Monday, December 13, 2010

Prayer, two kinds

I have thought a lot about what Jesus said, that we could ask anything in His name and He would give it to us. This is one of those passages that people take issue with, because there are so many anecdotal rebuttals.

But this is the word of God: "I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name" (John 15:16). If Jesus said it, it can't be discounted. There are several passages like this that I label "too big to understand," place them at the throne of God, and mull over them until God chooses to give me insight.

Something dinged in my head the other day. Notice that Jesus said in John that we will produce fruit...and here is why grammar is important. What is the conjunction in that sentence? "So that" in the New Living translation. "Then" in the New International. I don't know Greek, but these two English translations use a connecting word that implies consequence. Not a strong link, but a somewhat loose, "well, once this happens, then this follows." What comes first? Fruit. What comes next? Ask whatever you want, and I will give it.

Whoa! What? Produce fruit and then have a powerful prayer life? Isn't this backwards? Don't we teach people that they should develop a powerful prayer life in order to produce fruit? This thinking was really messing with what I have been taught in church. So I asked do we produce fruit, if we are not to pray that you do it and poof, you do?

If you go back a little in John 15, there is the answer: "Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit" (verse 5).

And I really need to summarize here, because I have to get to work. But think...there are two kinds of prayer here. The prayer that is cuddling up to your Daddy and learning about Him. Being with Jesus, just hanging out, to listen to Him and get to know Him more. That's abiding. If you abide, you bear fruit. And once you bear fruit, you are to the point where you can ask for anything in His name. First, I suppose you have to learn what His name represents, and then you will have the power to ask.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Wow, it has been a long time since I have blogged. And it is intimidating to think that I have to produce something stellar to post here. I thought instead I might communicate that I am still alive.

In January, I began working an interim position at my church. I am now the preschool minister, which is scary, intimidating, overwhelming, and the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I love my job. Because it is so far outside of my comfort zone, I feel like I have been living in a foreign country.

I am starting to adjust. I think I might come back to something like myself again. Soon, I might even have something to say.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thoughts on Fasting

Our church recently declared a fast for ten days before Good Friday. It is the first church-wide fast at The Church at BattleCreek that Johnny and I have not participated in, food-wise. Because I was swamped with Easter stuff, I begged Johnny to let us fast from media instead. I gave up Facebook, personal email, video & computer games, television, and the internet. Basically, I used media for work when I had to and allowed myself music. My reasoning was that if we were to use the "extra time" from fasting for prayer & meditation, then giving up media would create time for me. Participating in the Daniel fast would not.

Fasting is always a big task at our house. If we are going to change our food habits, it makes more work for me: groceries, planning, etc. Good food is one of the things that gets sacrificed quickly when we are busy, and as busy as I was in March, I wanted the freedom to order pizza and stop at McDonald's. There was no way that I would have time "otherwise devoted to eating" on a Daniel fast. I'd have to figure out how to get enough calories in us to not faint using fruits and veggies. Granted, I've done it before, but there is a cost.

Here's what I discovered: I missed out. Johnny and I almost instincitively ate less during the fast. It was almost funny. I even found myself not stopping at Starbucks, not choosing the trail mix with chocolate, etc. because the fast was going on. I can live without media, and it was good for me to make that stand during the Daniel fast; it has given me some freedom & reestablished some priorities.

But that's just the point...I can live without media. I can't live without food. A fast takes away from me something that I actually do need to physically survive. I take issue with the notion that we are freeing up time to pray. The discipline of fasting is really just denying yourself food. And I think that fasting shares something with the tithe: there are no baby steps. You can't give 3% and work up to 10%. Fasting from media is not fasting. It was good and fine, but it is not the same discipline. In giving up food, you declare to God and the spiritual world, "My Lord is more to me than food." If He is only more to me than television, then my God is too small.

For His own reasons, God has endowed power in that very act. It is not because we spend more time in prayer that fasting is powerful; fasting is powerful because we fast. Fasting, like tithing, is one simple thing. There are no baby steps to get there; you either do it or you don't. And like prayer, another spiritual discipline, we don't necessarily understand why. Why tell God, who knows everything, what you need or that He is great? Because it changes us. So why give up food just to declare God is important to you? Because the act of doing it changes us.

Looking back, I still don't know if I could have participated in the Daniel fast and done the work to get the Preschool Ministry ready for Easter. But I know that in the future, if I am faced with a similar choice, I will try to find some way to fast--to give up food--because my God is worthy of my sacrifice.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The depth of patience

When we were skiing at Sipapu Resort in New Mexico, I decided to take my middle daughter to Lift 3. My husband had told me that this was a poma lift, and that she couldn't ride the poma lift, but for some reason I simply ignored this tidbit. After all, if she didn't like it, we'd just ski down the mountain and keep taking Lift 1. We reached the bottom of Lift 3, and she dutifully tried the poma, but fell off after about 20 feet. Repeat three times. No problem, I think...we'll ski to the bottom of the mountain. However, the lift operator informed me that unless we rode the poma up, there was no way to access the rest of the mountain without hiking up the trail we had skiied down to get there.

Poor daughter of mine! She is a very new skiier, and I had just landed her in a tortuous position. We could have stayed at Lift 1 and had a fantastic afternoon, but now we were stuck. She became very frustrated and very difficult. Early in this crisis, I thought about how life is full of obstacles. Some you make yourself; some life deals you. Life is about overcoming these obstacles, and fun is what we have when there is no current obstacle.

So I set aside fun for the moment on our trip and worked on the obstacle of getting away from Lift 3. I wasn't sure we could do it without Ski Patrol and a snow mobile. I did not, in myself, have the patience to deal with my daughter and her frustration. At that point, however, I found that God did. I experienced the most remarkable, deep patience that I have ever felt. She threw herself down in the snow; I waited. She insisted on side-stepping up the mountain; I waited. She yelled at me; I waited. I cannot describe how filled I was with the patience of God. I know it did not come from me. Galatians 5 says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. When He fills you, these traits are apparent. Early in this trial, I could feel something inside of me that was clearly beyond myself. I knew it the obstacle would stretch out in front of me, and I was glad. It was amazing to feel patience and peace so completely that I almost wanted it to keep going, just to experience the depth of God's presence. Perhaps for the sake of my daughter, the ordeal only lasted two hours.

In that time, I simply meditated on His goodness towards me, in all my difficult moments of life. He patiently deals with me as I learn to overcome the obstacles in front of me. He is not like me; He is patient and He is good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do Not Arouse or Awaken Love

"Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." - Song of Solomon

This refrain appears throughout the love poem of Songs in Scripture, a poem that is sometimes erotic and always full of passion. I have never quite understood what it meant...but now I am raising teenage daughters.

In our culture, girls begin to grow into womanhood, and we tell them to wait for love until they are done with school, until they have started a career, until they have explored and had adventures. People would be appalled at a girl who married at the age of fifteen.

Yet at the same time, we awaken desire in her. We dress her in suggestive clothing, surround her with suggestive images, and fill her soul with music that awakens desire. The church is not immune from the culture we live in.

I don't know the answer, but I am engaged in the struggle. I have watched many young adult women derailed by passions not expressed in the safety of marriage, and all I know to do is ask my Father to throw His protective cloak over my girls. Now this verse makes sense to me, and I chorus with the women of Song of Solomon, do not awaken love until it so desires, in the lives of my precious daughters.