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