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Monthly Archives: March 2012

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How God Sometimes Uses Prayer

Tuesday morning, 10am. I knock. She answers. Her little black head-covering used to speak more loudly, but that was back before I really knew her, when I barely knew her name.

She offers me a seat at the table and hands me some coffee. We have a new knowing, a comfortable friendliness that reaches into the quieter places in my soul and fills me with a different kind of quiet. As if the unruffled still of her heart has leaked out and into her home, around the table where I now sit, and it touches me, too. So I embrace this quiet calm that exudes from her home, from her very demeanor. A new friend, different from every other friend I have ever known but comfortable just the same.

She opens her home to me every other Tuesday. We talk about family, about life, about school. And we pray together.

It’s a stretch for her, a new experience to pray out loud. She grew up Amish and only ever prayed in silence until the past few years. Now she lives differently, knows Jesus’ grace with authentic faith. Her quiet spirit offers hushed tones of reverence as she offers our Heavenly Father the requests we’ve spoken of. And God uses the repose of her voice to remind me that He is ever-so-worthy of silent awe.

I think of how often I approach Him with almost a casual rudeness. As if our familiarity somehow allows for irreverence. How easily I forget that the One I approach is Creator God, Almighty King, my Heavenly Father. I often lose sight of the amazed when I think of how He knows me and loves me anyway. Somehow I get all caught up in me and forget it’s all about Him, this love He has for me.

I sit with my eyes closed at this table with my friend, and my heart stills. The reverence of the One in Whose Presence we now sit, mixed with the warm cozy of my friend’s kitchen feels like a perfect formula for authentic awe. I sit with my head bowed and my hands in my lap, and I soak it all in. I ask God for His mercy, beg Father for His help, that I might not forget the still, the awe, the wonder that is Him.

I drive home after our hour together, my friend’s and mine. And my heart feels content, ready for the work that will greet me at the door. I think of the things we prayed about, the requests we offered to God Himself. I wonder how He’ll answer each one. And then it hits me: today He used prayer to show me what He likes. This morning, He used my friend’s hushed and reverent praying to show me more of Who He is, more of what He wants from me.

And I am in awe at how perfectly He works.

Momma Hearts and Kids That Sing to Jesus

When young voices offer praise to Jesus, something deep in my soul wakes up. I grab my camera, snap a picture then take a video to capture the fullness of the moment. But the photo doesn’t record the whole of the moment. The video doesn’t register the part of me that’s now awake to joy I did not know until I heard my own children sing the words. Until I saw my own kids offer gestures of worship with their hands.

“Jesus, You’re my Master and my King. Jesus, You’re my Lord, my everything.”

I watch with eyes now filling with tears that have made their way up from that newly awakened part of my core. My heart feels full. Not heavy, but full of feelings that don’t have descriptions, emotions that flow underneath the current of my everyday disposition. This is real joy, I think. Real joy for momma hearts.

Children’s voices fill the sanctuary, their hands move up and open. My heart does too. It sings and it soars, and I find myself led into worship by children. God draws me to Himself with the lips of little ones whom He has chosen and in whom He delights so completely. Baby people who love Him so much they’ll stand up and sing it loudly, boldly, joyfully.

. . . He has filled our hearts with wonder so that we always remember you and I were made to worship . . . (from Made to Worship by Chris Tomlin)

Hearts filled with wonder, fifty-some children raise their voices and their hands in unison, and my heart follows suit.

Because there is something about kids singing their hearts out to Jesus that touches my own heart in ways that nothing else can. There is something about knowing that my daughters realize enough of their own need for Almighty God to sing songs that say as much. To lift hands and offer praise for the love He offers to them.

My momma-heart swells big with joy that feels something like pride. It beats hard and fast as I take it all in, this child-like faith times fifty, these child voices filling the air with God-praise. I imagine heaven pausing for a moment and joining in as the praises of these children reach the ears of the saints, the throne of Almighty God Himself. And I feel His delight as He basks in the wonder of children that sing to Him.

Book Review: You’re Already Amazing

It arrived in my mailbox three weeks ago, this book. I’d signed up to review it, and it came right on time.

You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be, by Holley Gerth. “Wow!” I thought, “pretty big promise for 193 pages.” I mean, really, anyone who reads this is to believe that she is already amazing by the end of the book? Really? Already amazing?

I finally sat down with the book a few days later, ready to conquer the read. But the conquer turned into a deep conversation with God about how He had made me, what He has made me to do and how very pleased He is with me. Yes, even me!

From Chapter One, I felt like Holley invited me into her life for the express purpose of truly encouraging me. You know, the kind that doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself, but the kind that emboldens and empowers you to do something. Yeah, I can honestly say that God has used Holley Gerth’s true encouragement to embolden me to be who God made me and to enjoy it, too. To embrace it. To trust that He is using me, even in the right now, even in the I-haven’t-showered-and-my-kids-are-driving-me-nuts-and-I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-gonna’-make-for-dinner days. God used Holley’s words to show me the places that Jesus shines through me, even when I feel like the only shine I project is the sweaty forehead kind.

A book and a workbook sort of all wrapped up in one, You’re Already Amazing walks the reader through different sorts of self-discovery. Remember those Seventeen Magazine quizzes we used to take to find out important things about ourselves like how our sock color predicted who we were going to marry? Man, I used to love those things! Didn’t you? Well, Holley has sprinkled little self-discovery quizzes (she calls them tools) throughout the book that help us figure out some things that are actually important. Like how we approach emotions, where God has us right now and what He might be doing in the midst of it, how we relate socially, and what kinds of things emotionally energize / spend us. The thing about these quizzes is not necessarily the scoring (remember skewing the answers according to the “what it means” part just so it would say you were going to marry the hot football star?). Rather, the tools throughout the book help us see more clearly through God’s eyes so that we might realize the specific purpose for which God has created us. So we can be more intentional “about how God wants (us) to express love through (our) live(s).” (p 134)

And in the discovery, I found God repeating over and over and over again the truth that He made me for a specific purpose. Nobody else in all of life is exactly like me. So I can quit chasing my dreams in relation to others’ successes. I can stop wondering if I’m going to make a difference in the world, because I have been made into a new creation and I have Jesus Christ, God Himself, living in me making everything I do shine for Him. He is using me to make Himself famous in a completely different way than He is using anyone else.

You’re already enough because Jesus is enough in you. You’re loved, accepted, set free to live your LIFE to the fullest. (p137)

And that sentence, my friend, sums up You’re Already Amazing. Because Creator God makes us new through Jesus Christ, we are FREE to live. Really and truly live. Just as He made us to live.

It’s a great book for all women, I believe. Because all of us struggle with questions about what God wants us to do. Each of us wonders at some point or another why He has us where He does and exactly how it lines up with His plan. And so, I highly recommend You’re Already Amazing. Holley’s writing style draws the reader in from Chapter One and all the way through. The truth she writes challenges in easy but bold ways so that we find ourselves wanting more truth, more tools to help us know how God is using us in His plan.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Seventeen Magazines to catch up on…

p.s. You can find Holley Gerth’s sweet, easy to read and at the same time very true words regularly here and here. And the book is on sale here right now for $9 (in case you haven’t yet clicked the link at the top).

To Display His Beauty

Sometimes Monday comes hurried and unyielding, like a crash of insanity that whips me around and leaves me disoriented before the week has really even begun.  Other weeks, Monday brings the scent of new opportunities, refreshed perspective, renewed hope for what is to come.

It came in with a fog today. Thick and heavy, but unseasonably warm, this week’s Monday brings different hope, colorful unknowns, like an almost-rainbow after a far-off rain.

I started fresh routines amid the hint of old ones, fell into a new normal. I got out of bed before 6:30 and actually worked out. I found my coffee after showering, prayed for my daughter’s Monday-allergy, sent her off even with a sore throat because that’s the rule: no fever = go to school.

I laid my day out before the One Who gave it to me, offering Him my hands, my thoughts, my very me. He sang me a song.

Oh. How He loves us. Oh. Oh, how He loves us. How He loves us. Oh…. (David Crowder Band)

I thought of the sun that burned off the fog and grabbed my camera to help investigate more of the new day that lay before me.

I found a spider web.

And then another.

I snapped the shutter more times than I know, soaking it in, the magnificently delicate intricacies of the spider’s silk on display. Such hard work. Such beauty. I wondered how long it must have taken for that little spider to design her creation, how many passes must she have taken across the web’s center?

I sat down to my new found work routine with a head full of awe, wondering about the beauty of my own God-given silk. The silk He gave me to design with, to create pictures of His glory.

Oh, that I might design such an awe-inspiring display of Almighty God’s beauty. Amen.

Addicted to Hope

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I love to plan stuff. I wrote of how the color-y calendar gets me all excited and of the pretty plans that bring me a thrill like none other. And it’s all true, every word. Except I’ve found other thrills equally exciting, and I’m starting to notice a theme.

I love the essence of a library and all the pages waiting to be turned. The feel of Barnes and Noble and Books a Million in all of their orderly potential. The potential of all the new books I’ve not yet found, the ones I have yet to conquer.

I love a bright, clean unmarked notebook. You know, the sturdy, spiral kind that has fun little polka dots or big, bright daisies painted all over the cover. I especially love the ones with a folder inside, waiting to be filled with plans and quotations and who knows what.

I love a big, open horizon that touches the sky somewhere I feel like I just might get to. A huge expanse of farmland waiting to be planted. A wide blue ocean that collides with the sky.

I love the smell of my kids’ school hallways. The creativity radiating off those colorful bricks in shades of purple and green and brown and orange. All the potential of the not yet learned.

I love a big piece of untouched fabric. The wonder of what it might become.

I love a whole new day, unplanned as of yet. The anticipation of what I might do with the time that lay ahead. Oh, the possibilities that lay before me on a day such as that.

And as I found myself wandering yesterday amidst the books and the shelves of the library, yet again, I noticed a theme that ties all of my unorthodox loves together. I love to hope. I’m addicted to potential.

For there is something inside of who I am that needs the hope of the yet untouched, the potential of the newly created. That’s probably why I’m so in awe of the idea of God’s kind of all new. The new creation He made me and is still making me into, when I gave my life to Him. The fresh start He gives every. single. day.

So, the next time I find myself wandering around Barnes and Noble or JoAnn Fabrics, rather than wondering why I’m so impractical (for truly, I do not need one more untouched piece of fabric!), I will let myself dream in all kinds of colors. And I will remember that hope is a gift. From God Himself.

Praying for Chardon

I remember driving home from work on April 20, 1999 with tears streaming down my face. It was the first I’d heard of the Columbine shootings but not the first I’d felt of the grief a high school knows when students die. My route home from work drove me right past the local high school. The magnitude of the news mixed with the reality of high schools in crisis was almost too much for my soul to process. Thus, the tears that fell from my chin to my lap and collected in some unknown place deep down in the depths of my wounded heart, even ten years after I’d been there myself.

February, 1989 proved to be the most difficult month of my adolescent life. I still remember the dates of my friends’ suicides. Their funerals. I can picture the news stories. I can hear the cry in the school hallway of the popular high school wrestler when he was told about the second suicide, the day after the first one’s funeral. I remember leaving school early that day wondering what in the world life would be like without Angie, without the certainty of knowing I would see any one of my friends again the next day, the next week. I mean, two had fallen victim to the lies of suicide’s promise that nothing would ever improve. What was to keep two more from doing the same? Or ten more, for that matter? I remember watching the local newscast as my dad walked in from work that night. Images like I’d seen numerous times when someone had died, a blanket-covered body being loaded onto an ambulance, suddenly all-too real. I mean, I knew the girl whose body that was. She’d been my friend. My heart couldn’t handle the weightiness of the truth that my friend had not only died, but that she had jumped off a bridge for that very purpose. The day after her ex-boyfriend’s funeral. Her ex-boyfriend, Dave, who had killed himself with a gun just days before. I will never, ever forget my dad’s arms wrapping me right up as the newsman told the story, my tears wetting his nice shirt, tie and all, with the endless tears that poured from my grief. My heart will never forget the pain of those February weeks. My junior year in high school, when I learned what no 16-year-old should ever have to know.

That’s why I cried that April day in 1999. It’s why I cried Monday when I heard about five kids being shot, three dead, in Chardon, Ohio. I guess grief breeds compassion.

I think I was still grieving in 1999. I feel crazy admitting that. But, in all honesty, my first thought that day in April, 1999 was all about me. How badly I had hurt ten years before. How, as a 16-year-old who’d been to two funerals in less than one week, I didn’t know how to get out of bed the next day. How I endlessly re-played that conversation with Angie I’d had two days before she died. And, even though I was 26-years-old and married, I wanted my parents’ comfort. Because they’d been through it, too. Because my heart was still healing.

Photo courtesy of office.microsoft.com images

I don’t really know how, but I can honestly say that God has now healed that gaping wound. The grief has become a deeper, more complete compassion. And I can truthfully say that God Himself is what first came to my mind this past Monday when I heard the news about Chardon High School.

Oh, God! Lord God! Please help those kids in that school!

I prayed all the way home that sunshiny day in April almost thirteen years ago. I prayed for Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’ families. I prayed for Cassie Bernall’s friends, her parents, her pastors. I prayed for the counselors that would no doubt flood the school for weeks, if not months, helping those kids walk the halls again, pointing them to the One Who wanted to help.

And now I will do the same for the people of Chardon, Ohio. I will pray for the secretaries, the principals, the parents who have to send their kids to school and hope they’ll be okay on Monday. I will pray for the janitors and the lunch ladies, who won’t serve any more pizza to Danny Parmertor or Russell King, Jr. or Demetrius Hewlin. I beg God to somehow bring life and hope and peace to the hallways of Chardon High School so that those students find unity and strength there rather than fear and dread.

But mostly I will pray for healing. And I will pray that for those students and those teachers and those families that God will bring it in His perfect time. And, make no mistake, I will again pray for Columbine.