How to limit GOD – or at least create immense boredom & an unenthusiastic response

Excuse me.

I was wondering if you would at all be interested in reading my inconsequential blog if you thought you might somehow be able to spare just a tiny bit of your time to get around to it at some point in the undetermined future — but only if, of course, you don’t think you might possibly have better things to do…

Hmm. I’m wondering who actually made it this far and still thought there might be anything worthwhile here for you to consider.

By the time you got finished with all my hem-hawing around, chances are that you weren’t even certain what I had been troubling you for in the first place.

But here’s the thing. You see, you and I may not know each other very well. We may not know each other at all, as a matter of fact. We may be utterly complete strangers. And everyone knows that good etiquette requires a certain amount of beating around the bush when making an important request – from a stranger, no less. Just ask Miss Manners.

Of course, if I wanted my friends to read my blog, I’d politely tell them about it, invite them to read it, and likely provide a link occasionally to offer up as a strong hint (to guilt them into reading it). Okay, that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that’s at least one step better than the way I approached you with my ‘unfamiliar stranger’ request.

We’re timid and nearly apologetic to the stranger when communicating (by stumbling through) our request. Less so with a friend, though still somewhat reticent.

Are you starting to get how this relates to our prayer interactions with God?

The book that I’m currently reading as part of my online study to become certified (again) as a lay speaker makes an incredibly strong (of world class body-building magnitude, as a matter of) point:

Too often, we approach God in prayer as if we’re talking to a stranger.

Many times, we aren’t even sure of what we should be saying. But more often than not, we waste of lot of everyone’s time (both ours & God’s – and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be listening in) by failing to get to our point.

So we’ve just acknowledged that we’re less formal and a little more direct toward someone with whom we share some common tie or interest. But let’s take it one step closer…

How do we interact with our closest family members, the ones we know best and with whom we share intimacy?

Would you speak to your spouse or sibling in either of the above described methods? (If so, I’m going to suggest relational counseling to break down this barrier of unfamiliarity.)

Most of us probably wouldn’t waste that many words trying to get to the point with our “in circle.” Instead, I’m more prone to personally address my closest family members in ways such as:

“Hey, come over here and look at this post. Tell me what you think.”
“I need that computer for blogging when you’re done. Hey, wait, don’t run off. I need you to take a look at my post for today.”

Closer relationships have a tendency to equate to more direct communications, particularly in conveying our expectations or requesting a response. With that being said…

Which of the 3 communication styles described above are closest to your prayer talks with God?

Distant Stranger?

Acquaintance/Friend?

Intimate Family Member?

Chances are that it’s not Number 3. Mine either.

For some reason, number 3 seems over-demanding to us, even as God’s children. (I’m a southern “gurl,” so even the thought of sounding sacrilegious comes to my mind!)
Funny how we were born into the world learning to express our desires to our earthly parents – even before we could speak their language; yet, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have that same close communication style – that intimacy (and trust in response) – with our heavenly parent.

Jesus did.

He didn’t hem-haw around. He got directly to the point, and the verbs he used were what Stookey (2001) refers to as vigorous.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gets right to the action-packed point when teaching His followers how to pray:

Give

Forgive

Lead

Deliver

Vigorous verbs require action. Action verbs are the ones we use for ourselves when we expect to get results. Apparently, God means for us to call Him into action (rather than limiting Him with pacifying redundancy) in our prayers – expecting results. And we can – when our petitions come from a scriptural basis not taken out of context (meaning we can be more assured they are aligned with God’s ways and His will). Then we’re not wasting God’s time in making them, nor are we being rude in our directness.

By addressing God in an unswerving manner with our needs and desires, whether personal or intercessory, communication is enhanced, thus improving our chances of receiving a more fruitful response.

God may know our hearts and our desires, but I’m pretty sure He wants us to be 100% honest and certain about them too. (Do try to remember that some responses may be “No, not in this particular circumstance, child,” or just “Not yet, but wait until you see what I have in store for your life.”)

Oh, sure, God could spare a little time to answer our drawn out excuses at some undetermined point in the future. But God isn’t our genie in a bottle, waiting to pop out to fulfill our every passing fancy. God truly does have better things to do than be like the character on I Dream of Jeannie – always cleaning up messes that were created by fulfilling every tiny whim.

That should serve as a good reminder that our prayers shouldn’t come from self-centered desires (like me wanting someone to read my blog for my own ego’s sake). They should be aligned with a purpose – God’s purpose for our lives (like me hoping someone will draw nearer to God and have a more active – and exciting – prayer life after meditating on this blog’s reflection).

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

***

Here’s a fun exercise to do, to help you begin to make an Action-Packed Prayer List of Vigorous Verbs. Write A-Z down a column on a piece of paper. Then try to think of at least 1 vigorous verb for every letter on your list that you could use when petitioning God. (This was one of my assignments this week, so I sat down with 2 friends yesterday and we thought up quite a few. I’ve included a sample below, in case you get stuck and need to borrow some!)

Accentuate (our gifts for ministry)
Build (Your Kingdom here on earth)
Calm (our spirits in times of trouble)
Direct (us to do Your will)
Enlighten (us with Your Word)
Fill (us with Your Spirit)
Generate (a new desire in us aligned with Your will)
Heal (our congregation during this time of loss)
Instruct (us in Your ways)
Journey (before us & with us in this new endeavor)
Kindle (our spirits to action)
Lead (us on Your path of righteousness)
Multiply (our gifts for Your kingdom)
Nurture (the broken in this place)
Ordain (us to do Your work)
Pour (out Your love upon us, that we might pour it out on others)
Qualify (us to do Your good work through this educational experience)
Replenish (our minds, bodies & souls for this task)
Stand (in the gap for us)
Teach (us to meditate on Your Word and Your ways)
Unify (the body of Christ for Your service)
Validate (our efforts in this ministry)
Walk (with us)
Xerox (your love in our hearts for others)
Yoke (us to you)
Zing (us with a dose of Your Holy Spirit)

***

Reference:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Related Article:

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

I’ve just begun an online workshop on Public Prayer towards achieving revised certification requirements for the designation of Lay Speaker within the realm of Lay Servant Ministries within our Church Conference.

As such, I’m already enjoying the primary text for the course:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

To be honest, I never gave much thought regarding how public prayer differed from personal prayer, except for the obvious component that it was no longer my own personal time with God – it was a corporate time and should be addressed in kind. Perhaps, when I stepped forth to lift up a prayer within a group, I even subconsciously knew much of the protocol that was required. However, it’s always a great refresher to have structure laid out where you can see it, dissect its parts, contemplate why we do things a certain way (or maybe why we should consider changing those ways) – capturing a new angle through the study of God’s Word and forming our relationships (both with God and others) through a varied lens and in a new light.

Here’s a very important reminder from the Introduction of the text that I believe serves the Public Intercessor well:

  • Because you are being asked to send up prayers on behalf of an entire gathering or some group (large or small), even though the prayers may contain personal elements, your statements must be more generalized than your own personal prayers. Because these prayers are representing all who are present, you must provide a setting where all can agree in order to be able to authentically say Amen at the end with their own personal measure of integrity.

corporate

Of course, all that being said, I believe it’s also important to acknowledge that when any individual is selected (or volunteers) to bring forth prayer on behalf of a larger group, it should be expected that the person is going to bring his or her own personal touch, so to speak. You should allow yourself permission to interject your personality, your own inflections, so the prayer is genuine and doesn’t seem overly constrained or as though it isn’t from your own heart.

As I begin this study, I’ve been asked to meditate and write a prayer of praise to God – one void of any requests. (Interesting that the author understands that human nature compels us to slide those in…) I was meditating on the Psalms prior to this, thinking on the themes of thanksgiving and adoration.

Here’s what passed through my mind (& my fingertips):

Lord GOD,
I* know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of life’s battles,
Above All of my* daily problems & concerns,
Above All of my petitions or moans, my groans, my complaints,
Above All of my seeming defeats.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of the daily delights I either acknowledge or overlook,
Above All of the times I call out Your Name – either in glorious praise or unfortunate defamation,
Above All of the ways I interact with others – both positively & negatively,
Above All of the matters that You intricately know within my heart.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of my outright confessions,
Above All of my hidden secrets,
Above All of my shortcomings, my comings, my goings,
Above All of these things that ought to be Yours.

I know You are OVER ALL –
Over All of creation,
Over All situations,
Over All that comes before me*,
Over All that makes up each of our personal beings.

I Praise You, Lord GOD
for taking me under Your wing,
for breathing into me Your breath of life,
for wanting me to abide in Your presence,
for All I understand You to be…
And much more so for All in You I can’t comprehend.

You are Awesome.
You are Amazing.
You are GOD.

***

*Note that our or we or us could have been substituted for my or I or me in the above stanzas; but whether personally or corporately received, I wanted to assure this was a very personalized prayer (much like we perceive when we read the Psalms – understanding an individual within the Psalter was speaking/singing to God in each one, but that we, too, might join in.)

As I close today, I’m reminded of something powerful that one of my older sisters once reminded me in my younger years about the power of prayer in a difficult relational circumstance:

“Jody,” she said, “God will not change people. But God will change circumstances.”

(What I didn’t yet understand was that those circumstances might have actually been mine to create a change in me! ha!)

For me, that’s always been a worthy reminder of how I should never try to use prayer to manipulate people. I think it’s an especially important reminder in the corporate setting, where a prayer leader should not try to interject his or her own will onto a situation to manipulate those in attendance (or…God!). God is simply far too great for that.

I pray that all is well with each of you.

-jody

A Heart of Compassion (and how mine needed CPR yesterday)

I think of myself generally as a compassionate person.

Sometimes I even consider my compassion to be a curse (when a burden gets laid upon my heart, then another, then another, and I hurt for so many in the world).

But I was again faced with the ugly truth yesterday.

I can be just as selfish as the next person.

I feel the need to preface my story by saying that I haven’t been in the best of moods lately about human nature, in general – and much of that revolves around the court system, of all things. I’ve had to be in courtrooms over the past couple of years more times than I think anyone should ever spend in a lifetime (unless, of course, you’ve chosen to be a judge). I feel in the times I’ve been there that I or others have been treated unjustly in a system that, to be honest, seems to exist more for itself than for the good of the whole. In the last several circumstances, greed has been the prevailing factor, in which others have sought to take what was not rightfully and ETHICALLY theirs, but by which LEGALLY they could create great costs and burdens on others who were already paying high prices for these individuals’ actions.

Yes, I know that’s rather vague, but my point essentially is this…when you’ve been exposed to greed and had people stealing what little you possess, apparently it wears down your compassion and perhaps creates a stingy kick-back response.

Point in case…

My sister and I have a tradition of sharing dinner & a movie for our birthdays. This week, it was her turn. I arranged to take her to a matinee movie, and had brought along a free popcorn & soft drink coupon that I had saved up for the occasion, along with a coupon stuffed away for the dining establishment she had chosen. (In other words, I was having to be thrifty with my celebration extravaganza.)

As I pulled into the parking lot of the movie theater, I noticed a younger man standing up from where he’d been squatted next to a car across the aisle. As he stood, his beltless pants sagged well below his waist line without the usual fortunate covering of underwear. As a mother of a teenage son, I have no doubt, I ground my back teeth in irritation. When I pulled into my parking space, I didn’t see my sister yet, so I began searching through my purse for my coupons and my discount theater points card.

That’s when I noticed him – in my side mirror.

The same man (probably in his mid twenties, though I’m assuming it was his lifestyle that made his face appear older) was standing at the rear of my car, blocking my exit for the moment I decided to open my door. An alarm went off inside my head that told me to stay where I was, as I saw no other persons nearby and I wasn’t certain of his intent.

Five minutes passed.

I began to feel additionally irritated that he hadn’t moved and was causing me to feel trapped in my own car.

I watched as he swung around the car parked next to mine to approach the front of my car. He yelled out, “Ma’am, ma’am!”

Probably because he seemed to have some sense of manners, I partially rolled down my window and politely responded to his call.

“Will you give me some money for…?”

I never heard what it was for. His voice faded, as he tried to decide for himself what he should say.

It didn’t matter. I was already aggravated about his pants. I was irritated that he’d trapped me in my car. I felt the need to show him I wasn’t going to be his victim.

“No, I won’t.” My answer was harsh, cold, to the point.

He turned, dropped his head, and began walking across the parking lot, unintentionally (or not) mooning me as he went.

I jumped out, locked my door and headed the opposite direction, asking the girl at the theater counter to alert mall security, as I stood at the door watching him veer toward cars, looking into them.

It wasn’t until much later, until I had time for the alarms in my head to silence themselves, that I had an overwhelming compassion flow over me.

What had I done? Or better yet – not done? There was a store across the lot. If his pants bothered me so badly, couldn’t I have gone into it and gotten the man a belt? Maybe even a pair of underwear?

So what if he did have track marks up the insides of his arms? Did I have the right to judge him for that? How could I have known what his life had been like? What it was going to be?

Couldn’t I have found one simple way to show this man one ounce of compassion?

And yet, all I showed him was contempt. The same thing that had likely caused him to be in that parking lot, begging for his next meal or his next fix. Which was it? Had I even cared? Not when it mattered the most.

* * *

Matthew 25:40 says – The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I did nothing, Lord. Nothing. God, forgive my lack of compassion.

wordpress

You Do Count (But Don’t Let it be Negatively)

Christian author, Max Lucado wrote a book entitled, It’s Not About Me, in which Lucado points out that we each have a tendency, from very early in life, to believe that we are the center of our own universe. Our social environment doesn’t necessarily break us from this tendency, but more likely builds upon it. Although we learn to get along with others, we still tend to make our decisions based on how the outcome will affect us as individuals. The adage of “looking out for number one” or “taking care of yourself because no one else will” is echoed on a daily basis, from career opportunities to skin care commercials. Even looking at this concept from a more noble perspective, we begin to adopt mantras that we should ”take responsibility for our own actions” or that we must “take pride in personal tasks.” Oh, and to complain when things become too tough will generally be perceived as a weakness.

The fact of the matter is that we are responsible for ourselves, but we’re also responsible for much more than only ourselves. We’re part of a much larger (and intimidating) system. Rather than always seeing ourselves at the center of our make-shift universe, we may, instead, often believe that we’re such a small part, our decisions and actions don’t really count. However, anything we do as individuals, multiplied by the efforts of all, will ultimately impact this universal system in a massive way.

Did you take a moment to consider that last statement? As an individual, you do count, both positively and negatively. When you make decisions based only upon individual needs, your decision counts, though sometimes (unfortunately) negatively. When you make decisions based on the needs of the whole, even individually, you can produce a huge return on your investment for many future generations. If we all band together to make a difference by choosing to take even one positive and specific action, can you imagine how our efforts might be multiplied?

Building a church from the ground up

Building a church from the ground up

Sudan kids

Illumination______________________________________________________________

Posted in response to this week’s Trifecta challenge (333 words using the word band by its 3rd definition) & in honor of so many who have stepped forward to be World-Changers, whether in their neighborhoods or across the globe.

Love & respect, -jody

________________________________________________________

Reference:

Lucado M. It’s not about me. Nashville (TN): Integrity Publishers; 2004.

Carpe Diem Haiku: (Instruction in) Tribulation

stop your wish, child, for

through trials and tribulations

patience only comes

_______________________________

Somewhere between teenage- and woman-hood, I once sat at my grandmother’s dining room table, impatiently pulling out poorly directed stitches. She leaned over my shoulder, adjusting her glasses for a better look at what the fuss was all about.

“I know, I know, ” I grumbled beneath my breath. “I just need to learn more patience.” It seemed reasonable to me to be the first to get the reprimand out in the open. Maybe it would have less sting that way.

My granny walked around the table and looked at me circumspectly. “If you thought I was going to say that, you’d be greatly mistaken. Whatever you do, don’t ever pray for patience, Jody.”

Old book from 1879 detailShe reached on the little cubby shelf behind her to retrieve her bible, again adjusting her glasses to help her flip to the appropriate page. She turned the Good Book as she laid it out in front of me, and tapped her finger a couple of times to direct my attention.

I began reading Romans 5:3, quickly arriving at: “…knowing that tribulation worketh patience…”

My grandmother had already walked away by the time the implication was sinking in. Looking back, I’m sure she had a smirk tucked across her lips.

________________________________________

For more haiku (or to submit your own), join me at Carpe Diem.

The Game of Life

Humanity is a marvelous thing – when we’re being humane. Unfortunately, as humans, we don’t always meet that mark. And as much as we celebrate the goodness that can come from our humanity, we aren’t often as quick to celebrate its synonym, mortality. Mortality has the tendency to remind us of the weakness of our humanness. Strangely and beatifically, the human spirit still has the ability to cause our souls to shine during mortality’s dark hours.

Yesterday didn’t seem like a dark day. On the contrary. Despite the cloud cover and the chilly breeze that had caused me to choose blue jeans and a jacket over shorts for my spectator apparel, it had begun with every reason for a celebratory mood. My son’s baseball team had battled back the day before (after playing their hearts out all week; all season, in fact) to earn their very first chance to play for their State title. I had what I considered to be the perfect seat – a chair-back centered at the beginning of the second level behind home plate (chosen for its spacious leg room as much as my views – one for the panoramic field, the other for seeing peripherally into our dug-out, and the last for directly observing & greeting joyful passers-by from both sides).

State_game

My focal field of view on this fantastic field of dreams

As the game progressed, the stats showed the story – still fairly manageable. We were down by 2 runs, but it came down to us not being as successful at getting our hits synchronized – we had simply stranded more runners. They had 6 hits; we had 5. No official errors were recorded for either team (though, in truth, there were some early adjustments that needed to be made for this larger field that could’ve been considered ‘unrecorded’ ones). We were home team, and unfortunately, by the time we had only 2 at-bats remaining, we were down by 4 runs with a costly error recorded. We continued to hit for the next 2 innings, and continued to strand runners. I won’t leave you in suspense. 4-0 was the final score, leaving us as runners-up in the State. For a first-ever run at State (a first Division title, a first Region title), I wasn’t at all disappointed. But I knew there were 18 players and a few coaches who were feeling a little differently about matters at the moment. I also knew that, one day, while cheering on their own kids, they would understand how very little importance this outcome would actually hold.

When we left the field that day, my son’s smile wasn’t as bright as it had been the night before. (Maybe it was even a little non-existent at the moment.)

All Smiles – my son (left) and his teammate (fabulous freshmen at State)

All Smiles – my son (left) and his best bud teammate (fab freshmen at State)

But here’s the story I was able to share with him and I want to share today with you.

I began by asking my son what he thought about the other team’s pitcher, to which he replied he thought this was the best pitcher they’d faced at State. I nodded and said, “I’d like to tell you a little something I learned about him today.” (I’ve also learned to wait for his permission before we discuss anything after games. You’ll have to read the quick back-story on my post, Your Child’s Confession, if you’d like to understand why.) After getting his nod of approval, this is what I shared:

“As the bottom of the 6th was starting today, I could see the concern on the faces in your dugout, since time to get your runs back was becoming limited. I thought back to comments I’d heard from some of the moms the night before – about doing prayer walks and even cheering with ‘Holy Spirit fingers.’ I couldn’t help but grin over their enthusiasm and it caused me to have my own private little conversation with God. My words weren’t about winning, though. They went more like this: ‘Lord, I don’t even know if you care about ballgames…but I do know that you care about your children. And you know things going on in personal lives out there on that field – on both sides – that I couldn’t possibly know. I ask, more than anything, that each of these boys feels your presence in their lives and feels your peace out there on that field – so they can enjoy the time they’ve been blessed to be here – blessed by the support of all these family and friends surrounding them and cheering them on.’ And, honestly, I prayed it for every young man out on that field. I figured if God doesn’t show favoritism, I shouldn’t either. (Okay, as my son, you’re still my favorite player!) After that, I didn’t expect to hear anymore about it. What would be, would be.

“After your game was over, after the fans had stood and cheered you all on and given you more of their support and their love, I was standing on the walkway waiting for you to come out. As a fan from the other team passed, I smiled at her and offered my congratulations. She stopped and walked close to me and threw her arm around my waist. She looked directly in my eyes and said, ‘I know you’re disappointed about the loss today, but I’d like to tell you something. That pitcher you came up against today is my grandson.’

‘He did a great job,’ I nodded.

‘Oh, honey, that’s not why I’m telling you this. I wanted to let you know that he was diagnosed with invasive cancer in March and has had to undergo chemotherapy. He had to be cleared to be able to play here at State.’

I’m sure my mouth dropped open. Of course, by the time I’d told her how sorry I was to hear this news and had gotten his name and assured her I’d be praying for him, I hugged her and thanked her for entrusting me with this information.

‘I just thought that might help your boys understand…’ She smiled the brightest, most beautiful smile in that moment of darkness, as though the sunshine had burst through the clouds. Then she told me he was supposed to be playing ball for the college in our town next year – and she wanted me to come and see him there. And I believe that I will. I believe he’ll be there.

I found a way to pass this news to our coach through our athletic director; but I don’t believe the boys, as a team, had this information as they walked out of the stadium that afternoon. I felt blessed to be able to personally relay this testimony to my own son. As I shared this other young man’s story with him, about how the opposing player on the mound was undergoing a different sort of battle, not only did my son’s countenance immediately change as he expressed feeling differently about the game’s outcome (especially its importance in the grand scheme of life), he caught on to my little secret.

“God answered your prayer.”

“He did, didn’t He?”

“He let you in on what was going on in somebody’s personal life that did make this game important to Him.”

I just love it when we’re paying close enough attention for God to give us a glimpse of Himself and His heart. Don’t you?

What a precious moment – when we stop to realize those specific times when God has dipped, yet again, into our humanity.

***

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Daily Prompt: Burnt

Daily Prompt: Burnt

Remember yesterday, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?

  1. My Dignity. I hadn’t actually ever considered how it would feel to be standing in the middle of my neighbor’s front yard, in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, shivering not from the cold…but from a mixture of my heart iced over with fear and embarrassment, along with the realization that I wasn’t as invincible as I once thought myself to be. Though some unspoken bystander had tentatively loaned a coat to rest across my shoulders, my legs were as bare and exposed as my heart – except for frightened children clinging to each one of them along my sides. Whose clothes will we be wearing as the sun brings more light to the matter than do the stale embers that have been doused by sweaty, black-ashed firemen who now stomp across the foundation of my life?
  2. My Memories. Though I clutch the one photo album I was able to snatch in my free arm as I was dragged out by my other, everything else feels numb and void. How will I ever again come to recall the welcomed warmth that once oozed out from a door which no longer stands? Will I recall hide-and-seek with my little ones who loved a cupboard that no longer exists to open to them and provide refuge? Can my recall of my quiet evening trysts with my husband, once the kids were tucked away snugly (and safely?) in their beds, be snuffed beneath that flame? What if I forget all that I held preciously high once behind walls that have crumbled low to the ground?
  3. My Senses of Humor and Adventure. I used to long to run from my house, excited to go out into the vast world, full of unknowing. But that’s when I knew I could always return to my own little safe-haven here. And now, there will be no coming home. Fear seizes me, licking me up in its flames. Life was so carefree just a few hours ago, tears only streaming down from the laughter as little ribs wriggled under my tickling hands. Fear chokes the joy from my smoke-filled throat. To leave under these circumstances doesn’t feel like an adventure or offer me any reason to smile. Is this a death sentence, after all? There will be no return to my innocent life’s naivete.
  4. My Gratitude. Did I truly refer to those cloaked angels who just risked their lives for my family and our neighbors as ‘sweaty, black-ashed firemen stomping across the foundation of my life’? One of them is being treated for burn wounds now – while my family is not. Do their families lie awake at night, praying for their safety? Why can’t I gather the courage to approach the men choking at their trucks and offer a simple thank-you? Do my children wonder why I don’t go use the grateful words I’ve preached to them, day after fire-free day? I don’t even have the means on which to compose my thoughts and send them later, once my mind comes to a better place of rest. Or will it?
  5. My Sense of Peace. Will I ever be able to fall asleep at night again? Or will I awake to pseudo-crackling sounds, hearing my house creaking in protest, trying to hold its posts – standing strong for its beloved occupants longer than its charred frame should allow? Can I ever bear to close my own bedroom door again; to be separated from those sweet, small faces crying and screaming out for me, clinging to my arms as I strip them free, dropping them in terror from an upstairs window, entrusting their care to others below? Or will I travel through this nightmarish hell, night after restless night, in my terrifying dreams? Will I ever want to warm myself near a campfire again? Oh, how long will it be until I can reclaim my mind’s peace?

I numbly sit, rocking tired, tiny bodies, wishing I had a place to lay my head – to wrap my mind around it all. How will I again gain control of my life? Then I remember. My life is not my own. Even my children’s lives do not belong to me. I Peter 1:3-7 reminds me that I should not rely on the things of this earth. None of them are meant to be a permanent structure in my being, so my peace and hope can’t come through such things. Even what seemed to be a safe, comfortable home is not – it will never fully meet my needs.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

It’s time for me to claim that peace that will only come through my LORD – to be thankful for those who have come to help, to care for those with whom I’ll make beautiful new memories, to recognize that there will be laughter once more, and to venture to stop trying so hard to be dignified. That is, after all, just self-glorification. In being His, I can simply learn to trust; learn to be satisfied. Carefree comes with a price – the price of losing my life…so I may find it (a better life – in Him). Maybe – just maybe – I’ll be refined by this fire, after all. A new life…a clean slate…a chance to rebuild from the ashes.

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