Category Archives: prayer

Prayers AND ACTION for Orlando

source: Unvirtuous Abbey

source: Unvirtuous Abbey

I know I don’t have adequate words in light of the horrifying events in Orlando. Others have already said much more witty and poignant things than I can muster. I have read so many clever tweets and watched so many moving tributes. What more can I offer? If nothing else, I write for my own benefit, but I will do my best to also write something worth sharing.

I’ve been despondent the past couple days, as many of us have, in the wake of the latest mass shooting. I’m brokenhearted because precious LGBTQ lives were targeted and lost, because so many others are injured physically and emotionally and psychologically, because really nowhere is safe. Because weapons are an increasing and continuing threat in my first-world superpower nation, and I just typed “latest mass shooting.” Because there are yet again christians saying awful, insensitive, and/or hateful things. Because I am tired, and I feel helpless.

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One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the past several years is the importance of listening to other people’s stories. I first learned this lesson from my many friends in the LGBTQ community, and it has transcended across all my relationships and now my general approach to people and life. [I will have to write a separate post with all the many lessons I have learned from this incredible community.] I have heard them share their experiences and fears and hopes. I have wrestled with theology and what I believe alongside them. I have changed my ways of thinking, believing, speaking, acting, and relating as a result. One of the foremost conclusions I’ve come to is how tired I am of others labeling them as anything more than fellow human beings. Their lives are equally precious and important. To lose 49 people in a vicious attack due to how someone else labeled them… I have no words, just tears.

source: Human Rights Campaign

source: Human Rights Campaign

As sad as I am for the ones murdered, I feel even more deeply for their loved ones grieving for them, for the injured and those caring for them, and for every single person who witnessed the massacre whether injured or not. This violence was not just physical but also emotional and psychological. To fear for your life, to watch others die in front of you. To fear for your son or brother or neighbor, to wait for their call that may never come. And for LGBTQ persons everywhere who are forced to wonder if and when it will be them someday. No one should live in fear like this. Certainly not in this country.

Someday I’ll write a post about all the reasons I’m not patriotic, but for now I’ll just say that I do not think America is a great country. I think we have the potential to be a great country, but when my friends and neighbors fear for their safety, their very lives, because of a pervasive culture of fear, disapproval, and hatred, we have work to do before we can be considered great. And really, it’s not even that we have work to do before we can be considered great [for there is always work to do], it is that there is work to do and nothing being done. Not in the avenues where the work is most needed. I personally could care less about owning a gun, but I am not against you owning one. As long as you have passed tests that qualify you as a responsible gun owner, much like we pass tests qualifying us to drive cars, tools which are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. How many more mass shootings will it take? What targeted group of people will finally cut us to the quick enough to prompt action and legislature? Clearly, college students, muslims, christians, and not even children have been enough. It’s disgusting, and if we want to be a great nation, it must change now.

source: dinglefest.com

source: dinglefest.com

Greatness is gained by being the last. So said a wise man who was also God. It’s important that we remember and recite things Jesus actually said. Love your neighbor as yourself. Give to anyone who asks of you. Don’t judge others. Love your enemies. There are too many words being spouted off in His name that are not His. Just to be clear, Jesus never said “You reap what you sow” or any other such nonsense. I am so tired of christian phrases and platitudes that are not true. Some of them are found in the bible, but often they are taken out of context and/or twisted from their original meaning. We need some serious myth busting when it comes to these sayings. If you are a christian, be sure to know whether your words can be found in scripture and where. I myself have been intensively debunking these untruths in my own belief system over the last couple years and have been astonished at what I have believed to be truth but could not find in the bible. It is easy to adopt catchy clichés that sound so right, but that doesn’t make them so. We need to be smart and sensitive with the words we choose to use.

I’m just so tired of all of this. And I’m not even part of a persecuted community. But I have friends and family members who are part of various communities that bear the brunt of profiling, discrimination, prejudice, hate, and violence. The closest I come is being a woman living in a rape culture. So what in the world can I do? What should I do?

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I sit in my office typing this with my two-month-old in the swing beside me and my two-year-old playing in her rice bucket, naked from the waist down because we’re potty training this week. Glamorous, I know. And I feel helpless in my home, in Small Town, Indiana, to do anything about these things other than pray. But lately, prayer feels helpless, too. Because we’ve been praying for how many victims of violence for how long now? And what has changed?

The truth is, somewhere in my head and my heart, I do still believe that prayer is important, even effective. But I also adamantly believe it is not enough on its own. Because I believe we are to be the answers to our prayers when we are able. I’ve just been struggling to figure out how I can be an answer this week, in this season of my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. I can be outspoken about my support of the LGBTQ community, especially among my christian community.
  2. I can reach out to my LGBTQ friends and express love and support. I can listen to them as they process these events and their feelings.
  3. I can read about issues on which I am still ignorant. In my case, I am not ignorant of LGBTQ issues, but I am always eager to read more stories, more perspectives. What I really need though is to educate myself on gun laws, legislative options, etc.
  4. I can donate blood, even though from Indiana it will not be going directly to victims in Orlando. Hopefully, it will help a fellow human being anyway.
  5. I can contact my local pride office and ask how I can help. Whether monetarily or with volunteering, small actions add up to change.
  6. I can write posts like this in hopes that a few people in my corner of the blogosphere will be encouraged and inspired to their own action.

I hope to come up with more ways I can put action behind my prayers. And I am hugely open to suggestions!

 

If you’re looking for other ideas on how you can act, here are a few links that I found helpful:

5 Dumb Things Christians Must Stop Saying When Evil Strikes

Emily Patterson’s Facebook Post

Here’s What You Can Do to Help After the Orlando Massacre (Since Prayers Alone Won’t Do Anything)

What Christians Must Do in the Wake of Orlando

 

I hope this helps you, dear reader, as it has helped me to write it. May we band together in love and unity for a safer, greater future. 

the importance of sacred times

watch on wrist by rambletamble

photo by rambletamble

i’d like to continue our conversation about being present. i shared two things i’ve learned that help me focus everyday all day on what is important to me — daily prayers & “quick pics.” i tend to view these as flexible touch points throughout my day. however, it is vital to my sanity & spiritual growth that i set aside sacred times each day. these are times for “meeting with Christ in your closet,” for quiet, solitude, & reflection. my daily prayers are part of this, but i usually need more than those few quiet minutes, especially in the morning & before i go to sleep. i need time to feast on God’s word, to jot down my thoughts & feelings in my journal, to read a book, to confess, to worship. i need time to soak up the presence of God. my presence throughout the day depends on being in His presence very deliberately, for an extended set-apart time in the morning & evening as well as throughout the day via various touch points.

it took me a long time to understand the importance of what most christians call daily “quiet time.” i call it sacred time because i’m rarely quiet during it! sometimes i may be cast into silence before God, but usually i’m praying aloud & singing, sometimes even crying or shouting [in joy or in anger, depends on the moment]. when i did discover the value of this time with God everyday [in my mid-twenties], it took me much longer to understand the need for consistency, having this time on a daily basis. now, i can’t help it. i feel naked as a jay bird without this time. that doesn’t mean i don’t still skip it now & then because i slept in too late & am in a rush to get wherever i’m going. but those days are always off. and i crave getting back into my “closet” to be with God. i need Him like i need air, water, & food. the more time i spend with Him, the more i realize my need for Him. conversely, the less time i spend with Him, the less cognizant i am of my need. my heart & mind become hardened.

having spent years on a roller coaster in my practice of daily sacred time with God, i know how hard it is to “get back on the wagon” once you’ve fallen off. and i know how much it changes me when i finally do return to Him. it reminds me of heart patients who talk after surgery about how they didn’t realize how badly they felt before with blocked arteries until they could now feel the sensation of better health. they say the difference is huge! so it is too with the spirit. what a difference time with my God makes in my day, in my mind, my heart, my actions, my words, my priorities, my productivity, in everything!

now having a little one to look after each day, i have to be even more convicted about setting aside sacred times. and i’ve struggled doing it! but it’s been worth the difficult adjustments i’ve had to make to ensure i still sit in God’s presence. if you’re not already convinced that you too would be blessed beyond belief by establishing & protecting sacred times, too, here are a few reasons for you to ponder over:

1. our faith will be increased. “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (romans 10:17, kjv). while this may directly apply to the written word, i don’t believe that it excludes the other various ways that we can hear God. but listening doesn’t happen accidentally. we must take time to sit before Him, to open our ears & hearts to Him.

2. we will receive guidance from Him. “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test & approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (romans 12:2). “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (psalm 25:9). time with God’s word [reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it] renews our minds most effectively, & worship brings us into proper posture before the Creator & King. it is through these characteristics that we will be able to receive His guidance, to know His will, His calling.

3. we will be “successful.” “keep this book of the law always on your lips; meditate on it day & night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. then you will be prosperous & successful” (joshua 1:8). countless references in the bible tell us that success — however it be defined — is from the help of the Lord & is often linked to our obedience. how can we receive His help if we don’t spend time with Him in prayer, in His word, in worship to Him? how can we be obedient to Him without a daily refocusing on His ways?

4. we will please God. in case we thought this was all about us & how we’re benefitted, let’s remember that our purpose in life is not to seek our own happiness but to please God & to bring Him glory. He desires relationship with us, & that requires time together. don’t let your christianity be reduced to a religion. allow Him to elevate it to relationship. as He often does, God takes that which is intended to bless Him & blesses us right back. having an intimate relationship with God will be the most rewarding thing into which we can ever invest our time. sacred time.

if you don’t already have sacred time set apart, spend time in prayer today with your day planner in front of you, & block it out. it is a most holy sacrifice, pleasing to the Lord.

 

for every season, present

it was over three years ago that i was at lunch with a dear friend talking about my cliche crisis in approaching age 30. she knew about my embracing the nickname “student of Life” so she used it against me! she said something i’ve never forgotten since: “i don’t think a student of Life would dread being 30 or pretend to stay 29. i think a student of Life would embrace their current season, whatever that might be.” was i ever knocked down a peg. in a good way. after that conversation, i vowed to myself i would do just that — embrace my current season. i actually enjoyed turning 30, in part thanks to my friends & family making it such a fun milestone to celebrate. but i think i mostly enjoyed it because my point-of-view changed, & i started to look forward to this new chapter with new adventures & experiences, rather than lamenting the ones bygone.

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i think that’s one of the keys to preventing ourselves from wishing we were still ___ — fill in the blank. still in high school. still in college. still young. still married. still living wherever. still thin. still rocking small babies. still working at that job.

we have a hard time letting go of past seasons because we weren’t fully present & paying attention to what we had when we had it. i’m not talking about a nostalgic walk down memory lane. i’m talking about being consumed with thoughts of our past, maybe even trying to recreate parts of it. i have lots of seasons that i wasn’t really present during, & i regret that. i wish i could go back & better imprint each experience, each relationship, on my mind & heart. i wish i could relive “the glory days.” but i can’t. all i can do is not repeat the same mistake with the season in which i find myself now.

the season i happen to be in currently is motherhood. with my very own baby girl that i carried & birthed & who lives in my home 24/7. in so many ways, i have put off this season for years. a decade actually. two main things held me back from pursuing children sooner. one, i was afraid becoming a parent would compromise my effectiveness in ministering to teens, one of my greatest passions in life. i know all too well that merely being a parent, no matter what kind of parent, made you automatically different in the eyes of teens. but i finally realized that while my relationships with them would change, it didn’t mean they necessarily had to be ineffective. the other reason was i kept waiting to want a baby, but the plain fact is i’m not a baby person. i like babies; i’m comfortable with babies; i have held day-old newborns, changed diapers, & babysat oodles of wee ones. but i’m just not that person who ooo’s & ahh’s over & wants to hold every baby i see. i’m just not a baby person. once i came to terms with that being okay, that it didn’t mean i couldn’t be a mom & have babies of my own, i was ready to have them.

people say it will be different with your own baby. it is, & it isn’t. i’m still just not a baby person. but i do love each moment while i have it, all the while okay with each moment passing & her getting older! people also tell me all the time to enjoy it while i can because it just goes too fast, they grow up too fast. i believe it. and i’m trying to make a point every day to embrace being a momma, memorizing what roo is like today, enjoying the cuddles & naps & feedings & baby talk. i go a little stir-crazy sometimes, but i know one day she’ll be too big to sleep on my chest, she won’t need me to feed her, & she’ll have a mind & mouth all of her own! and hopefully i’ll embrace that season, too.

my focus for this year is flow — i want to cultivate eyes to see God working in, around, & through me each day, in all the “small” things. and i want to explore faith from a daily standpoint — learning to experience God, worship, & wonder in the everyday simple moments. i figure with a baby coming, this will be pivotal amidst the diapers, feedings, & messes! i don’t want to miss God & the wonder because of the mess & sleeplessness. [read more here.] i want to notice the “appointments” that God sets for me, holy interruptions in my day. i want to find Him in the weather outside, meet Him while i wash the bottles, talk with Him in the laundry room, & walk with Him through my neighborhood.

how? here are two exercises i use daily [albeit imperfectly, inconsistently] to help keep me focused on the present.

1. daily prayers — morning, midday, & evening. i have been using common prayer for ordinary radicals to structure these prayer times throughout my day. i say my morning prayers [a different one each day of the year] before i get out of bed in the morning. i love waking up this way. the midday prayer is the same every single day & takes only a few minutes. i keep it on my phone & in my locket so i can recite each afternoon [at 3:00ish] no matter what i’m doing — feeding the baby, making a bottle, at the office, or out doing errands. each evening, there are prayers that cycle every week that include a time for confession. sometimes i say evening prayers at my prayer desk; sometimes while rocking roo to sleep; sometimes in bed right before i drift off. each of these points in my day help reorient myself, today, & this moment around God, His Presence, His will. 

2. quick pics — this is something i actually learned from a pregnancy book called body, soul, & baby. the purpose of them is to intentionally pay attention to yourself throughout the day. a quick pic is simple a minute or two where you pause whatever you’re doing, take a few deep breaths to center yourself, & ask yourself how you’re doing in this moment, physically & spiritually. how does my body feel? do i need anything [food, stretches, a walk, etc.]? how does my soul feel? do i need anything [a break, a chat with a friend, letting something go, etc.]? i also add a third pic of my productivity from the last hour or so. am i using my time wisely? am i working on things that need to get done? is there anything i’m avoiding? i do quick pics once an hour throughout the workday. i have a soft chiming alarm set on my iphone that reminds me to stop & focus. these periodic pauses to pay attention to how i’m doing help bring me back to the present if i’m stressing about something from the past or in the future; help remind me what’s really important & necessary.

again, i must stress that i don’t do these things every day perfectly, but i do some of it every day, & that makes a huge difference. i’m still learning. always will be. and in this season, i’m learning that being present in every season can make all the difference in life, in experiencing abundant Life.

[question] about PRAYER

beth moore has posed this question in several of her bible studies & videos, & it has stuck with me for years:

how different would our prayer lives be if Christ suddenly showed up while we were having our quiet time?

i hope i would recognize Him.

i hope i would fall to the floor rather than stay seated in my padded chair.

i hope i would cry out His name in adoration.

i hope i would be afraid to look at His face & at the same time anxious to see it.

i hope i would talk to Him with the shy but unreserved speech of a child before one admired & trusted.

i hope i would ask Him to put His hand of blessing on the suffering people on my prayer list.

i hope i would find the voice & courage to sing a song of praise to Him.

i hope i would listen to Him.

i hope it would mark me with a desperate thirst for & expectancy of His presence for the rest of my days.

how do you think it would change you?