A Prayer Journal is a quick, passionate discovery on what it looks like to seek God in prayer. In this writing, there are only 42 electronic pages, if reading on a Kindle. It’s simple but profound. Elegant like gold, yet practical as a silver utensil. Overall, it illustrates a heart that is hungry for God. A hunger that isn’t satisfied with anything in this world other than to know God. O’Conner’s last words describe the intimate longing her journal portrays, “If I could only always just think of Him.”
It’s Christmas time and I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed. This time of the year there is pressure on our finances, getting gifts, going to parties, buying outfits for those parties, sending cards, preparing food, meeting with family and all our routine responsibilities on top of it all. These layers of duties make me think of recently putting up and decorating our Christmas tree. As you may know with fake trees, there are layers to assemble, and then at the top, the tree comes to the highest point where one may place a star or angel. On the top of our tree, we have a star and it kind of fits, but it seems to lean to one side and will suddenly tip over.
When I feel overwhelmed, I feel like I am going to tip over. It’s like how Malcolm Gladwell talks about how things usually don’t gradually tip, but things suddenly tip. Malcolm says in his book The Tipping Point, “Most people think that life is full of steady progressions. However, in fact, many of the most important events in life happen suddenly and unexpectedly, so that there’s no way to predict them in advance.” Waves of emotion can happen this way, for instance, the stress of the holidays just creep up, and all of a sudden you have been tipped over and caught off guard!
Similarly, I remember feeling this way when I was pregnant like I was going to tip over. When you are pregnant, you have to balance all this extra weight, and there is a lot of additional pain and pressure. I am sure Mary felt this way too. Not only the weight of the baby inside her but the weight of responsibility, of carrying the son of God. I could not imagine that pressure.
Thinking of all this and trying to put things into perspective I ended up thinking about the positive tipping point! In fact, I heard a message from Sarah Bowling about what Mary said when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus. In Luke 1:46-47 Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Although I am confident she was feeling pressure, she still magnified the LORD, and the world’s greatest miracle came to earth.
Today I am choosing to think of all the memories and miracles which are about to come. In fact, the miraculous tipping point is just moments away; we will experience the joy of all our hard work. Soon it will all be done – the shopping, the food, the giving, and gathering will all occur. Then we will rest and take delight in the joy that will radiate off our children’s faces as they open their gifts. We will embrace one another. We may light a candle and pass it to someone next to us until a whole room is lit up. All this will happen so fast. It will be a tipping point, and then we will wait for the season to come again. So push aside the stress and the worry and anticipate the joy that will unexpectedly surprise your soul. Look forward to the tipping point and tell your soul to magnify and exalt the LORD.
As a simple spiritual practice I often have a “song of the day,” in which I meditate on. Here is today’s song, “Nobody Like You.”
Giving is a necessary part of life. In fact, if you are reading this post, you have been given something, you were given life. From the moment you and I were conceived, we were given nourishment, time, and room to grow in our mother’s womb. This conceiving process of giving and eventually laboring occurs every day throughout the world. In fact, you may be very familiar with this fatigue, pain, love, sleepless nights, heartache, joy, cost, sacrificial giving and so much more that comes along with having a child.
I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn, I would often say, “This kid is sucking my blood! He is taking EVERYTHING from me!” This statement wasn’t always a complaint, but a reckoned truth. I was GIVING my all, my everything, at every moment. There wasn’t a minute in which I wasn’t giving. Even in my sleep, I was providing nourishment for my son to grow and develop.
A paradoxical analogy that has recently come to me is pastors give this same kind of constant nourishment. Being a pastor is like being pregnant ALL THE TIME! They are fatigued, experience pain, have sleepless nights, anticipate the future with both joy and hesitation, sacrificially give and so much more. Each congregation is a growing body that continues to develop and receive from their pastor(s).
As I conclude this paradoxical analogy, my plea is simple. Although we are a body, a body of believers, we aren’t stuck in a womb. We are out, and we can give back! This month, October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and since pastors give their ALL, let’s give to them in return. Let’s appreciate our pastor(s)!
If you are in need of some ideas, here are a few:
1) Cash – green goes with everything!
2) Gift Cards – find out a place your pastor likes. Ask them! I know my pastor like Chic-fil-A.
3) Speaking of food who doesn’t like food?!? We all need to eat. Bring a meal or take them out for lunch, coffee, tea, etc.
4) Presents – again ask! If you are in a large congregation and you don’t personally know your pastor call his or her secretary. Maybe your pastor likes movies, archery, books, football, or collects small antique cars. Amazon is always there for you. You don’t have to go out of your way to get a present!
5) A card, phone call, text or thank you in person is a refreshing change from all the other Monday (or any day ending with y) emails regarding some complaint. Seriously pastors get more complaints than thank you’s. Give a thank you!
6) Team up with your home group or entire congregation to give your pastor a much-deserved vacation!
7) Last but not least, pray for your pastor! Prayer could be the greatest gift of all.
Life can be hard sometimes; 2008 and 2009 were two of the hardest years of my life. I had been sick my entire pregnancy with my baby and then he was born and my life turned upside down. My oldest had always been sick as a baby, but not until he was 15 months-old did we understand that he had life threatening allergies, asthma and eczema. Then when my second son was born I didn’t even know what sick meant. My second son was also born with allergies, asthma and eczema but I thought his illnesses were going to cost him his life right away.
One stormy night we went to an end of the year service at church. That night, our children’s pastor and senior pastor prayed for him, but when we got home it was the worst/best night ever. It was around midnight when my seven month-old began to cough and wouldn’t stop. We gave him a breathing treatment and he didn’t respond, so we did another one. He still wasn’t responding and I thought he was going to turn blue. At that time I was thinking how will an ambulance get here in the snow? I wanted to go outside and scream! “God, haven’t I gone through enough!” My baby had been so sick the past year. My two sons were and are sick a lot and that means they are prescribed 15 prescriptions between the two of them when they are really sick. At that time I was so tired from doing continual breathing treatments for months, let alone nearly having a mental break down when my baby had Rota Virus and his diaper had to be changed every 20 minutes. It’s truly amazing he lived through that! I was exhausted in every way. I was emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and financially exhausted! We had so many medical expenses that I thought for sure we would lose our car or our house, but now I might lose my son! I wanted to go out in the snow and scream “What the f>!k God?” I’d never cursed to God before, and I couldn’t believe those words were coming out of my mouth. My heart was so raw. I didn’t understand why God was doing this to me. I had wanted to be a chaplain in a children’s hospital for some time now, and I thought that night, why would God make me go through this? Then my baby began to breathe ok, and I experienced God, like I have never had before. Even right after cursing to God, He took me in, and so loved on me that I felt like I was His. I gave up everything that night; I gave my all to Him. If my son was going to die, then so be it. If I was going to lose my house, then so be it. I laid down every part of me that night, and I have never been the same since.
To say I found God that night feels like an understatement to me, I really think He found me. I have known Him all of my life. I asked Jesus in my heart when I was three and about 50 other times growing up in church. I had grown up in a pastor’s home, graduated from a Bible school, actually been to numerous bible colleges; but that night was different I gave up things I had never given up before. That night I gave all, and realized that He gave all for me. I experienced God’s assurance like never before. I knew I was His child and belonged to Him.
Now I will go back to another great experience that happened when I was a baby. When I was born, like my children, I had breathing problems, but experienced God’s amazing healing. I was born weighing 3 lbs and 7 ounces and my lungs were not fully developed. I wasn’t a preemie; my mom had just lost most of her placenta and I hardly had any nutrition in the womb. The night after I was born a doctor told my mom and dad that I probably wouldn’t make it through the night. My dad reached in and read the 103rd Psalm to me and prayed. God touched me, and I ended up staying in the hospital for a month but lived. I had a lot of oxygen go to my brain, and my parents were told I would have brain damage, but I seem to think I’m normal. I think being in an incubator for a month made me lose bonding time with my parents, but my mom has told me there was music constantly going by my incubator. I think the music playing gave me great comfort, healing and security.
My next experience also involves music which continually touches me. During the trials of my kids being continually sick and doing countless breathing treatments worship music is pretty much going nonstop at our house. I need the presence of God! One day I was listening to Kim Walker sing He Loves Us. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoC1ec-lYps) In the interlude she starts talking and says, “His Presence, His Love is so thick and tangible in this room tonight. And there are some of you here that have not encountered the love of God. And tonight God wants to encounter you and wants you to feel His love. His amazing love… The love of God changes us, and we are never the same after we encounter the love of God. And right now if you haven’t encountered the love of God you would know because you would never be the same. If you want to encounter the love of God, you better just brace yourself because He’s about to just blow in this place and we are going to encounter the love of God.” I began to cry right in front of my kids playing. My oldest son, who was four at the time said “Mommy why are you crying?” I said, “Oh honey it is a good cry, Jesus is just touching mommy’s heart.” He said, “Yes, He is cleaning it out.” Then I was sobbing, literally mascara running down my face saying so brokenly, “Yes, Jesus is.” My heart had been so broken and I never knew what it felt like to be loved by God. It was such an amazing experience.
After these moments my husband and I were preparing to move back to Colorado so we could live by family and have support. Jason and I desperately needed help and we felt like we had to go home. I had never felt so stripped in my life, I felt like I was walking around completely exposed. However, God amazingly provided for us! Despite having nothing we had the biggest Christmas ever thanks to our neighbors, my Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) totally reached out and helped us, our neighbors paid for our mortgage and we had numerous daily blessing.
We thought we were on our way to Denver, but doors closed. We were both planning on going to go to Denver Seminary, live with my parents and both work part-time. Jason couldn’t get a work transfer with his current company, and the one he interviewed with in Colorado said after his interview that they were going to be able to hire anyone due to the economy. So here we are still in the NW where the economy is worse, but we have persevered. We’ve made it, and actually my husband has had an significant increase in pay since he started in 2006. God has truly blessed us.
So my next great spiritual experience is attending GFU. Before I started school, I was praying and God told me that he was going to work on my heart. I again said, “God haven’t I had enough work done in the last year!” Then He said, “No Andrea, I am going to heal it.” So I have sat in class this semester and the previous one and God has continually healed my heart in each class. He hasn’t stopped. I am so thankful that He wants to heal it, as there is so much to heal. So although these might be only a few experiences they are ones that have changed my life, and I know I have so many more to come.
You have to read this article: http://ow.ly/1barx (To view the article scroll down to read: “The truth about Ted Haggard, from a gay activist’s point of view.”) It is well worth the read. I’m so proud of Ted and Gayle Haggard showing the love of Christ. In addition, God bless the people at Great Lakes Church for welcoming a gay activist into their service. God let more churches welcome all who need You in their lives.