When we pray together

This morning, we come around our brother and lay our hands on his back. We pray. Some pray aloud with others adding “yes Lords” and “amens”. Other pray quietly and some whisper alongside the outloud requests for God to heal him.

Tonight we gather in the alter.  With our hearts seemingly one we thank God for the gift of our PreacherMan and ask God to unload untold blessings on him.

When we pray together The Spirit walks  among us. He helps us pray. His power flows no  stronger than when we pray in the privacy of our prayer closets and yet something unique happens when God’s people pray together.  Maybe it’s the raw emotion of my friend who is a big burly man. His voice catches and he begins to weep as he asks God to come close. And I cry with him. Maybe it’s my teacher who can put into words what my heart is too jumbled up to say clearly. It bolsters my faith and I whisper “Yes Lord” along side him. Maybe it’s the heart of the girl who sits in the back and cries as she tries to explain how her faith is lacking. She tells us she wants to understand but is struggling to make the pieces fit. We nod because we have been there and maybe are there now standing with her. We too are wanting God to increase our feeble faith. In these times praying is what grows that mustard seed size faith.  Together this morning we ask God to nourish the tiny seed in our hearts.

I am thankful for the quiet prayers said at 2 am when it’s just me and God. But tonight, I am awfully thankful for those times that we pray together. I am thankful for those times when my brothers and sisters loan me some of their faith because they know mine is lacking. I’m thankful that I can stand in the gap when all I can do is whisper “Yes and Amen” to their words. I am thankful that God in His wisdom calls us to pray together, not so much to change His mind, but instead to change our hearts.

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The Gospel

Maybe you are like me and came to know Jesus when you were a young child, too young to understand the deep things of God, but old enough to know you needed help to get to God. Maybe you walked a path of sin and gave your heart to God when you reached the end of your rope. Maybe you were a really good person, the kind that raises great kids and pays bills on time, loves their wife and goes to church, but one day God opened your eyes and ears to your need for Him and you understood that all your goodness was not enough. Or maybe you are still walking through life on your own, without really knowing Him as The Way……

No matter where you find yourself, The Gospel is for you,…

This morning The PreacherMan tells us the age old story of The Gospel. And this morning, I sat with it. I let the realness of the Gospel saturate my mind and my heart. Sometimes believers like me, that have walked with God for a while, rush right past The Great Sacrifice Story, thinking that it is a truth for those who do not know Him.

But this morning as the PreacherMan takes Philippians 3 and places it in our laps to look at and examine, I pick up the truth of being IN Him and let my mind see the picture of my unworthy, dirty self being encapsulated by glory of the Son. His righteousness completely covers my sin, before I knew Him, and now in my greed and impatience and pride that dogs me even this morning before I walked into the church house.

And God whispers to me, “…it’s a miracle today, if not more than when you where a little girl that decided to follow me.”

It does us all good to sit with The Gospel and let its story of sacrifice of The Perfect One making me acceptable before God, fill our minds. It does me good not to rush on past looking for quick fixes to my urgent need of the day. Because there is no greater need than the one Jesus met on the cross.

Maybe it’s a good afternoon to sit here with The Gospel. And indeed the more I meditate on it the more the wonder unfolds……

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Unwrap your gift

Some mornings are a gift.

This morning I do not go into work until nine.  I have an extra hour that I have sorely missed all summer.  I hit the snooze two times then stumble out of bed and into my running shoes. Most running day I have slept in my running clothes to hopefully motivate me not to hit the snooze three times or turn it off all together and snuggle up to The Mister for another 45 minutes.

This morning, however,  was a gift. As soon as I stepped out on the back porch I felt the coolness that had not been around since last March.  I knew that most likely tomorrow’s run will be thick and muggy again so I decided I needed to unwrap this gift slowly and carefully. I did not rip off the bow, instead I decided not to listen to my iPod and instead, with every step down my long drive, I listened for the bird that were making a choir of music. Instead of tearing through the wrapping, I listened to my breathing ramp up in rhythm to my steps and watched the cool air mix with the sultry lake water and cast the most gorgeous fog over the lake. The sun splayed over the surface and a thousand diamonds sparkled in the morning light.

Sometimes unwrapping the gift is part of the joy of receiving the gift.  I sit here on my porch, run finished and let  the cool breeze dry sweat off my face while I finish my coffee. I hear a deer in the woods but can’t see her yet.  As soon as The Mister comes out to join me we will watch her through the trees and we won’t rush because The Mister never rushes when he watches deer.

The sky is a brilliant blue and the last of my tomatoes are turning a fiery deep red. I practice being in the moment. I don’t think about the rest of my day, or about my grandsweetie going to preschool for the first time tomorrow. I don’t want anything to spoil the next five minutes.

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This  morning was a gift. God gave it to me because He loves me and sometimes I feel like He is so good to me I must be His favorite.

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Why I love Wednesday night Church

IMG_2564I am a church girl. My dad was a preacher so when I say I grew up in church, I LITERALLY grew up in church. Maybe that’s why it makes me sad to hear so many people complain about the church.

Now to be clear,  I am not oblivious to the faults that can be found inside the doors. Having spent the whole of my forty-eight years in a local church, I have seen it all. I could write a book on what I have witnessed that would seem a good reason to walk away. Through the years, in different churches, I have seen leaders commit sexual sin, believers eat each other alive with slander,  legalism that ostracized earnest babes in Christ, and yes even embezzlement of church funds.

And yet, here I sit on a Wednesday night in my seat. I listen to my brother share how to walk in the Spirit. I know this guy. He’s not perfect,  but he is the real deal.  We will share prayer requests in a minute and  I will put little stars next to the ones I know and especially Ms. Charlie because she is getting close to seeing Jesus and I ask God to be close.

Later I will make my way through people that I know and love. I will hug some of them and stop to ask  how their mom is doing in her chemo treatments. I will ask another if she can bring fruit to the missions breakfast next Saturday. Because this is family and ministry and it’s a   beautiful messy combination of both.

Some people have grown cynical of church and have scars to prove their hurts, but I am willing to keep on coming and praying with and for these people.  I think about the message Sunday that our PreacherMan gave from Philippians. We persevere and pour out in this ministry called the church because She  is precious in His sight.

And who am I to think that I have a better plan than Christ when it comes to spreading the gospel than His church?  I will fail in ministry. I will get hurt and at the same time, hurt others. I will be disappointed and in turn,  let others  down.  But you know what? By God’s  grace I’ll still keep going to Wednesday night prayer meetings. To be honest, I haven’t found any place that does for me what Wednesday night prayer meetings does. Maybe it’s because my prayer life always needs work, or maybe I just prefer  the relaxed  way the Preacher Man shares the Word with us. Regardless of the reason, it’s where I am supposed to be.  I hope my heart stays soft towards Wednesday nights for the next forty-eight years.

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16 missed text

Today I forgot my phone at home. We were half way to town when I realized it. The Mister offered to go back for it but I was already late for work so I told him to keep on going.

I reached for it six times before he ever pulled up in the parking lot at student health.  “Call  me on the office phone if you need me.” I instructed him and as he drove away I could feel the stirring of a wee bit of anxiety in my chest as I surveyed the prospects of a long day with no phone.

What happened instead was one of the most peaceful, focused and productive days I have had in a long time.  Let’s  be honest, I am not that essential to the welfare of mankind that one day without a cell phone caused a huge tilt in the earth’s axis. Strangely, I found that I listened attentively in my morning meeting and what’s more,  I noticed the sheer rudeness of people around me who completely zoned out on their phones while the speaker did all but stand on her head to keep their attention.   It did not occur to me, that had I remembered my phone I would probably have been checking emails as furiously as everyone else.

As I watched everyone around me engrossed in their phones it reminded me of a avacado green phone with a rotary dial that hung on the wall in my mama’s kitchen. If you wanted a private phone conversation you walked down the hall dragging that coiled green cord behind you, locked yourself in the bathroom and turned on the faucet to drown out your words while you talked to your BFF while perched on the side of the tub. There were four girls and one phone when I grew up. There was a timer that no one paid attention to. Do you remember how infuriating it was to call and get an endless busy signal because your friend’s  mom was gossiping for hours with the neighbor?

I remember prank calls like “Is your washing machine running? Well you better go catch it.” . This was delivered to a random number from the phone book.  We would slam the receiver down as we laughed. That was long before caller ID and a fun way to spend a summer afternoon until we got caught and punished.

Before cell phone my brave  parents allowed us to go out on a Friday night and had no way of knowing where we were. They were forced to believe we were “bowling”, when only by Gods grace did we survive our teenage foolishness. Truth be told, I think my childhood was a whole lot more fun without having Snapchat.

I miss those days. Don’t get me wrong. I love my cell phone and made a beeline for it as soon as we walked in the door. 16 missed text! But I loved the freedom of not being attached to a phone today. I love having social media at my finger tips and I hate it too. I love that I can FaceTime my grandsweetie but I hate the distraction of texts through the workday.

I just finished reading this book by Tony  Reinke: “12 Ways Your Smartphone  Is Changing You”. It is  a complete review of my mixed feelings. I highly recommend you read it whether or not you think you are addicted to your smartphone.

And don’t worry, I already placed my cell phone inside my work bag for tomorrow.

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Resets, mountains, and afternoon naps

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Come sit here with me this last day of vacation. Let’s sip our coffee and pray this day drags by.  Last vacation days always get me down. So let’s sit and  chat about how great this week has been.

You know vacations are good for the soul, even if it’s a staycation, a week with family or a trip to Tahiti. Being married to The Mister means vacation takes me to the mountains.  I find a certain type of stillness here on these mountains that live up to their name of Blue Ridge.

Days were spent sipping coffee, browsing yarn shops and frying thick cut bacon in the morning while I wait on The Mister to get home and tell me his trout fishing adventures.  We climbed Brasstown Bald and beheld the splendor of Horse Trough Falls.  We took a nap every afternoon with the windows open so we could hear the summer storm that rolled out from over the mountain about 2 pm.

I  am not dreading going home because I don’t love my life there. No, I miss my grandsweetie and I love my work too much not to want to go back ( although I have started counting days until retirement on that big calendar that hangs on my bulletin board at my desk).

Vacation blues come from an utterly fulfilling week that quite frankly, would be unsustainable in real life.  Vacations are good for resets. Time to turn off your phone and sleep late.  Time to take a long run…but only if I want to.  Time to play cards because there is no television.

Endless vacations would make us lazy. But  I have this last day and I will be lazy today. I’ll have one more cup of coffee while I sit here and count cows on that hillside. Tomorrow someone somewhere will need me to do something for them, but not today. Today is mine to waste…and I think I will do just that.

 

 

 

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Tilling my heart

Last week I planted my tomatoes in the little raised bed The Mister made me. I’m thankful that he humors my desire to farm on such a tiny scale. In fact, over the last few years I have scoured the internet and read the entire UGA extension office web site to increase my harvest of Big Boy tomatoes because everyone’s knows nothing says “summer” like a slab of red juicy tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper and between to slices of soft Sunbeam  bread. 

The first time I planted tomatoes I did not know much about soil prep. Composting and weed control were not incorporated and my harvest was not particularly impressive. Fast forward to last year. I had tomatoes everywhere. Big fat juicy red tomatoes. We ate them in salads, sliced on hamburgers, dipped our chips in homemade salsa and well….you get the idea. See, I learned the value of soil prep.

And so it  is with my heart……

Jesus explains soul prep to his disciples, and to me. And this morning, after pulling some weeds and feeling the  pleasure of dark black soil between my fingers I think about soul prep here at the edge of my garden where it is  still and quiet and the dew is still wet on my bare feet…

Jesus explains how sometimes in some hearts the seed  of the word never blossoms into fruit because the soil of the soul is never tended. And I see the birds swoop down and tug at seeds barely tucked in the ground.  Satan disguises himself as a black crow and waits to relentlessly eat up theWord  before it even takes root. So I set up a scarecrow on the edge of my heart in the form of prayer. I ask God to chase those Satanic crows  away so I can recieve the Word with gladness. And He does…The Master Gardener patiently shows me the way to set up the scarecrow of faith through prayer and  attention to the disciplines of the faith. he stands guard on the edges of the garden when I ask Him and chases the swooping black crow from the garden so the sower can cast the seeds.

And then I dig my hands deep into the fresh ground and find the cold hard pieces of stone, these fears of what people will say about me, the rejection of the world and toss them outside the garden edges of my heart. Persecution of any degree finds it way into every believers garden. I determine to withstand my appointed persecution like a good soldier and pick up that stone to find rich soil underneath. Because persecution for me will come but God promises to help me endure and find the fertile places where my roots can settle despite the troubles of this life.

I pull at the tiny weeds I see creeping up around the edges of my tomatoes and as I tug at them I ask God to pull up the desire of this world from my heart. Sometimes it’s not the rocky troubles of the world as much as the desire to have more, and be more, and success of this life that choke out the seeds of the gospel in my life. I pinch out the roots of selfishness from my heart and it is painful as I tug it out and toss it aside. These weeds will wrap their long stickers fingers around the green stalks of the Word and before I am aware the Word is nothing more than a yellow withered plant here in the garden of my heart. It’s a daily duty this weed picking. Every morning God calls me to the garden and points out these tiny buds that seem harmless. But I pluck them out today  while they are tender and soft before the roots of materialism and desire for recognition take root and grow their slender thorns.

And I see the garden now. The way the Gardner wants it, rich and black. I can smell the deep earthy scent of spring as the dew melts on it. I watch the leaf of my tomatoes plant unfold in the gentle morning sun. Just this morning the tiniest yellow flower pokes its head from under a leaf with the promise of red fruit that will come late June. 

And so it is in my heart.

And I ask God to burn the parable  of the sower from Mark 4 in my mind.  I ask Him to till the garden of my heart. A daily task that leads to a beautiful harvest.

 

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