so ungrateful.  So I started examining my level of thankfulness.

How is thankfulness shown?  The words Thank You escape from my lips several times a day.  Don’t they?  How do I feel when I say them?  Are they meaningful, or am I just showing off my exquisite manners?

Thanking others is not a bad thing.  Thanking God for what he gives us isn’t either.  But if I am being truthful, I admit that saying thanks more often does a lot more for me than anyone else; it’s a thin shroud of niceness that shields others from who I really am.  If I am polite and nice to everyone, then I am nice and polite.  I am thankful because I say thank you.  It doesn’t sound very profound, and it isn’t.

Being thankful goes deeper than just saying words. God wants me to be thankful in everything, not just for everything.  To be thankful in everything means that I seek God’s will no matter what, and to be joyful and thankful in that, all the time.  It means that I am always truly thankful for what really counts, and that is God’s will and his plan instead of what I am given.

Yeah.  My thankfulness doesn’t always approach that level of profundity.

At least now I know it.

*******

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.  Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. Colossians 2:6-8 (NLT)