Interceding

My pastor spoke on intercession yesterday at church. How it is bold, daring, brave, and persistent. Those are my words, not sure if they were his. But today as I thought about it, I realize how shallow I go most of the time.

There are prayers that need to be said that we do not want to say. Prayers for walls to be torn down to their foundations, prayers for seams and garments to be ripped apart. Of course we pray for the healing and the mending and the restoration, but there is a time for everything that is fake to be torn down as well so that new walls can be built.

That’s a scary prayer. What if they don’t hang in? What if they give up? What id the pain is too much to handle?

I guess that’s how the spirit helps us. We know things must be said so we try to say them. God help us.

Nik Wallenda's take on Faith

This past week a guy named Nik Wallenda walked a tightwire stretched across a canyon. Not THE Grand Canyon, but that’s a rather minute detail when you’re talking about 40MPH winds and a drop far enough that the number of feet really doesn’t matter. I found a pretty good highlight video here:

(If the video won’t play in your browser, here’s the direct link.)

I’m no daredevil. This isn’t on my bucket list. Nothing like it is anywhere close to something I’d like to do during my lifetime. But what I do like is this guy’s take on faith. Check out this from an interview with Christianity Today:

When asked, “What role does faith play in your life,” here was Nik’s response:

My faith plays a huge role in my life, and I am very blessed to be where I am. One of the questions I always get is, “Are you testing your faith / are you testing God?” I don’t see it like that at all. I don’t believe God keeps me on the wire. I believe God gives me a unique ability to walk the wire, but it’s up to me whether I train properly. There’s a lot of people that have amazing relationships with Christ that lose their lives in a car accident. Does that mean they didn’t have a good enough relationship with Jesus? No. Life happens and God created us all in his image, but we’re all our own people. We’re not robots. We make decisions.

 

What I like about this the most is where he said, “I don’t believe God keeps me on the wire.” Combine that with the video, where you here him carrying on a conversation with God, and you’ll see a difference from the lives of many Christians, myself included some days. He wasn’t up there praying, “Oh God, keep me safe,” or “Lord, please cause these winds to die down.” He was THANKING Jesus. PRAISING God. Fear didn’t have a chance. This guy was trained up and ready to rock this challenge.

And here we go, praying for another safe commute to work after a night of too little sleep. Praying for God to help us do well on a test we’re completely unprepared for. Pleading for God to show us how to start a conversation with a stranger when we refuse to have a casual conversation with the neighbor next door.

Rather than asking God to do a miracle in our life, why don’t we just go DO that miracle? Train. Prepare. Expect. And then DO.

Entrusted by God – a Prayer

 

Today I was led in prayer by Brian Hardin of the Daily Audio Bible. His words became mine. I wanted to get it written down to come back to; they are so true.

From September 4, 2012‘s Daily Audio Bible (thanks Tamarie!):

God, I thank you today for your Word. It’s something we’re grateful for every day. It is something that we feast upon every day. It is the nourishment for our souls each and every day, but I am profoundly grateful for the community of the Daily Audio Bible as well. I am profoundly grateful that this isn’t some solitary endeavor that we embark on each and every day, trying to make it work by ourselves. That is not how you made us. …

That you are personal and that you have individual time to spend with each one of us, but you are vast and you are so vast that you encompass us each. You come to us where we are. The love that you have for us is more profound than we can understand. So we throw our hands up in surrender and worship. We fall to our knees overwhelmed with your patience for us. We bow our heads to the ground in reverence and awe and yet we walk boldly into your presence through the sacrifice of your son Jesus for our sake. This is a love that is beyond any description. No amount of poetry or hymn, no articulation of the tongue, nothing we can do comes close to describing your majesty.

We love you. We offer ourselves to you. That is so little and yet that is what we have and you think that is amazing. That we come to you willingly and that you adopt us into your family and that you give us your name and that you ask us to be your ambassadors and you entrust the kingdom’s coming to us, it’s profound. So Holy Spirit, we ask that you allow the weightiness of that to descend upon us, that you have entrusted into our hands, care and keep of spreading the good news, of bringing the kingdom. We take that charge and we bring it into the world we live in. That begins in our hearts and spreads to the lives of our spouses and children, into the communities that we live in, the places that we work, the churches that we attend, our neighborhoods, our cities. Help us, God, to never lose sight of what is really going on, that it isn’t just about our own personal struggle, that it is the struggle to reclaim and restore this world for your glory and your fame so that we welcome King Jesus. Help us, Holy Spirit, to understand the weightiness and the profound trust that you have placed in our lives. May we rise into it.

In the name of our Savior, the Risen Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. We pray this in His name. Amen.

 

Hugs from God

I have a little thing with hugs. With physical contact period. I long for it, yet am uncomfortable around it.

Friday, after a very wearing day, I finally had a few minutes alone before bed. I sat down on the kitchen floor, put my head in my hands, and finally just relaxed and let it all out for a couple minutes. I remember saying something like, “I would just love to be hugged, God. Freely, just given a real hug.”

Sunday morning after church it started. A pair of boys from the youth group, Ethan literally RAN up to me and have me a huge hug. Right after that, another. Later on, a full fledged hug from Tabi.

On monday, two girls came out to ride horses. Again, the hugs came as a pair, Tabi and Stevi. I was starting to get the message. These were direct from God, and just what I needed.

Then today, after lunch with a group of friends, 3 more. 2 from kids I may not see again for awhile but are now emblazoned on my heart, Stephen and Amber. And another from Tabi. And I felt finally free of something, to really hug back.

Loved it.

As I told Erin the whole story, starting with the prayer, tonite it made me tear up a little more. God gave me EXACTLY what I asked for, in a way far more personal and meaningful than I’d thought possible. Especially with how they seemed to come in pairs.

So to all of you, ET, Tabi, Stevi, Amber, Stephen and one more who I’ve gone blank on… Thank you from the depths of my heart and soul. God was hugging me, through you. You mean so much to me, and I love you.

A Kitten Hunt

My family and I went on a walk this evening to visit our neighbors around the corner, about 1/2 mile from the house. Erin had some information to drop off, and it’s been a while since we were able to just stand around and talk. David was the only one home, so after about 10-15 minutes, it was time to head home (after Colton petted “one more” animal). As we’re walking down the driveway, one of their three kittens start to follow us. We try to scare them away, even throw wood chips at them, but nope, he’s set on following us. So we break into a run… me, my wife, and my son, all running away from this kitten that can’t weight more than a pound or two. We get a bit down the road, turn around, and… there are now THREE kittens following us, although they are a ways back now. So we hurry up and keep walking home, hoping they’ll get tired and turn around. We get around the corner so we can’t see them anymore, and of course Erin is a little concerned that we should make sure they get home “safe,” and then we see a black pickup slow down as if to avoid hitting them, and then… stop. Oh no. Did one of them get hit? Are they going to pick them up and steal them (although it’s much more common to see cats dumped out here, not picked up)? We go ahead and hurry home, with me promising to get in the truck and go over and take a look to see if (hopefully not) one of them got hit.

So I get in the truck, head over there, and notice the black truck is just pulling out of another nearby house’s driveway. Oh good, maybe they picked them up and took them over there, thinking that’s where they belong. So I go over and check, but no, there’s no kittens. So I hop back in the truck and decide to see if I can catch up and ask whoever’s in the truck if they saw and did anything with the kittens. I find the truck, about half a mile down the county road, and start to follow it, wondering if the lady (i can tell now) might stop. But no, she doesn’t. Do I flash my brights at her to ask her this silly question about kittens? Do I follow her till she stops? The road ends, and she turns, and I decide to give up. At least I’ve noticed it’s a black dodge with an “In God We Trust” license plate. Maybe I’ll put up a guilt-trip note at the local gas station to see if they might fess up to stealing my neighbor’s kittens. Oh well. I tried. But I sure feel sucky.

So I call my neighbors back, as the rest of the family just got home. No, the kittens have not come back. They are no where to be seen. I have nothing better to do, and am feeling bad, so I decide to go out looking for “The Black Dodge.” Mind you, it’s dark out now. And it’s been about 15 minutes. And country roads go many places. But it’s worth the effort, at least… I love these neighbors. So off we go, Rodney Atkins in the background… try one road until it turns back the way I came, and then try another road… and there it is, a house with a black dodge pickup in the driveway with an “In God We Trust” license plate. And the lights are on. So I do what most people would do… I drive past. But then I see someone on the porch so back up and yell at them, “Have you seen three white cats?”… Yeah… sounded dumb… but at least she couldn’t understand me over the truck’s diesel engine. So I park it, and head up to a house I’ve never seen, in the dark, to ask them if they might have just stolen three kittens.

The girl at the door says she wasn’t in the truck, let her go get her mom. So I wait, listening to people inside talk about soggy chips or something. And then this lady comes to the door, and I say something like, “I know this sounds kinda strange, but I’m looking for my neighbor’s cats. They live 2 miles from here but I saw a black dodge like yours stop near where they were last seen and I wondered if, by chance, you’d seen then or picked them up.”

And what do you know, I’ve got the right place! The lady had seen them walking down the road, didn’t want them to get killed, and picked them up. She went to one house to see if they belonged there, but no one was home. So she decided to try again after the sun came up. (Maybe that’s what I shoulda done?) So she sends her daughter to go get them (daughter didn’t know about them yet apparently), and then the daughter who didn’t know they were there proceeds to tell me the sex of each kitten. Go figure out how that works out… I don’t know. But I’ve got my treasure, I try to convince them I wasn’t assuming they’d stolen them to feed to their dogs (not exactly my words), and get back in the truck.

Call the neighbors, call my wife, thank the Lord, and head back home. Good old truck… thanks for another adventure.

The Horses are Loose!

Another story on the power of prayer… in this one, though, I was mainly an observer. This occured earlier this summer, while my wife, son, and I were over at my mom’s house one Sunday afternoon.

We’re all just taking it easy, hanging out at my mom’s house, when my cell phone rang. It was Nancy, my neighbor in “the big house” just around the corner (the best set of neighbors I’ve ever known, I might add). I figured she had a computer question for me, as that’s the “going rate” for me borrowing farm equipment every now and then. But we were in for a bit more drama than that this time.

“Your horses are running loose,” she told me. “Some other neighbors down the road came to us thinking they were ours, but they’re yours. They said they last saw them galloping east down the road, running as fast as they could towards freedom. Are you guys nearby?”

Of course we weren’t. We were around 30 minutes away, under normal conditions. So we pack up real quick, and take off. What can we even do? We can speed home, hoping to make a difference. We can pray our neighbors find them, first of all, and then can somehow catch them. We can freak out, worry, and think that will make a difference.

So I’m driving, Erin’s riding, hanging onto her seat, I suppose. Colton’s in the back doing who knows what. And I ask Erin to pray. I can’t really remember how it goes, but it’s much the type of prayer I would have prayed. “God, keep us safe. Get us home quickly. Keep the horses safe. Please, God. Keep them safe.”

There’s a little back story to this (actually more than a little, but I’m only writing about a little). As I’ve mentioned in other posts, prayer has been all over my radar screen this year. At this time, I’d just been part of a virtual “class” called The Hope of Prayer,” (Links 1, 2, 3, 4) led by John Eldridge and provided by The Daily Audio Bible. It contained quite a bit of teaching on what they called “The Prayer of Intervention,” in which we really get down to effectual prayer that gets things done. Not fancy words that have special effects, or deeper levels of understanding, but simply understanding how prayer works – historically, through the Bible, and today. I’ve shared bits and pieces of it with my wife, and one of the things I’ve learned most is to “chase peace.” That fruit of the spirit – peace – is so helpful in prayer. Even if we don’t know the answer, or how to get there, peace is still available. Not the kind of peace that makes it all better or even makes us confident that it will all just “work out,” but the peace that understands that God Is In Control, no matter what… and releasing our own grip.

So I ask Erin if she has peace. I don’t really, and neither does she. So we try again. This time, she gets more specific… I don’t remember the whole thing, but one part stood out: “God, I don’t know how to ask this, but would you, could you, just have our horses come home?” Sure, they were last reported 1/2 mile away from the house and running, but what the heck… if someone’s going to step in, it’s God. “Do you feel any peace now,” I ask her. “Yes,” and so did I.

As we near home, when we’re about 2 miles away, we do what any logical human would do, we start looking around for our horses. We slow down, scan the then short fields of corn and bean seedlings, but see nothing. We get closer… still nothing. We drive past the house, and on down the road a little bit. Not slow enough that we could see anything, and we’re still thinking about that prayer a while back. “Could they be home?” So we turn around and decide to take a closer look around the house and barn before we continue the search.

As we head back toward the house, WE SEE THEM. They’re not on our property, but instead, they’re standing in the neighbors’ large pasture, not 5 feet from “home” but on the wrong side of the fence, just standing there, like they’re waiting on something. I can almost picture them, galloping away down the road… Erin’s prayer is lifted up (the first one), and they just keep running. “Yeah, we’re safe, and having a great time!” But on that second prayer, the daring one, the specific one… they put on the brakes. They hear their creator. “Go Home,” he tells them. And go home they do. Somewhere along the way they take a wrong turn and wind up at the wrong house, but they see where they need to be and the shortest way to get there, so they head off, running straight through a single-strand electric fence to get there. And then they wait.

How cool it was to call our neighbors and tell them we found them, and that they were not but a few feet from home. “We never thought to look there,” is something of the response I thought to get.

How great it is to see a prayer from start to finish. To see and get a glimpse of the authority God wants us to have in this world, and that He’s given to us, if we will only put it to use.

Should I even ask Him?

Prayer has been all over my map this year. In teaching, in being taught, in reading, and even in applying, trying, failing, and succeeding. I was remided yesterday about how “informal” we can be with God in terms of the whole “process,” but how much He just loves to hear from us and also, how much he longs to answer us.

At the beginning of September, we start a new Sunday School “year” at our church. Being the team leader for that ministry has put me into a number of situations, but the one I love the most is raising up new leaders into spots of ministry that are just right for them. While I say that, I also love the opportunity to watch these people be raised up by others… it’s a wonderful opportunity to watch miracles in action. This event yesterday showed me both sides of this, how prayer fit in, and how wonderful God is to us.

One of our preschool classes (the one my son is in, it so happens) has been in need of a helper for the teacher. It’s not at all that Kelley (their teacher) can’t handle them – she does an excellent job at that – but we feel with any age of kids, it’s just best to have a couple adults in their – for a whole number of different reasons. Kelley was one we were able to pray in and raise up about a year ago, I think… she was hesitant at first, as I think it was her first time at something like this, but it didn’t even really take “convincing” on our part. We told her the opportunity, told her we thought she was “our girl,” gave her the time she needed, prayed and prayed and prayed, and she stepped up to the plate, and is hitting home run after home run after home run with these kids. I love it. She’s one of my favorite success stories on raising up the right person for the right ministry opportunity, instead of just filling “the spot” with a warm body… even with 2 and 3 year olds.

So we’ve been talking about getting her a helper again. Sara, my Preschool Leader, writes up a job description for me. Not just one of your standard “you need to be comfortable with diapers and misdirected pee” job descriptions, but one highlighting the importance of ministering to these kids at this young age, the “setting” into which this helper will be placed (definitely a “helper” spot not a “co-teacher” or anything like that), and we are prepared to share it with the church on Sunday in print and in word.

But Oh, how God flipped this one around on us! I got a reply to a generic email I sent yesterday from Kelley that starts off like this:

“Guess what??????? I have a helper!”

How great is that. We haven’t even announced our announcement yet, and God has filled the spot. What I’m loving even more is that he used one of “our recruits” to recruit him! She goes on in a later email:

“He said he had been thinking about it but didn’t say anything and he came in Sunday to help me so from then on I was thinking about it and then I talked to him last night. What a PRAISE”

I LOVE that! Part of the back story to this, and really the real reason I wanted to write about this, was because I “threw up a prayer” to God about this very class, and even this very guy, about a week ago. Not a “God, please put it on Josh’s heart to step into this or let us convince him” type of prayer, but just a “Hey God, what about this guy?” type of prayer… and it never went beyond that – at least not with me. But behind the scenes, in the realms of heaven, prayer, and the Holy Spirit, i picture it like one of those little chain reaction things where you start off tipping over a little domino, and in the end, a toaster pops out a piece of toast, butters it, and puts in on your plate, ready to enjoy… I don’t even know if I was that first domino – I really don’t think so or even care – but it’s just amazing to see the chain reaction of prayer and trust, even in the little things we throw up to God for him and let him “manage.” Even in the prayers we don’t take time to consider how well we can put them together. Even in the prayers we aren’t even all that serious about.

At last count, there were at least 4 people, plus our new recruit, that were involved in this this past week… some just in prayer, others in writing up job descriptions we’d never need except to highlight God’s resourcefulness, and others to encourage, to ask, and to take that final step in bringing the new leader/helper into the fold. I love how this has all worked together, and it’s reminding me again about how important, necessary, and wonderful it is to not have to “manage” all of this on our own.

Thanks, Father!