Mike&Sarah

Tag Archive: prayer

The Whole Story

“the whole story”… there’s a sense of freedom in that, isn’t there? I’m glad you focused on this part Staci. The idea of Jesus wanting to hear the details, the parts that I think are important and pertinent, the moments that stick to my brain, that’s powerful. That communicates love, kindness, tender involvement. It says “I love you,” without using those particular words.

This was my response to this morning’s online New Testament in a Year devotional written by my friend Staci on Mark 5.  (I love having this online community with whom to read the Bible!)

The devotional was written on part of Mark 5, the story of the woman who suffered through 12 years of hemorrhaging, having visited medical “experts” who took her for every penny.  This woman believed that if she could just touch the robe of Jesus, she’d be healed of this chronic condition which made her an outcast in her culture.  After touching his robe, she could feel the bleeding dry up and she knew she was healed.  But Jesus wanted to talk with her.  Trembling, she told her story after which Jesus blessed and honored her.  It’s a beautiful story of a faith-filled risk.

I wonder…

  • What did Jesus’ face look like while the woman shared her whole story?
  • What did it feel like for the woman to unburden herself from the shame of her 12 year bleeding issue and to actually tell her whole story?
  • What did the woman do next? After 12 years of bleeding, of being “unclean” and an outcast in society, what was in the next chapter of her story?

Then I wonder…

  • What prevents me from telling Jesus my whole story?

This is where I’m stuck today. I’ve felt such overwhelming stress in the last two weeks. It’s come out through unkindness, short-tempered flare ups at Hubs, and general high-strung up-tightness.

When I’ve read my Bible, it’s been to check it off my list or to catch up with the reading group. But now I’m challenged to pause and consider why I’m not sharing my whole story with Jesus: He’s here. He sees my immature outbursts, He knows my thoughts better than I do. Sometimes I use that reasoning as an excuse to not talk with Jesus.

Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son

But there’s something transformational to confession: confess, admit, bring to light, stop hiding.  For years I’ve counseled students that when we confess our sin to Jesus, we are simply agreeing with God about our inability to live up to perfection and holiness on our own, and that confession highlights our need for a Savior.  These are very good things.

Confession also gives me an opportunity to “own” my choices which are demonstrated in my attitude, behavior, and words (as well as the ongoing conversations in my head).

Saying “I’m sorry” acknowledges a wrong has taken place, but asking “Will you forgive me?” is a humble invitation to the injured or offended party to move towards you with mercy.  That’s the powerful moment!  That’s when relationship can be restored.  “I’m sorry,” slaps a band-aid on a gaping wound.  “Will you forgive me?” invites a spiritual healing.

Jesus, I’ve been worried and distracted by many things.  I’m so sorry that in response to Your goodness, gifts and blessings I’ve been short-tempered, unkind, hurried, gruff, exacting and impatient with Hubs.  I’ve ignored You, simply rushing through my day to check obligations off of my list.  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?  Thank you for forgiving me.  Your Word says you always will.  Whisper in my ear “This is the way, walk in it,” when I veer off path.  Remind me that You are with me for each step.  Thank You for the sweet gifts you pour into my life.  May my heart be renewed and restored today! I love you Jesus, and I need you.  Amen!  

9/11, 10 Years Later

I didn’t know what to expect.  The TV news relayed messages from the NYPD about a “credible threat” on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  Neither Mike nor I were in the US ten years ago on that fateful Tuesday morning.  I was in Germany, preparing to return to the Middle East.  Mike was on a cruise with his sister in Jamaica.  For us, the tenth anniversary was an opportunity to connect with a part of our US culture which we missed out on.

Mike participated in several events hosted throughout the weekend by Pace University.  They lost 47 students and faculty when the planes hit the Twin Towers.

Saturday morning Mike, my sister Carrie and I joined two of our friends for Hand-in-Hand-9/11, an event during which thousands of people held hands around lower Manhattan and observed a moment of silence when the first plane struck the South Tower.

On Tuesday we went to the 9/11 Memorial with some of the people from our ministry team.  With passes reserved two months prior, we were able to spend the time in prayer for the families of the victims and for the survivors of the tragedy.

The Memorial is beautiful.  With 200 trees currently planted, and 200 more slated for planting soon, the shady area is a welcome relief from the sun.  The trees surround the footprints of the towers where now two huge fountains exist.  It’s like holy ground, for nearly half of the people murdered in the attacks have never been identified.  This is their final resting ground.

Its quiet there.  You can hear the water falling, continually. People make rubbings of the names, and though it seems so intimate, strangers gather around to watch.  Someone asked me to take photographs of them while they made their rubbings to take home.  It’s horrifying, beautiful, peaceful, and serene.  People walk around with hands over their mouths, tears streaming down their cheeks.  One woman had to be helped to the exit by (presumably) a family member.  It’s a place of sorrow, and yet a place of hope.

Room to Breathe

Wide Open Fields in Wauseon, OH in 2010

Have you ever walked into a room or a situation and felt like you suddenly had room to breathe?  Perhaps you’ve experienced the feeling of being led into wide open spaces as your burdens were taken from you, like when an over-eager sky cap takes your weighty suitcases at the airport?  That’s how I felt when I read Psalm 9.9-10 while on the subway today.

Psalm 9.9-10 (The Message):

9-10 God’s a safe-house for the battered,
a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
you’re never sorry you knocked.

These words made me so happy. I reread them several times.  They’ve floated in and out of my mind, returning like a balm when my anxieties and worries reappeared.

There are three things that keep coming up in my thoughts; three situations where I feel powerless and am in need of God’s compassion and action.  All day this triad of trials circulated in and out of my mind, jumping to the forefront at inconvenient times.

But these words of grace, rest, and peace speak of God’s kind involvement in daily life while reminding me that I can trust Him.  Aspects of God’s character like His sovereignty, omniscience and mercy come to mind.  These verses seem reminiscent of one of my favorite Hebrew words which is often translated “hope.”  That word actually means “confident expectation, not constant anxiety… knowing God won’t pull the rug out from underneath you.”

As I get ready for bed, my “triad of trials” (hello drama) hasn’t been resolved, nor will these situations be resolved in the foreseeable future.  I have to walk by faith, trusting in God and His unfailing character and love.  I can relax in Christ, finding sanctuary in Him.

Alert

God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.

– Hanani to King Asa as recorded in 2 Chronicles 16.7-9

This verse stood out to me this morning and my thoughts keep wandering back to it.

snapshot of my journal and my Bible

Alert. Verses which come to mind:
1 Peter 5.8-10. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Colossians 4.2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving”

Ephesians 6.18. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,”

This isn’t the first time this word has stood out to me. November 10, 2010 I blogged about alert expectancy. At a women’s retreat in November 2010 I talk about alert expectancy from Romans.  It is a powerful word, and now it is appearing my life again.

Alert: fully aware and attentive. Swift, agile, nimble. Attitude of vigilance, readiness or caution, as before an expected attack. On guard against danger.

It’s an active word.  But I haven’t felt very active lately. I feel like I have been in a holding pattern, and I’ve allowed a state of passivity to infect my thinking. (Perhaps more on that in a future post.)

But today I’m ready to make a change, to stand on the alert, watching for my God, with my heart fully committed (again) to Him.

“Attention shoppers: Debbie Downer has left the building!”

Prayers for Ivanka

“I saw your update on facebook.  Are all of your dreams coming true?”

A friend asked this when she saw a picture of me with Ivanka Trump on facebook. But before I tell you that story, let me give you a little background…

Ivanka Trump and the Evers

In May 201o I felt like God invited me into a time of asking Him for specific things, and really persisting in prayer (read that blog entry here).  At the time I had recently read Ivanka Trump’s book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, and walked away wondering how she turned out so well in comparison to other young women of privilege in New York and Hollywood who make the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  So I started to pray for her daily.  Yes, daily.  I thought God was asking me to pray for Ivanka Trump everyday. (My mom prays for her every Saturday.)

I prayed daily for a long time, but I’ll be honest, I started to lag in endurance.  I’m not very persistent, so this was a good exercise to keep me focused and stretch my capacity.  But ten months after the commitment, I was probably down to a few times a week, prompted by watching Celebrity Apprentice or catching her tweets on Twitter.

All that changed last week! While watched the 250th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the upper east side of Manhattan, I got a text message from a friend telling me that Ivanka Trump was at Macy’s in Herald Square to promote her new shoe line, and the first 200 people in line could have their photo taken with her!  Knowing I was praying for her, he and his wife stepped in line to hold a spot for me.  But that meant I had 30 minutes to make it from the upper east side to Herald Square. That’s not a lot of time during the St. Patrick’s celebration in Manhattan!

But we made it!  I arrived and we were nearly next in line.  As I thought through witty introduction banter, I was thrown off when one of the body guards snapped at me saying, “No touching!”  Startled, I meekly walked over to Ms. Trump, who is a tall, beautiful woman (and six months pregnant?!  I didn’t see a baby-bump!).  I was star-struck and very careful to not touch her, and she towered over me with her stiletto heals.  I felt small next to Ivanka Trump, who was fresh-faced and lovely.  Macy’s even had a fan blowing to keep her cool under the photographer’s lights.  I felt all the grime of a long day in the City cling to my now-tired appearance as my rehearsed witty banter faded from memory.

She kindly chatted with me for a few seconds before our photo was taken and then I heard the guard bark, “No touching!” to the person in line behind me.

Sisappointed that I didn’t talk with her (and only smiled or nodded), I asked Mike to stand in line with me to have another picture taken with her.  Now that I knew the routine, I could try to share something significant with her.  After our photo was snapped (of course, Mike was ready with witty banter about people wearing green), I made eye contact with Ms. Trump and told her that I pray for her nearly every day.  She said, “I appreciate that.  I really do.”  Sincerely.

So, what do I pray when I pray for Ms. Trump?  I pray for faithfulness and fidelity in her marriage to Jared Kushner.  I pray for her growing business empire, that she’d lead with grace, wisdom, insight, justice and moral integrity.  I pray for safety in her pregnancy and for this little life she carries within her.  I ask God to reveal Himself to her and that she’d have a growing spiritual hunger.

OK, i’m a little nervous about  posting this… I mean, I’m not some dangerous stalker, and I don’t want to get on her security people’s radar.  There’s only so much “No touching!” I can handle.   But maybe you’ll join me in praying for Ivanka Trump as well.

Precious

“What is so precious to you that you can’t trust God with it?”

It was 1999. Or 2000. Charmaine posed this question at the start of the women’s Bible study I attended in Florida.

Just going to that Bible study felt like a big step. The other women were leaders in the ministry. I had heard about the Bible study, heard whisperings about it, but didn’t know if I was invited to go. I wanted to go. I wanted to be included. I wanted to be known. But I didn’t get a personal invitation to join the extended lunch every other week. I don’t know if anyone else had what I would deem a personal invitation, but I felt left out, ignored, unwanted. Thankfully, somehow, miraculously, I found courage. Rather than remaining moody, injured and resenting the very women I revered and admired, I asked. I asked about the group, and if I could come. And they said yes, heartily. One gal assumed I was already planning to go. Turns out I was wanted and I wasn’t left out.

Because I found my voice, I found myself sittingin a group of role-model women with all my longings and desires, and was asked to give voice to those dear dreams, if only to admit them to myself and to the God who already knew my heart.

That question has haunted me for more than ten years, following me through different countries, different jobs, different life stages. It prompts even more questions, like, “Why is that precious?” “What is the character of God?” “Why do I fear Him, or refuse to be honest with Him?” “Why can’t I entrust myself to God?” “Do I really think I am responsible for God’s reputation?” “Can God handle my disappointment?”. “What does it say about my faith (and about my God) if I never achieve/experience/get what I really long for?”

That more than ten year old question is surfacing again. Today. As I wrestle with my longings, with what I think I am “supposed” to long for, and with what I fear longing for, I wonder what I want. Honestly. What is in my heart today? Where have I allowed daily living to dull my dreams? Where have I settled into a comfortable numbness with responsibilities, laundry, dinner, and dreary complexity edging out passion, daring, and hope? Am I willing to risk? Or is the price of risk and the fear of failure too great? Will I live a “whatever” life today? Or will I hope for redemption, reconciliation, purpose, meaning, significance, even in the midst of my every day life?

What about you? As you read this, are your heart and mind stirred? Do you roll your eyes? If so, why? Is the eye-roll motivated by fear, pride, arrogance, indifference or something else? It is possible to categorically dismiss what I’m expressing because you think we are wired differently. Or, on the other hand, when you read these words, maybe you are challenged, encouraged, inspired. Either way, what will you do?

I know what I will do. I’ll be honest about my longings. At least I will today. So I ask you, What is so precious to you that you can’t trust God with it?

Constant Conversation

While riding the F subway home last night, I read the evening devotional from Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional Morning and Evening. One of my dear friends, Beth, sent it to me a few years ago, and I recently downloaded it for FREE on the Kindle app for my iPad. (Did you know that there are a TON of FREE books for the Kindle and for the iPad Kindle app? I’m reading all kinds of classics on the train! Thanks Amazon!)

I stumbled over this last line from the January 12 reading:

[Silent] children are an affliction to their parents. Lord, unloose all Thy children’s tongues.    – Charles Spurgeon

That got me thinking, reflecting, and meditating as the train arrived at my subway stop and I filed out of the train into the old station. Climbing the stairs and thinking about this quote, I emerged from underground and discovered a crisp, beautiful, snow-covered world. Few people were out at our normally busy intersection where Prospect Park meets Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.

I walked by the movie theatre and thought about parenting. I’m not a parent, but one friend shared with me how difficult it is for her to get her daughter to open up to talk about her day. Another friend confided to a group of us that his son is silent and full of anger, making the home reverberate with tension when he returns from school.

These parents long to talk with their children. They want to hear from them, listen to stories, share memories, interact together and build a relationship. But their children are silent. These children offer very little by way of communication.

Writing “communication” brings to mind words like “community,” “communion,” “unity.” What wonderful longings we have! And how hard for these parents to feel so separated from their children; the children they love, provide for and protect.

Then I began to understand what Spurgeon was saying. How like a silent, morose child I have been when I rush through or forget to pray! What delight it must bring my Heavenly Father when I talk with Him throughout the day, sharing insights, hurts, embarrassments, observations, and asking questions and for forgiveness! The communion, the unity, the community with God comes from our communication with Him!

Now verses like Ephesians 6.18, Luke 18.1, Colossians 1.3, Colossians 4.2 and the more succinct 1 Thessalonians 5.17 “pray without ceasing,” seem like encouragement from a loving parent to communicate about even the mundane in life, and certainly the big issues.

Yes Lord, unloose all thy children’s tongues!

Miracles. Yes.

It’s official.  We are living in a miracle!  All I can say is “I’m humbled.”  God sees us.  I’m not sure why I’m surprised, but when you live in the middle of choreography like this, it is hard to NOT stand in humbled awe before the living God!

For those with little time:  We are moving to Brooklyn in January!

For those with a little more time:  Let the story begin.

On Friday (10 December 2010) Mike and I both returned emails which we received on Thursday while we were out of internet range (that still happens, you know.  People take breaks from the internet.  On purpose.).

The email Mike received was from “R” asking if we had tenants for our Orlando townhome yet. R and “A” are getting married in January and had yet to find a place that they thought was the right fit for them.  The email I received was from a good friend in Texas who had just returned from a missions trip in Rwanda.  While there, he had met a gal from NYC whom he thought I’d really enjoy.  He suggested I email “C”.  So I did.  C and I emailed back and forth on Friday and Saturday, and Mike set up a showing of our townhouse with R&A for Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning C emailed me asking if we wanted to sublet her Brooklyn apartment for six months. While we emailed on Friday and Saturday, she was interviewing for a temporary position with a fair-trade clothing company in Central America.  To accept the job, she needed to find someone to take over her apartment lease starting in January.  She felt like God told her to offer us the right-of-first-refusal.  But she’d need a response by Friday so she knew if she could accept the job.  Giddy with the possibilities (and the affordability of the sublet, even though we aren’t yet at full support!), I mentioned the idea to Mike on the way to church.

We were both warm to the Brooklyn sublet because two weeks prior one of our new supporters (who joined our team in March) felt led by God to triple her support, bringing us just shy of 50%.  Without that boost, we wouldn’t be financially able to afford this fully furnished opportunity. Pieces were falling into place…

Tuesday morning R&A called to say they wanted the townhome.  We have renters! Wednesday R came over to sign the lease and drop off a deposit check.  We called C, and talked with our Leadership Development supervisors, getting approval for an unusual arrangement.  We were approved to move to NYC and join our team part-time in January. CCC normally requires you to be at full support before reporting to your ministry assignment.

Our two hurdles for accepting C’s Brooklyn offer were needing renters for our Orlando townhome and needing approval for the move.  And both hurdles were cleared!  We’ve been praying for renters since January 2010, and have had several showings, but God had the right people tucked away for just the right time.  Apparently they had been looking for a home for a while, and the week prior A felt discouraged about finding the “right” home.  And then they saw our place!   I was praying for a newly married couple to take the home.  I think it’s a great place to start life together.  Hooray!

C couldn’t accept her new job without subletters.  And here we are!  Imagine the choreography in the heavenlies as God arranged and rearranged events so that both of these people would connect with us at the same time, just after we got a big boost in our support from a generous financial partner, and all these pieces fell into place at just the right time!

So now Mike and I are packing up our lives.  We’re storing our items in our garage for six weeks and will return to Orlando in February to pack up a Uhaul and drop our things in storage.  It’s just too quick to get everything completely out in a week.  Pray for us… this is our first move together and we don’t have a lot of time!

I’m truly humbled and overwhelmed by God’s goodness and generosity. He sees me!  Thank you Jesus.  Only you could work all this out for ALL OF OUR good!