Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Don't Want to be a Sea Anemone

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

The Sea Anemone, natural creature that it is, reacts in the natural way to pain and discomfort. When something touches it not only closes in on itself, it “injects a dose of flesh of the aggressor or prey.” (Wikipedia encyclopedia). Turning in - becoming self-absorbed in a crisis, is our natural reaction to emotional pain. The difficulty that we are going through takes center stage and demands our attention. Problems can drain us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Not only do we tend to “turn in”, the natural inclination is to lash out at anything that comes close. We really aren’t as compartmentalized as we think. Hurt has a way of oozing into other areas of our life and affecting seemingly unrelated areas and relationships. The natural way of the Sea Anemone, even though it may be our default mechanism, is clearly not the best way to conduct our lives.

Jesus, our great High priest (Hebrews 4:15) was no stranger to pain and suffering. Yet, He taught us, to deny ourselves and to not be fixated on our own life. It’s a contradiction to our natural reaction but Jesus words are life giving in their application. As we face what James calls “various trials” we are, at the same time, encouraged to “give our lives away.” To put it another way, when bad things are happening in our life and we make a conscious decision to put that aside for a time and focus on others pain and doing tangible things to help, we ourselves experience a degree of emotional healing. In “losing our life” we truly “find our life.” Only God could make an equation like that work..

And so, if I had to choose to be another creature, it would not be a sea anemone. They are too emotionally unhealthy. But a silly sea ottter, perhaps – now that’s an idea. Anyone want to go swimming?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Prayer is Mysterious

Prayer is as central to the life of faith as oxygen is to our physical life. Yet, prayer in many ways is a mystery. We sometimes pray fervently for things, believing these things to be in the will of God. Sometimes Gods answers surprise us. Sometimes we do not see results of our prayers for a long time and it seems confusing. When I was 12 years old, I was in an accident caused by a blown-out tire on our station wagon. Our car was in the far left lane going 70 miles per hour (the speed limit) on a crowded racing Southern California freeway. The blow out caused our car to start to veer right heading fast toward a car right next to us that could not get out of the way. I was in the back seat on the right side. I still remember the terrified look on the man's face as our car windows got closer and closer. My sister, who was 28 at the time, was driving and she had the steering wheel jammed all the way toward the left, but the car continued to go, in the slow motion of my mind, in the opposite direction of the way it was turned. That moment is frozen in my mind, and that is sometimes where we find ourselves in prayer. We are praying fervently in one direction, but our lives are careening off in another - and time is suspended as we look and wonder - what is happening? After that terrifiying moment in the car, the station wagon all of a sudden obeyed the directon of the steering wheel and went slamming along the center divider and we tore out 400 feet of it - it was quite an ordeal. But we all left the car without a scratch, protected in some mysterious way by the mighty hand of God. Likewise God answers prayer in His way in His time and He can be trusted. It doesn't mean the journey won't be action packed...but we have to move beyond that moment when everything seems out of control and remember we live by faith.

I found a great quote on prayer by Gene Bourland from the book Hit By a Ton of Bricks by Dr. John Vawter. Bourland writes:

"I am discovering that prayer is not a magical lamp that I rub and get three wishes from God, but it is an intimate conversation - yelling out my dependence on Him. God is good and purposes good in our lives in and through pain. Jesus' Good News is for broken lives, for those who have no one else to put them back together again."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It was a great Mother's Day, especially because of this man. It's not just that he took me to dinner and bought me a gift - which was wonderful. It's also because when I had no children to call my own, and when we miscarried many years ago, he still bought me a Mother's Day gift. He just gets it. He gets me. This year he also helped package 300 gift bags for other moms and women to help them feel special. Then he helped me hand them out. Anything else good that happened on Mother's Day was simply a bonus. And even though I was very happy to hear from the other important people in my life, the encouragement from my husband filled me to overflowing. Oh, and the most important thing he did for me that day...he prayed for me.