Friday, July 12, 2013

Prayer and Peace

Y'all, sometimes I just don't know how much this mama's heart can take.  I have watched two of my children lose their jobs since December.  They have called me on the phone numerous times from hundreds of miles away, crying, leaving me feeling so helpless to help.  One had to have surgery.  And just this week, two of my girls suffered some hefty disappointments concerning the direction of their lives and it just pains me to see them hurting and, seemingly, not succeeding in their pursuits.  Thankfully, we know and have learned that His grace is sufficient in these times.  And, as a family who strives to trust and serve God, we know and firmly believe that "...ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."  I find it difficult though, if I am to be totally honest, to give thanks in every thing during these times as He has commanded us to do.  How can I give thanks when I see them suffering so much heartache?  It is so hard to be patient while the Lord works His perfect will in their lives.  Their burdens become mine.  I hurt when they hurt.  And it is overwhelming at times and I am left to feel helpless to do anything.  Anything but pray, anyway.  I believe that it is the most precious gift we can gift our children, aside from leading them to Christ for salvation.  It is the means by which we show our faith and trust in the God of all hope.  It is the way that we invite our loving, caring God to do His work in their lives.  I remember one particular time of trials a few years, when we prayed and prayed, and watched as God provided and answered those prayers.  It was such a relief and I thought, "Finally, some relief!"  But then a few days later, there were new trials and I just remember walking down the sidewalk, talking with Mister and thinking, “We cannot seem to catch a break!  Will there ever be a time when we're not praying and seeking God's face?  Will there ever be a time when we're not facing some struggle or another?”  And now I know that the answer is 'no'.  Why?  Well, Job said it best when he said, "Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble."  It’s just the way it is.

Truth be told, sometimes I just wish everybody could just get settled and I could rest a while.  I’m so tired.  Yes, they are adults now, living their own lives. But that doesn’t mean I have stopped being their mama.   I'm pretty sure that with five children, I'll spend the rest of my life on my knees praying for God's hand on their lives.  And that’s okay.  It’s something I’ve come to realize is woven into the tapestry of my life.  It is one of the single most important tasks I am faced with on a regular basis.  Honestly, prayer keeps me centered, keeps me sane, and keeps me from completely giving up.  Why?  Well, it’s like this.  I am a list-maker because it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and it helps me accomplish many tasks in a timely manner.  It may seem a strange analogy, but when I have a lot of things on my mind, it really helps to write all of those things on a piece of paper.  And I do mean literally write them down.  I don’t do note-taking on my tablet or other electronic device.  It has to be written in ink on a piece of paper.  It’s how I de-clutter my mind, and thus de-stress.  It’s like I can just let go of it all if it’s written down, and by letting go, I’m prepared to do what needs to be done because it’s no longer a distraction.  I don’t have to keep thinking about it.  Somehow, by writing it down, order seems to come into my thoughts and actions.  Prayer is much the same.  God says that we are to be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  Essentially He is telling us not to be full of care, not to be distracted, and not to take thought for even one tiny little thing.  He also instructs us in “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”  He’s pretty much telling us to deliberately throw all of our anxious concerns and all of life’s distractions on Him because we matter to Him.  Anything that causes us care or concern, He wants to take that from us at our offering and in exchange give us quietness and rest of the heart and mind.  In actuality, He wants to set the heart and mind at one again.  Think about what goes on in your mind and the anxiousness of your heart when faced with burdens and trials!  Such turmoil!  It’s like a war inside.  And, as we talked about last time, so much noise!  God wants to quiet that noise, be at the forefront of your battles, guarding and protecting you, and bring calmness into your life.  That’s like list-making to clear the mind.  When we pray, we are clearing the heart and mind of all the burdens that weigh us down.

Through all of our trials in the past few years, I have learned to pray like never before.  Having little ones around was nothing compared to having adult children, I can assure you!  Dirty diapers, clutter, and the constant hovering over them as they got into everything under the sun was nothing as I have witnessed them become independent from their daddy and me.  It is during these times, though, that I have learned to trust more, let go more fully, and watch God work in their lives.  I have to say that I have seen God do some amazing things during these difficult days when so much effort was put into praying for them.  So much so that one of the kids that lost his job now has a job in a great department and has been shown great favor by those he works under.  He is married now and is buying a house for his new bride.  A house and FIVE acres!  All of this has happened within about five month’s time and it’s amazing to look back at those days back in December when it seemed like his world was crashing down around him.  This brings me to fully realize what David so passionately declared, and that is yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.  The Lord has also provided for every need, every bill, and every bed to lay a head on.  And, sometimes, a little extra thrown in.  As my grandma used to say, they were never broke, just badly bent!  God did not, has not, nor will He ever retreat from them, leave them behind, nor give up on them.  He is not in the habit of giving over control of the lives of the righteous over to anybody or anything.  He won’t ever loosen His grasp on them even one tiny bit, fail them, nor leave them destitute.  

There are still many needs facing our children and I am certain that as they continue to mature into responsible adults and, more importantly, spiritually mature Christians, the trials and tribulations they face will continue and may become, well, more severe.  But that’s something to address another day because we are told to take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Regardless of what tomorrow may bring, I know that I can trust the lives of my children to His care and that is why I pray for them. 

Love in Christ, 



Saturday, July 6, 2013

Turning Off the Noise

On a recent evening, I got tired of the noise from the television and clicked the red button on the remote to turn it off, mostly because I wanted to read a magazine and could not focus.  When I did, I made a startling discovery.  There was a bird singing a beautiful song in the woods at the end of our street.  I had not heard it with the TV on.  It was a sweet sound indeed and brought me back in time to summer evenings spent outside playing as a child.  I lay there lost in my childhood for a few minutes, and then I began to wonder what the bird has singing about.  As time passed and I sat in the quiet of my room, the bird’s song gave way to the sound of peepers and the critters that only come out at night.  It was then that I realized I would have missed that bird’s song if I hadn’t turned off the television.  I sadly realized that I don’t often take the time to sit in the quiet and listen to those sweet sounds.

Noise.  It’s something we live with every day of our lives, from the people around us to the radio to the television.  A phone ringing, the toilet flushing and the dishwasher running, even the buzz of an electric toothbrush!  The hush of a pen as it brushes across a piece of paper is a sound I love to hear.   There are important noises in our lives, though, not just the irritating ones.  The cry of a distressed child allows us to know they need comforting.  Hearing someone we care about tell us how much they love and miss us when they are far away.  And, of course, hearing the word of God preached brings the sinner to repentance and strengthens the believer.  But we have grown so accustomed to the noise around us that we tune most of it out and do not realize that we have little times of quiet in life.  We live with lots of noise and little quiet.  It’s as if the noise absorbs us and we become a part of it.  Sometimes it is as if a great swirling ocean of waves surrounds us, sucks us in, and just becomes “how it is”.  Other times, life is a constant crashing of waves on the shore that becomes a part of life,  making us soon we forget that there ever was anything such as quiet, causing us to miss too many beautifully peaceful moments in life.

Sometimes, though, it isn’t just the constant sounds around us that keep us from enjoying peace and quiet.  Our minds become a cacophony of things to do, problems and situations well beyond our control that we are trying to solve, and the overwhelming realization that we are just TIRED and, sadly, there is no end in sight.  No rest.  No peace.  Nothing but a busy, noisy, life.  Things of life just swirl round and round, like a whirlpool, constant motion and roaring, always pulling us downward, drowning us.  And if we scream for help, no one is there to help us because they are caught up in their own noisy whirlpool.  How many of us go to bed every night and cannot sleep because our brains, like the whirlpool, “just won’t stop”?  The noises of the mind are worse than any outward noises we deal with every day.  Most of those we can walk away from, turn off, or unplug.  Too bad we can’t do that with the noises in our minds!  Or can't we? 

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

If you read this entire Psalm, it begins with the Psalmist telling of his trust in God, even if he were surrounded on all sides by turmoil, the world crashing down around him.  He declares that God is a refuge, strength, and help in trouble.  Twice he proclaims that “the LORD of hosts is with us”.  And in conclusion is a commanded to come to a state where we let go and realize just who is in control.  God commands us to cease from our worry, let go of fear, admit our weakness and dependence on Him, and to acknowledge that He is in control of everything.  We have the choice of being consumed by the noise of our thoughts and lives or living in complete and total trust of God. 
This verse does not mean that we stop and just sit.  It's an invitation to enjoy the calmness and quiet that accompanies a familiar, trusting relationship with God.  Notice the order the command:  be still and know.  We can't know what He is capable of until we let go and allow Him to work.  If we were to know before we let go, what kind of faith is that?  It isn't.  Some people call it blind faith.  I don't know about all that, but I do know that it's when we are blind that He allows us to see.  Those who think they must see to be able to know are truly the blinded ones.  When we can admit that we know little or nothing is the time that we are best able to learn.  And when we can admit that we don't have the slightest clue about how to fix all of the problems in our lives, that is when we come to know that we can truly trust God.  In other words, being still leads to knowing we can trust Him.  Without all of the fear and worry making all sorts of noise in life, we are able to focus on Him.  We are able to recognize that He is there because the distractions are gone.  Just as I could not hear the bird singing until I turned off the television, we cannot notice God at work until we quiet our minds.

So I want to challenge you for the next time you are tempted to let the noise of life take over.  Remember that life and the mind do not have to be whirlpools of constant thought, filled with the noise of fear and worry and dread.  You have the power switch to turn off all of that noise and enjoy, like I was able to, peace, quiet, and a beautiful song.  It's just a matter of being willing to be still and know.
Love in Christ,