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Archive for November, 2016

I thought for a while about what I should talk about in regards to Thanksgiving.  I mean there are so many things I could say because we are so unbelievably blessed.  I could talk about my family, who are a huge part of my life; my children whom God has graciously allowed me to stay at home and teach; my marriage which has been miraculously redeemed; my mom who is always willing and able to help me; my ability to run and my health; my church who took me in during a time when I legitimately doubted I would ever darken the doors of any church again; my pastor who is always there for us and always full of grace.  I could spend hours talking about all of these things in regards to gratitude. But the one thing I kept coming back to is prayer.

And I know it sounds so Sunday schooly to talk about being thankful for something like prayer.  Like, oh, please, Lori, come back from super spiritual land and rejoin us on earth, right?  So I need to preface this by saying it is not meant to be cliche or a Sunday school sounding answer as if to give the impression that I am more spiritual than I really am.  If you bear with me, you will find it should be just the opposite of what I’m trying to say.

So, prayer.  Six months ago the Lord began to deal with me about prayer.  He did that by putting a pray-er in my path.  After this pray-er laid hands on me and prayed for me, the Lord gave me an overwhelming sense of joy unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  Afterward, he gave me an overwhelming desire and urgency to pray unlike I had ever known.  I began to pray 1-2 hours each morning and the Lord led me in how and for whom to pray for.  This from a girl who always struggled with prayer.  I have always been more of a studyier.  I would rather listen to God by reading and studying His Word than have to talk to him about what is really going on in my life.  I mean, doesn’t He know?  Hearing God through carefully and tediously examining His Word was always how I best communed with him.  That is where I heard him and where he spoke to me.

 But isn’t it just like the God who send Paul the Jews to preach to the Gentiles to call a theology nerd into a ministry of prayer?  And if you had told me that was God’s call for me six months ago I would have rolled my eyes and not been happy.  I like books.  I like teaching.  Praying is hard work and I basically have always stunk at it.  But that’s just the kind of stuff he does.

Prayer was always hard for me.  Sometimes it still is.  But I am thankful for it and what God is teaching me about it.  Just recently I had been praying about a specific situation that was causing me stress for several months.  I waited for God to show up not really believing he would.  Even fasted.  But he did and it was very obvious and at the perfect time.  The day after those prayers were answered, I was praying about something else that was very troubling to me, only it was much more personal.  I prayed half-heartedly feeling mostly angst and despair about the situation.  But I prayed a very specific small request and I heard the Holy Spirit remind me, “Didn’t you see what I did yesterday?”  Don’t you think I will do the same for this?”  And He did.  He answered that very specific prayer less than an hour after I prayed it.

So what does all this have to do with Thanksgiving?

When I was a little girl, I was in a situation where I began to feel very overwhelmed.  I was at Vacation Bible School and we were making a craft.  It was a place mat of some sort and we had to lace up yarn around the edges to hold the pieces together.

I was a pretty independent child, teen, adult, which is another reason why prayer is so hard for me by the way, but this project was not working for me.  As I watched the other children get farther and farther ahead on their projects, I began to feel more and more desperate.  The teacher was helping someone else and I did not know what to do.  When the first child was completely finished, I could no longer hide my state.  I burst out crying and everyone looked at me.  The teacher came and asked what was wrong and I said, “I can’t do this by myself.”  She began to help and reassure me and the other kids began to encourage me even showing me their work and how to do it correctly.

So maybe the story of my prayer life is really just a story of pride and humility.  Pride says I wont ask for help even though I need it desperately.  Pride says I’ll keep trying all day to do it myself even though I know I can’t.  Pride says I’ll study books on how to pray but I won’t actually spend much time praying.  Pride says I will believe God for others’situations but not my own.  Pride says I would rather fail than ask for help.  Humility, on the other hand, says simply, “I can’t do this by myself.”

I am really thankful that the Lord is teaching me to ask for help.  Because he isn’t an overworked, underpaid Vacation Bible School teacher with so many other children to preoccupy him.  He promised to always be available if I will just ask.  And when I ask, He often places some of his other children beside me to encourage and help me with the parts I can’t seem to figure out.  Others still show me their work and I learn how to do mine correctly.

When I do not pray, it is usually because I am being prideful.  Pride gets angry when it asks for something God fails to provide – especially if it has been asking for that something for a long time.  When we want something good and right and just and God just keeps asking us to wait and forgive.  Forgive and wait.

So, back to Sunday school.  When I was a little girl I had one particular Sunday school teacher who I loved.  She was fun and she was so, so pretty.  Her name was Jane.  I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.  And I thought, “Jane has brown hair.  I have brown hair.  Maybe I will grow up to look like her.”  She was so beautiful.

Right now I am that same little girl looking at you strong pray-ers.  When a person spends time – really spends time with the Lord in prayer, they radiate God’s grace.  They look like him.  They talk like him.  They act like him.  They have a peace because they trust him.  Pray-ers are like Jesus.  And they are beautiful to be around.

I do not remember one thing Jane taught about in Sunday school.  But I do remember her well because she was so beautiful to me and that left an impression.  I even named my first daughter Mia Jane after her.  (Mia from another girl I’d met briefly who was also an exceptionally beautiful brunette.)  Jane did not leave an impression on me because of what she said or thought or taught or did.  I remember Jane to this day because of who she was.  She never knew her part in my life.  She never heard about how much I admired her.  She never got accolades for her work and investment in me personally.  But her very identity – the physical features and unique disposition that God gave her outwardly – was what set her apart and made being a Sunday school teacher who sacrificed for children who don’t remember what you teach them appealing to me.  I wanted to be just like her.

That is the purpose of being a pray-er.  That is the heart of learning to pray well.  Often, it is not what you say or do that changes things or attracts others to the gospel.  It is who you are – a Christian who loves God so beautifully that it does not matter if you get accolades, admiration, approval, preference, position, or even ever see growth or change in those for whom he calls you to pray – it is simply who you are intrinsically that changes people and makes the gospel attractive.  That is what makes us beautiful to a world living in despair.

I want to look like Jane inside.  I believe God is calling me to prayer in order to make me as spiritually beautiful and attractive to a post-Christian culture as Jane was physically beautiful and attractive to a pre-Christian child.  I can’t help but be thankful for that.

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A Lesson in Love

run

It’s six a.m. Monday morning.  “Are you coming to the gym with me?” I ask my mostly sleeping cocoon-wrapped husband.

“Yeah.  I’m coming.”

Not fully convinced, I go about getting dressed and locating my hat and gloves.  There was a time when I would have huffed and puffed and pouted and sat with my eyes rolling out of my head as I waited for him to decide to actually roll out of bed and get moving already.  This was my time.  All I could think about was how he was wasting it and how much more I could have gotten done if I hadn’t lost those precious ten extra minutes I had to wait for him.

“I’m pretty tired today,” he says as he throws the medicine ball at me while I do sit-ups.  “I can see that.  Why didn’t you stay in bed?” I reply.

“I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

He didn’t want to disappoint me.  I consider those younger years.  With no children to infringe upon our schedules, we had all the time in the world to work out together.  Usually when we did, though, it was some kind of miserable experience.  Somehow my bounce right out of bed and get going attitude never appreciated his let me just lay here a few more minutes and by the way can you massage my back while you’re waiting mentality.  I never seemed to be willing or able to take his pointers on power lifting properly.  I never particularly liked his suggestions on how to improve my form or his coach-like comments as I sought to run uphill.  I perceived every attempt he made to correct my error as personal.  Likewise, my unique wake-up methods involving cold water and spray bottles did not lead down a path of positive change for sleeping beauty.

What changed?  Or, better yet, who?

For more than ten years I exercised without him.  Dozens of marathons, triathlons, and 5k races later, we decided to try to workout together again.  What we found is that it was a completely different experience.  Time and life had changed us dramatically.  It had changed our attitudes toward one another, our perception, and our relationship in such profound and fundamental ways that we finally understood one another.  We no longer took constant offense at each others’ attempts to correct and help the other grow and change for the better.  We made it to a place where his reason for not staying in bed is to not disappoint me and I don’t think of doing my upside-down sit-ups without my medicine ball-throwing coach.  We learned to prefer one another over and above our own ideas and expectations and what we found in the process was surprising.  We found that we really are for each other.  We found that people who are for each other need to have the freedom to stretch, challenge, push, and motivate the other to become better without taking offense at what is not inherently offensive.  We stopped being overly offended and we stopped giving offense.  Even when offense is truly given, we choose to overlook instead of overreact.  It wasn’t because one of us changed and finally saw the light.  It was because both of us changed and we finally saw each other’s heart.

Youth breeds pride.  Immaturity breeds contempt.  No matter how right and revolutionary a person is, when either they, or we, or both,  are young or immature, the potential for pride, contempt, and misconception is astronomically high.  It often takes years to learn another person.  It takes perseverance to prioritize another person.  It takes persistence and being purposeful from both parties.  It takes plenty of practice and even then we, being the humans that we are, do not always get it right.  Whatever is left over after we do these things is what grace is for.

People are not programmed perfect.  We have growing to do.  We have changes to make.  We have problems to overcome and lessons to learn.  These things are true of every single human being who has ever lived, save one, Jesus Christ.  That is the perspective we must fight for if we are going to work out together, world.

Pretend it is Monday morning.  You are all wrapped up under the blankets dreaming of ice cream and race cars.  When the wild-eyed waker-upper shakes you, what are you going to do?  Be the guy that is more worried about someone else’s disappointment than your own immediate comfort.  In all things, remember your call to love.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. ~1 Peter 4:8

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The Life of an Objector

doss

I am not especially interested in war movies.  I am not especially interested in any movies, generally.  Surprisingly, Mel Gibson’s new release has made me a believer on both counts.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is a true story of honor, conviction, and learning to love an unlikely hero.  The movie is based on the life of Desmond Doss, a corporal in the U.S. Army in World War II.

Doss was a good man.  He was a charitable man.  He was a religious man.  But he was not recognized as fit to be a service man.  Doss felt a strong sense of moral and civil duty to enlist when all his peers were going to fight.  The movie portrays him as coming from a family in which he learned deep and powerful lessons about his obligation to protect others when others sought to harm.  These lessons also led him to resolve that fighting back, for him, would never include violence.  Doss was a pacifist to the core.

When a pacifist enlists in the military, it can get pretty confusing for those around him.  Doss was never confused, though.  He knew why he was there and what he was called to do.  Doss never wavered in his conviction to keep his personal vows to God and remain a non-violent man set staunchly on serving others in remarkable and heroic ways.  He knew what he was doing.  He knew what he was not doing. And, though his label as a conscientious objector cast many doubts on his military reputation, he knew exactly who he was despite others’ disapproval.

Now that is a man we do not encounter every day in the world we have today.  A man who lives by faith in God and his beliefs no matter what the personal cost is quite a rare find in our society.  Often, diamonds like Doss are wholly misunderstood, severely mistreated, ever underestimated, and altogether rejected by almost everyone around them.  The very presence of someone who is unreasonably different has a way of cutting open the hearts and minds of men to such a degree that it brings them to a place that they are not willing or comfortable being. Repercussions inevitably follow.

Rejection is a powerful tool hanging on the belts of the insecure and fearful.  Doss’s life proves that it is also a defining mark of a man not sold out to the status quo.  It is a defining mark of a man not owned by popular opinion.  It is a defining mark of a man who understands who both his God and his conscience insist that he must be.  Doss’s example of willingness to persevere despite overt rejection, intense intimidation, and self-interested manipulation offers great encouragement and hope to those whose path proves particularly lonely.  He was a man so stayed on the course he’d been given that he simply could not be moved.  No pain, punishment, persecution, or personal injustice caused him to consider the cost too high because he knew the one who he ultimately signed up to serve.  This was truly a man working boldly and walking worthily toward a city whose builder and maker is God.

Doss’s story reminds us all that we do not have to waste our time fighting for a seat at the table.  It reassures us that our place really has been reserved since the foundation of the world and that no worldly rejection will ever exclude us from sitting squaring in the seat Our God has set especially for us.  For we fellow hardcore non-conformists, this movie was a cup of cold water.  For anyone who has ever doubted their place, calling, worth, or necessary-ness this movie is an imperitive.

“I would say anyone is wrong to try to compromise someone’s conviction.  That’s what you are.”  ~Harold Doss, brother of Desmond Doss

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