Abiding Prayer

Image

 

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  (John 15:7)

I remember learning as a tiny child that when we pray, God can answer three ways: yes, no or wait.  And I remember thinking as a tiny (and apparently already cynical) child that “wait” seemed like a cop out answer—and that maybe it was our way of rationalizing when God didn’t really answer at all.

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher had her baby too soon.  As this tiny boy struggled in the hospital, I took to praying like I never had before.  I curled under the blankets on the top bunk and poured out my little heart to God.  I begged for this baby’s life to be spared.  I prayed more specifically, more persistently, more passionately than I ever had before.  I asked with all the earnestness and sincerity of faith that a nine year old could muster (which, in retrospect, I think is quite a lot).

A few days later, the baby died.  Some would say that God answered my prayer with a no.  But here’s the thing.  I found something there, in those honest, pleading moments that I hadn’t experienced before.  It was a closeness, a connection, an intensity that words can’t quite capture.  And I wanted more.  Jesus might have answered my prayer with a no, but he also answered my prayer with himself.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the nature of abiding prayer.  Sometimes the answer is yes.  Sometimes no.  Sometimes not now (or not yet, or wait).  But the answer is always Jesus.  His grace for our shortcomings.  His peace for our anxiety.  His love for our judgment.  His power for our desperation.  His presence in our joy and grief, our passion and apathy, our striving and letting go.

What are you praying for tonight?  If you are living in Christ and allowing his words to live in you, be encouraged.  Pray.  Ask.  He is the answer.

Throwback Thursday: Lament

Twice in my life, I’ve set out to write a lament.  This is the second one (from a study of the Psalms that we were doing at church/small group a few years ago).  I loved finding it this week, because the night that I shared these thoughts with my small group, I was trying to be all vague, and they totally called me on it.  “My dream” was my daughter.  Those small group friends stood with me from that night of lament until she appeared on my doorstep… praying me through the waiting and welcoming her with open arms (and a whole lot of presents!).  So it’s a lament with a happy ending.

 

Why are you so slow?

I’m tired.

I’ve run and run and run.

I’ve tried to listen, to do the right thing,

to be obedient

And still my dream, my desire is just out of reach.

Am I being unreasonable?

I look around and see a world living my dream.

What have they done that I have not?

It’s not fair.

And I am jealous

And angry

And ashamed.

But my memory is short.

Your time is best.

You were there with Abraham and Isaac

Faithful ones,

Prepared for sacrifice

And at the last minute, a reprieve.

The dream, the promised child

spared.

You were there with Your Son in a garden, on his knees

Faithful One,

Prepared for sacrifice

And at the last minute, redemption.

The dream, the promised child’s blood spilled

For me

For Yours.

You were there with me, pleading in the night for the little ones

And in the morning, sometimes joy

and sometimes heartbreak

But always grace,

More-than-enough grace from a

More-than-enough God.

Grace to trust.

Grace to stop running.

Grace to keep listening, and doing the right thing

and being obedient.

Grace to be honest and to rest

To rest, even in the

waiting.

The Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before I Adopted

10.  You will torture yourself with the question “is she mine yet?”  You will feel like you are playing house (maybe for a very long time) and wonder when the honeymoon will end.  Don’t worry, it will.  One day you’ll be stuffing her into the backseat of your car kicking and screaming and you’ll know that only her “real” mom would love her enough to not give in.  One day she’ll snuggle close and say, unprompted, “I love you, Mom,” and you’ll know that only her “real” mom would cry like a big sap at the sound of those words.  She’s yours.  She will be yours.  Don’t sweat it.

9.  Someone invented FMLA for a reason.  It’s ok to take all the time you can to bond with your child.  It’s also ok to send your child to school or daycare and take time to adjust to your new reality.  You can’t be a good mama if you don’t take care of yourself.  For real.

8. 60% of adoptive parents experience post-adoption depression.  I know you think this won’t be you.  You chose this path (and jumped through a lot of hoops to prove that you would be a good parent).  You got what you wanted.  Everyone else is happy.  It’s ok if you’re not.  Find a support group.  Find a therapist.  You did not make a mistake.  It will get better.

7. You will grieve.  Maybe for the biological babies you will never have.  Maybe for the loss of the dream child you imagined.  Maybe for the time “lost” while your child was not in your home.  It’s ok to own this, and to let your child see you express your grief in appropriate, healthy ways.

6. In some ways, adopting an older child may feel easy.  You might get to skip the potty training, sleep training, picky eating phases.  Be happy about that… I hear it’s not fun. 🙂

5. Nature matters.  When you adopt, you will be forever bound to another mom, a first mom, who (whatever other choices she made) chose life for your child.  You will know this deep in your bones.  It’s ok to speak her name.  To pray for her.  To tell your child the truth about her.

4. Nurture matters.  No matter how old your child is, hug them and hold them and tickle them and look into their eyes and smile (if they will let you do these things).  Tell them that they are beautiful and smart and resilient and full of endless potential.  These things might feel easy and natural to you.  Or they might not.  In the latter case, suck it up.  Do them anyway.

3. Lots of those people who say, “let me know if I can do anything,” really mean it.  Take mental notes.  I know it rails against every self-sufficient bone in your body to call them and tell them that you need dinner delivered or walls painted or grown-up conversation or five minutes peace.  Do it.  It will make them feel useful.  It will help keep you sane.

2. People will say stupid stuff to you and your kid.  For the most part, they are good people.  Model being nice to them—it’s fine to try to educate them about adoption or politely decline to answer their questions.  But never, ever let someone suggest that your child is not “your own” without making it absolutely clear that they are.  This can be awkward.  Trust me, your kid is more important than the awkwardness.

1. Adoption is beautiful.  It is a journey of hope, redemption, joy and forever love.  Surround yourself with people who get that.  Savor the beautiful moments.  Write them down.  Hold them close to your heart.  Breathe deeply and know that your family is beautiful.

Abide

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my six year old about September 11.  She had heard whispers at school, and I am a big believer that she should be able to hear the truth about hard things from me and process it in the context of our worldview and secure relationship.  So I held her.  And we talked.  She had a lot of questions and I bumbled my way through.  But this is the truth that I needed her to hear that night:  It was ugly.  And God was there.  The Man of Sorrows, the one well acquainted with grief, was present.  I held my baby close and willed her to know this, to remember this, if nothing else.  He was there.

It’s easy to look around and see ugly.  But the truth is that sometimes we look inside and see ugly too.  I’ve been there, and if you’ve been around long enough, I bet you have too.

I stand in front of my dear friend, begging her to pray away the sin that I thought Jesus delivered me from ten years ago.  I kneel, intent on working this out, on getting through to God, and no words come.  Literally, no words.  I am doing everything right, and I feel nothing.

It is ugly.  And God is here too.  The God-Man, tempted in every way yet without sin, is present.

The word “abide” in John 15 can also be translated as “tarry” or “endure.”

When we look around and see ugly, when we look inside and see ugly and we choose still to tarry, to endure.  When we choose not to run after a mountaintop experience that will make us feel better.  When we choose to be present in the ugliness and to believe, deep in our bones, that God is here too.  This is what it means to abide.

Bookshelf: The Big Truck That Went By

The full title of this one is The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.  Honestly, you had me at Haiti (surprise!).

This book is Jonathan Katz’s story of working as an American journalist in Haiti from the earthquake in January 2010 through the presidential elections in early 2012 (right before I visited in April 2012, so I was definitely hooked).  Katz intersperses his own personal experiences with a ton of information on the bigger story of what was happening in the country during this time.

Part memoir, part historical account (think Melissa Fay Greene’s There is No Me without You), part critique of the distribution of foreign aid in the wake of the “acute on chronic” disaster in Haiti (think When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert), the author’s presence in Haiti before the earthquake gives him a unique perspective.  If you gave money for earthquake relief in Haiti, his is a voice that needs to be heard.

The personal story and Katz’s clear care for his Haitian friends makes the harder-to-swallow historical and political information more palatable.  His critique of the emergency aid provided (and not provided) by countries like the US is well-reasoned and sparks questions that need to be considered.  And who doesn’t enjoy a good love story amidst the physical and psychological rubble of a natural disaster?

Especially recommended for my friends who are invested in good work happening in Haiti, this book is worth a read if you want to think deeply about the best way to put your compassion into action without creating a big old mess.

You are already clean

I like big words.  And words with subtle shades of meaning.  And Hebrew or Greek words that provide context that doesn’t translate into English.  I am listening hard today.  There are lots of words here, in this truth being spoken from John 15.  Abide.  Vinedresser.  Prune.  Justification.  Sanctification.  I jot some notes, but I am listening not for three points and a practical application.  I’m listening for the tiny echo that tells me that this is where my heart and mind must rest, must settle, today.

The words aren’t big.  Or complex.  But I hear them spoken, I read them, and they echo.

You are already clean.

But, Jesus, if foot washing is good, go ahead and hose me down!

You are already clean.

But, look at him.  Look at her.  I am not enough.  I don’t measure up.

You are already clean.

But, what do I have to DO?  I am really, really good at doing things.

You are already clean.

But, I can’t take this bread, this cup.  They cost too much.  I don’t deserve them.

You are already clean.

The big words can wait.  They must wait.  As my trembling hands reach out for this bread, this cup, I know that these are the words, this is the Word, for me today.

You are already clean.

Throwback Thursday: Down the Mountain

(Originally written about 7 years ago…)

“Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Luke 9:33)

As a child, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration was always one that left me baffled, wondering what lesson I was supposed to be learning from this unique (and, honestly, scary) encounter.  It’s interesting, though, that as I continue to read and meditate on God’s word, He uses the circumstances of my life to help me experience His truth in new and life-altering ways. 

Get the picture in your mind…  Jesus takes three of His closest friends up on a mountain, away from the crowds of needy people begging for their attention.  They spend time praying and experience God’s presence in a powerful, new way.  An overwhelmed Peter makes a seemingly reasonable request.  “Wow, Jesus… this is amazing!  Let’s just set up camp right here.  Let’s build some shelters and we can settle down, for a while at least!”  But the Bible says that Peter, however well intentioned he might have been, spoke out of ignorance.  I can imagine Jesus gently persuading him to put down his hammer and make the long trek back into town.

So often, in my own ignorance, I make the same request that Peter did.  For me, the “mountaintop experience” might be a retreat where God moves powerfully or a worship service where I sense His presence in a strong way, or a time of personal devotion where God has done a deep work inside of me.  I, like Peter, come face to face with the reality of who God is, and I want to stay there, in that place, for a while at least.  But, inevitably, the retreat ends and I must go home, the worship service is brought to a close, my time alone with God is interrupted.  I am thrust again into a busy world full of needy people begging for my attention.  And then what? 

Do I allow my encounters with the living God to impact the way that I live my life?  Am I a better teacher or a more compassionate friend because of my experiences?  Do I come closer to seeing myself and other people the way that Christ does?  Can others tell that my priorities have changed because of the way that I spend my time, energy and money?

Peter had more important work to do than building shelters on a mountain.  God wanted to use him to cast out demons and heal the sick in Jesus’ name, to preach Christ’s truth and grace to those who were spiritually hungry, to help found the Christian church against which the gates of hell cannot, and will not, prevail. 

I wonder what important work God has for us to do when we slow down enough to listen to His gentle persuasion?  Please don’t misunderstand my point… remembering is good.  Praising God for our experiences and His powerful work in our lives is important.  But let’s not get stuck there.  Let’s put down our hammer and walk back down that mountain.  And let’s embrace our challenge, our call, to allow our genuine encounters with Christ to transform the way that we live our lives.