Category Archives: Prayer

But Who Will Pray for Palestine?

Image Source: CreationSwap

Image Source: CreationSwap

Note: I am taking a slightly different direction today, looking at an international affair. I know it’s not what I normally write in this space, but I invite you to stick with me and linger here today. These words have been burning in me.

The news has been full of the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. It’s an intensely volatile situation, as most situations in the Middle East usually are.

Calls for prayer, email alerts, memes, profile picture changes, social media activity from high profile spiritual leaders all seem to have a common thread; the dominant Christian response I have seen is “Pray for Israel.” I’m sure there have been other responses, but they are not as visible, at least not in my corner of the world.

I will be clear: with all my heart, I believe in praying for Israel. I believe Scripture instructs us to pray for Israel. There is no question that the existence of this nation is continually threatened, that her enemies make no secret of wishing they could wipe her off the face of the earth. You cannot ignore the significance of such a tiny nation being the constant center of global conflict and concern. Obviously, Israel matters.

But so does Palestine.

Palestine matters because there are people there. People with hearts and souls and dreams and thoughts. People with hopes for their future and aspirations for their children. Some of them are innocent; some of them are not. Some of them have been deceived by Hamas; some of them wish they could be free of Hamas. Some of them have no idea of the global significance of the horror they are facing; they are only concerned with surviving another day.

But they are people. And they matter to God.

I attended Christian school growing up, and I can always remember shaking my head at the irony of student athletes praying for God to help them win their game. As if the other teams at the other Christian schools we were playing against weren’t praying for the same thing. How does God decided whose side to take? And I realize the attacks and violence happening are on a totally different scale, and I realize Israel is God’s chosen nation – but I don’t think that always means what we think it means. I don’t think the sides we begin to draw up and take always represent the way He is seeing the situation.

I am not here to debate theology or politics or global issues. Ultimately I’m less concerned with what I think or anyone else thinks, but I am very concerned with what I know.

And I know with unshakeable certainty that God loves people. All people. His heart breaks over lives taken and lives broken. All lives.

So please – please do pray for Israel. But don’t pray one-sided prayers. Don’t add on, “And help Palestine too” as an afterthought. Pray for Palestine too. Lives are hanging in the balance on all sides – lives that are precious to God. Lives that are worthy of our prayers and our awareness and our voices speaking on their behalf.

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Filed under Church, Prayer

Why We Must Ask Questions

IMG1190I have been reading C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed over the last week and a half, and that little book has just about wrecked me. I can’t relate to Lewis’ precise experience; I haven’t lost anyone that close to me.  But there are other types of loss, other deaths, that cause intense grief in us.  This isn’t discussed much, so we don’t always know how to walk it out.  We don’t always recognize the presence of grief or its role as the catalyst in forcing us to face our hardest questions.

And this is what has struck me most and drawn out my reading time of what normally would be an easy book. I am undone by the questions Lewis transparently and bluntly asks about God and his whole spiritual journey.  He doesn’t back down from them or hide them; rather he grabs them and shakes them out and wrestles with them.  It’s breathtaking.  It’s freeing.

I encounter again and again people raised in church or around church who feel like they cannot ask certain questions. Even if spiritual leaders would say, “Of course you can ask questions.  It’s called seeking God,  He can handle our doubts.”  There is still this almost unspoken understanding that the freedom for asking only goes so far; there are still questions you just shouldn’t ask. And if you dare to voice those doubts, those puzzles troubling your mind, you are usually told you are in error or must be in sin or clearly have not been reading your Bible enough or some combination of all of the above. I wish this wasn’t true. But I’ve listened to their stories and experienced my own.  We all have that spiritual leader or friend we trusted and dared to voice our questions to, only to be rebuked or shamed or given some empty trite answer.

(*As an aside, I do need to say, I was fortunate to have two pastors in my life during two different critical, formative periods in my spiritual journey who received and encouraged all my questions, big and small, in those seasons. I am fairly certain I wouldn’t still be loving God without the grace they showed me, and I am unspeakably grateful.)

But here is the epiphany that has come to me as I have sat with Lewis in his grief journey.  The only truly damaging questions are the ones we do not ask of God.  The ones we keep inside because they seem too dangerous, too inappropriate, too unorthodox. These silent questions turn into a slow poison, eating at us, smothering the life in us one day at a time. They are ever present to feed our ravenous fears and doubts and wounds.

If we ever want answers, or at least to be at peace with the unknown when we realize some questions have no answer in this life, we must ask the questions. We must voice them.  All of them. The angry ones. The hurt ones. The confusing ones. The terrifying ones whose answers could unravel everything we ever believed. The broken ones that simply cannot be asked without some swearing and anguish. They don’t have to be asked nicely or neatly or politely. They just need to be asked. Really truly knowing God depends on this unfiltered, unedited dialogue from our heart to His.  I am more convinced of this than ever.

I encourage you – no, more seriously, I implore you – ask your questions. Scribble them into a journal (you can always burn the pages later if you’re worried about someone reading them. Or even if you’re not worried. **It’s therapeutic.) Drive out to the middle of nowhere and scream them at the sky. Pour them out to a trusted friend who will love you no matter what, if you are so fortunate to have one of those. Do it however you like, but please, get those questions out. You cannot possibly shock or offend God with your seeking heart.

I will take my own advice and do the same.

P.S.: I’m sorry I have been neglecting this space a little. It’s a rough season and the words are not coming easily. **Also, I promise I’m not a pyro, but I do find occasional small burnings to be cathartic. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Faith, Grieving, Prayer, Uncategorized

Coffee with God & Being Enough

1545558_715060141871468_1705256076_nIt has taken me too many years to realize what a sacred place this is.

It was my ritual for so long.  Wake up. Pour the coffee. Turn on music. Open my journal and Bible.  And there was God.

Every. Single. Time.

Even in seasons when He felt far or silent.  I could still find Him here.  Sometimes it was intense – tears, intercession, loving correction.  Sometimes it was silly – laughing and jokes (really, God told me jokes).  Sometimes I did all the talking.  Sometimes He did all the talking.  Sometimes there was a lot of quiet, simply sitting.

If the morning was crazy and somehow this didn’t happen, it was ok.  He was there in the afternoon or ready to keep me up way too late.  It was ok.

And then it all changed.  I was sitting in a class at church, taught by someone I deeply loved and respected and wanted to be like.  The topic had something to do with not being content to merely coast through our spiritual existence without engaging more deeply.  The teacher was encouraging things like more in-depth Bible study, doing more in prayer than just focus on our own wants, developing the discipline of fasting, etc.  All good things, healthy things.  But then these words were uttered:

“Just sitting there in the mornings with your coffee and your Bible isn’t good enough.”

I couldn’t tell you anything else that was said after that.  My heart shattered.  Years of building intimacy with God, and I had just been told what I thought I had with Him wasn’t good enough.

So I stopped.  And I began to try and find different ways of connecting with God, different ways of growing spiritually.  There was no shortage of spiritual leaders with their recipe: it needs to be in the morning, it needs to be the same time every day, it needs to be in the same place, it needs to be an hour, on and on.  I wouldn’t say none of the approaches worked, but most of them didn’t and no matter what, they never felt natural.  I couldn’t maintain any of them with any consistency.  Finally, I didn’t try at all.  I was so lost and confused – wanting to be close, always feeling far, trying to recapture an intimacy I had once known.

A few months ago, I heard His voice in the deep recesses of my heart say, “I miss you.  I never said your way of seeking Me was not good enough.”

Talk about tears.  Lots of them.  And even better – hope.  I decided to believe Him.  To sit with Him again.  Of course, there are things that are different.  I have two children now, for starters.  The early morning hours aren’t always an option.  But He’s there whenever I come, and we sit together, friends meeting in the morning over coffee or in the afternoon over tea or in the late evening over wine.  We talk, we laugh, we cry, (sometimes I yell), we are still.

And I share all this because someone needs to know – when you take a step towards God, He is not standing there telling you it wasn’t a good enough step.  Your journey into His heart will not look exactly like anyone else’s.  We share our stories with each other, not so we can duplicate each other’s experiences, but so we can marvel at the way He uniquely meets each of us exactly where we need to be met.

I don’t know what it is about us that wants magic formulas and precise explanations and specific checklists.  But any time spent in Scripture will show you there is no formula for how God encounters our hearts.  There are so many stories, and none of them are the same.

So take a deep breath and take a step towards Him again.  He will be thrilled and He will be there.  You’re His.  Your heart is enough.

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Prayer, Presence, Uncategorized

Heard & Accepted

Image Source: Jennifer Upton

Image Source: Jennifer Upton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He has heard –

my quaking heart.

confession of my fears.

admission of my anger.

cry for help.

hunger to know.

 

He accepts –

my questions & struggles.

imperfections.

offering of love.

passionate prayers.

Me.

 

“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” – Psalm 6:9

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Pleading (Psalm 6)

Note: Something I have been mulling over is the familiarity that can come with being raised in church.  I’ve read through all of the Bible so many times, my eyes can glaze right over the words without them imprinting on my heart.  But I believe with all my heart these words are eternal and can speak to us again and again.  This is my attempt to interact with Scripture in a different way, a more personal way, a way that makes it real to me where I am right now.  It is not meant to reflect any in-depth study of the original Hebrew or anything like that.  As I read Psalm 6:1-4 today, this is how my heart found a parallel with David’s words.

God, are You angry with me?

You feel far and silent.

Is this punishment?

Please – I am struggling.

My soul, my heart, my mind are faint –

done in from all the effort of facing each day,

trying to keep moving.

I need help –

even my physical body

is wearing down from the fight.

Questions,

Uncertainty,

Confusion,

Disappointment –

I am in anguish.

Make it stop.

Please, please just make it stop.

Do something!

Not something small,

not temporary relief.

Get me out of this hole,

this dark place.

I am clinging to words I’ve heard

again and again,

that You love me

and Your love does not fail.

Show me.

Save me.

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Filed under Faith, Pain, Prayer, Waiting

A Sliver of Hope

We’ve had a lot of craziness in our lives recently.  I’ve had a major project at work reach its climax.  I started taking care of a friend’s little boy 4 days a week, in addition to my own munchkins.  Any routine or schedule I’d been fighting for has been thrown to the wind.

Last Tuesday, I came the closest to having a productive, normal day I’ve come in several weeks.  It seemed we were finding a rhythm.  I managed to get a few things done around the apartment.  I managed to get some work done on my project.  I got all the little ones tucked in for naps.

And then the phone rang.  And after only a matter of moments, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was left, struggling to breathe between the sobs.  (And I will write more about this change soon.)

The rest of the day was a fight to take care of the children and not alarm them, even though I only wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and cry.  It was a fight to face my friend when she came for her son and not come off as a deranged nutcase she should never have entrusted her child too.  It was a fight to be present when my husband came home, to not crawl into bed and refuse to come out.

In the middle of the fog and chaos and discouragement descending on me, I received this Facebook message:

I got up this morning around 6:30 to have my time with the Lord . . . I couldn’t get comfortable in my spirit . . . your face came before me in prayer . . . Please know that someone who really doesn’t know you other than saying hello in the parking lot was going before God for you . . .

God knew what my day held, and He stirred someone who is basically a stranger to spend the morning in prayer for me.  Why was it a stranger?  Why not a friend or my pastor or my own husband?  I don’t know.  I don’t care.

Or maybe I know a little.  Because in the days that have followed, I have often felt like maybe God has forgotten me, maybe He doesn’t see me.  It wouldn’t be that odd for someone I know to think of me in prayer.  But in moving the heart of a stranger on my behalf, the very day my soul was crushed, He emphatically declared that He does indeed see and know and has not forgotten.

This is my only hope right now, and I am clinging to it tightly.

And perhaps you, friend, have endured a heartache and disappointment recently.  Perhaps you feel abandoned or forgotten.  Tonight, I whisper a prayer that your eyes would be opened, that astonishing signs would be sent your way to have an assurance that He sees and He knows and He’s moving on your behalf.

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Filed under Grieving, Hope, Pain, Prayer

Facing the Hard Things – One at a Time

There are prayers I can’t pray right now.

Do you know how hard this is to say? I mean, I’m the prayer coordinator for our church, for crying out loud.   I work for a prayer ministry.  This should not be an issue.

But it is.  Because when you have prayed for something hundreds of times and still there is no answer, sometimes it all dries up inside of you.  When you have quoted every Scripture and absorbed every teaching and mustered up the guts to be vulnerable enough to ask others to pray, and still the years roll by with no answer, sometimes the words no longer come.

If you need prayer, I’ve got it.  No problem.  I’ve got the faith for it.  I will stand by you and believe for your miracle.

But these days, most of my time spent with God is spent in silence.

And to be utterly transparent, the condemnation over this has been layered on thick.  I’ve been tangled up with guilt because, well, I’m supposed to be the prayer person or something.

Until the other day, when I sat down to try again, and after a few empty moments, only managed to whisper, “I don’t know what else to say.  I’ve said everything I know to say.”  And I braced for His lecture.

But that Voice (oh, how I love that Voice) – not a shred of condemnation – simply said, “I know.  But you’re here.  And that is enough.”

I don’t know how this story ends yet.  This seems to be the messy part of it, the dark part when all hope seems lost.  But I share it because maybe another quivering soul is out there, weary with persistent prayer and feeling like a spiritual failure because of it.

And maybe you too need to know – your willingness to seek Him, even if it is groping for His hand in the darkness until you find it, wordlessly holding on as He leads you down this unknown path . . .

it is enough.  You are enough.

 

Our focus for the past week of Story101 has been on writing our hard thing, whatever that may be.  This entry is a small piece of that process for me.

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Filed under Faith, Miracles, Prayer