Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Prayer Changes Things

Last week I had the most extraordinary experience.  It was one of those things that I missed in the moment, but upon reflection, I got it.  Kind of like the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus and didn't even know it.  Later that evening, they recognize Him in the breaking of bread.  And then they say to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, . . .?"
A sweet young couple came to visit me.  These two had been in my care as college students.  The campus ministry where I served is where they met.  It is where they fell in love.  They married and began walking their life journey together from that shared sacred place, much like my husband and I did twenty years before.  On this visit they brought their baby, my first opportunity to see her.  I rejoiced as I held her in my arms, in the middle of my messy living room, my own messy boys looking on with curiosity, my own messy life spilling all around us in exuberance.  This young couple had walked with me through those crazy times when my children were very new to this world.  And as they spoke about their experiences, it tickled me to think that God gave them a front row seat to my own adventures in early parenthood so that maybe they wouldn't be so undone by it all.  I think they are sometimes undone anyway.  Nothing has a way of undoing us like holding a vulnerable life, completely entrusted to our care,  for the first time.
It did not dawn on me until they left that the last time we stood together in my living room,  there was no baby to ooh and ahh over.  Instead there was a difficult journey seeking earnest prayer; empty arms longing to hold new life.  They had come and we prayed that God would open the door for them to be parents.  The same place where we prayed was the same place where the answer showed up smiling for pictures.  I am undone.  I got to hold the answer to their prayers, to our prayers, in my arms.  In the same exact place where that prayer was sent forth.
I know that Holy Spirit conviction in my bones, of being reminded that prayer really does make a difference.  Seeing some big prayers in my life land, after YEARS of earnest praying, pleading, begging, has shown me the importance of remembering WHO it is after all, that I'm praying to.  God is so faithful.  He has a way of showing up wherever and whenever He desires.  But He loves most of all to show up in our living rooms.  In the ordinary stuff of our deepest held hopes and dreams.  The longings that don't go away, even in the space of time elapsed.  Even in the expanse between desire and fulfillment.  And what I love about HIM is how He is paying attention to the details, answering in a way that can only be done by ONE who--knows--it--all.  Remembering stuff we don't even pay attention to, and then re-member-ing that sweet detail back into the answer He sends, showing us in an unmistakeable way that only He hears our hearts in all their inexpressable ache. 
It is why we must not give up, must not give in, must not succumb to doubt, discouragement, and despair.  It is why we must continue to give the contents of our heart into His hands and give ourselves into His meantime care.  It is why in the face of inexpressible disappointment and grief we must continue to call out to the only One who can hear the undertones of what we cannot utter.  He hears it all; He answers it all.  In timing only He can understand and that His wisdom reveals. 
I'm just so thankful that my sweet friends did not give in and did not give up on Him.  And that they allowed me to see His goodness pouring all through them.  In my living room.  Just where I am.  Just where I most need to remember that He is not done with me yet.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Joy In The Morning . . . .

Two weeks ago I saw this . . .

. . . and I wrote this:

I saw the most beautiful sunrise during my morning run. Orange melting into purple melting into red. Deepening color spread across the horizon; unseen sun casting pink hues on everything. Those are the colors that speak to me of joy.
Since then it has been sitting in my spirit, brimming and brewing, a Word from the LORD--"Joy comes in the morning."  Psalm 30 whispers, echoing within me, "You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy."  I have sensed a transition happening, as season gives way to season.  The wisdom of Ecclesiastes tells us that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."  I can hear the Beatles singing, "turn, turn, turn."

Time is turning, seasons melting into one another, like colors blending themselves across a morning sky.  The dark of night, of lingering weeping, is drawing to a close.  The grief of loss is passing and the sting of hurt subsiding, and into the dark night of this soul Light is forthcoming.

What we do in the dark days matters.  What we realize least when our hearts are bleeding and we go from day to day weeping is that each tear that falls to the ground takes with it a seed.  And in our weeping we are planting things that are only revealed by the lighting of a new day.  We are sowing in our sadness.  And even in the sorrowful times we have a choice.  We can sow more sadness to be reaped as regret and wastedness later on.  Or we can sow the seeds of Hope.  Of Joy.

Here's the thing. 

I never believe God sends the heartache and utter devastation that drives us to our knees.  But He sends forth His Word in all seasons, those seasons when everything is lovely and beautiful, and those seasons when all is darkness as despair.  His Word comes to us.  What we do with His Word makes all the difference.
Even in despair we can be the fertile soil that allows the Word of goodness to be planted in us, taking it in to the darkness of  our broken soil ever so thirsty for living Water.  We can let our hearts hope in that Word until it begins to take on Life within our lives, and we see how it lives and breathes.  And we can see that tender Life springing within bring us back to life.  When that Word is mature within us, the Light emerging after the dark night reveals something ripe for bearing all kinds of beautiful, delicious fruit.
Or we can be bitter, hard, crusted over so that nothing penetrates.  No kindness, no comfort, no balm to the spirit.  We can remain cold and distant, disconnected.  So self-isolated that even when the Word falls soft upon our wretchedness we remain untouched, and the winds of disappointment whisk away the very thing meant to bring us back to to the land of living.  We allow our bereftness to become barrenness, spreading its way to every corner of our empty selves.  When the Light of day comes there is nothing waiting within us to greet it.  The wastedness of our sorrow has born a wasteland in our souls.
We cannot choose the thing that brings us to grief. 
But we can choose the thing that grief will bring us to.
This is God's promise for loss entrusted to His Hands:
Psalm 126
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.  May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.  Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.