Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bye-bye

"Lord," I prayed this evening before supper, "thank you for this beautiful day and safety as we went about our separate ways. Thank you for my run in the mountains and the jobs that the boys both have and now for this food that you provided. Help us to have a great evening together and . . .Well, OK. Bye."

"Ok. Bye." WHAT did I just say?!? Did I just say bye-bye, adios, Ta-Ta, Auf Wiedersehen, farewell to God? Yes. Without a doubt, I did. Seth told me so. There was a moment of silence before Caleb tried to suppress a laugh. Seth joined in and before I knew it, my eyes misted over as I clutched my side in raucous laughter. The more I thought about it, the more I laughed. And the more I laughed, the more the boys did the same. It was ridiculous. But, I bet God laughed, or at least snickered, as well.

Was I irreverent to say "bye" rather than a hearty "amen" at the end of my prayer? If I was, I certainly didn't intend to be. I know we are to approach the throne of our King with piety and great consideration. But I know that this heavenly King is also a Father who wants us to approach often and without hesitation. Do we not say hello and good-by to our fathers when coming or going? Why not with God the Father?

Sometimes we think that we have to go through some elaborate process to speak to God. I also think we make it too complicated. I once had a pastor who suggested we never say a final "amen" at the end of a prayer because it is, well, so final. It's as if we can take a big 'ol red pencil and check off that box on our to-do list. But what if we didn't say amen but rather utter, "Bye-bye. Talk to you soon" just like we do with our friends? Do you think we would leave with the expectation of continuing the conversation? I do.

Let's be careful not to compartmentalize prayer as if it should only occur in church or in special times of need. Keep the lines of communication open regardless of day of the week or time of day. Anticipate a great conversation. Listen for His call and respond on bended knee. . . or in the car, the cereal isle, or the repair shop. Anytime. Anywhere.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
(Ephesians 6:18)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Answered prayer

I should have written this over a week ago. Why didn't I?  Am I not happy, delighted even? Is my relief almost palpable? Then why wait?  I guess life got in the way and inspiring words went missing. So now, I must write. I can wait no longer.

If you have followed this blog over the last several months, you will remember the unique set of circumstances the our oldest son, Caleb, found himself in. After an unfortunate and completely unanticipated medical discharge from the Navy, his plans were turned topsy-turvy, his future uncertain. Since then he has been biding his time at home, deciding that a job at Liberty University might be a good alternate flight path: a steady income, benefits, and free tuition. Only problem is, those jobs are hard to come by.

Like all huge organizations, it seems like you have to know someone to get a foot in the door. We knew a few people in the IT department, Caleb's field of choice. Still, it was a long shot. But Caleb took the advise given him, completing an on-line application and applying for an apprentice position. Such a position pays little more than minimum wage but offers full benefits and free tuition, a necessary component allowing him to finish his degree. He would be delighted with that. Then we prayed.

After several long weeks of waiting (see a pattern here?), the call came. "Can you come in for an interview?"  This was just what we had hoped for. He prepared himself by talking with a VP of a large IT firm, absorbing all his wisdom about how to succeed. Then he went and bought a book to study to prepare for an A+ certification. Don't ask me what it is. Just know it is an impressive credential to have and shows that you know something about networks. He read 300 of the 600 pages immediately. On the day of the interview, Caleb left the house looking very handsome and polished, his confidence appropriately high. He returned with a smile--but no firm answer. His interview went well and his network problem-solving test was successful. He would have to wait...again.

An answer was promised in a week. On or about day six, my phone rang as I was rummaging about in the wide Wal-Mart isles in quest of a few needed items. "Mom. I have some news," Caleb reported.

My heart leaped. He got the apprentice job, I thought to myself. Yahoo! But wait. There was more.

"Actually," he continued, "I didn't get the apprentice job...they decided to make me an associate right away! Full time, full benefits, decent salary and free tuition. Can you believe it?" I heard the excitement in his voice. I felt immediate relief.

Me, the emotional being that I am, started sniffling right there in between the small appliances and the ironing boards. "What an answer to prayer. You do know it is an answer to prayer, don't you? So many people were praying..."

"Yes, Mother. I know."

Sometimes what we "know" and "believe" are two separate things. May we never, ever forget that our God hears us and answers. . . in His own time, in His own way. . .even when our faith is small.

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
Ezra 8:23

Friday, August 6, 2010

Keep on keeping on

Don't you just hate it when you think you're making progress but have nothing to show for it? It's like when you are trying to lose a few pounds but the scale just won't cooperate. You even go out to buy a new scale. Surely, the calibration in the old one is wayyyyyy off.

Or, how about this? A long road trip is required and you are eager to arrive at the destination. The signs all point north and display decreasing miles to the city's border. Decreasing that is, until a detour routes you in the opposite direction. Ugh! Though you continue to move, it hardly seems like forward progress.

I've been feeling that way as of late. This new-fangled Garmin GPS watch is both a blessing and a curse. I feel compelled to strap on the heart rate monitor and hook the watch to my wrist every time I step out the door. With anticipation, I head down the road after pushing the right buttons. Knowing that is is measuring out my time and distance, I don't feel too relaxed since that smart-alek watch will quip "Behind by "x" seconds" should a faster run have been recorded. I try not to look at my watch, which, truthfully, I can't see very well without my glasses anyway. But I don't want to take a chance on being discouraged. So, I simply press on.

Once back at home, the watch starts talking to my computer and before you know it, my course is mapped out, minimum, maximum and average hearts rates, speed, and elevation gain and loss all laid out for me to see in pretty graphics. Sometimes, I can only sigh at the report, disappointed on some level. Other times, there is a slight improvement and with that, a small glimmer of hope. But what I am really looking for is not a glimmer, not a sliver, not a smidgen but a great big, bright and beautiful door that shows the way to grand improvement.

Alas, I still wait for that door to open and the light to come streaming in. I am working hard. I am back to charting my daily performances and recording my every move. I'm even trying to keep up with those young whippersnappers on my cross country team. Surely, I should start to see some improvement soon. I look at times for specific runs recorded years ago and compare that to nowadays. I can't fathom (or even remember) what it was to run like that. Now, I doubt I can ever regain the speed of yesteryear but it sure would be nice to achieve some gains.

How long will it take for those gains to come? How many weeks (or months) will I need to sweat and struggle to achieve my goals? I don't know. You would think that a little more time will stop the watch quicker on my daily run and get me through those mountains before the heat of day catches me. But I'll never know unless I keep on moving. Keep on trying.

I am reminded of my spiritual journey; a journey that at times seems to be going nowhere fast. I become discouraged in my own spiritual growth and even more so in my inability to minister effectively to others. It feels like my Biblical scale is broken and my spiritual watch only reports deficiencies. And yet, I must remember to press on though I have no idea where the course will take me or how long the traverse will be. I must keep on keeping on.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. (Philippians 3:12-15a)

Book signing is scheduled



On September 16, 2010 from noon until 2 p.m., I will be doing a book signing at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore on the campus of Liberty University.  If you're in the area, stop by, chat, and pick up a copy of the book. These make great everyday reading gifts for friends, family...and yourself.  It's the book that lasts all year long!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Friend, Friendly, Friendliest (a.k.a. Good, Better, Best)


For years and years, I looked forward to the Sears catalog arriving at our house. In particular, the Christmas catalog was the best. Hundreds of pages filled with images conjured up visions of what it would be like to have that "Easy Bake Oven" and "Creepy-Crawler" maker. But somewhere in between those pages holding my highest interest was the section on home goods and appliances; something slightly irrelevant to a young girl. But even the eyes of a youngster could see a pattern. The catalog writers promoted their goods as a continuum of value. Hence, good, better, best.

I got to thinking about that tonight. On the way out the door, one of our sons (who shall remain nameless) said, "Just because you don't have any friends to go hang with...."

Somewhere between taking offense and laughing raucously at such a statement, my brain lit up when millions of synapses connected all at once--and trust me, that doesn't happen too often these days. Though I held my tongue, my mind screamed out, "Whoa there, Buckaroo. That's just enough."

Gladly, we do have friends; lots of them. Some are the good kinds. You know the type. We can remember their names (most of the time), carry on conversations and share a few laughs. They are certainly more than acquaintances but we may not be stoked about spilling our guts to them about our deepest concerns. Most of us could fill a page with the names with these kind of friends. That's a good thing.

Then we have the better kinds. The relationship goes a little deeper. We share common ground whether it be work, families or faith. We might get together over supper or even take to the road on a joint vacation. The walls of our lives become more transparent and our inadequacies difficult to hide. But still, there is a back hallway that remains off limits, some things better left untouched. The names of these friends could also fill a page--as long as it isn't the size of a large legal pad.

But finally, we have those friends who mean the world to us; the best kind. These are the people that would drop everything to tend to you. If good news is the topic of the day, they will know it before the sun sets. When difficulties come, their number is on your speed dial and in your email address book. They know when to ask probing, uncomfortable questions and they know when to keep their mouth shut. They know how to encourage. They take extra care not to discourage. They know when chocolate is needed; lots and lots of fine dark chocolate. They will laugh and cry with you, having plenty of tissues on hand for either occasion. When they say they will pray, they do. When they say they will help, they come armed with all that is needed, even if that means cleaning a yucky bathroom or helping to tile a wall. They do not lead astray. They keep your best interest in mind. Even if circumstances or miles separate, the friendship cannot be extinguished. We are fortunate if the names of these kind of friends can fill a small note card. Actually, make that a Post-it note.

I have a special group of friends. We call ourselves the "Sisters of Mercy." There is little that we don't know about each other (although I did find out today that one of them was a waitress at a swanky restaurant for some period of time.) Ladies Night out is our therapy session, locks colored and toenails painted in the process. We know what is going on--or not--with all of our kids. There is no pretense of perfection; just simple honesty. There is a code of respect about what is said and what should never be repeated. The Sisters are quick to come to the aid of one who is hurting. You can act goofy and look ridiculous and they won't care. They may even join in. They will love, laugh, hug, encourage, commiserate, and yes, even admonish when necessary.They'll tell you if your new haircut sucks. It is like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, only better. Much, much better. For what binds us together is not based on emotion or convenience or similarities. If you saw us all together, we are as different as night and day, salt and pepper, hot and cold. What binds us together in sisterhood is our Father, from who we all find our being and purpose.

My son reminded me of how grateful I am for my Post-it note friends. Thank you, girls. I treasure y'all (which is Southern for "The whole stink'n lot of you").


If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
(Ecclesiastes 4:10)