Why I Pray

I spent a good deal of time yesterday thinking about prayer.

It was my first Sunday back at Mass in too long. As a converting Catholic, Mass is not the thing to miss. But the family was so warmly received. Father said, “Welcome home.” A dear friend said she knew she would see us soon.

It was the 10th anniversary of 9-11. This churns up a whole bunch of thoughts on hate, love, trespass, forgiveness, religion, prayer – at least to does for me.

It has been no secret that my journey with God and all that encompasses has been an interesting one. We have found ourselves in many different places. However, I have found comfort in the fact that most of the figures in biblical history have some things in common – they experienced fear, doubt, love, dishonor, courage – either all at once or at multiple times. I am not so different.

Even when my doubts are at their pinnacle, one thing that is always staring me in my face is prayer. All my life, I can remember times when I prayed.

  • Spending the night under a flipped couch with my newborn sister during a hurricane
  • Starting my new kindergarten (after a move which I hated)
  • Watching my parents give my baby sister mouth to mouth
  • The first time I missed curfew
  • The day I enlisted in the Navy
  • Joey died
  • Bootcamp
  • The night Momma made that phone call
  • The day I found out I was in labor – 12 weeks early
  • When I sent her to kindergarten
  • The night of her emergency surgery
  • Every single day of my deployment during OEF/OIF
  • My miscarriage
  • My discharge from active service
  • That other time
  • Right now as I write this

There are a ton of wonderfully happy times when I pray. And I enjoy the feeling of gratitude. But when I am fearful or scared, prayer is amazingly powerful. Not quite sure what I would do without it. Even now, conversations with The Blessed Mother is one of my favorite things.

I have heard prayer described as a crutch. I am ok with that. I would never fault someone with a broken leg for using a crutch – they need it. I need it. I am not flawed in my weakness. I am human.

I have heard God described as a fictious creation designed for our own need of comfort. I have also heard Him described as the Creator and Lover of all. I prefer the latter and as it takes equal amounts of faith to believe either, I will believe what I prefer.

I have heard religion described as a violent manipulation designed by those seeking power to control the masses. I have also seen religion deliver aid to the needy, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, medicine to the sick, and comfort to the broken. Misuse of a thing is not the fault of the thing. Knowing that someone has had their head bashed in with a bat does not make the seventh inning stretch any less beautiful.

I don’t have all the answers, neither can I control the opposition or defense. But, that is the beautiful thing about freedom…I can ask my questions, I can search for my answers and I can pray.

Accident

I have never felt like an accident. Even from my unplanned birth. I can’t think of any point in my 35 years that I have ever pondered whether or not I was intended.

I know that is a blessed thing. I realize there are many who have had to struggle with being unwanted, unintended – an accident. I appreciate that is not a burden I have to bear.

However, at the risk of sounding ungrateful (which I am not) a more specific instruction guide would be nice. Yes, I am aware the Bible is considered the ultimate instructional guide. I have read it and I find its lessons on character completely accurate. And at the risk of sounding blasphemous (which I am not), I have also found it lacking the chapter of my life – should I have gone to college or the Navy, when do I get married, when do I have children, how many, do I work full time, what do I do, what are my hobbies, where should I live, which choices really have only one answer, which can I just do whatever and be ok…yeah, none of that is in there.

While this may not be a glaring omission for some, it is to me. I am a checklist girl. I like processes and formula. I like maps, plans, directions, reciepes, instruction manuals. I like pretending I am flying by the seat of pants, knowing all the while I have a Hollywood style harness that is keeping me right where I am supposed to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking rigid. I understand and expect processes to need case by case finesse. I know not all the boxes need to be checked all the time and some need to be added occassionally. I am a fabulous cook but only an ok baker – I like to use recipes more as a guideline than absolutes.

But a little more obvious direction would be nice. I am not an accident. I like not feeling like an accident. I would love to know that I am not participating in a whole lot of them too…

*Inspired by Day 2, The Purpose Driven Life

It is Sorta About Me

I could lament all the time that has passed since I have done this. I will not. I could offer up excuses and tell you all the places I have been instead of in church or at God’s feet or long conversations with Mary, but I won’t. It isn’t important – well, maybe it is, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel amazingly relevant.

I was looking for something to read last night. I am attempting to get back on track – a term which I hate as it has all these negative connotations but I lack the desire to put forth the effort to find a suitable replacement. At any rate, I decided to dust off my old copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. I have had the book for a while, have started it once or twice. I have yet to finish it. Maybe that’s why I am still not real clear on my purpose. Such an idiot. The answer has been sitting in my bookshelf the whole time.

Since all of that was incredibly snarky, I figure I had better explain that I appreciate Rick Warren and his work. He seems like a wonderful warm person and even after all his success, there was no Twitter picture post on the Bahamas scandal. That is a pretty big feat.

But, I decided when I picked the book up that I would be interested in my thoughts more than his and my leaning more than his. While his writings are a great primer, he does not know me and my relationship with God like I do. Rick, as good as they are, can only speak in generalities.

Day 1 talks about understanding the idea that it is not about me. Lives are intended to be others and Christ focused. Other self-help books fall short as they emphasis focus inward instead of upward. Our purpose is not our own. The Creator is the maker of purpose and only He can decide and explain said purpose.

Yeah – no. Well, maybe not “no” but just not enough.

I fully believe we are meant to be charitable and tend to the needs of others, we are also created to enjoy all the blessings God has intended for us. Did he adore David, bless Solomon, deliver Joseph so that they would simply spend their whole time talking about how unworthy they were and starving and thirsting so that they could give all their blessings away because it isn’t about them? I don’t think so. I think God enjoys watching me smile. I think He enjoys it very much. I think He created us in His image and He enjoys when His images are happy with the course He has set them upon.

And it is about me, sorta. As I am moving forward in discovering God’s will and purpose, doesn’t it make sense that a good deal of that conversation will focus on who He is and who he created me to be so I understand how the two fit? Don’t I need to understand my own jacked up brain so that I can better guard against challenges and perform in purpose?

Do I think Day 1 was bad? I certainly do not. I hold it as affirmation that I am a free thinking being, that God is priority over guilt and expectations, that maybe I have finally approached Rick’s book in the proper way. Maybe this time I will finish it.

 

Worthy Baggage

The following from The Word Among Us made me think in a multitude of ways.

“Many that are first will be last, and the last will be first. (Mark 10:31)

After seeing the rich young man walk away sad and hearing how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus’ disciples were uneasy. If it was difficult for such a worthy person to attain eternal life, what hope did they have? Could anyone be saved? So Peter spoke up: “We have given up everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28).

Jesus was quick to reassure Peter that he saw every sacrifice he had made. Not only did he recognize all that Peter and the others had given up, he assured them of blessings in this life and eternal life in heaven. This promise doesn’t apply just to the big sacrifices—house, family, or land. There are times when small sacrifices cost us a lot, too. Jesus sees every time we hold back a sarcastic comment, every time we interrupt our day to help a neighbor in need, every time we offer a short prayer of intercession for our sick cousin. Not one of these acts of love, faith, and trust goes unnoticed.

But Jesus didn’t just reassure Peter and the others. He wanted them to see that they could go even further. As they turned from their old lives, the floodgates of heaven would open even wider and pour out more blessings! The further they went, the greater their reward! It wasn’t enough to rest on the knowledge of the promise of eternal life. They weren’t at risk of losing anything, but Jesus wanted them to see that there was more possible! God is always calling us deeper into his life, but we should never lose sight of the fact that he also sees everything we’ve already done, and it pleases him deeply. He won’t forget it at the last day, either.

So how far do you want to go with Jesus? To the ends of the earth? Do you want to be filled to overflowing? Then keep pursuing him! Stay open to him, and let him strip away more and more of the old nature—in his gentle, gradual way. Be assured: As much as he strips away, he will give back a hundredfold in blessings, clarity, peace, joy, and assurance.

First it made me check whether I was counting myself worthy or not. Although it was a quick thought of “yes you’re confident in your salvation” it did make me know that checking myself on this periodically is not totally an unnecessary exercise.

Next it made me remember that it is very easy for me to get caught up in the strong and ever flowing revealed truths that get my heart and head racing a mile a minute. As my relationship with God deepens, it is an exciting journey and in this I think grand. This meditation was a good dose of the reality that we don’t have to cure all of the world’s evils or even our own in one fail swoop to please Him. The small stuff is just as pleasing and those daily instances need to become ingrained habits for me. In other words stop feeling like it has to be a big, noble gesture to count.

Finally it reminded me that as He calls me deeper He is stripping away the old nature. It is more than okay that I have baggage for Him to strip, that it is a process that does not include a magic wand that will poof me into the Christian that I think I should be and that it doesn’t have to be all ugly to be effective. While this stripping is not always comfortable I can take comfort in the blessings, clarity, peace, joy and assurance to come.

So much from one little meditation.

God Divorces

I will not give up too soon.

This phrase is becoming the mantra of my life. And while it feels exhausting at times, I am glad it is one of those things that stuck when it I heard it.

I think about it regularly – in business, in my family and in my faith – I will not give up to soon.

I have given up before. I call them my “God divorces.” Understand that while I am attempting a bit of humor, it is only to make those moments in history palpable and understandable. If you have never been there, you don’t understand the depth of the hurt a God divorce creates. But through the word divorce you get the general idea.

If you have, trust me, we are okay. While we sited irreconcilable differences, He did not. This is the definition of blessed.

God divorces happen for the same reason regular ones do – money, jobs, circumstances. Mine happened over women and behaviors.

Well intentioned but sorely misguided “church women” who gave the worst advice ever to a young twenty something woman.

God and I got back together through the counsel of a not so churchy but amazingly equipped friend.

Later, my understanding of hell and the people who were supposed to go there rocked my faith in His behavior. If that was who He was, I was out.

God and I are dating again. How thankful I am for the One who finds me worthy of pursuit and romance. He will not give up too soon.

Neither will I.

Every Journey has a Beginning

Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.
~ William MacNeile Dixon, (1866-1946) British author and academic

You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there.
~ Psalms 139:13-15

What an obvious statement to say I was born. But, I am finding it necessary to place a pinpoint on my “Start”. Birth is obviously not my actual beginning. However, as I cannot (or do not) consider factors prior to my birth as formulating my person, birth seems like a good place to start.

Explanation – Of course I respect and understand that factors prior to my entrance are important. DNA, family legacy, etc. contribute. But really, as if sorting the filing cabinet of what makes me a person isn’t crowded enough…

Explanation – A starting point is important. I was not dropped into existence a 33 year old woman. All that I am today is a net sum of every single step I have ever taken.

I was born the eldest child to the best parents in the whole world. Their backgrounds were amazingly different, I think. Even as I write that I realize how much my parents don’t talk about their childhoods.

The life lessons taught in my home were practical ones. Good people were good, bad people needed to be considered and evil needed to be shot. Belief was encouraged if you came to it on your own. Religion was allowed if we could participate without their involvement. Dedication was fine, evangelism was not.

In all it was the perfect garden to grow two things – wonderfully open minded, loving and tolerant children and confused adults.

I am okay with this fruit. I would prefer it to an oppressive, bigoted view. However, I am hoping that I am able to promote a bit more structure within my on family while still achieving that quest for understanding and belief through ones own seeking.

Prior to adulthood I participated in baptist youth group in spurts. I “accepted Christ” at the age of 10 during a skating party. I was baptized ten years later. I didn’t know what I was doing either time. I don’t find fault with that. Not every step on a journey is always understood.

I am committed to still walking.

Not About Me?

Money is tight all over – for me, for my friends, my customers, my clients – everybody. It is the one thing that gives me the most anxiety. I have spent a good deal of time trying to talk to God about it. I say trying because I always get distracted by the thoughts and end up just talking to myself.

During my morning reading (which I stopped in the middle of because I felt the strongest urge to tell you this), an interesting series of events happened. Today’s reading is John 15:12-17 with a focus on v.14 – You are my friends. The reading discusses the friendship of Jesus and how we are supposed to display His love to the world by reaching out and being that kind of friend to those in need around us. In part, it read

Even with our busy lives and rushed schedules, we can make room for the people around us. And when we do, we find that we are touching not just a lonely person but Jesus himself.

“Lord, teach me how to be a friend to the people around me. Open my eyes to see you in the lonely, the burdened, and the needy.”

Well that’s all well and good, I thought. But I need provision for me, not guidance to provide for others. So, I gave very little attention to today’s reading and went searching for the reading that says God is going to take care of me! So, I wondered, what was the reading for last year on my birthday (I am using The Word Among Us for my daily readings and they are archived by date). June 30, 2009 reading is about Abraham and Lot. As you can imagine, the focus was not on how God took care of Abraham, but how Abraham interceded for Lot. In part it read

Did you ever think that, like Abraham, you may be the means by which God saves another person from danger—either physical or spiritual? It really is possible.

”Father, in mercy you have stretched out your hand to me. As I draw closer to you, share with me your concern for your other children. Show me the role you want me to play in their salvation. Embolden me to say ‘yes’ to you.”

Seriously! I am looking for provision for me and yet another example of me for others. Hmmm, I hear in my head, how very good of you to worry about your results and your situation above all others. How very Christlike of you (not!). You keep asking God to provide for you, He tells you how and you blow Him off.

The thought began to get lofty and very Mother Theresa and I heard, there you go again. This isn’t life in theory, this is life for real.

I make money when I serve other people. I become wealthy when the service I provide to others is so red carpet rock star that they always come back to me and they send their friends to me. My cash flow goes up when I complete a project, remain on task, deliver on time and do what I say I am going to do without fear or hesitation.

When my cash flow goes up, so does my expendable resources, so does my ability to be charitable. I can be charitable now, in my limited way and I will. And God is providing for me right now – in my ability to serve others.

I am reminded to stop focusing on results and keep my eye on my purpose. I am reminded that fear paralyzes and that fails everything.

Anyway, just wanted to share…

Being in My Presence

Part of my daily reading was John 14:6-14. In this reading Philip asks Jesus to see the Father and then they can be certain. Jesus explains that He has been with them awhile and because of that they have seen the Father.

It raised the question in me, and I think it is akin to questions that have been asked by a friend of mine – and quite frankly, all of us. Who am I ? What am I doing here? What am I good at? My question specifically is then what do people see or what can people know when they have been in my presence? I know that God is supposed to reflect from us, but I am speaking more practically here. Jesus’ purpose, among other things, was to bring knowledge of the Father to the world in a new way. Because He lived His purpose, that was exactly what folks should have gotten if they were open just by being around Him.

I think if we can answer the question, what should people know by being in my presence, we start to get a better glimpse of our purpose. More than wants or goals, this natural place of being points to what we have been equipped for in order to accomplish our purpose as instilled is us at creation. While at times it was difficult and took effort for Jesus to love, forgive, with stand temptations, etc, it was never forced or unnatural. It was always in the being of who He was because that was what He was created for….

Just my thoughts for the day 🙂