Believing in a God Who Doesn’t Answer Prayer

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Niggling thoughts irritated me like a mosquito looking for blood.

where are you God?

haven’t I been serving you?

don’t you love me?

how could you have let this happen?

I know you’ve been there too…facing a situation that is Too Big. Too Bad. Too Heartbreaking for you to understand. Your nerve endings feel like they’re on fire, and the tears. Oh the tears…

They drip off your chin like acid rain eating a hole in your heart.

I wrestle with sacrilegious thoughts. I wonder if I love him. He doesn’t care. He hasn’t answered my prayers. Probably never will. I can hardly bear the suffocating feeling that I’m being punished.

how can I believe in a God who doesn’t answer when I call out to Him?

I mean isn’t that the very proof that we are loved by God? That we pray and he answers? Being a Christian is supposed to mean that he cares so much for our wellbeing that he instantly puts things to-rights. Right?

Apparently not, if my life is an indicator.

I was preparing a Sunday School lesson when I came across the answer. I admit, I skimmed over the verses at first because I’ve read them so many times my brain was on auto-pilot. But something caught my attention and I slowed down to re-read them.

Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according the will of God.” (ESV)

We don’t even know what to pray for. We’re consumed with protecting our safe and normal life, wrongly assuming God wants that for us as well.

If that’s the wrong assumption…that safe and normal are out, there must be purpose for our pain. There must be a reason for seasons of anguish and turmoil.

The purpose shows up at the end of verse 27. “…because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” We don’t fully understand the will of God but the Spirit does.

Our selfishness prevents us from praying as we should. So the Spirit intercedes, steps in. He cries out to the Father on our behalf that his will be accomplished and that we would choose the way of humility, servanthood, holiness, peace.

It’s our character that he longs to change, not necessarily our situation.

So then, when we pray his answer will always be a resounding yes. Don’t believe those who say that maybe his answer is no, or not now. It’s ALWAYS YES!

Yes to his will being accomplished.

Yes to replacing your selfishness with servanthood.

Yes to drawing your heart into depths of communion with him you wouldn’t otherwise know.

Yes to your story impacting others and bringing glory to God.

Yes that his plan is good.

yes.yes.yes.

 All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I feely give.

I will ever love and trust him

In his presence daily live

A Fellow Traveller on the Journey of the Wounded – A Story

I was straining to see his face but it was veiled behind a curtain of fog that I couldn’t penetrate. Each time I reached out to touch him I ran into the wall of my wound.

It was so grotesque, my wound.

it screamed

it bled

it oozed death

Ugly.    Ugly.    Ugly.   it called out, enjoying it’s name and gaining strength with each pronouncement. It was growing and clouding more of my vision and now, not only his face was faint but those closest to my heart were obscured as well.

I bowed under the weight of it and saw outstretched hands through the fog.

There were deep holes torn across each hand, violent and horrible. A portrait of exquisite suffering. A feeling of camaraderie settled into my hurt place – how comforting to find a fellow traveller on the journey of the wounded.

I opened my mouth to ask for his story but in a split second knew it completely…

They were so grotesque, his wounds.

they screamed

they bled

they oozed death

…my own two hands cradled the hammer that drove each nail into his hands. Torn flesh and broken bone hung, blood seeping with each cry of “Ugly”.

My sin, the bottomless pit of it. My shame, the total degradation.

His voice came softly as the dawn breaking over a calm sea. “Embrace me. Even the red of my blood cannot stain if you accept my invitation of love.”

My feet felt like lead. Fear, humiliation. Heavy weights that I’d been dragging around still clung determinedly to me. How could he ever forgive? It would take an unparalleled sacrifice.

I knew that Death would eventually be mine if I continued. I dropped the hammer and fell prostrate at his feet. His tears began to fall over me. Tears of love, tears for the sacrifice he was about to make. His tears washed the blood from my hands and heart, cleansing me completely.

The fog peeled away like a curtain being pulled aside. His brilliance was unspeakable. He no longer had wounds. They had become scars, a permanent reminder not of pain, but healing.

I held out my hands to touch them.

“Your wound is still bleeding,” he said to me. “There is only one path to healing. Here, hold them out and offer your embrace. My tears will empower you to forgive.”

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

 

 

 

Flammable & Highly Dangerous

I don’t know how to light a good fire.

That’s not the whole truth. The truth is, it’s nicer when someone else packs in all the wood, makes kindling and gets their face full of smoke trying to ignite a tiny spark into a crackling explosion of pure sensory joy.

And, well…to be honest I’ve had some problems with fire in the past.

I used to be good at lighting fires, in fact by grade 4 I was quite a pro. I had a little friend named Danny who learned all about pyrotechnics from me because I knew how to light fires in garbage cans.  Yes, I was one of those kids.

Poor Danny got the raw end of the deal every time we got caught because who could blame a petite little girl with white blonde hair and big blue eyes? Our partnership crashed and burned when he finally got tired of taking all the heat and ratted me out. I deserved it.

Any normal person would have learned their lesson…

Not me.

I almost burned down our house once by overheating oil while making homemade french-fries. That wasn’t good. And of course one of my classic attempts at being a wonderful farm wife which lead to a canner full of peaches being blown sky high. From the blowtorch. That I thought would be good to use. So they would be done quickly. Yah, not so good either.

Needless to say I’ve become respectful of fire and that’s why the imagery in 2 Tim 1:6-7 is so fascinating.

Paul says “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.”   (NIV)

Fire has the power to consume, melt, change and obliterate things…sometimes important things like eyebrows and potentially much more. And here Paul is saying ~ dude, FAN it!! But, maybe Timothy was timid because

 someone told him to just settle down

 someone told him he was too young

 someone reminded him how inexperienced he was

 someone assured him he didn’t know what he was talking about

 someone said “things had never been done that way” before

 words like crazy, stupid, irresponsible, ungodly had been said about him

 he was afraid.

I love the picture of such bold, honest friendship between Paul and Timothy. Paul admonishes and encourages Timothy by reminding him that the gift is already there…now it’s up to Timothy to do his part by using his gift to draw people to Christ.

I wonder how many of you have either never fanned your gift into flame or have let that flame die out. I wonder how many of you have heard the same things Timothy might have heard from other Christians; their comments and criticisms so hurtful and harsh that you promised you’d never put yourself in that position again.

I have, so I know exactly what you’re feeling.

Can I encourage you today? God chose to give you a gift that is so unique that no one else is qualified to use it. Do you get that? NO.ONE.ELSE. Let that truth sink into your heart. Deep. Let it sink in until you become dangerous because you’re not going to let fear stop you anymore.

Timidity has never been part of the master plan, an escape route, a back door when the going got tough, a place to hide when our feelings were hurt. Instead, we have 3 things that God did give us that will help us fan our gift into a flame

  • Power = The spirit of power comes from a transformed life. Your gift is supernatural and when you draw close to the Lord every day you become less focused on what others think of you and instead start looking for ways to impact people’s lives. It makes you bold.
  • Love = The spirit of love asks you to look at others through the eyes of Christ. Love is so profound that it doesn’t see socio-economic status, skin color, gender, age or current situation…it is drawn to the wounded and gently requests permission to encourage and uplift. It makes you kind.
  • Self-discipline = The spirit of self-discipline keeps you on track and doesn’t let you give up. It helps you to remember that life is more than the sum of your days and keeps you focused on the task at hand which is to encourage and uplift the body of Christ in your own unique way. It makes you unshakable.

It might be a good time to light that fire. The spark is there, the wood is there. All it needs is some stirring of the embers and a breath of fresh air to get it going. Who knows what hearts will be warmed by its heat?

Photo Credit: aamith Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: aamith Flickr via Compfight cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Lovely when Ugly Came to Visit

A story

I had a hard time finding her. Lovely. That’s her name…

She usually hangs out with my grandchildren or my dogs. I often find her in my children’s homes and present in conversations with good friends. She’s always with me as I start my morning in quietness with the Lord and stays with me as I embrace hubs at the end of a long day. Her light energizes me and keeps darkness at bay.

But she’s missing.

I first noticed she was gone when my doorbell rang and Ugly stood there. I should have slammed the door right away but there was something fascinating about his offer. He told me he knew of my hurt and would show me ways to deal with my pain. Could I use his help? It would assuage my guilt and heal my demons if we worked on the plan together. I would feel better, he promised as he pushed through the door.

He sat down beside me.

The best way, he said, would be to go over the plot so many times that I knew it by heart. So we rehearsed the details until each nuance was exaggerated at just the right spot, each misunderstanding heard from our angle, each attack the other person’s fault and responsibility squarely on their shoulders. After all, I was the victim so I had every right.

If I relived the pain over and over it would become a better story and the impact would be greater he said as he hugged me. Then I could get revenge! The wound would have to grow bigger in order to heal. He seemed to speak from experience and as if to prove his point his embrace drew blood.

So I listened. Actually got drunk on the wine of his treachery until my vision was blurry and my thoughts were scattered. I couldn’t see through the shadow of darkness that engulfed me. His promise of comradery became a suffocating chokehold.

Where had Lovely gone? How could it be so easy for her to disappear in the middle of my tragedy? And why would she abandon me in my greatest hour of need?

LOVELY –  I cried in desperation!

Where have you gone?

Why are you hiding from me?

Why can’t I see you?

Like the stirring of a warm wind through a wheat field her voice came. Open your eyes, she told me.

They are open, I wept.

They are closed, she whispered. Ugly has deceived you. He’s crushed your heart in the grip of remembering. You won’t be able to see me until you decide to forgive.

How can I forgive when justice hasn’t been served?

You will find justice when you grant freedom, she answered.

I needed to find Peace. Ugly still sat beside me, he was part of the story. But instead of his voice being the loudest I began to listen for Purity, I felt Kindness, I realized Goodness had been there all along. Faithfulness had healed my wounds and suddenly I saw her…Lovely. She was shining brightly, her beauty profound as light scattered all remnants of darkness.

Photo Credit: morten almqvist via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: morten almqvist via Compfight cc

Phil 4:8 ” Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

 

 

Why Dreams are Never Enough

Photo Credit: vahiinee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: vahiinee via Compfight cc

 

I’m sitting in a cramped little corner, laptop open on a fold-out table about 2.5′ long by 1.5′ wide, butt parked on a rickety old chair. I’ve been gone from this blog space for awhile…I’ve felt a yearning for it like Berlin (our dog) yearns to help the barn cat into the afterlife. Intense, unfulfilled, cranky.

I think about writing all the time.

I think about a perfect place to write even more…

I have this dream about what the room should look like: the ambiance and energy, but am terrified of turning it into a reality. How do I convert a spare bedroom into an oasis for my soul? What if I spend time organizing it and then hate it? What if the new color I paint the walls gives me a headache and makes me want to puke? What if I can’t make the dream come to life?

SO I DON’T

I don’t organize

I don’t paint

I don’t stop dreaming or decide on a plan

I don’t act, instead I keep talking

I came across Ecclesiastes 5:7 the other day which says “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless…”

Meaningless?

What’s wrong with dreaming big and then talking about it? Why are those things meaningless?

Because dreaming + talking doesn’t = doing. Because all of the dreaming and talking in the world won’t create purpose or be fulfilling. Bringing the dream to life will.

I can pretty well bet the farm that you have some super-secret dreams yourself. Things you’ve mulled over for a long time but haven’t had the courage to bring to life. Maybe they’re bolder than you feel comfortable with, maybe they’ll stretch you and you’re kind of comfy right now. Maybe it’s something tiny and you’re afraid it’s insignificant. Maybe you just didn’t realize that dreaming and talking will never equal purpose. But know this: creating purpose will ignite courage in you that will change your life!

I DECIDED I WON’T

I won’t let fear stop me

I won’t allow discouragement to derail me

I won’t forget that there’s purpose and fulfillment waiting for me

I won’t stop until I get it right

Dreams are a place to start, not end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Thankful? So what!!

Another Canadian Thanksgiving is in the books.

This year has been unique because we sold our house and are in the middle of packing. We took the table apart so hosting anything that requires a firm, flat surface to rest an overloaded plate on was out of the question. I guess we could have sat in the living room. Hmm, let’s see…cramping up our mid-sections while forking food into our mouths. Sounds like an explosion waiting to happen. Off to our daughter’s house we went!

I’m not sure why I noticed (maybe because I was cranky and stressed) but so many people were cranky and stressed! I had to go to 3 grocery stores to find supplies for the dessert I was making. Hustling down the aisles I almost got run over by someone’s cart or maybe I ran into it…it’s a matter of perspective really. It reminded me of the Christmas movie Turbo Man! All for pumpkin pie filling.

Beyond the obvious perks of family, a long-weekend, turkey, pumpkin pie…do we miss something vital as we celebrate?

For everyone who was thankful for family…there were many with broken relationships

To everyone who had too much to eat…there were those who had to dig in garbage cans to find food that day

To each of us who had a day off work to celebrate…there were some who would have given anything to be employed

 

So, is it enough to be thankful on Thanksgiving Day? I believe the spirit of being thankful asks a little more of us.

~ it asks us not to say “that was last weekend!”

~ it asks us to remember that all we have we were given by God

~ if we were given all we have, it asks that we generously share

~ it asks us to diligently seek out ways to enrich the lives of others by whatever means are available to us

~ it asks us never to forget that our blessings are not bragging rights but are vehicles of compassion

Photo Credit: moonwohn1 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: moonwohn1 via Compfight cc

 

Thanks and giving become complete when they work together.

 

*I’d love to hear what have you been blessed with in your life that you could bless others with! Leave me a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be Perfect in Your Imperfection

When I was in high school it was pretty cool if you were in the choir. The thing about it was this…you had to audition and the choir director was someone we all wanted desperately to impress. Stressful!!

I figured my singing voice was passable, I mean I could seriously belt out “Careless Whisper” and “Holiday” with the best of them so I should be able to sing along with 30-40 other students right?!

Official Audition Feedback:
Apparently there weren’t enough other voices in the choir to drown my musical contribution so I was asked/told to try again the following year.

Ouch.

My Feedback to the Official Feedback:
I’m so sorry I’m not perfect enough to be in your stupid choir.

It pretty well sums up the maturity of a 15 year old. Oddly enough it also sums up our adult fears of not measuring up to expectations.

Your expectations of me.
My expectations of you.
The expectations I have for myself.

Photo Credit: nyah74 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nyah74 via Compfight cc

Perfectionism is an outward symptom of our internal need to meet expectations.

It’s fueled by the fear of people finding out who we really are. It limits our ability to be compassionate towards others because it demands that the standards we’ve set for ourselves apply to everyone else. It forces us to be egocentric and in the process pushes others away rather than drawing them closer.

I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist (my housekeeping skills will testify to that) but there are areas in my life that I beat myself up over every day. Isn’t that the irony? We set the bar so high and when we fall short we take that bar and beat ourselves to death with it.

The reality is that sometimes feedback discourages us to the point of giving up. Did I go back the next year and audition for the choir? Nope. It taught me a lesson that’s been hard to un-learn: if you can’t be the best then don’t do it.

We need to remember that just because our efforts aren’t perfect, they are still IMPORTANT! There’s beauty in the process, there’s courage in the attempt. There’s authenticity in every heart that declares nothing is perfect on earth therefore my contribution is insanely valuable!

Here’s my “Official Feedback” for you:
Get out there!! Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Grant yourself the mercy to be teachable and the grace to be a cheerleader in someone else’s life. Stop waiting until you can do it better, start doing it and you will get better!