Tuesday, February 28, 2012

intercessory prayer does not make God a genie

...this post is continued from part one...

Lately, God has been growing me through unanswered prayers...

...which is actually a little funny, because He has simultaneously been growing a spiritual gift of intercessory prayer.  I have witnessed wild types of answered prayer for other people, and I continue to receive nudges to pray very specifically for people in my life.

But in my own life?

I've been struggling with praying for myself.  I have seen how He has answered prayers for us in times past, but lately... well, there's this one prayer.  This one massive prayer that I have been begging Him for for a long time.

If you have a young baby, you might be praying for it too.

Maybe not in the early months -- when you expect to have little 3-4 hour chunks here and there, but later on -- when all the rest of the kids are "sleeping through the night."

It has to do with sleep.  I am desperate for sleep.  Every night, and every day, I pray and beg Him that Gwen will start sleeping through the night -- and I mean, the 7 pm - 7 am one.  Heck, I'd even take 7 pm - 5 am or something like that.  Or even 4 am.  But night after night, I struggle with my own depravity as I feel anger boiling in me against the Lord.  "Why won't you answer this prayer??"  I accuse.   I whine.  I moan.  I think I deserve better.

I deserve nothing.

And I've turned a corner.

It was a couple weeks ago at the Jubilee conference:  A handful of our students answered an altar call to the front -- a call to live for Jesus in all areas of life.  And one by one, as I saw them go up to the front, God gave me specific things to pray for in each of their lives.  To be honest, I didn't know most of them very well, but I suddenly felt very close to each of them as God was making their needs known to me.

That's when I broke down -- to my knees -- and cried in prayer.

"What about me, God?"  I asked. "What about me and my prayers?"

Then the Holy Spirit answered and gave me the realization:  I was blinded by myself.  For others, I can be objective -- waiting on the Holy Spirit's prompting for prayers -- but not for myself.  I was expecting God to be the genie instead of the wise Sovereign Lord that He is.  I was expecting Him to say, "YES," just because I had this spiritual gift of intercessory prayer.

I barely need remind myself (but I will) of the fact that Jesus himself -- the Lord himself -- received a "NO" answer from the Father.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed...

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me."
Luke 22:42

God didn't take the cup of suffering from Jesus.  No.  Jesus suffered greatly, enduring humanity's sins so that we who call Jesus our Lord will not suffer for our sins.  God the Father knew the whole story -- He knew what was best.  And Jesus really knew that too, because in the second part of that prayer, he says, "Not my will but Yours be done."

That second part?  Yeah, I wasn't-so-much praying that second part.

So I've taken a step back.

I've decided to approach all prayer with silence first.

And I wait for the Holy Spirit's prompting before I utter a word.

Even Especially for myself.

Monday, February 27, 2012

intercessory prayer: growing through the answered and unanswered

For a while, I didn't understand what it was.  Things just happened.  Prayers just happened.  I would talk to someone and would suddenly feel a specific prayer rise from my soul.  I knew what I had to pray for, and I did.

And then I saw answers.  Answer after answer after answer.  Specific prayers answered before my eyes.  Houses.  Cars.  Finances.  Babies.  There were too many things adding up -- too many "coincidental" times that something would happen, and I would think, "Huh.  I prayed for that."  

And I forget when it suddenly dawned on me -- when the moment was when I turned to Elliott -- and I said tentatively, "Hey... Elliott?  I think I have the gift of intercessory prayer."  

I expected a, "Maybe," at best, and perhaps more likely a, "We don't want to rush to conclusions," but instead I was met with a, "You know, I really think you do have that gift."

The thing is, it's actually a little ironic that I have this specific gift, because a huge reason of why I have difficulty trusting God comes from a case of major unanswered prayer when I was in fifth grade.  That's a post in and of itself, so I'll save it for later.  But as I've grown closer and closer to the Lord, He has put things on my heart that I immediately know I am supposed to pray for.  And I do.  And then they happen.

It's wild.

I'm learning a lot about this whole intercessory-prayer-thing too.  It's not like God's a genie and I go around asking people what they want and then get it for them.  It's more about discernment.  Someone asks me to pray for something, and I bring that person before the Lord.  I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see how best to pray for them.  And then I tell them how I am specifically praying for them.  I think this is so important, because I want God to get the glory when He answers the prayer.

And other times, I don't even have to dwell on it.  I see someone and immediately feel a prayer rising from within me.  It's inexplicable.  It's surreal.  It's the Holy Spirit.

As soon as I realized I had this gift, I knew I had to be... deliberate with it.  I think that's the word.  Deliberate in prayer, and deliberate in seeking growth.  I felt a responsibility had been given to me, and I wanted to develop it -- and giving God the glory in the process.  So I prayed for help with growth.

And the answer to that prayer was surprising.  But God-like.  Because He answered my prayer for growth by not answering my intercessory prayers for myself.

Remember how I talked about growing through unanswered prayers?  

...to be continued...

an update on reading the Bible

To jog your memory:  I'm currently reading through the Bible in 90 days.  This is part of the reason I haven't been updating as frequently, as much of my free time is spent reading the Bible.

Anyways, here are some cursory thoughts:

  • It is hard to soak in the Word by cruising through it at 12 pages a day.  I think this is probably the only time I will do this challenge.
  • I used to think getting through Leviticus was hard.  And then I got to Chronicles.
  • Right when I think I'm not getting anything in my brain, suddenly I will make a connection between Genesis and Judges (or some other two books) without a second thought.  I think that's pretty cool.
  • I was really on top of things for the first few weeks, but last week I got into a bad habit of ... not reading.  The vertigo certainly didn't help.  So every day, I've been playing catch up.  Some days, it can be very stressful, and I don't like that reading the Bible has become a source of stress for me.
  • I cannot wait to get to the Psalms.  I used to read the Psalms every day.  I soak in the Psalms.  I love its honesty.
  • I am still stuck in Chronicles.  
Just curious:
  • What's the hardest book of the Bible for you to get through, and why?
  • Have you ever had to carve out time to spend reading the Word/praying?  What did you have to cut out to do it?  Were you able to make it last?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

mamas never get sick days

No matter how old I get, whenever I get sick, I always remember the "glory" days of being sick.  

You know the kind of days I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the days when you got to nap on the couch and watch endless TV and movies (for me it went from Muppet Babies to Anne of Green Gables to Gone With the Wind to every Judy Garland movie under the sun) -- the days when soup and orange juice and a bottomless supply of tissues were only a "MOM!"-call away.

In college, I still would call my mom when I was sick.  I would still indulge myself in an old movie, sleeping all day long, and a day or two of skipped classes.

After college, Elliott became my caretaker -- the one who would listen to every moan and sniffle (admittedly, I'm a terrible sick person aka I'm a drama queen and want pity when I'm sick... although there was that time I had the swine flu and was legitimately delirious).

And now?  Oh, boy.  Now.  Now, I'm joining the millions of other parents throughout the world who no longer get sick days.

The last week -- well, ever since returning home on Monday -- has been a learning experience.  True, I got sick in December, but it was nothing compared to this past week.  The world around me was a constant undulation -- waves moving up and down, up and down, causing me to crawl around on the floor like Gwen, or just give up and lie down.  I've been desperate for sleep, but unable to find it -- not so much due to the midnight-feeding-cries but more to do with that annoying I'm-sick-and-just-can't-sleep factor.  Naptime for Gwendolyn has been naptime for mommy as well -- or at least, mommy-is-gonna-lie-down-and-wait-for-the-world-to-stop-spinning-time.  And now that the waves have stopped, I'm still left with the feeling that my head is going to float away.

But there have been no days-on-the-couch for me.  Nope.  This week has been the normal play-with-baby, care-for-baby, bring-baby-to-the-doctor-for-her-eye, sing-to-baby, pray-with-baby, feed-baby, calm-baby week.  The house has been left in utter chaos, but I've still managed to feed my entire family (and myself) AND clean the dishes.  It's been mildly productive, even if I have felt like I've been swimming the whole time.

This isn't a pity-party.  This is more of an awakening -- a realization that parenthood requires sacrifices I never thought I'd be able to make.  Whenever I comment to other parents about my amazement at their lives ("You homeschool six children?" "You have toddlers, a pre-walker, and another baby on the way?"), they always tell me:  "You just do it."  And yeah.  You just do.  Some days, your prayers are desperate cries of, "Help me!  Help me!  Help me!" but then you just do it.

So I'd like to raise my virtual glass of orange juice to all the parents out there who never get sick days -- and especially to my own parents, and my mom in particular -- because even though my childhood memories are peppered with my own sick days, I cannot for the life of me remember my mom being sick.  And that's because she is a mom, and moms just don't get sick days.

Here's to you!

 (I didn't have OJ in the house.  Just green drink.  Because I'm weird like that.)

Oh, wait:  this is orange:


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the daily life

I want to live in the reality of Christ every day.
I want everyone to understand, grasp, and welcome His reality.

So much of my life, I live.  
I just live.
I do the daily things:  the chores, the work, the bills, the worrying.
So often, a part of me forgets.
I don't want to forget.

I want to live moment-to-moment
in His grace,
in His presence,
in His truth,
in His reality.

I want to be more affected.
I want to be more effective.

Reposted from November 29, 2009.

Monday, February 20, 2012

when you pray and the opposite happens

It starts out like this:

I am waiting outside the main conference room for the conference to be over.  Gwendolyn and I are bundled up, ready to hit the road.  It's 1 pm.  Although the ride to Pittsburgh was smooth and without trouble, I feel the familiar anxiety creeping up in my heart.  Desperate to combat it, but also fearing what lies ahead, I begin praying, "God, please keep us safe, please protect us from harm, please let us get home smoothly today."  Even though I know it's theologically incorrect, I feel like I've "done my duty" by praying this prayer (albeit frantically).  Somewhere in my brain, I feel like I'm "good" because of this prayer.  Yet somewhere deep inside my heart, I know that the prayer comes out of fear instead of trust.  And, you see, that's a problem.  Why?  Because of this, this, and this.

I ignore the fear, and keep breathing through this:

We reach the car, parked on level five of a massive parking garage.  Everything is going well; we're making good time, and we're in good spirits.  I hate driving in general, and usually Elliott does all the driving around here, but this time I'm on my own.  I'm the one in charge (and I really hate that).  While Elliott is driving around a large van full of a dozen or so students, I am driving our little Ford with two girls and a baby.  So I swallow the anxiety as I start piling stuff into the trunk.  I don't yet realize it, but my brain isn't exactly focused.  Slamming the trunk, I skip over to the driver's seat, sit down, and go to put my keys in the ignition.

This is the first hiccup:

My heart sinks.  I feel a lump in my throat as my mouth suddenly becomes dry.  My hands start shaking. I finally utter: "Guys, you're not gonna believe this..." I let the last word linger in the air as I try to think clearly what the best thing to do is.  Nothing comes to mind, and I slur out the rest: "The keys...were in my coat pocket...and I just locked it in the trunk..."  I start reaching for my phone, readying to call Elliott who is, no doubt, already on the highway -- readying my words to ask him to come back and save us, when Lauren's genius speaks up.  "Don't you have a pop-the-trunk button?"  I look over to where she's pointing, and push the button (which I always figured opened the hood).  The glorious POP sounds off, and I run to retrieve my keys.  "I could KISS you!"  I exclaim as I put the keys into the ignition.  "This ride won't be so bad after all," I muse.  Wanting to start the ride off right, I suggest we pray for the ride.  This time, I also add in a, "Please give Gwendolyn peace and help her to sleep well."  I think I'm "covered."

And then?...

I reach into my bag to find I lost the directions home.
We sit for 20 minutes in a line of cars, trying to get out of the parking lot.
It's 1:30 pm.
We finally get out of Pittsburgh convention traffic and onto the highway when, four miles down the road, the tunnel out of the city is completely blocked off.
A police car, two ambulances, and a firetruck zoom by.
We eventually have to make a U-turn on the highway, and receive directions from a Pittsburgh-native who is in the van (which is now about an hour's journey ahead of us).
We take the directions and don't make it back to the highway until 3:30 pm.
Gwen cries.
I want to cry, but I don't.
Everyone sleeps for a half hour (excepting me, of course).
Gwen cries.
We stop the car, and I'm fairly certain that Gwen has a fever.  She's burning up.  I try to give her infant tylenol and she spits it back up.  Gwen and I are now covered in sticky, synthetic, cherry goop.
The Starbucks at the rest stop doesn't know what a doppio con panna is.
Gwen cries.
We try singing.
I am at the end of my rope.

And the whole time, I feel like I'm going to lose it.  It takes every fibre in my being to not break down and cry.  I call out to God.  I ask Him to help.  Finally, I just give in to Gwen's crying and start (somewhat audibly) saying verses over and over and over again to myself until I find the truth in them.  

I start with the Lord's prayer.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil...

I remember the Holy Spirit.
Peace I give to you; my peace I leave with you.
I do not give as the world gives.
So do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

I move into Proverbs.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart...
And lean not on your own understanding...
In all your ways acknowledge Him.

And I find refuge in the Psalms.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want...
He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul...
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...
For your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Suddenly, I find myself in silence.  Gwen has fallen asleep and stays asleep until we get off the highway (and then she cries again).  Eventually, I drop everyone off safely, and Gwen stops crying once I pick Elliott up at the truck rental place.  It's 9:15 pm by the time we walk into our door.  

I tell Elliott how ironic it is that such a journey happened to me.  "This is exactly what I always pray against -- exactly what I am afraid will happen to me.  The only thing that didn't go wrong was car trouble or an accident.  But this is exactly what I always fear."

Of course, Elliott points out and it has already dawned on me that God was using this experience to grow me.  There are certain things I fear -- irrationally fear -- to the point where I think if they happen to me, I won't survive.  Somewhere inside me, I think that being in a strange city with no directions will kill me.  Somewhere inside me, I don't think I will make it back home to safety.  And when I pray for protection, I am not trusting the Lord.  I am praying because I am afraid.

Last night was very hard.  And I am still recovering from the exhaustion -- maybe not so much from the experience itself, but from the emotional turbulence I went through internally.  And the reality is, I didn't need to go through so much turbulence because God was still with us.  God was still with me.  In the midst of feeling like everything was going wrong, God was trying to whisper in my ear, Rachel, I've got this.  Don't worry so much.  Trust me.  You're going to make it home alive.  You're going to be okay.  But I wasn't listening.

Yet here I am.  Home.  Safe.
And Gwendolyn is home.  Safe.  Sleeping.  She woke up exceedingly happy.
And even if we didn't make it home safe, it would still be okay.  Because God's got this -- this whole "life thing."  This whole bigger plan.  He's got us.  He knows what He's doing.  We've got nothing to fear because we are in His hands.

And I'm just beginning to understand that, one unanswered prayer at a time.

Monday, February 6, 2012


sometimes there is needed

a pause
a breath
an interlude

and so I am taking full advantage of the chance
to sit
in silence
and breathe

and in the silence
in the breath
to heal

My posts may be a bit intermittent.
I am not "going anywhere," so please don't leave.
Feel free to check back.
But know that my silence is a good thing,
a productive thing.

Praying you also take the silence and breath when you need it,
and that you have people in your life to tell you when to hit the pause button.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

what WE wore wednesday: the family edition

On the way to a meeting with our CCO supervisor, I wore...

Carpet Coat: Urban Outfitters (thrifted and gifted)

While teaching kids theatre after-school, I wore...

Cardigan:  Anthropologie, Shirt: Anthro, Jeans: J. Crew

To work, my (hot) husband wore...

Jacket: Thrifted (and he loves it!), Shirt: Gap, Jeans: Gap

At church, my precious babygirl wore...

Dress: Vintage (gifted!), Cardigan: hand-me-down

pleated poppy

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