When You Think You’ve Been Forgotten–But You Really Haven’t

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The envelope was thicker than usual this time. I took that as a good sign.

Once the dust of bookbag, lunchbox, shoes, purse, key detritus had settled on the living room floor, I ripped the envelope open. On top was a letter from sweet Paul telling me of planting and helping mom in the field, asking for prayer for good health and underneath his letter was a packet, yes, five pages stapled together of responses to each letter that I had written to Martin last year. Thanking me for pictures, and for the encouragement of the verses I had sent. He asked about Allister often, told me how much his family missed me and wished us well.

When I hadn’t heard from him in close to a year, I wasn’t worried that he was in danger, I knew I would hear something from Children’s HopeChest if anything had happened. But I was worried that he was outgrowing me, becoming too cool/too busy/too distracted to respond. Because that is what kids do, right?  I was concerned that he had grown up and away, that he didn’t need my silly words with terrible drawings of the mountains I had climbed or the ocean I had seen, or the race I had run. But, I continued to write and then to pray for him every day knowing, that this, at least, brought us together.

I thought of these letters as our prayers, prayers that stack up, that seem to go unheard, unanswered, until finally you think, “Did I stop praying for that?”– as if they got caught up in the mail for lack of a zip code and unfortunately returned to sender. But there comes a day, when the phone rings, the e-mail slides into your in-box, the car pulls into the driveway…

My mom, on more than one occasion told me that she prayed this prayer when my sister, then 19, had run away from home, left a note explaining why and went to live life the way she saw fit. She returned broken with a little baby, my now 24-year-old niece, in her belly. My mother would pray: “Lord Jesus, let this be the day that she comes back home and if today is not the day, give me the strength to wait until the next.”

Distractions and disappointments abound, we feel as if the prayers are ignored, and so we might protect ourselves with an excuse or push it down.

Richard Foster speaks of radical prayer as a kind of act of spiritual defiance and quotes Walter Wink, “Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologues of the churches.”* We do not relent. I thought of Elijah this morning, and looked up these words in I Kings 18:24  “Then you will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire–he is god.”

The god who answers by fire–he is god.

 There is a God who answers and consumes us. He consumes our longings, our desires, our strivings because he is good. He consumes our efforts and our posturing because He is good. He consumes our sacrifice because He is good. He consumes everything else so his purposes will be accomplished in our lives: the doors shut–firmly. We cannot push or struggle, oh, maybe we can, but it will be no use. We can slash our wrists and dance and cry out as the false prophets did, but it will be no use. Until the God of fire decides to act, it will be no use.

What was going through his mind as they poured four large jars of water over the bull and the wood underneath, not once but four times? This precious commodity over a land that not seen rain for three years, what was this to accomplish?

And so Elijah prayed he prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and—do you see that? Israel–the one who struggled, who wrestled so hard with the angel of the Lord that we was renamed from Jacob to Israel:

“Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. ” I Kings 18:37

And he did, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. You will see them, I assure you, big or little you will see the requests answered one by one by one like stacked up letters waiting for a response. When the God of Abrahm, Isaac and Israel, the God of fire responds, there will be no more questions.

*Foster, Richard J. (1992). Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers

The Well-Fed Child

well-fed baby

The past weekend I had the gift of seeing a good friend of mine who now lives in Spain. She has three children, a 2 1/2-year-old and 8-month-old breastfeeding twins, yes, I said it,

Breastfed twins.

She was siting down a good part of our visit.

Which took me back…I can remember returning to work about 6 weeks after my daughter was born: I dropped her off at the sitter’s house around 6:15 every morning and wouldn’t see her again until 4. It was slightly heartbreaking the first few weeks for a number of reasons, but mostly because she refused to take the bottle and at first just starved herself until she was absolutely famished and downed the bottle faster than you can say, “Are you hungry, dear?” All that to say, it wasn’t really mommy who would pick her up from the sitter it was THE MILK MACHINE. So, at first, there was the recognition of, “Oh, that’s mommy!” And then the thought: “Oh, let’s eat, I’m starving!” and the fussing would commence…

Which puts Psalm 111 in a whole new light for me:

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.

If you watch a breastfed baby in its mother’s arms long enough, they will turn, fuss, seek out a meal. But imagine the weaned child: content, complete, satisfied to rest and hang out. They have simply calmed themselves in her presence. We can take a hint from the Psalmist when we hunger, let us remind ourselves:

1) God is completely aware of our need (The eyes of the Lord or on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to his cry. Psalm 34:15)

2) We don’t have to concern ourselves with matters beyond control. And when we think about it: What is in our control? Not a whole lot, really. One of my favorite sayings is one from my pastor: “Look your best, be your best, do your best.”  When we’ve done it all, then we rest.

3) Like Israel, put your hope in the Lord. This is where our strength, our courage, our contentment–each one–comes from.

What troubling circumstance have you found rest in right now?

Heart is Where the Home Is

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Sometimes, most times, we don’t understand why things happen, the loss of a job, the sudden death of a loved one, infertility, divorce. We try to parse it out, we cling to Romans 8:28 but it doesn’t take the ache away. We give up and we want to quit and bury our heads under the covers and moan and cry and act out and make it all the things disappear. And that’s ok sometimes, but I think that God has a practical balm for that…

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They say that home is where the heart is, and if that’s the case, my second home is in a tiny little town in South Carolina, where the soil is sandy and the people are friendly, and lots of them have just one name–and here resides my friend Cami, her husband and her four little beautiful, whip-smart children.

This little town has been the site of many a gathering: New Year’s Eve, a wedding shower, birthdays. Her beautiful white house sits stolidly on one of the main routes shooting through town and has a wrap-around porch that fits your foot like a bedroom slipper.

The house has been on the market now for almost six months and part of me doesn’t want it to sell because haven’t we all been busy making memories here in the kitchen and dining room and the trampoline for the last 8 years? In the back is Pauly Girl, their old Golden Retriever and a new addition to the family, another Golden, Poseidon, in honor of her oldest being really, really into Greek Mythology these days…

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And it is here that we all hug and laugh and cry and eat and play the telephone game and watch babies crawl and kids fuss at each other, the girls tell secrets and if the husbands aren’t too weirded out or bored sometimes they stick around too.

This is where part of my heart has healed and become whole again, sure it took a lot of different pieces and places to make that happen, but this too, this house, these friends that I have had now for 19 years, the ones, who, without any question will love and support and pray–we come not for the house, but we come because our Cami opens it up to us.

Did I mention she grew up here in this town?

Did I mention we’ve all grown up a little here?

This weekend, one of our friends that she had a dream about this town: that it was different, way different, it was full of castles with bridges that connected the castles. So maybe, just maybe one day we’ll all have castles here in K-town. That means we have only to step out our front door, and grab a couple of our friends on our way to see our friend with the biggest, coolest castle, the one with the drawbridge down waiting for visitors…

What does home mean to you?

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Don’t Let Sins Derail You from the Father’s Grace–A Look at Moses

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When I was in counseling a few years ago, the therapist told me that pain is caused or experienced in three different ways: our sins, another’s sins and the sins in this world. I’ve taken that with me, processed it 100 different ways and still go back to it often. But it wasn’t until a few months ago, though, when my Sunday School teacher got down at eye level with me and the other women in our single parenting class and said, “Listen, ladies. I need you to listen to me. What your ex-husbands did–left you–this is not your fault.” It took 5 1/2 years for this idea to click. This was not my fault. Yes, I have acknowledged over and over again that it took two to tango, to get to the point where he even considered leaving, but it was his decision, and that’s it. There was nothing I could do to change it, but still I wrestle with the effects of it (and still do) as we share the parenting of our daughter. But the bigger question remains, am I now “marked”? Can God use me? Yes. And He has been ever since.

Interestingly enough, my study of the character of Moses brought me through this sort-of rabbit trail of grace. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Moses was not allowed in the Promised Land, I kept questioning in my head–What? That’s so not fair, especially after Moses has given his life, in obedience to God, to serve the Israelites. I was particularly incredulous after reading this passage on the character of Moses:

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Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

 In my human understanding, I tried to reconcile this with Psalm 106:32-33

 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

 Twice in the desert, God gave Moses instructions on how to provide water for the people of Israel:

 Exodus 17:6

Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Numbers 20:8-12

Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”   Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.

It’s true, this second time they complained, Moses reacted in disobedience to God. Moses and Aaron suffered the consequences of this decision.

But, we can’t lose sight of the person that God formed Moses to be, yes, he sinned, and yes, he lost this blessing of entering the Promised Land.

However, this is what I take from Moses’ experience:

1) If our hearts are surrendered, God uses us.

2) We are responsible for our own actions, not another’s

3) Even in how we respond, there is grace. Sister, brother, I have done and said so many things in my life that I wish I could go back and revise or altogether delete the footage that played out. All of us do. That is the most amazing part of what Christ did for us on the cross. He has this magic eraser to blot out our sins.

Our lives will look differently from others who have chosen to obey God from the start, they will look perfect, even, but don’t allow that to set you up for failure, even these picture perfect families, marriages and children have struggles.

Be of good courage, God sees your heart, that’s the only thing he sees, not your FB status, your car out in the driveway, the money in your bank account and certainly not the clothes you are wearing right now. He sees you and he loves you, just as he saw and loved Moses and Aaron. Sure, Moses received only a glimpse of the Promised Land–

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Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land–from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

I don’t see this as taunting, it’s like God took him into this beautiful, expansive secret, this promise that he wanted to show to Moses to say, “Look, when I told you I AM. I AM a promise-keeper, a Provider, a Shepherd a Father who loves his children. I AM all these things and more. I love my children so much and I love you, too, thank you for caring for them, my good and faithful servant, Moses.”

Duet. 34: 10-12

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor…Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

 Let it be said for each one of us, that no matter how we’ve started out, let us finish this well.