Prayer is…

why-do-people-pray

“We must pray not first of all because it feels good or helps, but because God loves us and wants our attention.“ (Henri Nouwen quoted in The Blue Book by Jim Branch p.73)

I confess; I don’t pray just because God wants me to or wants my attention, but I pray because I desire to connect with God and sense His presence—to hear the whisper of love in my ear—to be reoriented in the right direction once again. I am very selfish in my desire for prayer, but I really don’t think God objects.

In my prayer time I experience union with Christ—an intimacy of mind and heart. I hear the gentle voice of conviction; I experience the comfort of affection—both God’s for me and mine for Him. There, He gives me courage as I see Him holding my day tenderly and with willful determination to form Christ in me.

I pray because I am desperate.

I pray because His love satisfies my heart.

I pray because there is evil and I need a battle buddy—empowerment—truth—an anchor in the wind and waves.

I pray because I love others and know that God in Christ is the answer for grief, sorrow, pain, loneliness, hatred, sin, misery, hunger and thirst.

It is in prayer with the Beloved that I find myself—I know God and therefore know who I am today—this moment—in my sin, my doubts, my fears, and my hopes, as well as in His dreams for me. There is a merger of hearts that I experience in prayer wherein I see Him and the promise of what is being shaped from the ashes, wounds and the nothings of my life.

The Holy Spirit also helps me when I pray. When I pray, I enter into the present work of Christ as intercessor. Prayer admits lack and places faith in someone bi3140f546627cc1cc0185fd9f87050440 praying on the floorgger, but too often it is the last thing I do when I can’t fix things, when all my control is gone.

We cease to be god in prayer.

Sometimes I pray, like Nouwen said, because I know God wants me to and that He loves me. That, too, is part of the Christian life—simple discipline—even when we don’t feel like it.

But even in those times, as I turn my heart begrudgingly, sometimes sourly toward a God who seems to demand my attention and affection, it is the look of love that is returned to me that keeps me there. Rarely is it obligation, but hope and desperation that lures me to God.

IMG_0588l worhsip in the lightOver the years, God has re-formed His image in my heart. Scripture, teaching, and a deeper understanding of grace lets me see an approachable, loving, grace-filled Father who—like in the story of the Prodigal Son—waits for me to travel toward Him so He can run and embrace me, cleanse me, clothe me, feed me, and give me gifts. He is generous that way.

Prayer is not simply an exercise of faith—not a few words strung together blindly, hopelessly—although I have prayed that way—and will again. It is not rote incantations and mindless mumbling. Though I’ve prayed like that, too.

Prayer is the poetry of desperate hearts—the melody of the Blues—the glory of the Hallelujah Chorus—the sound of drums—the Reggae—the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies—a bird’s song—the moaning of the hungry—the wailing of the grieving—the laughter of the hopeful. It is a waltz with God—sometimes spinning, sometimes staring into eyes—and sometimes it is like the dance of a child—our feet upon His as He leads us into what should be.

It is stillness.                                                                                       14064-woman-sunset-girl-arms-blue-sky-clouds-silhouette.1200w.tn

It is violence.

It is agony.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory.

It is pleasure and pain.

It is the brightest and the darkest place I’ve known.

It is a high priority for God, the present work of Christ, a point of active involvement for the Holy Spirit, and it is often the least attended to by us.

This is prayer to me.

 

 

 

 

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Beware the Little Foxes

Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.”

Several years ago, my husband had to cut the wedding band off my finger. I jammed my finger during exercise, and rather than running the risk of losing the ring by taking it off and tossing it in my disorganized purse, I waited. By the time class was over, my finger had swelled, and I couldn’t remove it.

I felt sorrow as the ring I had worn for 38 years was clipped off. My husband, being the pragmatist that he is, said, “I’d sleep better if I knew the ring wasn’t going to cut off the blood supply to your finger if it continues to swell during the night.” I felt nostalgic loss, but not despair, as I placed my puffy finger before him. I wasn’t losing my marriage, only my ring. My husband’s love was shown as he worked his Dremel round and round to get the ring off. It took a while to thin the gold with the abrasive edge of the Dremel’s circular bit so that he could finally clip it, allowing me to pull the ring over my swollen finger as I gently pried it open.

Marriage can be much more fragile than a gold band. It is easy to thin the gold from our marriage through little repetitive moves as round and round the abrasive circle of our sin goes – nagging, name calling, unforgiveness, hyper control, withholding sex, over spending, lack of self-control, selfishness. All these things etch away at the circle of our marriages.   The best guardian of a marriage is a heart in transformation to the image of God and in submission to the Holy Spirit. A heart in process makes mistakes, asks forgiveness, and seeks to remedy the repetitive sin by trusting in God to empower and change the “thing” – whatever it might be. A heart in process is less abrasive, softer, leaving fewer permanent marks on our marriages. A heart in process forgives.

Perhaps that is an over-simplification of the complex problems that can arise in marriage. I have noticed, however, that most marriages are thinned slowly before some final clipping takes place. It takes a while to sever love. I am also reminded of the saying that comes from Song of Solomon: Beware the little foxes.

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God’s Word is Real and True

alice-in-wonderland-1498008_960_720I’m fascinated with Alice in Wonderland. Her journey has become a bit of an obsession. Animals talk in Wonderland. To exist there, Alice must believe it. She thinks she’s dreaming. If she believes it’s unreal, then their words are irrelevant. She will wander through Wonderland never understanding the plight of the citizens. Her identity will be unrealized, and her destiny will be unfulfilled.

The same can be said of us. If we don’t believe that God speaks to us in various ways, especially in Scripture, we won’t see the condition in the world around us, our true, God-shaped identity will never be realized, and the potential for a unique, God-glorifying destiny will fade away. We will wander, like exiles, in a foreign land with a false identity and a twisted sense of purpose—achieving fame, fortune, or significant world approval.

God spoke—from the very beginning. He spoke and the worlds were formed. There’s life-giving, creative, redemptive power in his words. After he created man, he continued to speak on late afternoons in the Garden. He then spoke judgment to Adam and Eve when they sinned. Then, he delivered hope when he promised someone would come to bruise the head of the serpent who had deceived and entrapped them.

He talked to Abraham, promising a family too large to number—even though he had no children at the time, and only one he ever saw. He declared truth to Moses through the law, and was heard rumbling from the mountain. He spoke to Moses face to face. He addressed people through the prophets, warning, promising, and painting pictures of future hope.

He described redemption through metaphor: perfect sacrifices, the tabernacle, the scape goat and the Manna, and the Passover. He explained his plan through perfect sacrifices and the Passover lamb whose blood was applied to the doorposts of their homes so death would pass by.

And then, he communicated perfectly and gloriously through Christ—the Word made Flesh, who dwelt among us. Jesus expressed only what his Father wanted, and he did only what his Father told him to do. He declared deliverance by faith, redemption through faith in his sacrifice, and a kingdom of heaven—unlike the one expected. He shouted the humility and love of God as he was incarnated and born in a stable and died on a cross—bringing redemption to all who believe.

The same love that motivated God to speak then, motivates his continued voice now. The Word of God was given because of love—because of a desire for us to realize the MORE that is found in Jesus Christ as Savior, Deliverer, Resurrection, and Life. He came and spoke to bring light and life to a fallen world.

The creative power and certainty of God’s word and decrees cannot be overestimated and is made clear from the first words in Genesis, “Let there be,” until the end of the Book of Revelation with its solemn warning against altering the words that have been written. Scripture works on our hearts supernaturally. “The word goes where it will and accomplishes whatever it was sent to accomplish.” (Isaiah 55)  The more we read or hear it, the more our faith grows. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” It works on our hearts supernaturally. It’s a fact.

Understanding that God has spoken and continues to speak to his people is central to Christian faith. Absolutely.

Believe: The word of God has real power because it is alive and supernatural. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Below is a link to a powerful song by Michael Card about how God spoke through Jesus.

Michael Card–Link to The Final Word

 

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Life Ain’t Fair – Just Ask Mildred

 

We have chickens. My husband and daughter followed their hearts, and we ended up with a coop and poop and chickens.

Our dog, Barney, is a herder. Everyday when he is released to the wilds of our backyard, he sprints to the coop and circles it—not once, not twice, but dozens of times at break-neck speeds—creating chaos as he barks orders at the flock. There is a deepening moat where he runs circles ‘round the chickens. He has done a fantastic job of keeping the chickens herded together in their well-fenced cage.

thOne of the poor little chickens, Mildred, is being hen-pecked. I never knew what that meant until I saw it in real life. Two of the chickens pursue her relentlessly, pecking at her feathers and pulling them out. Her backside is almost bald. It’s mean stuff. She can’t get a break.

Being the merciful soul she is, my daughter pulled the tormented creature out of the coop, hoping she will heal. She’s allowed Mildred to run wild outside—pecking at bugs and fresh vegetation—a truly free-range bird. From her new position of favor, Mildred taunts the other chickens. I can almost hear her say as she struts back and forth in front of the coup. “Look at me. I’m getting fresh bugs. Ha. That was a juicy one. Look at me. Look at me.”

The others look on jealously.

This has been going on about a week. It’s been working well. Mildred gets to roam and the wicked chickens get to be envious.

Until the other day.

Leigh Ann opened the back door, and Barney, who is always searching for adventure, bolted into the yard and sprinted toward the free-range chicken. Immediately, Mildred was in jet-chicken mode.

The race was on. The chicken fled, the dog pursued, and Leigh Ann trailed after them both, yelling at Barney, “Stop! Leave it! Shoo!” The words fell on deaf ears. Barney was in the zone.

Mildred fled from Barney across the yard, flapping and clucking in terror. She flew up the back stairs squawking and praying as she went.

“Save me, Jesus, save me.”

Barney, on the other hand, was having the time of his life, finally getting to herd something that wasn’t already penned in. As the two animals dashed and darted across the yard, Barney’s nose remained inches away from her few remaining tail feathers. He had found his purpose in life.

As my daughter chased them, she tripped on the stairs while in pursuit and fell on her rump as she grabbed for the horrified bird. Off Mildred flew—Barney’s hot breath on her nearly bald backside. Undeterred by her fall, Leigh Ann got up and continued the chase—afraid for Mildred’s life. Mildred fled to a spot beneath our camper. She huddled briefly under the  wheel well, while Barney nipped and snarled at her—never actually biting—just scaring her cluckless.

Leigh Ann lunged again—Mildred darted back up the hill, wings flapping and lips screeching (Yes, chickens have lips.) Barney growled and chased, trying to herd her to who knows where. Flapping and clucking, she dashed to a covered area beside the back steps, and in utter defeat, cowered in the corner–head darting nervously about.

Whether it was fear or exhaustion, the bird finally allowed Leigh Ann to scoop her up and save her from the backyard beast. The race was over. Leigh Ann won. Mildred, poor bird, was safe. And Barney’s herding adventure was complete.

When Leigh Ann placed Mildred into her safe kennel away from her tormentors, the exhausted animal collapsed into a heap.

After a few minutes of recovery, long enough for her to get her breath, you could hear Mildred clucking to herself just within earshot of the other birds. “Man, I can never get a break. First I get my feathers plucked out day and night, then, just when I thought my luck was changing, and I was having a good ol’ time roaming in the yard, I got chased by that vicious monster that my masters call a pet. I swear, I almost had a heart attack. Life ain’t fair.”

The rest of the chickens just cackled.

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Made in the Image of God! Really? Me Too? Yep, You Too!

“And God said, let us make man in our image… according to Our likeness, and let them rule…and God made man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

What does it mean to be created in the image of God? I’ve often wondered that. It’s a fantastic thought, one that I often take for granted. In other words, I don’t think about it.baby-pointing-in-mirror

My children, in one way or another, are created in the image of their parents. Our DNA resides in every cell. Each has the basics—a head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Their hearts beat, their minds think, and their mouths taste and speak—like ours. Innate tendencies and personality traits are also there. My sons, like their father, gently rock their heads back and forth when they have indigestion, gently working up the “bubble” in their belly. My daughter is musical and artistic, like me, but she resembles her father’s side of the family. Similarly, there is something of God’s DNA in each of us—even if we aren’t born again. We are, after all, created in the image of God.

In these verses in Genesis, we see that man was made to rule over the beasts of the earth, so man was given a measure of power over the created universe. In Genesis we witness Adam and Eve walking in the Garden with God and perceive that man was designed for fellowship with God. We watch Adam’s creativity in naming beasts and his joy over God, his wife, and his work and conclude that those things must reflect God’s image in some way. But with the fall, harmony with God and His world became dissonant—like the screech of fingernails on a blackboard. I have heard the expression “shattered image” to describe the current state of humanity. Pieces are there, but the likeness is no longer whole. Some of the image is missing altogether. We no longer see clearly, hear distinctly, or think rightly.

I’ve tried to look at myself in a broken mirror before; it’s like an abstract painting. Everything is displaced. I might be able to comprehend myself in one piece or another—but it’s odd. The eye is separated dramatically from the nose, and the hair looks pieced together—angled this way and that.

Still, I am, even in my fallen condition, a work of wonder: created with a spirit that has the capacity to commune with God and is created with the knowledge of good (and now also evil). Like God, I have imagination and creativity, volition and emotion. I have within this God-made soul the power to forgive and to love. Unlike common animals, I have the power for deep reasoning and logic. I have sentience and an awareness of others’ worth and value.

Man is a remarkable creature. Composers, writers, and artists create—like their creator—and their works explode into our world—often bringing deep insight. I’ve cried with thanksgiving as a stringed quartet gave an exquisite performance. When I stand before an Old Master’s painting or one of the dappled works of the Impressionists, I appreciate the skill; I paint, too. They wield their brushes and paints in ways I can’t. I’m moved by the proficiency required to paint the details in lace gloves or to create a boat or ocean out of daubs of multi-colored paint. Skills and creativity like that cause me me worship the God who created the artist.

In other fields, men and women take possession of, or conquer, parts of previously unknown “universes.” For instance: computer technology (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates), physics (Marie and Pierre Curie), or aeronautics (Wernher von Braun). I think of Mother Teresa and her compassion and service to the poorest of the poor. The DNA of Christ incarnated into our world through her gentle acts of mercy. Then there are men like Martin Luther King who had a dream for what man could be, and he called us to see more clearly the value of all humanity.

Man is the apex of creation: Psalm 8:3-6 says,

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” (NASB)

We are made a little lower than God. Still, most of us don’t comprehend our value or worth.

I don’t know about you, but I have gotten angry (sometimes livid) over how God made me. “Couldn’t you have made me a little more… or a little less…?” I complain to my Maker. Teaching me to love myself rightly has been a lengthy proposition for God and a difficult one for me to learn. I haven’t mastered it yet.

One day several years ago, I was meditating on how God created me—my gifts, my callings, and my limitations. I loathed parts of me. I heard God speak gently to me. (Not audibly—but to my heart.)

“Stand in front of your mirror. Look at yourself. You often worship Me when you stand before My creation.” (I sensed God’s pleasure over that and recalled a sunset at Rocky Mountain National Park. The evergreens reflected orange.The sky and mountains were ablaze with color, and the air was cool and clear. I began to clap and applaud Him for the glory of that moment.) “You joyfully lift your hands and give thanks for mountains, oceans, and sunsets. You are also my creation and are far superior to all of these. You are created in MY image. I want you to lift your hands right now and worship Me for who you are and how I’ve made you. I want you to be amazed and stand in awe of My creation.”

I was taken by surprise. I began to cry with wonder. But I did what He said. I raised my hands in worship as I looked in the mirror. I didn’t raise them to myself—but to my God for making the incredible person who stood before me—a wonky little, slightly over-weight, gray-haired woman with quirky, but loving ways, bad eyesight, but clear vision, and emotional scars that are slowly being healed by the love of my Pa Pa and His Son. I am His creation, and He is worthy of praise for making me—for making you. To do less than worship would be an offense to the Almighty.

I am more than a mountain—I’m an eternal soul. I’m made in His image. For His glory. I am a deeply loved wonder in the world.

So are you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is There No Balm in Gilead?

jesus-with-2-childrenIs There No Balm in Gilead?

I wrote this in January of 2015 but didn’t post it. Many things have changed since then. My mother died in early March of that year, not long after writing it. There has been a divisive political war and an election, with fury raging and frustrations escalating on both sides. Isis has risen and grown. Islamic fundamentalist terrorists have made multiple attacks on the world, and seem to have become bolder. The tide of persecuted, starving, and displaced people groups has become a flood. Racial tensions have escalated. Police are gunned down in the streets. It’s a mad, mad, mad world.

One thing that remains the same, however, is our need for hope.

*********

It hasn’t taken much to drive me to despair these days. I look out and everywhere there is violence and vileness, confusion and disorder.

Politicians and world leaders try to solve heart-deep, age-old problems like greed and sin, hatred and un-forgiveness. Name a country, state or city, and I’ll show you an infestation of complex, human, soul-disease—unsolvable by laws, or natural wisdom and power.

Wars and rumors of wars. Human trafficking. Pestilence. Marriages tearing apart. Street violence. Poverty. Unimaginable evils done behind locked doors. Intentional evil. It’s too much for me, and it’s easy to move toward despair.

And if the world isn’t enough to send my soul crashing on the rocks, my own sense of failure and weakness overwhelm me. It wasn’t long ago that I said to myself more than once, “There is no hope,” when thinking about my own emotional life. Despair has been a faithful (but unwelcome) companion lately.

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

I fled my home on the day of this writing to get away with a book, my bible, my computer and my journal. I needed to reorient my heart toward truth. Sometimes a new location helps.

I was led to scripture that encouraged me—Jeremiah of all places.

The prophet is in deep despair over the condition of his people. He cries out with deep emotion, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?”

The assumption is that there IS a balm—a cure—a physician, but the cure hasn’t taken place, and the prophet is confused. Why isn’t it working? After all, Gilead dealt in balm; they were known for it. Israel had a faithful God; why weren’t things different?

We recently celebrated Christmas—the first advent of Christ. The angels declared in the heavens and on earth, peace on earth good will to men. “But there is no peace,” we mumble in protest.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

The kingdom of God, Jesus says, is like yeast, which can cause a whole batch of flour to rise, becoming bread. It’s like a mustard seed that becomes a tree. Kingdom work seems slow—so, so slow.

Jesus came with transformational power—a power to change human hearts. But often it’s so gradual that we sometimes wonder if it’s taking place at all. And not everyone opts in. Those who believe and are being transformed are his. Those are the ones who are part of an invisible kingdom. For now, we can’t even tell who belongs and who doesn’t. We can guess, but no human has the capacity to judge the human heart, nor does he have the authority. And all of us get it wrong when we try.

As believers, we are so divided by theology and the color of carpet, that it’s hard to believe we are part of the same family. Is it any wonder that we, as well as the world, doubt the reality of yeast or mustard seed?

Is there no balm in Gilead?

And then there’s me! I long for courage, power, renewed faith and strength to muddle through the black tar of life—a mother with Alzheimer’s, family problems, and flagging hope. Then there are the challenges of being a member of fallen humanity AND a child of God at the same time. I feel ill equipped for it all.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

The answer, of course, is YES!

Yes, beloved, (I say it to you and myself), “There is a balm in Gilead.” He alone is the hope of the nations and of our today-heart. Unbelievers will mock. Evil will deride. The spirit of anti-Christ will rise, oppose and seek to kill. Even our hearts may feel beyond hope from time to time, but there is a physician here doing heart surgery every day of our broken lives.

Yes there is a balm. Lying deep within the souls of every man and woman is the only place eternal peace and hope for the earth can become a reality—the transformed human heart. The heart that knows God through Christ.

The cure isn’t human wisdom, might or wealth. It’s not politics or combat.

The Lord replies to Jeremiah’s cries of despair “Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don’t let heroes brag about their exploits. Don’t let the rich brag of their riches. If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me. I’m God, and I act in loyal love. I do what’s right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things. These are my trademarks.” (The Message, my underlining.) Jeremiah 8

God allowed Israel to be carried away because of evil and idolatry. Jeremiah was in despair over the people. God promised hope would come when Messiah arrived. The hope he brought, however, wasn’t a political kingdom. It was a kingdom of changed hearts—hearts that are transformed by knowing HIM. It’s a supernatural force that changes greed to generosity, judgment to grace, hatred to forgiveness, anger to peace, fear to love, and vileness to holiness. It is a transformation that opposes darkness and hatred with light and love. But no human law or decree will bring this healing. And it will not be fully completed until he comes again. For now, we only know in part. Then we will see face to face. (I Cor. 13:12)

When he comes again, we will see God’s law, God’s decree, and God’s eternal, loving, holy presence in our every-day reality. And every knee will bow. Hearts will understand. Those who are His will be like him—not in power or omniscience, but in love, peace, and truth—because we will see Him as he truly is. (I John 3:2)

Restoration will be completed. The balm will be on us to soothe and heal what remained broken.

Hallelujah! There is a balm in Gilead!

 

There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my hope again.

Beautiful rendition of “There is a Balm in Gilead”

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Where are the Tissues? Here’s the Box.

 

sorry_crying_cartoon1I went to my writers’ group this week. I had nothing to share…my writing has been methodic, dry, dull, and shapeless. When I told them how I felt, they said to write about it. So I am.

I prefer being inspired—finding nuggets of truth and beauty and commenting on them. But lately, I’ve seen too much of the dark side of life. Some of it is too dark to describe in detail at this time of year.  (I’m supposed to be cheerful, right?) The darkness is what Christ came for: Death. Abuse. Murder. Poverty. Sickness. Despair. Family brokenness. Oppressive sexual evil. Racial enmity. Then there’s the human slaughter in Aleppo and the great divide in our nation.

What do you do with all that pain, hatred and evil?

None of us want to be zombies, moving through life in denial, numbing our pain through drink, drugs, or detachment. But holding onto the pain isn’t an answer either. My shoulders aren’t wide enough. My pockets aren’t deep enough. My love isn’t sturdy enough to carry the pain of this fallen world and its people. I feel things too deeply; it’s hard to handle what I do see.

So I have chosen to compartmentalize my pain. I put it in a box.

It’s a way of handling life, and perhaps its’ an unhealthy way. I’m not really sure, but I do it knowingly, anyway. I consider an issue—something causing me pain or anger—and I let myself feel the emotion. The loss. The evil. Then I pray about it. Fight for it—or against it, often crying as I do. As I do this, I spiritually wrap up the unfixable, the un-healable, the unredeemable, and then I give the whole box of horrors to God.

Normally, that’s what I do.

But I’ve let the box stay in my hands too long. I’ve opened the edge of the box. Repeatedly. I’ve worried over the contents and slammed the box shut, but I haven’t prayed much about the things I see.

Normally, after I’ve prayed about the darkness in the box, I begin to exalt the name of Jesus, concentrating on His attributes. I praise the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then I do “the handoff.” I give the box away to God, visualizing it as I do.  I give it to the ONE with the big shoulders and the sturdy heart. I bow my soul, acknowledging both my helplessness and His hope.

But lately I’ve been lazy. Sluggish. A little afraid to open the box all the way and let myself truly see the mess. I don’t want to groan and weep—or permit myself to have an ugly weep-a-thon. I’m fearful I won’t recover from the looking and the praying.

I ran into a friend in Wal-Mart this afternoon, whose daughter is in rehab. Because of this, she is taking care of her grandchild. It’s Christmas. She’s divorced and alone. She struggled not to cry as she told me. I did too.

A member of my writing group lost two loved ones this year: her father and her best friend. She feels it deeply as she’s left with caring for a moody, mean, miserable mother. An old school buddy lost her husband in December last year, and her relationship with her only child is strained. There’s pain. Longing. Loneliness. A daughter is sick. A son is in jail. A family is jobless. A marriage is disintegrating.

I could go on—but I won’t.  If you’ve been spared, hold on. If you’re in the midst of it, hold on. If you feel hell’s icy breath on your neck, hold on.

I looked up “hold on” and “stand fast” and was led to the book of Philippians. The church in Philippi was a suffering church. Paul writes to encourage them. He’s trying to equip them for their struggles: Roman persecution, the martyrdom of family members, theft of goods, cruelty, public prostitution, and idol worship.

In the midst of these horrible things, what did Paul tell them to do? Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  Philippians 4:4-8

 So, perhaps I am handling the pain correctly when I pass it on to God. Maybe thinking about honorable, pure, lovely, and right things is wiser than dwelling on the evil. Maybe prayer, with worship tagged onto the end, is the highest form of admitting our pain and inadequacies while demonstrating our faith and hope. Prayer and thanksgiving won’t make me a zombie—in fact it might prevent spiritual decay.

Giving the box to God is the only solution for most of the issues I see, as I have no power to heal or save. This writers’ group assignment has been helpful. I’ve written something. That was my goal, and that’s good. Maybe it’s not great writing—but it’s honest, and that’s good.

I’ve also been reminded that beneath the suffering there is an everlasting God who longs to reconnect with me as the Box Bearer. He’s the hope of salvation and redemption for all the ugly-mean-nasty junk in the box.

And that’s very, very good.

So, I’m going to finish this night with a good, wet, cry and some intense prayer and worship.

Where are my tissues?

Here’s the box.

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