October 29, 2013

Crazy Prayers - Maybe my Most Vulnerable Post Ever


We are sitting in stillness before the storm. The air is thick and it's too warm for the season. We are wondering if we’re going to need to take cover, get in the “fraidy hole.”

We can wonder, but the truth is we are going to have to ride out this storm.

Sometimes life calls us to pray the craziest prayers.

We asked God for a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma because it was the best alternative apart from healing. He gave it to us, to Dad.

Of course, we are asking for healing first and always, in present tense, continually.

God is many things, but the fact that He is Present, brings me the peace that passes understanding.

God sits next to me on the blue plastic couch. There is an indention on this ‘Love’seat right next to my spot tapping out words on my Mac. Some might think it was the weight of many backsides having left their imprint there, but I know better. There is One who sits besides me.

The pinkish chair sits over next to Dad’s bed holds a pillow and the Presence of God.

God is everywhere.

I can’t sit here without thinking of my grandmother and the man she raised that became my Daddy. She faced her own bout with cancer. She fought hard and held it at bay for a long time and then she met her Love on “the bright riverside…when all sorrow has drifted away.”

When I started my blog, I didn’t know much about blogging or communities of bloggers who interact and get to know each other through their writing. I didn't know about promoting a blog on Facebook. I blogged because I loved to write and write about my Life. I didn’t think anyone would read it. Ever.

But then, someone did (read my blog) and I got brave and linked with others, and then promoted it on Facebook (“promoted” makes me wince alittle because it goes against my grain). I had taken a blog address that I knew I would remember---the song my Grandma sang to me so many times—Meet You in the Morning. I blogged on a whim.

The “Most Mornings” thing? I don’t have an explanation about my crazy blog title because I always meet God in the morning and throughout the day. Or better said, He meets with me.

Oh...to be loved by God and to know it.

I am technically incompetent as you can tell by looking at the blog and I haven’t done anything about getting it worked out. Not because I couldn’t, but because I wasn’t sure it mattered.

It matters. Everything matters. To think otherwise is a lie.

My Daddy has never been into doing things “half-a✳✳"---his words, not mine. But I have blogged that way for the most part. I don’t feel shame about it, but I haven’t given myself permission to take it seriously. Seriously? (I sound like a Valley Girl. Believe me, if that's how I sound, it is with a Southern drawl.)

Maybe, when the storm calms in the weeks (or months) to come, I will get someone to help me “set my table,” my place in the blog world, in a way that reflects me, the place where I have invited you and others to come and join me in my life.

Until then, we will see what words fall onto these pages on an unkept table, kitchen variety and certainly not the dining room.

This morning I prayed the prayer from Mark 9, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” He is helping my unbelief and I sense faith rising. I know that if you are reading this you may already know that I am always going to believe. I am absolutely convinced the God who created me, my Daddy, my Grandmother, and every person on this planet is not surprised by our present condition. He is with us and He is faithful.

So if we need to pray crazy prayers, we will pray them. And we will take His answers as they come and know they are good.

God is always good.
________________________________

We are going to let the docs fight the cancer.

Everyone is asking if I need anything? 

You can give me Scripture---the Sword of the Spirit. Yes, we have a fleshly battle, but we will absolutely win the spiritual one with all that is at our disposal in the Person of the Holy Spirit, the power of God, and the conquering Cross of Jesus. 

And if you are so inclined, you can pray a crazy prayer.

Thanks for reading. Those who have told me they read and those that haven't, I want you to know I am humbled and blessed. Thank you---Dea

October 27, 2013

Never


I noticed him swallow before he spoke. His apple bobbing under his chin, the ER doc swallowed, then furrowed his brow. He brought his hand to his bearded chin, stroked it three times. Spoke. Words are powerful. Some words suck the air out a room.

With my bottom plastered to a plastic chair, I was every bit of how God made me. I am my father’s daughter.

I am intuitive. So when the doctor speaks, I am reading body language and hearing the word lesion, knowing the spots on his back have brought my Daddy to this day. My Daddy pushed through days of getting weaker before he gave in and went for help.

The hospital staff, history after history, asked him about his previous stays in the hospital.

He tells them he’s never been in a hospital. Never. He wasn’t even born in a hospital.

The night passes and the big gun comes in tells him the likely diagnosis. The confirming tests won’t be back for a couple of days. But the big gun knows---and we know he knows. We must accept what is common to man but it is never easy. Never.

We are out here in the middle of America but the best clinic in the world for his cancer is an hour up the road at the teaching hospital. And “best in the world” isn’t cliché. It’s true. And we are thankful, so thankful, for the provision because there’s not much we have to brag about being famous for around here, except for being home to the world’s largest retailer, for the man who dreamed his dream just up the road from here (who incidentally battled the same disease), and for a place called Hope that grows giant watermelons and politicians.

My Daddy grew up walking behind a mule in a cotton field. He went to the world when I was in my twenties living in exotic places, working. Places he never dreamed he’d see. Never. He worked until he retired. Two weeks into retirement, he decided he liked the change of pace. Since then, he’s been home tending cows and playing golf---until a week ago Thursday.

Now he’s sick and I am doing what I thought I would never do. Never. Not because I was unwilling but because I wouldn’t go there. Why? It is a waste of time thinking on things and how life might play out until the ball is thrown into your court and you have to run the play.

We haven’t run this way before. Never. But we’re still running even though we are stumbling through a step at time, at times a breath at time. We will run beside him until we finish this course.

And we will be grateful in all things and expect miracles because nothing is impossible with God. Nothing.

As hard as it is tell this story, to be living it with someone you love, there is comfort in knowing that others know this path well and will help us along the way. Mostly, if you believe in the power of prayer, would you lift my Dad before the Throne of Grace. We are praying for healing. Always.

October 20, 2013

The Approachable Jesus



When I shut off the light I was angry at myself for being distracted, for being unable to wrangle a lack of self-control in order to keep my commitment to put words on a page each day for thirty-one days, a goal I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I was frustrated, opened a blank Word page; closed it. No beginning sentence was good enough. I jumped back to the Internet, distracted myself by reading news, blogs, and scrolling Facebook. 

I shutdown the computer at midnight, crawled in the flannel sheets, and slept until the dog woke me at 8:00. I let her out, felt the chill of the morning and crawled back in the bed for another couple of hours of fitful dreaming. I got up at 10:00, a ridiculously late time for me. Mid-morning, I put on a pot of coffee to begin the day.

It was Saturday. The day I take for rest. Jeff and Luke were working. Maggie and I had the house for the morning, or what was left of it.

I opened the computer, then an email, let my undisciplined finger click on an advertisement for Tablet Hotels. The photographs of exotic places drew me in and soon I found myself pining for Malaysia, for London, for Tuscany---places I have never been. How can I pine for what I have never experienced?

I read about a few of the places, the amenities, the reviews of those who have stayed in the places I have not seen. I was about to stumble away from a day of rest into a day of discontent. There is always the opportunity for a re-boot.

It may have been mid-morning but it wasn’t too late to meet with God. Redirecting my mind toward my Saturday rest, I soon found myself in the book of Isaiah, reading again the words of Isaiah 57-58. At the end of Chapter 58 the Lord reveals the kind of fast that He has chosen. It’s a familiar passage but its powerful message still falls fresh on me. Will I ever learn to live what stirs me?
“Is not this the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, 
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?...
…And the Lord will guide you continually 
and satisfy your desire in scorched places 
and make your bones strong; 
and you shall be like a watered garden, 
like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; 
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”  (Is. 58:6-12 ESV for complete passage)



I have never really fasted. It’s one of those spiritual practices that has never seemed relevant to me as a New Testament believer. I think the attitude is similar to how I once felt about keeping the Sabbath. Fasting and practicing the Sabbath were in the past tense for me as a believer this side of the Cross.

Jesus observed the Sabbath. Jesus fasted. 
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Jesus came and “dwelt among us.” When we see Jesus on the pages of Scripture, we are looking at God in the flesh. What Jesus did, we are to do. We are to observe the life of Christ, look at how He lived to know how we are to live. He “gave himself up…”

We aren’t powerless to live this way. In fact, to live the Christ-life in the flesh is impossible. Through the life of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives his life through us. We are the image-bearers of God. We give God glory.

One of the very first things Jesus did when he began his public ministry was to enter into a time of fasting. But Jesus also lived the fast that his Father had chosen as described in Isaiah 58. He gave to the poor. He fasted from glory and became the God-Man; yet, He gave out of the vast riches of his Life to all who would receive, both to the physically and the spiritually poor. 

Those who fasted in days when Jesus walked the earth, the Sabbath-keepers who Jesus taught in the Synagogue, the givers and obvious prayer-sayers he observed from his vantage point in the temple, the religious elite checking off their holy-to-do lists weren’t on the best terms with Jesus. Still Jesus continued to worship with them, teach them, and eat with them. He wanted them to connect their religious practice to their hearts. Most of them preferred to hold tightly to their outward appearances and their positions of influence, to their identities they guarded so zealously.

It wasn’t the religious who approached Jesus in faith, who noticed the Light and came for the Water. It was the needy that came to Him, who sought Him out, who ate the Bread that filled. The approachable Jesus made a way for all who would to come near the Holy God. 
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them…. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…  
(Hebrews 12:18-24, ESV for complete passage)


The needy flung the risk of rejection onto the back of jackass slapped it on the hind side and sent it packing. A need for a sure outcome was not important. They were in a mess, sinful, broken, outcast, the wrong race or gender, or both. Their need compelled them to go to Jesus whether it was because of sickness, blindness, hunger, mental torment, even death. The desperate and humble came. Jesus met them where they were. They came with nothing to give and nothing to lose, with everything to gain. They weren’t disappointed.

God made Himself approachable in the person of Jesus. But often pride holds back many who are needy from going to Jesus because they are unwilling to risk the uncertainty of God’s will. They are afraid they’ll lose ground; they don’t trust his heart. 

We want to approach Jesus on our terms. We want certainty. We aren’t looking for miracles unless they are guaranteed. I know I have lived this way, but God won’t buy in to that kind of living. It’s not his way.

It grieves me when my life displays the manifestations of devotion without the transformation.  Whether in worship, in prayer, in the study of God’s word, in keeping the Sabbath and or in fasting (or not fasting), I can enter into religiosity without any anticipation of God working in my life. I live the rituals of God-living and I lose my passion, disconnect from the heart. 

I need to wake up! None of what I do is relevant apart from God’s transforming work in my life. What is the point of going through the motions? Every day I am needy. As long as I live in this flesh, my greatest source of strength comes in identifying my need to live in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

With humility, I must find the lowly place of surrender, the bed of ashes to enter into grief, to fast the way that God has chosen, to give up self, daily take up my cross and follow Him.

This life is a journey, the way narrows and I walk on… not to Malaysia or London or Tuscany. My life is here. I am growing where I am planted in a well “watered garden.”

All of life’s uncertainty is swallowed up in in life’s greatest hope---the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I live the miracle of the resurrected life…all because God came near, the revelation of God in approachable Presence, the person of Jesus Christ.

God took me from distraction to direction in the course of twenty-four hours. When we are needy, He is waiting.

If you read this far in this long post, I feel like I need to tell you I stayed in my pajamas all day! God bless you this day. Praying that you take time to today to take your every need to Jesus...

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Emily at Imperfect Prose

October 15, 2013

Lisa-Jo, Ordinary, Laundry, and Me

On Friday, I wrote for a cynical five minutes on the word prompt “ordinary.”

It was Lisa-Jo’s word for Five Minute Friday, a bloggers prompt with simple rules: write for five minutes, no editing.

I didn’t post it. I read my words back to myself and realized I had swallowed a big dose of self-pity. I was irritated and grumpy.

On Saturday, I sat down to a Bible lesson on ordinary. I was convicted.

Gideon was threshing, an ordinary task, the necessary work of the harvest.

Gideon had no choice. He couldn’t do work of threshing the kernels the easy way. He couldn’t go out in the open to the threshing floor with the oxen trampling the wheat underfoot, pulling a weight to break the hard encasement from the tender nourishment inside the seed, a cool breeze blowing in from the north.

No, life’s circumstances necessitated his threshing by hand in a winepress. Throwing a cumbersome weight down with his muscled arms, he beat the seeds with all his strength, hidden from the sight of his enemies. There would be no wind to blow away the chaff.

He must have been sucking it in, the chaff and the dust, inside those walls as the particles of chaff swirled around him each time he swung the weight up, over and down in the enclosure. He would have been caked with wheat particles glued to his body by the sweat of his work. He must have hacked to clear his throat, wiped his face with his sleeve.

Threshing was routine in the midst of the harvest. To harvest meant threshing must follow.

Gideon couldn’t do it the optimal way. The Midianites would see. They would come and take his harvest. I imagine they intentionally waited until the threshing was done. They would have clearly seen the wheat growing in the fields. They weren’t stupid. They would wait until the threshing was done to take what was not theirs and plunder the abundance without having to do any of the work.

So Gideon hid in the wine press, threshed in secret, sucked in dust and chaff so he could perform what was the routine task that always followed the work of the harvest. He and his family could survive because he was willing to work in the confines of his present reality. Surrounded by enemies---and idols, life was difficult but Gideon trudged on. He did what was necessary for the survival of those who depended on him.

There is no indication that Gideon despised the ordinary even with its difficulties. But he may have been asking the age-old question, “why?” Or maybe, he asked, “where?” Why wasn’t the Land of Promise more promising? Where was the God he had heard about from his grandparents? He was here in this place because of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seemed that God had led the people into the land and took off to parts unknown.

Gideon was doing what was necessary and life giving. He was attending to the gift of the harvest. My guess is that he was thankful for the provision despite the difficulty. Could he have had any sense of gratitude, seen any semblance of the good when the enemy camped in the valley, the smoke of their fires lifting into the wheat fields, slipping under the threshold of the door?

Even though life was difficult, threshing would yield life.

I find myself despising the ordinary far too often. When I do, I am despising the provision, the harvest of life given to me from above. I need new eyes to see. Routine has often looked to me as tedious, boring, and mundane. Unlike Gideon, I don’t even need enemies trying to take my provision; I have become my own enemy, despising what has been given to me from above.

I want to live differently regarding the ordinary----to remember the gifts in the harvest in my life. I want to thank God when I sort the whites from the darks, take the washed wet clothes and shove them over into the dryer. I want to breathe gratitude, the warm, fragrant smell of clean cotton right from the dryer---an abundance to fold and put away; to stand under the flow of water from the faucet showering me, leaving lime on the glass door for me to scrub. Dust settles endlessly on the furniture. I see it swirling in the light coming through the windows. Dusting---the never-ending task of wrangling the ordinary.

If I can’t see God’s provision in the ordinary, how will I ever see it when the enemy is at the gate---when ordinary is threatened by crisis, health issues, the myriad of possibilities that come with living in a broken world?

Ordinary looks likes Jesus, unassuming, without thunderbolts and lightning. When we don’t see provision in the ordinary, we are likely to miss Jesus in all the little pieces of routine that together make up a life.

Ordinary in the daily-ness of life is one of God’s greatest gifts. My ordinary life is a life so many in this world could not dream to live.

That’s why I am joining Lisa-Jo’s #LaundryForAfrica Day. She’s asked the world to help build a water source and laundry point for mothers in South Africa. After my day on Friday complaining about the ordinary, the necessary, the mundane in life, I will start where I am and help provide a place for someone to wash her baby's clothes.

And I will be thankful for the laundry in hamper and the machines that clean my clothes with a touch of button.

Those who are given much give much.

Today I am embracing the ordinary and I praying for the extraordinary among the poor of the world who need the miracle of water to come into their ordinary lives.

Hit the red link above to read Lisa-Jo's post or click here to donate through the giving site Pure Charity.




Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Emily at Imperfect Prose

October 4, 2013

Writing requires Words



When I was a clueless freshman in college, I wrote an essay for my English class about my life, about my journey to my place in the chair I was sitting in at big table in a college classroom.

I wrote about my time at my grandmother’s house because so many of my memories seemed to congregate there. 

I wish I had that essay, but I was eighteen and folders of classwork went into the trash bin at the end of the semester.

The reason I would like to have it is because that essay was the first time that I got encouragement as a writer. In particular, it was a description of an old well out in the pasture near the barn. I described a broken handle that lay beside the well.

The part about the handle was fabricated. The handle I described only existed in my imagination, although there actually was an old well out there beside the barn.

My professor underlined the descriptors and praised the arrangement of my sentences regarding that well. He spoke to me openly before the class and praised my writing, even telling me that I should pursue developing it.

I did feel some pride for being called out that day, but I didn’t take him seriously.

Or did I? Why do I remember a conversation that lasted less then five minutes?

The reason I ask these questions is that I remember that interaction twenty-seven years later.

Two years ago, I started pursuing writing with intention for the first time. I have made some progress but not without struggle getting to the page.

Today, I write “Day 4” of thirty-one days of writing, most of them will go unpublished which is my intention so that most of what I write can be done without restraint in an effort to get my authentic voice to the page.

Writing doesn’t always require readers. It only requires words. 

Linking today with Lisa-Jo Baker at Five Minute Fridays on the writing prompt: Write.

October 2, 2013

Another Habakkuk Day



The day has begun with a thunderstorm. I sit in a quiet white room and listen to the sound of the rain just outside the window. Raindrops are catching the morning light, falling from the tree branches just outside the window. It’s a soaking rain.

Lightning rips open the sky and finds its way to the ground. I count the thousands like I did when I was a child; listen to the thunderclap before it rolls off into the valley. The storm is close. The thunder comforts me. 

After one particularly booming episode, the rain beat down harder rattling into a roar. The sound of thunder, of rain becomes a reminder that so many things are not in our control.

Today I am remembering God is big. I need to remember. The morning storm is the only one on radar in an entire nation. I sit and wonder if it is just for me.

In this world, we can feel very small and powerless. The knowing that God is big, that He is control, is a great comfort to me, especially when I sit with questions with no answers.

We won’t walk through life without questions. We don’t have to look very far to see something we don’t understand, something we cannot get into context in our limited knowing.

The biggest question of all is will we only believe only in the rain or will we put our faith in the One who created it?

Are we willing to look at the culture reeling and the earth groaning, and speak words of faith when the answers to our questions aren’t easy to swallow?

Will we say with Habakkuk?

Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,

And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,

And makes me walk on my high places.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 NASB)

Faith doesn’t see with the eyes.

Faith sees with the heart.

Faith rejoices in God’s salvation, is revived in God’s strength.

Faith walks forward in a fruitless place, and climbs higher to see the big picture.

Faith remembers God is big in the midst of a storm.

Sometimes I have "Habakkuk days" when I am full of questions. I want my questioning days to end with words of faith. I want stand on the "rock that is higher than I" and find strength in my salvation and praise upon my tongue.

Do you have "Habakkuk days?" Or am I the only one?

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Emily at Imperfect Prose