Difference Maker

Over the past few months, I’ve been praying for something fervently. The specifics are not important. What is important is that God has said wait. That hasn’t sat well with me. This was something I felt like I urgently needed. Well, I wanted it urgently anyway. How’s that for honesty? 🙂 I wanted my request as fast as God could possibly grant it so I wouldn’t feel different anymore. From other people, I mean. I wanted to fit in and not be noticed so I could go about the business God had for me to do. But, as I’ve thought about my request recently, it’s not something God can do quickly. He’s teaching me lessons about prayer, about being different, and about being molded into the person He wants me to be. So, that’s what I want to talk about today–about being a difference-maker.

During my life, I’ve suffered for being different. I wasn’t the most popular child or teen. I wasn’t a cheerleader or a homecoming or prom queen. In fact, I’ve stayed in the background for most of my life much to the chagrin of some of the people in my life and of the world, in general. This world is made for people who are at the forefront or who want to be at the forefront of whatever is going on. People who want to stay in the background are generally not noticed which, I guess, is the point, but bear with me. I do have a point.

God has called us to be different whether we are introverts or extroverts and whether people think differently than us or not. We’re different races, genders, sizes, live at different income levels, and have different interests. He made each of us differently. I get that. I can see it anytime I go outside. What I don’t get though is why we, in the church, insist on classifying everything into a certain order. Our children are in age-classified or grade-classified classes, and we expect the adults we hang out with to have children the same ages as ours. We expect them to have the same life status as we do and the same income level. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. said this fifty-five years ago. “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” And, this has been true over my entire life as it has been a lifetime since this statement was made. In all my years of being a Christian, I only found an integrated church seven years ago. Pretty sad, isn’t it?

My point with all of this is that we are different, and it’s time we, in the church, accepted each other for being different. This is easier said than done though, and it brings me to my second point of the situation I’ve been praying about. Prayer. Like I said in my opening paragraph, I’ve been praying for this situation to resolve itself so I wouldn’t feel different anymore. And, of course, I’ve been praying for the situation itself. God has used this time though to teach me about persistent prayer. Praying on my knees. Continuing to pray even when it seems like nothing is happening. Learning how to wait. I liked the quote from Lewis Smedes that John Ortberg used in today’s Devotionals Daily email. “Waiting is the hardest work of hope.” I’ve had to learn how to hope in the midst of the waiting.

This brings me to my final point of being willing to be molded by God into the person He wants me to be. My devotional journal had a Scripture on today’s page I want to share here. From Isaiah 64:8, “Now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” God is molding and forming me even in the midst of this painful situation. I don’t like it. If we, who are Christians, would be honest, I think most of us would say the same. But, there is another quote from John Ortberg I want to share because it sums up everything I’m trying to say. “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for.” It stung me as I read it. I should be celebrating the chance to wait and to be my own unique self. Because being different, in my opinion, is the only way I can be a difference-maker for the Kingdom. And, isn’t that who we all, as believers, should aspire to be?

God bless you all!

 

Lament

I experienced something I thought I would never see yesterday morning. I walked into my church’s worship service late because I was greeting and heard psalms being read that I had only ever read in the privacy of my own home. I heard songs that were full of sadness talking about sin and sorrow. It wasn’t the usual fare. I was caught off-guard for a moment, but then I heard the word. Lament. Lament was being talked about from the pulpit. I was astonished, amazed (in a good way) and ecstatic.

Why ecstatic? For the answer to that question, I needed to travel back in time over two years. The blog post search function made it easy. I found my post reviewing the book No More Faking Fine and talking about the lessons I had learned from it. (http://thrivingingrace.com/no-more-faking-fine/) I also found my post from the week before (http://thrivingingrace.com/gods-tears/) talking about what had been going on in my life. I read through both posts and remembered what a healing balm they had been. (There’s a reason God gave me this talent with words.) It was okay with God when I was sad. He listened to the psalmist in Psalm 6: 1-3, 9. “Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” This is good news to me. God listens to all of it–the bad stuff and the good stuff.

So, did I have anything fresh to say about this topic? After all, it’s two years later. I don’t like anything I write to be a rehash of anything I’ve already covered. Actually, I do have something to say. We, in the church, don’t do a good job of lamenting ourselves. Oh, we read the Scriptures of Jesus weeping or God grieving the creating of His people in the Old Testament. But, it doesn’t translate to what we think we’re allowed to do as we live out our lives in this world. When we come together as a community, things are always fine. We don’t feel free to share our hurts and pains, and we definitely don’t feel free to share anything we think we might get judged for. It’s the thing that prevents us, and me especially, from being vulnerable and having a true community experience as I live out this faith of mine.

That’s why I was amazed by the subject of this morning’s service. I already knew that God was okay with lamenting, and as I’ve said on here before, I would be totally happy with my faith just consisting of me and God and not worrying whether I include others or not. The risks of getting hurt or wounded are not nearly as high. But, God wants me to take risks as much as I might not want to. He wants me to be authentic in my joys and sorrows, and He wants me to do this in front of people. Today’s service made me optimistic that others in my community might be ready to do this too.

As we begin this week, may we all be authentic as we live out this Christian life–with our celebrations and with our laments.

God bless you all!

Wind Sprints in the Dog Park

This summer my older son acquired a puppy which had been abandoned on his girlfriend’s family’s property. I haven’t said a whole lot about the puppy because she belongs to my son and not me. But, God used her to teach me some lessons about prayer this morning so I’ll be sharing a puppy story today.

The story actually began over the weekend. When I realized my son would be gone this morning for job hunting purposes, I offered to take her for her walk. It’s not something I do often as this is a responsibility my college graduate son has taken on. He’s learning about adulting in all its glory. 🙂 ) But since this morning involved job prospects, I offered. It was something I did begrudgingly at first. Isn’t that typical of all of us who are parents? We want to help our children out, but doing so might involve something we don’t enjoy. I decided to take a positive attitude toward it though. I would get my exercise in, spend time with the puppy, and wear her out enough so she would take a nap. (Oh, don’t deny it. Any of you who have pets have probably done the same thing. :-))

Anyway, we went walking in the cool of the morning as soon as I ate and got dressed. She started off searching the grass for leaves, ants, and branches, but, as soon as I started running, she did too. It was more exercise than I thought I’d get. We spent the next few minutes alternating between running and talking to neighbors and their dogs. I have gotten to know more neighbors in the past two months than I did in the years since we moved in. I’m thinking that would be a God lesson too, but it’s not the lesson God specifically had for me this morning.

When we finished our meandering, we headed for the dog park. Once I had the gates shut, I unhooked her from her leash. She started wandering through the grass. The pieces of equipment haven’t interested her much yet. (Except for the water fountain. She always likes to get water.) But, she will run, if someone else does. I decided to do some wind sprints to get my heart rate up. Before long, she was running beside me. It was something I couldn’t make her do since she wasn’t on her leash. She chose to do it. Then, God brought a thought to mind. Free will. He’s given it to all of us. Humans and animals though it’s more developed in humans.

I stopped. I needed more time to process the thought which I couldn’t do while I was running. It wasn’t an out-of-breath stop though. It was a ‘Wow, God, what have you shown me’ stop! Because, I have been in prayer about several matters which I consider urgent—for my family and for others in my life. These matters have had me on my knees—metaphorically and physically. They’ve discouraged me because I haven’t seen progress. They’ve wearied my heart because I’ve been in the middle of them. But, I’ve kept praying because I didn’t know what else to do.

Anyway, what God showed me was that the people and the situations I’ve been praying for all have a component of free will. I can’t make anyone do anything, and I certainly can’t make a situation go my way as much as I might want it to. God is the only one who can, and the other people have a choice too. They can choose not to accept God’s help. It was a hard lesson, but a necessary one for me. God wants me to continue to be on my knees for all of it—to pray without ceasing as it says in Scripture. We are in a war with Satan and his forces like I’ve learned recently. And it’s a war we can’t slack off on, or Satan wins. It might take years, or it might take decades, but those of us who love Jesus should be willing to pay that price. Pray without ceasing. Advancing the kingdom on our knees. It was a lesson that became clear to me as I did wind sprints in the dog park. I pray it becomes clear to you too.

God bless you all!