Not who I wanna be yet

Cancer, Christianity

Sometimes I want to be further along than I am. Let me explain. My friend Connie recently had surgery for cancer. She’s one of these super-gentle, soft, rare people who just ooze loving-kindness. (Totally opposite of me: loud, sometimes crass) I absolutely love her! A couple of days before the surgery, I asked her how I could pray for her. Wanna hear how she answered? That God would be glorified. I was speechless. I mean, I love God. Immensely. And I want Him to be made famous through my life. But I can honestly tell you that if I wasn’t trying to act all spiritually mature, I wouldn’t answer the way Connie answered if asked the same question. I would probably have said something like “Pray that it won’t hurt, that they’ll get all of the cancer” or “Please pray for my doctor.” I want to be able to answer the way she did, with God’s glory as my number one concern if I was in her situation.

Sometimes I just want to be more spiritually mature than I am. I am also finding that I can’t “fake it till I make it” with this stuff. I can only be super-honest with myself and God. It’s okay if that’s not where I am yet. I can ask God to grow me so that His glory and fame is more important than my comfort. I’m not who I want to be. Yet.

My comfort or God’s glory

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It turns out that a lot of the time that I’m praying, it’s because I desperately want my comfortable, safe, little life. I had been dealing with some severe back pain and went to a prayer and healing meeting at our church. These are pretty rare, but I went. I was desperate and wanted relief and to have the back pain gone. At times it was incapacitating and I believe that Jesus is still a Healer. However, I wasn’t prepared for what happened. The small group that prayed with me was our youth pastor, Patrick, me, and my husband. It was unique because Patrick has the same exact injury that I was dealing with, so I thought: Yeah! He will really know how to pray for me!

I was shocked and disappointed when he prayed out loud, “God, we are asking for Your glory, for you to make Yourself famous, more than Christine’s comfort.”  I was indignant. In my heart, not out loud. I was appalled that he didn’t just outright ask God to heal me.  After all, that’s why I came! Then I had to ask myself, which one do I want more, my comfort, or God’s glory.  Thankfully, the two can coexist. But at that moment, I had to really look at my heart and make a choice. Through clenched teeth (not really, but I did have to say it slowly and deliberately) I was able to give up my agenda of telling God what I wanted Him to do and how I wanted Him to perform, and seek whatever good He might want to bring if I was not healed.  By the way, I didn’t experience immediate healing, but the back pain has gotten progressively better over the past several months.

Is God still a miracle worker? Yes. I’ve been dealing with this question all week because one of our kids has been in severe pain with an injury.  Wow, that’s a hard prayer, to ask God for His glory more than our comfort.  I’m not trying to be a martyr, but I do recognize that while I may think the best thing is for God to give the pain a holy zap, He knows what is really best.  I don’t.

My friend emailed this verse as an encouragement.  It’s written by the apostle Paul as he’s talking about a physical ailment that he’s suffering with:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Talking to God can be fun!

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How do you define prayer?

Mystical, mysterious, vague. People mention prayer often, but you’ll rarely hear it defined in a tangible way. Well, here’s my definition:  Communication with God, talking to Him about anything and everything, and the often neglected listening.

I hope you don’t think I’m approaching God in a disrespectful manner, but often I’ll ask Him for very specific things.  Not that He’s a cosmic vending machine, but you’ll see what I mean if you keep reading.

Sometimes I ask God to show Himself to me when I don’t sense His presence, even though I know He’s always with me.  Not long ago I was getting down on myself about something, and I decided to ask God to show me what He thinks about the situation.  It was amazing!  The next day and a half, three people mentioned the situation to me and encouraged me about it,  even though I hadn’t said anything to them.  It seems that somehow God prompted each of them to say something I needed to hear concerning my discouragement about it.  How could they have known that I had been obsessing and getting down on myself about that very thing, and three people brought it up to me with encouraging words?  Wow!  Now that’s what I call a hug from God!

This weekend one of our friends, a teenage girl, called me upset about her school schedule.  She felt like her social life had almost no chance because her lunch didn’t coincide with anyone in her grade and their assigned lockers aren’t close.  She was very upset, and felt like she was going to be the only 8th grader in her lunch period. She doesn’t have any friends in her classes because she’s taking higher level courses. I’m not kidding when I say that this felt tragic to her…Remember back to junior high? We talked it through on the phone, then we prayed very specifically.  We asked God to work it out for what He knows is best, but would He let her see His perspective so that she could have joy about it in the process?  About one minute after we hung up the phone, she called me back, super excited and short of breath, “Ms. Christine, you’re going to love this!  Right when we hung up the phone I got a text from one of my good friends telling me that we have the same lunch schedule, so I won’t be alone!”  God doesn’t have to say “yes” to our every request, but it is so fun when we ask Him to give us a heart like His and then He delights us with little and big things.

Sometimes we think inside the box when it comes to prayer

There are other aspects of prayer that I really love:  When I am desperately seeking answers and He gives me crystal clear insight or wisdom to parent or in my other relationships.  Of course, an important aspect of prayer is also confessing sin.  Many people would say that they neglect this part.  But whenever I think to ask God, and many times when I don’t ask Him, He is dependable to lovingly show me where I have a sinful attitude or behavior.

One of my other favorite things about prayer is worship.  Something I love about God is that He is so Holy and unlike us, yet He’s also completely approachable. Hebrews says that we can “boldly approach the throne of grace”. So worship tends to be really spontaneous for me.   Maybe because the sunrise is stunning, and I worship Him for creation.  Or He’s changed my attitude (which I tried and couldn’t) so I”ll thank Him and praise Him for His power.

Prayer can be spontaneous, ongoing, and something to enjoy

I haven’t “arrived” in the realm of prayer, but I think it’s pretty cool that the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, a Holy God,  listens to me and speaks to me.  Talking to God can be fun!