Saturday, April 12, 2014

Crazy Answer to Prayer

Well over a year ago, I asked God to give me a mission to pray for. And by mission, I mean a place where missionaries do stuff, not just a worthy goal. A couple days later, I ran across a story about a mission in Tchad, where the tiny son of a doctor couple was facing a mysterious illness, and the family was asking for prayer.

It took several days of praying for the little boy before realizing that I had also been given exactly what I asked for...a mission. I've prayed for the folks there ever since, sometimes in more general terms, and sometimes in ways that are oddly specific. 

Usually, I have no idea how my prayers are answered. It's not like random missionaries across the world always post on their blogs, "In case some random person in a random place like, say, Montana, was praying for x, y, and z to happen, it just did." I'm ok with that. I don't have to know HOW my prayers are being answered to know THAT they are.

For some time now, one of my specific prayers has been that, if anyone needs to get to the mission hospital, that they will get here. And that if need be, someone will pick them up and carry them there. My happy little mental images included a critically wounded or ill person in the bush, determinedly pushing on toward help, only to fall, helpless, to the ground. All hope seemed gone, when someone, maybe even angels, showed up to gently carry them to life. In answer to prayer. (Insert organ music, and maybe some chimes.)

My happy little mental images did NOT include this: Crazy Pants

Yep, those patients needed to be there. And yep, other people picked them up and carried them right to where they needed to go. God must have smiled as He provided this particular answer. Maybe someday angels will carry someone to the mission just because I asked, but for today, it's just Crazy Pants. Hopefully Olen and Danae are as thankful as I am for this beautiful and funny answer to prayer.

Or maybe they will want me to be more specific next time.

Hear my prayer, O Lord
give ear to my supplications: 
in thy faithfulness answer me, 
and in thy righteousness.
Psalm 143:1

Saturday, January 4, 2014


 That which we do to others, whether it be good or evil, will surely react upon ourselves, in blessing or in cursing. Whatever we give, we shall receive again. The earthly blessings which we impart to others may be, and often are, repaid in kind. What we give does, in time of need, often come back to us in fourfold measure in the coin of the realm. But, besides this, all gifts are repaid, even in this life, in the fuller inflowing of His love, which is the sum of all heaven’s glory and its treasure. And evil imparted also returns again. Everyone who has been free to condemn or discourage, will in his own experience be brought over the ground where he has caused others to pass; he will feel what they have suffered because of his want of sympathy and tenderness. 

~ Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 136

The old man fumbled around in near blackness, though the sun was high. He could hear the breathing of his two favorite grandsons, and smell the sharp odor of sweat mingled with perfumed cones of spice, probably already melted and running down their hair in the oppressive heat. With a little effort, his searching fingers found the two boys, groping up to touch their faces. Placing his palms on their foreheads, he took a deep breath.

“Abba?” His most beloved son interrupted him. “I think you’ve made a mistake.” The tall, muscular man gently grasped his father’s wrists and tried to uncross them. “Manasseh is on your right side. He’s the oldest. Your right hand should be on his head.”

It shattered the old man’s heart to deny his son anything. For decades he had mourned his son’s death, only to find him alive—and the second most important man in the world. He would have given anything to grant his boy this request. Anything, except to betray the God who had become dearer to him than his own life. For some time he’d known this would happen, and now the test had come.

“I cannot.” The words seemed to hang in the air. He was almost glad he couldn’t see…see the hurt, the disappointment, maybe even anger, on his son’s face. “Manasseh will be great.” He paused, feeling as if his heart was being ripped out. “But Ephraim will be greater still.”

Tears fell unheeded from his faded brown eyes. So this is what it was like, he thought. This is what my own abba went through.

*         *          *

The message had come from an unlikely source. A woman, long barren, and now burgeoning with twins, cried to God for answers. Why did the two babes within her struggle constantly, as if at war with each other? None of my own babies were exactly comfortable, but Tiggy was by far the worst. About 2 months before she was due, she took one foot and wedged it under my ribs…and just left it there. Day and night, no matter how I wiggled and pushed, that foot stayed right there. Day after day, week after week. My ribs were bruised and sore. I could hardly stand it.

After a month of torture, she finally decided to move. Shifting position, she shoved her other foot up under the ribs on my other side and left them there. That time, I had no relief until she was born. There was only one of her, and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if she had someone in there to wrestle with.

It must have been truly terrible for Rebecca, because God took the time to answer her personally. “There are two nations warring in your womb,” He said. “One will be greater, and the oldest twin will be a servant to the youngest.” When the oldest son was born, even hairier than Tiggy, the younger twin, still unborn, reached out and grabbed his brother’s heel. It was as if he already coveted his sibling’s place and position.

Fast forward till the twins were grown. Isaac, their father, knew it was time to pass along the birthright and the accompanying blessing, which traditionally was passed to the oldest son of each generation. The wealth alone was impressive. The oldest would receive a double portion of their father’s worldly possessions. As far as honor, whoever got the blessing would be an ancestor of the Messiah. And on a spiritual level, they would be the leader of worship for their entire family and clan.

Esau, still hairy, (at least Tiggy eventually grew out of it), was a hunter and wild outdoorsman. No surprise, he was his daddy’s favorite. Jacob preferred to stick closer to home, take care of the sheep, and steal his mother’s heart. He considered himself to be entitled to the birthright, not only because of the prophecy given to his mother before his birth, but because he played swapsies with Esau—the birthright in exchange for a bowl of hot, juicy lentils.

In this familiar story of trickery and deep betrayal, we find the blind, elderly father groping for some evidence that his favorite son is really before him, ready to receive his blessing. Jacob, wrapped head to toe in goat hair (Esau must have been REALLY hairy!) and completely lacking any faith that God will work out His own will, intercepts the blessing Issac meant for his eldest.

The conniving of Rebecca and her son had worked, but at what cost? Surely Jacob didn’t really think he could just pilfer the birthright blessing and ride off into the sunset? If he did, he was in for a sad disappointment, as this rash and dishonest act would have consequences that rippled through the rest of his life.

First, he had to flee the wrath of his brother, who threatened to murder him for what he’d done. Then, his dear mother died long before he was ever able to return home. And once he finally did start back, with all his wives, concubines, children, flocks, and herds, he received the terrifying news that Esau and an army were coming to kill him. That long, dark night, as he wrestled with the Angel, one of the bitterest thoughts must have been that his own impulsive sin had brought this danger down upon his family. If he lost his loved ones, he had no one to blame but himself.

Once he became buddies with Esau, (“twinsies”, as Tiggy would say), and settled back in the land of Canaan, he probably thought that the whole sorry chapter in his life was over and done with. But God had other plans.

Although Jacob was truly sorry for his sin, and God had completely forgiven him, he still needed more. In order to complete the beautiful character that God wanted to give him, he needed one final test. At the end of his life, at a time when he wanted nothing more than to rest and enjoy his time with the long-lost Joseph and tons of adorable grandchildren, he faced one final test.

He had to become Isaac.

Blind, helpless, dependent on the love and care of his sons. And, when it came time to pronounce the blessing, he had to once again turn tradition upside down. Once again, the desires of a favorite son were involved. And once again, the youngest was to receive a blessing that should have gone to the oldest.

Praise God, he passed the test! But it must have been far from easy. Even more than the test itself was the knowledge of all that his father had suffered, all that his own deception and betrayal had put him through. Then, and only then, could he be at rest.

There is probably a very good reason why Isaac had to face the same test as his father, Abraham. Both failed to trust God to protect them, and both trotted out identical lies calling their wife their sister. (In Abraham’s case, this was at least half-true, but nobody was amused.) Could Isaac have been judgmental of his father’s error, and the only way to help him was for him to realize that he was vulnerable to the same temptation?

What about you and me? Problems and heartbreak will often come our way. Many are simply because we live in a sinful world. But it’s at least worth a moment to consider whether there is a deeper lesson to learn. If so, it’s not a sign of God’s disfavor, but of His abiding mercy.

It is the love of God toward us that has decreed this. He would lead us to abhor our own hardness of heart and to open our hearts to let Jesus abide in them. And thus, out of evil, good is brought, and what appeared a curse becomes a blessing.

~ Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 136

Friday, May 4, 2012

Off-Roading in 4WD

For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. 
~ Proverbs 3:12

I am off the path a bit, the path of God's best plan. 

If it was just a matter of sinning, it would be so much simpler. If I was drunk (not that I ever would be), I could ask for forgiveness and stop getting drunk. If I'd been gossiping, I could repent and keep my mouth shut. But sometimes life brings us to a fork, and once we've chosen one side or the other, we have to follow it to its end, whether it was the right one or not.

God tried to tell me ahead of time, He really did. He knew what was going to happen, and what I should do.

I've mentioned The Little Voice on my main blog before. It's the quiet prompting of the Spirit in my heart, that I often realize only in retrospect was God trying to get my attention. Once you get a little practice listening to, recognizing, and obeying The Little Voice, God may decide you're ready for a larger test.

It isn't possible to share the details of what occurred. Too many of them aren't mine to make public. I will say that God spoke even more forcefully than usual, through my dear Christian sister-in-law. She said something I'll never forget, that there are good things and God things, and they aren't always the same things. And, faced with a choice between a good thing and a God thing, here I am, bumping along the path of the good thing that God said no to doing. 

Anyone who lives a Godly life will have trials, and in them will also find such joy and peace, because God is with us when He allows tests to come our way. Trials of our own making are much different. The good news is He doesn't abandon us, even when our wrong choices leave us blundering around outside His will. And, though I don't know what bumps are left, or what it will take, I know I'll end up back on the right road again.

In fact, Wednesday I had a startling realization during my prayer time. Even though my current situation wasn't God's best plan, since I'm here, I can start right now, this very second, and step back into His will. There will still be consequences to face, and I'm sure that more than once He'll have to kick on the heavenly 4WD to get me over a hurdle, but I can be where He wants again from this point in time. 

What does He want me to do? I thought about that a lot. Keep studying, keep praying, both for myself and for the others on my prayer list, and keep writing. And start listening a bit better. Ok, a whole lot better. 

No clue how long it will take, but I believe this path will wind around to the right one eventually, as long as I follow the above directions. In the meantime, I have a job to do. Study, pray, write, and listen. That'll keep me busy till I jounce and bounce my way back onto the path of God's will. There will still be bumps, dips, and obstacles, but it's still so much easier and more peaceful than.......

off-roading in 4WD.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Heavenly Grocery Store

Praying is a lot like shopping at your favorite grocery store. And even if you don't like shopping at an earthly market, you can't afford to miss out on these celestial bargains! Grab a cart and get started.

At the front of the store is a gateway labeled "Forgiveness Entrance". When you pass through, it blasts away any dirt, bugs, or other contaminants that would be out of place in the beautiful and clean grocery store. From top to bottom, you're completely cleansed.

As you walk in the door of the market, you're dazzled by the light. You've found something much bigger outside yourself, containing such power that there's no need for the energy-saver methods like only lighting 1/3 of the light bulbs at any given time. You can see everything so much more clearly, and you're only one step inside the door.

The display of advertised specials greets you in the entry. Every single display case in this section holds an item of praise. 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise!  Ps. 100:4

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised!  Ps. 96:4

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever. Ps. 106:1

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!  Ps. 107:8

No matter how pressing our business in the other parts of the store, we will miss out on a huge blessing if we push on by this important stop. There's not only a spiritual blessing here but a mental and physical blessing as well. Negative emotions depress our immune system, making us less resilient and more vulnerable to disease. The same God who wants us to be in good health wants us to praise Him. It draws us close to Him, and strengthens every part of our being.

Before we enter the main body of the store, let me tell you about a small section in the furthest corner. It contains wants, wishes, desires, and good options. There are many times in our lives when we put these items in our carts, wanting them and hoping we can keep them. Sometimes the Cashier will ring them up, but just as often, He'll put them on layaway, or even ask us to discard them. It's best to listen to His recommendation, no matter how hard it is to let go of these items. He knows what we need, and only chooses what is best, even if it seems heartbreaking at the time.

Once in a while, someone will grab the refused item back from the cashier and run out of the store with it. Not only do they suffer needlessly for shoplifting, but they had to leave most, if not all, of their other groceries at the counter.

For much of my prayer life, I've gone up and down this aisle, examining, shaking the packages, reading all the fine print, and trying to figure out before I get to the register which things I'm most likely to get to keep. Meanwhile, there was the whole rest of the store packed full of things that I was GUARANTEED to get to keep, and I hardly looked at those.

With age hopefully comes at least a little wisdom, so on this shopping trip we'll go through the other sections, too. If you look down at your cart, now heaped with praise, you'll see that it's labeled "Holy Spirit". In our own strength, we aren't able to carry what we need from the store even as far as the cash register, never mind all the way through life. He guides us at every step, and makes suggestions of what we need. The voice app is faint, and we have to be trained to listen for it. But with practice, we'll hear it more and more easily.

A rack of bread stands off to the left. There are only 66 loaves, and no matter how many you take, there are still 66 left. Each is different, but contains nutrients that we'll need to fight in the War. Remember to grab a large jug of water, too. The Bread of the Word and the presence of the Water of Life through the Holy Spirit are the foundation for all the rest of the purchases you're about to make. And whether it takes you one year or fifty, try each one of the 66 loaves.

If you follow each of these steps, you'll immediately arrive at the produce section, where all the Fruits of the Spirit are now available to you. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance. Now, if you were to skip any of those first few sections, there would either be nothing at all in the produce section, or at best, the fruits would be small, underdeveloped, and maybe even a bit withered. But look at at the size of those fruits! Since you didn't grow them yourself, of course you won't take any credit. And whenever one of your friends asks you where you got them, you can refer them to the Market, too. Many people have made their first stop at the store because they saw the fruit that a friend brought home.

As you roll toward the other aisles to see what the store has to offer, you're astonished to see a box of Salvation already in your cart, even though you don't remember putting it there. Somewhere along the way, whether it was when you first chose to go to the grocery store, or parked in the parking lot, or walked inside and agreed to use the cart that had been provided for you, it quietly appeared. Sometimes a shopper may see this item pop into their cart, but often it slips in so quietly that they don't know till later that it's there.

It doesn't matter what order you use to shop the rest of the store. Once the foundation is laid, you may need to start with a different section each day. Discouraged or brokenhearted? Pick out some Sweet Comfort from 1 Thess. 5:9-11. Tired and worn out? Try a big bottle of Isaiah 40:31 Invigorating Strength Renewal. Need Wisdom? It comes in the extra-extra-EXTRA large size if you just ask. Give the Clerk your coupon from James 1:5. All the way down in Aisle Seven is Rest for the people of God, and if Satan has been attacking you really hard, try some James 4:7 Devil-B-Gone. 

Everything you need to walk from this moment all the way into the Kingdom is somewhere there on the shelves. I could write a whole book on the products that are available - there's too many to fit into one medium-length blog post. There are Suits of Armor, Soothing Balms to heal the wounds from battle, and in the clothing section, a whole line of one-size-fits-all Righteousness of Christ Robes. They fit on over your regular clothing, and no one else can actually see them, but everyone notices the difference. Boxes of Joyful Obedience, Willing Service to Others, and Total Purity Heartwash are just a few of the things you can find. The top shelves can be hard to reach, but the Grocer will lift you up if you ask.

All this would be amazing enough by itself, but you can actually ask for anything in the store to be applied to another person's account, too. Maybe a friend, relative, or even an enemy. The Grocer never forces anyone to take His merchandise, so by asking on behalf of others, it gives Him permission to work  for them in a way He couldn't have done if you hadn't asked. So while filling your own cart, keep an eye out for products that folks you know may need.

Finally, you find everything you were looking for that day, and walk to the front of the store. The Cashier rings up the price and says, "That will be one Perfection Card, please."

You hunt through your pockets, sure your Perfection Card must be in there, but all you can find is a couple of  greasy paper towels you used to check your oil with that morning. "I'm sorry, Sir. This is all I have."

"Not a problem." The Cashier smiles. "If you'll just hand me your dirty rags, I'll give you My own Perfection Card. The price for all your groceries has already been paid." Amazed and humbled, you take the bright crimson card. On the back it says in golden letters, "This card and all the products it purchased have been brought to you by the Blood of Jesus."

"Come again real soon," the Cashier says. "I'd love to see you again later today, and there's no limit to how many times you can visit."

"Thank you, Sir, I will," you whisper. You're so grateful that you find yourself stopping in the Praise Section one more time on the way out. 

I will praise thee, for thou has heard me, and art become my salvation. Ps. 118:21

As you load the groceries into the car, it sinks in. You can get whatever you need from the store, all the rest of your life, and it's already been paid for. The items you chose don't fill quite half your trunk. Next time, you decide, I'll get even more.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
John 16:24

What are you going to ask for today? 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Speedy Answer

Before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
~ Isaiah 65:24

It was a long, hard trip through Wal Mart. Due to the oil boom, Williston went from a sleepy city to an overcrowded metropolis almost overnight. Choked with traffic, saltwater trucks, trailers - even squatting in the Wal Mart parking lot itself, it's a major undertaking to navigate the once simple trip.

The exhaustion must have gotten to my traveling companion. To avoid embarrassment, we'll call her "Plom". After already standing in line with me for some time, she left her cart with me and dashed to the restroom. Moments after returning, she grew pale. (If a resident of northern Montana can actually grow any paler this time of year.) "I don't have my wallet." She looked her cart over in 1.7 seconds. "Be right back."

Of course, I immediately began to pray. There was even a neat little section in the Prayer Warriors books where some of our heroes misplaced the wallet with all the money and passports for the entire family, and it was protected by an angel in response to their prayers. "Dear Father, please protect Plom's wallet. Help her to find it, and intact, too, if it's Your will. Oh, and watch over everyone at the mission, and wow those Pillow Pets are cute! That cake pan looks like loads of fun, too. Twenty dollars? Well, not today, but it's still nifty."

Sigh. It's hard to be a prayer warrior in Wal Mart.

Pretty soon, Plom came back. No wallet. "Oh, that's right. Lord, please help her find her wallet, and be with my family, and boy am I ever thirsty. I hope one of the lines has some water in it..." After a couple more trips back and forth to the restroom, I suggested checking the trash cans, in case someone had found it, taken the cash, and dumped the rest. 

While she was gone, I prayed again. That time, I made it all the way to "amen". Turning around toward my cart, I found myself looking down at a familiar object. It took a moment to register. Quickly, I dialed the phone. "Um, Plom, I'm looking at your wallet right now."

"Where was it?????"

"In my cart. Ha ha ha, isn't that funny?"

Plom's heart started again, and her blood pressure sank to something approaching normal. "Yes. Ha ha. If you'd only called 15 seconds sooner, you could have saved me digging in both trash cans."

Not wanting to be one of the 9 ungrateful lepers, I immediately thanked God for answering my prayer. He had indeed posted an honest, reliable person to watch over Plom's wallet from the moment it was lost, till the moment it was found again. A person who would turn it over to the rightful owner as soon as it was found.

I just didn't know He was going to use me!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another One?

Why would anyone need yet another blog? I can hear you asking that, and I totally get it. But I ask in return, how well would it work for you, if you washed, dried, and folded your laundry, then just dumped it all willy-nilly into whatever dresser drawer was closest?

In a moment of painful honesty, let me say that the above system would be a step up for my darling children. They like to drop their stacks of freshly folded laundry on the nearest space of open floor. On one memorable occasion, I handed Damon a stack of clean clothes from where I had just folded them on my bed. A few minutes later, I found them. FOUR FEET outside my bedroom door, he had set them on top of a hamper full of dirty clothes on its way to the laundry room. That may have been some kind of record. 

Just as I like to be able to reach into any drawer in the dark, and know exactly where to find what I'm looking for, I want my blog posts to be as organized as possible. I am a disorganized person trying to become an organized person, and every little bit helps! Not only that, but the ongoing subject of intercessory prayer deserves its own uninterrupted space.

To make it easier for you, I'm going to link all my blogs to each other. That way, all you have to do is look at one blog, and you'll be able to see if any of the others have new posts or updates. Look along the right-hand side, near the post list, and you'll see what I mean. 

After recently re-re-re-re-re-reading Celeste perrino Walker's Prayer Warriors trilogy, I have been inspired to take up the torch of intercessory prayer again - and keep it this time. I've already had several specific answers, and it's been just barely over a week. One of my first prayers, also inspired by the trilogy, was for God to give me a mission outpost to pray for. I had never asked for this before, and don't generally notice anything to do with specific missions. And yet, a day or two later, a mission post appeared on my Facebook news feed, for an African mission that's under heavy attack. It's in Tchad, a country right next to the fictional mission in the books. Here are a few posts you'll be interested in. 

Another answer to prayer was that my last remaining grandmother died this morning. She's suffered from a series of disasters, most recently landing in the hospital with diverticulitis. She had a blood transfusion, then bled it all out within a couple of hours. They didn't expect her to live through the night, yet somehow, by the next morning, she was sitting up in bed eating breakfast. (Hereditary stubbornness? I don't know what you're talking about.) Released to hospice, she nonetheless faced terrible suffering if she lived. I prayed that God would give her rest and relief, in whatever form was best. I'm so thankful that He heard my prayer, and she's sleeping in peace now.

So here's your second assignment. What do you mean? Of COURSE you're part of the prayer team! And yes, the mission is the first assignment. Jack got a call from a friend of ours named Simeon. He's asking for prayer for his father, who suddenly collapsed today and had to be rushed to the hospital.

There's so much to learn about praying for others, and I look forward to journeying with you toward a deeper and more personal bond withe the God of the universe. For tonight, I'll leave you with this thought. 

Hebrews 4
 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Join me as we boldly approach the throne of the universe. Boldly not because of who or what we are, but because we belong to the King.