What if this were my prayer?
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you………
………thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you…..
If this were my prayer? It would be enough.
A friend sent me a free trial of one of the food services. They sent us all the ingredients and recipes for three lovely meals for my husband and I. All I had to do was prepare it. The first recipe included a clove of garlic and called for a mortar and pestle. What? Why would I have a mortar and pestle?
Another recipe called for lemon zest which meant grating the peel of the lemon that had been sent with the food. The only grater I have is the big kind and that wasn’t going to work. And why would they want me to grate a lemon when you can buy perfectly good lemon zest in the store?
The recipes were tasty, but I’m not into that much preparation. The garlic clove they wanted me to mash was to make pesto. Another ingredient easy to buy already made. This was getting just silly.
The songs we sang in Sunday School made it sound simple. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. Jesus loves the little children….ALL the children of the world. We sang about a wee little man who climbed a tree and little boy named David who was a sharp shooter with a slingshot. The songs had happy endings. Jesus loves us. He protects us. He comes to be with us.
Do you see the trend? I’m skeptical of things labeled easy, but I’m fond of an easier way.
I want faith to be as easy as it felt when I was a kid. It seemed prayer was the magic answer but it’s not working anymore and I’m asking, what’s changed?
As Christians, we like to talk about the success and not the failures. The safety and not the risk. When we say our prayers were answered, what we really mean is we got the answer we wanted.
We’ve been good at proclaiming that believing in Jesus as your Savior will keep you from eternal hell but we don’t say you may go through your own hell on earth first.
We have enjoyed decades of Christianity being embraced in this country. Of families attending church together more Sundays than not. Now we’re wearing a badge of entitlement expecting this easy faith to continue.
Faith is risky.
Martin Luther King, Jr. described faith as “taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”.
We’ve prayed for marriages to be saved that weren’t. We’ve prayed for people to be healed of cancer, of addiction, of depression and they weren’t. We’ve prayed for the pregnancy to go full term or for the the waiting to conceive. Again and again our prayers seemed to fall silent.
We’ve prayed for our will not His.
Faith is the opposite of knowing and yet it is believing.
This is the faith I don’t like, the one I wrestle with. These are the words that get stuck, not wanting to come out but the only words that bring real peace: Thy will be done.
I haven’t said those words much lately. Instead, I’ve had a pity party for the faith that once looked so simple. Refusing to believe the words are still simple to think but saying them, meaning them, requires letting go of my will.
I know faith is risky. Help me believe anyway.
I know the unknown is scary, uncertain. Help me trust anyway.
Help me embrace a faith that doesn’t always make sense; a faith that holds more risks and isn’t safe.
Help me embrace your will, accepting it as a pathway to peace.
The church is good at creating patterns. And for first borns like me, we’re drawn to the neat packages of how-to’s.
Quiet Time aka devotions: Have your quiet time in the morning, first thing, before your feet hit the floor. Fill your soul with good from the word before feeding your body.
Prayer: Also in the morning and at night but write them down and use a clever acronym so you can cover all areas.
P – praise
A – admit
R – request
T – thanks
See, you’re doing your PART.
This is how we sing and this is when we stand. Have you ever visited a church and felt like the obvious stand out because you didn’t know that no one clapped or that everyone stood when Scripture was read?
I admit, I like to have a plan. I like the organization of systems. Our home has never been without a calendar hanging on the wall. Planners and organizers kept things on track for our family schedule. Today, it’s reminder lists and calendars on my phone and a large printed one on my desk.
The problem is when I didn’t follow that plan, when I didn’t stick with the writing prayers in that neat, organized way, I felt like a slacker. On the days when I have to leave the house before a sip of tea I felt like a failure for not fitting the pattern.
Slowly, I am realizing that grace is a shape-shifter. It’s pattern is not drawn with a permanent marker. Grace really is one size fits all.
Some years ago, Phylis told me that when her eyes landed on this little chicken I’d made for her she prayed for our family.
Really? Just whenever she saw that little chicken? Amazing! Our refrigerator was covered with photo’s of nieces and nephews and family and friends so when my eyes lit on one I’d stop and say a prayer. Sometimes I touched the photo when I murmured these breath prayers.
Grace isn’t easy for me to accept because it can’t be packaged. It can’t be wrapped up in pretty paper tied with a fancy bow. Grace can’t be contained or restrained or earned by following a pattern. And that’s exactly what makes it hard for me to accept.
It’s much easier to work for something, isn’t it? To know you’ve earned it. I followed the pattern or directions or the rules. I did it. Yes, I…..that’s the problem.
Grace isn’t about me. It isn’t deserved. It isn’t even fair.
Is it hard for you too? To accept this thing that isn’t about you? The gift that is just because we have a God who loves us?
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:8-10
by Laura Acuna
“There is nothing quite like the pain of being hurt by the church.”
This is what my new pastor acknowledged to me when I first visited him after leaving the church where our family worshipped and served for over fifteen years.
Boy, was he correct — there really is nothing quite like the pain of being hurt and disappointed within the Body of Christ. It’s disorienting and confusing to say the least.
I’ve always loved the church. I was raised in an active and loving congregation and, with the exception of a year or two as a young adult, have been a member of a local body my whole life.
However, the church is made up of humans and we often do not do conflict well.
Leaving our church family was such a difficult decision. Pat and I prayed for over a year, asking God to point us in the right direction.
Should we move on or should we stay?
There was no angry conflict and we were not at odds with anyone in particular. We’d grown unhappy and uneasy with the direction of leadership. We desired a more active youth group for our youngest son and felt strongly we needed the change for his sake.
Having been in this particular body of Christ for such a long time, we knew what leaving would mean. We understood that no matter how much we tried to explain how we had come to our decision, feelings would be hurt, our motives would be misunderstood and many would sever their ties with us.
And that is exactly what happened.
We hurt the leaders and our church family when we left — and their response to our departure hurt us.
That was eight years ago.
Since then, life has gone on. It has been made clear to us in so many ways that the correct decision was made.
We only wish it had been received with more grace and understanding – and to be perfectly honest, we could have handled our end of it with more grace and understanding too.
Hindsight, as they say, is a beautiful thing. After eight years, I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned a few lessons along the way.
• Leaving a church should be bathed in prayer and done as peacefully and kindly as possible. This can be hard when you are hurt and you want to defend yourself, but it is essential.
• People will want to know the ‘whole’ story. This is where Pat and I got tripped up. We explained ourselves to too many people and it kept the wound open. There were a few who did not have our best interests at heart. They stirred the pot.
• On the other end, when folks leave our churches, we must be kingdom-minded, understanding that we are all on the same team, no matter whose bench we are sitting on.
• We are the Body of Christ and not members of a closed circle. God will move people on to other churches for His purposes. We must respect the decision to leave and keep the return door open. No burned bridges, no severed ties.
• When we are hurt, it may be tempting to give up church altogether and even confuse God with the behaviors of His children. We can’t allow that to happen.
• The Lord has chosen the Body of Christ, His bride, to meet together regularly to be the incubator for growing, developing Christians. The church is God’s idea, and He protects it faithfully even though He is often saddened by its behavior.
• Yes, there are difficult folks in the church, but grace-filled, loving, and forgiving people can be found there too. We have to seek them out and ask God for the courage to put down roots again.
As for us, we are happily settled in our new church home and in time, the hurts faded. It took a while, but forgiveness & reconciliation have mended the broken relationships. God is so faithful to His children.
Sweet friend, if you have been hurt by the church, take heart. Don’t give up and trust in God’s plan. There is a place for you in the Body of Christ.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” — Colossians 3:12-20
Laura loves to encourage, equip, and connect with women of all ages and stages. She blogs at laura-acuna. She’s also a speaker at Christian women’s gatherings – conferences, workshops, MOPS groups, retreats, leadership training events, etc. You can also follow her on Twitter.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I am relearning life without a microwave.
It didn’t seem like a big deal when my husband took out the microwave for some kitchen remodeling. I can make adjustments like using the tea kettle to heat the water for my hot tea in the morning but the convenience of fast is part of our life today.
A new reality hit me the first night I went to reheat leftovers: I couldn’t act on impulse with our meals. I needed to think ahead. When we were a family of four, I could tell you Monday what we were going to have for dinner Thursday. I planned ahead for our evening meals.
The last few weeks have been back to thinking ahead. Back to deliberate intention rather than the impulsive whim for what’s easiest. The left over yellow rice I want to combine with black beans is brought to room temperature before adding the beans and heating in a pot on the stove.
This process is slow and I’m a person who likes quick action. We are accustomed to immediate information from a 24-hour news service. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat are all playing life as it happens and it’s all happening now.
It’s as if our lives are microwaved. We’re living at warp speed yet we’re demanding faster when it takes 30 seconds for a website to come up.
All of this speed makes it harder for me to wait on God. God is not bound by time and is not to be rushed. He holds time in his hands but moves in what seems to be a slowness to me. He is deliberate and intentional with his work.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NIV
Jesus has promised to return. He has promised to take us with him. He has promised us heaven, with him, forever.
The answers to our prayers come painfully slow. We are not a waiting people and I, I am not trusting in His slow work. We have missed the love for us shown in His patience.
Today, let me trust in His slow work. The work that is for me, a hurried child impatient for home.
Peter Gabriel’s voice sang low and pleading, the words “mercy, mercy, looking for mercy….” (Mercy Street, 1986) It’s a lovely and haunting melody that conveys the heart that searches for compassion, desperate for forgiveness when none is deserved. Mercy.
The Psalmist pleads for mercy over and over as did Job when he said “I could only plead for mercy” (Job 9:15)
As a child, I was instructed the altar, the wooden structure with a cushion for the knees, was not a place to play. You didn’t stand on it, run on it or sit on it. You came here to kneel and pray. This was serious business when you come in front of the congregation to kneel at this place. At times, my parents called it the mercy seat.
I didn’t know what mercy was, but I knew it was serious. It was personal stuff and some people cried when they knelt and prayed but they all seemed to feel better after spending time at this mercy seat. Some of them scared me as a child, their emotions so……loud. But mostly, folks were quiet when they knelt there.
We don’t call it the mercy seat much these days but it is. I know God’s mercy isn’t confined to a particular place but I love the symbolism of it. The tangible where we can physically bow our bodies and heart, humble and quiet ourselves to beg of God, “have mercy on me and hear my prayer” Psalm 4:1. Psalm 25:6, “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.”
It’s the close of another service. The message ended with a compelling video that described who God is and asked “I wonder, do you know him?” Henry knelt at the alter asking those who wanted to come pray with him. And I saw Lloyd. In his chair, at the end of the row next to a window, he got out of his chair, turned and knelt. Right there. It was one of those moments I wanted to photograph, not with a camera because it would be one dimensional. No photo could show the meaning of this simple motion. My heart has captured it and replayed it. To see his tall frame, dark skin and bright smile, quietly slip out of his seat, turn and kneel, head bowed over that chair. His mercy seat.
It’s how our services end each Sunday, with Henry asking, “Pray with me?” and with more men going forward than is room at our Mercy Seat so they crowd around and make their own space. Some kneeling at their chairs, some standing in the back, a visual sign of unity in prayer.
God’s mercy is free and freely given.
We were at a dinner at a place we both enjoy. A television screen in the bar area was showing a soccer game, or so I thought, when I noticed the headline underneath: BREAKING NEWS. That headline is used so often on our local stations that it could have meant a traffic jam on the interstate. Instead, it was actual news this time, of the devastating terror attack in Paris.
At home, I clicked on CNN to get details of what was going on. We’re an informed people these days, we are.
I’d shown my support like we all do these days. I’d taken to social media, uploaded an image to Instagram with trending hashtag #prayforparis
This morning, we watched from bed any new developments of this tragedy. A couple of interviews with ‘intelligence’ types, reporters who have descended on Paris, the requisite video taken from mobile devices and an account from a survivor.
We had our debate as to the line between giving the terrorists the publicity they must want and the information the public needs. Wants and needs, always a fine line.
All the while this is playing I’m on Twitter to see the latest there. I found what I needed, not what I expected. It was on Andy Crouch’s feed and simply said The Media and the Massacre, #silent and a link to a post. Silent? I was intrigued. I clicked the link.
At first I was confused as the name mentioned wasn’t connected at all with the Paris attacks and I realized this post was written after the assault on the elementary school in Connecticut. Another time we were drawn to our televisions and couldn’t get enough news about this unspeakable act we’d continue to speak about.
“The quest for more talk, more images, more footage (none of which would ever satisfy our lust for understanding, no matter how graphic police and producers allowed them to become) is rarely about the quest to more deeply contemplate the brokenness of the world—it is the quest to not contemplate it.” Andy Crouch
Crouch hits us hard with these words. He gets it. He gets us. We’d rather think talking is doing when talking is only talk. I suspect it sounds a lot like the teacher in Charlie Brown: “WAH, WAH, WAH.”
“…the only thing that we who are not first responders, pastors, or parents in that community needed to do at that moment: to pray, which is to say, to put ourselves at the mercy of God and hold those who harmed and those who were harmed before the mercy of God.” Andy Crouch
Prayer is mostly silent. Sometimes it looks like folks gathered with candles, singing, but mostly it’s silent.
Mr. Crouch has given us good counsel here. He’s reminded us of the power of presence, even when it seems silence. He reminds us of the one named Immanuel: God with us. Even in his quiet ways, He is here.
God is good, God is great, let us thank him for our food. Amen
That’s the prayer we said as children, every time we sat at the table for a meal. It was rote, the words coming out automatically, our duty performed.
When Charlie prayed in church he used the old words. He said Thou and Thee but we knew it was his way, the way he’d learned and we knew they were words from his heart.
I stumble and bumble with prayers, especially the ones in my head. I’ve practiced different methods and formulas of personal prayers. Generally, I feel lost, wondering how to pray for things God knows more about than I do. Wondering why the bible says to pray without ceasing when my prayers seem to fall heavy on the hard floor.
Anne Lamott wrote a book titled, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. That seems a concise summation of our prayers.
She says, “So prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light. It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by a light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold.”
Sometimes I need to hear a friend talk. I just want to listen. Maybe that’s why God wants to hear our prayers. He’s not expecting profound thoughts or expensive words. He knows our hearts, our minds, our needs and desires. He knows everything we will say, yet, he wants to hear the words. The stumbling words that aren’t enough. The repetition of request for health and direction. The confession of the same things over and over.
We know it as the Lord’s Prayer. Eugene Peterson says it this way in the Message:
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.” Matthew 6:7-13 the Message
And then I need to listen.
linking up with Holly Gerth and other bloggers offering encouragement through their words.
It wasn’t the typical Sunday morning but I’m not quite sure what typical means some days. My sister was visiting and going with us to chapel service, her first in the recovery community. Hudson was leaving town immediately following the service and before I walked out of our house I had a message from a friend in another town asking our men to pray for JW.
As I set up the computer for the media another message flashed across my screen: please pray for JR’s wife and then the needs of another not asking for prayer but I knew it was needed.
Every week there are those sitting in silence, doubting prayer, wondering why theirs wasn’t answered or if they should even ask for prayer. We’ve all trivialized our problems because those of another sounds greater. We’ve sulked because we’re still waiting for the last 10 prayers to be answered and now we aren’t even sure we believe.
It stays in my mind, this woman of the faith who has never met one of the men she has asked to pray. She knows of their brokeness, of the reasons they’ve had to put humility aside and walk through our doors. She’s heard me tell the stories and these are the ones she wants to pray, for one they don’t know either.
My faith is shallow and impatient. It doesn’t wait long and its doubt comes quick. My faith reaches to people I know, I’ve seen their lives and heard their hearts and maybe, maybe, I’ll whisper my need to them.
I know these men and I know God and I know the broken are just the ones God uses to crash my arrogance and pride. I know he hears the hearts of those whose hearts beat for Him and nothing beats louder than a heart needing to be made new.
We prayed for the known and the unknown. Some are praying still. I don’t understand the mystery of prayer. I’m not too good at it, at least the way it seems it should be done. I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope I’m wrong that it needs to be always done on my knees in a quiet room with no distractions and no less than 10 minutes, preferably 15 minutes. Doesn’t that sound right?
You thank and praise, which seem the same to me but I heard someone say they’re different and you should include both in your prayers.
You admit and request and you wrap it all in gratitude and that I know it right because how can I not be grateful to the One who somehow holds it all.
Mostly I pray in spurts. In the moment as it comes to me like seeing a request on Facebook and sometimes I touch the screen and say a prayer. I know I’ll forget if I don’t say it just then.
I pray with my eyes open a lot because I’m driving or at my desk or someone comes to mind while I’m cooking. It always too little but God isn’t the one measuring prayers by word count or eyes closed.
I don’t know why she asked a group of strangers, men with addiction problems, to pray for her friend. I do know God has heard their prayers. I know her faith in God is why she asked and not her faith in people. I know her faith has helped strengthen mine.