More of a Mess than a Manuscript

As the New Year arrives and it seems everyone is thinking resolutions,lightstock_142968_small_helena_ I am doing something completely different.  A few days ago I decided to go back and read my prayer journal for 2015.  The journal is nothing fancy… an old fashioned college rule COMPOSITION BOOK.  When I write in it I use one writing instrument exclusively… an extra fine mechanical pencil and only one brand of those is acceptable.  I guess that is part of my quirky nature that makes me a writer.  God doesn’t care what I write with or what my handwriting looks like… He is oblivious to spelling and grammar and punctuation?  But He does like it that I actually focus my attention on what I’m writing to Him… the cell phone is put down, the TV is turned off, even the dogs have to make their nests somewhere besides my lap.

Reading the journal confirmed that I do not spend time with God everyday… perfectly; never missing a day 365 days each year.  In fact it exposed a haphazard, inconsistent totally unscheduled pattern of prayer entries.  4 days, skip 1, 1 day, skip 3, 7 days, skip 2 yeah… pretty much like that all year long.  In fact I had one month that had not a single prayer entry… my silent absence screamed off the page to me when I realized that.

In the midst of my unfaithfulness I experienced His grace for me… that He wanted me to return no matter how long it had been, no matter how far I had strayed, no matter the condition I was in when I finally turned back.  Those entries began by thanking Him for always being there.  Eventually I realized that I had wandered but I was never alone in my wanderings for He would never leave me or forsake me.  Where I went, Christ went also; gently and persistently reminding me of His love, His forgiveness and His grace.  As the year progressed the absences grew shorter and less frequent.

The prayer entries varied in length as well.  A paragraph or two; four pages of anxious, scribbled slashing; two sheets of calm, neat penmanship; a page of joyful, loopy words with underlines, hearts, smiley faces and exclamation points for emphasis!  I just lay it all out there… my frustrations, my hopes, my fears all tumble onto the page in an attempt to reach His heart.  I never follow a format… at times praise happened, thankfulness happened, joy was expressed.  But my prayer journal is more of a mess than a manuscript… and in 2015 God used it tremendously in my life!

I rarely read my journal entries after I write them.  I’m usually afraid to read it… afraid of it in the same way a close look in the mirror can cause great discomfort.  All the extra pounds, gray hair, wrinkles; every imperfection shows up… how will I go on in life after seeing myself like that?  Reading my prayer journal exposed it all!

On those pages…

I trembled in anxiety and fear… for my family, my finances, my future!

God listened.

I railed at God… my heart full of anger, doubt and questioning.

God listened.

I wept in self-pity.

God listened.

I approached God as almighty, all knowing, all powerful… basically seeing Him through the eyes of an abandoned, frightened, wide-eyed little girl who crept into the room with God and hid behind a chair whispering her prayers.

God listened.

I sat before him buried in shame from my past.

God listened.

Several months into my 2015 prayer journal my focus shifted… it was less about me and more about Him.  I sampled different names for God… Almighty, Heavenly Father, Father God, Daddy God… then one day I called him Papa and our hearts connected.  I told Him all about stuff… the hurts, failures and the forgiveness I craved.  I spewed out all the lies I hear in my head, the accusations and condemnation, my vulnerability showed and so did my pride and critical spirit.  Papa came through with His truth!

I began to write a while… and then listen… write some more.

I poured out my love, concerns and desires for my family, my friends, other women I knew were hurting, confused, suffering from loss and destruction in their lives.  I searched the Word for just the right words to pray… I began to forget about me for a time and focus on them.  Breathing got easier and time seemed to fly by whenever I sat with that composition book and bible in my lap.

Flair-ups came, emotions got triggered, and old habits reappeared that are difficult to stop… it’s all there on the pages of my prayer journal.  But inside me… fear and anxiety are being replaced with peace and assurance; lies are replaced with truth; bitterness and rejection are being replaced with forgiveness and concern for others; sadness and loss are replaced with comfort and love.

Because God listened… and I listened to Him.

2016… I’m a few days into the year and I’ve missed a day or two with my prayer journal.  But it’s there… waiting for me.  And as I pour my heart out onto the pages God listens.

A Prayer

Almighty God… Heavenly Father… Papa,

In the midst of all that is happening in this world today, billions of people, political, economic and social upheaval and destruction; monumental needs… still you listen to me, Your child.  Personal, present and compassionate You sit with me every time I return to You.  You nurture, counsel, comfort and guide me with all wisdom and grace.  Your patience for me is boundless… Your love for me is everlasting! Thank you that in 2016 You will draw me… beckon me… wait for me to return to You in prayer and then You will listen. 

In Jesus Name,  Amen

 

Just As If Nothing Ever Happened

I’ve made a new friend recently.  That’s not altogether unusual… I think we all continue to acquire friendships throughout our livelightstock_181315_small_helena_s as we engage in new activities or jobs; relocate to new communities or finally have a conversation with someone we had as an acquaintance for many years.  But making this new friend is something rather special.  Something that taught me again that…

  • God’s Way Works

Several months ago I attended a ministry meeting at church.  During the meeting the group facilitator asked a question and I gave a heartfelt answer stemming from my personal experience and relationship with God.  Within moments a woman sitting next to me intervened.  She said for those in the group who had not had the “spiritual experiences” I had, she needed to restate the answer… give an answer she felt was more suitable to the group.  Her comments stung!  They felt critical, sarcastic and embarrassing.    And I was confused… this woman had never actually met me.  Why was she so critical of what I had said?  She didn’t even know me. If I could have escaped the room I would have run and hid.

I ruminated on the words the woman said for several days.  The incident had taken me by surprise.  I was also frustrated because I had been so shocked by her comments I no longer remembered what I had said that sparked them.  Had I really been so obnoxious about my “spiritual experiences” that a round “put down” was called for?  Why did someone who didn’t even know me lash out… especially at a ministry meeting in front of a group of people?

  • God’s Instructions

As I listening to God’s still small voice I wanted to ignore Him.  I felt hurt and angry.  But His instructions were so clear and direct and compelling…

“Go on interacting with her just as if nothing had ever happened.  There’s more going on than you see… trust me, forgive and treat her as a friend.”

I wondered at the time about going to her… sharing with her that her words had offended me, possibly asking what it was all about.  Doesn’t the Word instruct us to go to the other person when we are offended?  But that was not what I felt God was telling me to do in this case… he wanted forgiveness without explanation or confrontation of any kind.  His instructions said to let go of the offense and release any hard feelings I had toward this person.  He wanted me to be ready to greet her warmly, as if she had not given me any occasion to complain about her; to treat her kindly as if she had not injured me… He reminded me that is how He treats me when He forgives me.  It was a tall request God was asking… one I was not sure I could fulfill.

It was a couple of weeks before I saw the woman again at church… I thought to slip by her and act as though I never saw her… but the catch in my spirit said, “NO… go greet her!”  I complied and greeted her warmly then moved on.  Nothing happened; it didn’t fix anything.  Her words still stung but I reminded myself of God’s instructions… “Just as if nothing had ever happened… treat her as a friend!” Time went by… I refused to nurse the offense as much as I actually wanted to.  The Lord had just been so clear, so compelling and somehow at the same time comforting.  So I put the offense out of my mind… “Just as if nothing had ever happened.”

Fast forward several months…

I had occasion to spend several days in close proximity with this nice lady… and that’s exactly what she was – Nice!  We chatted and got to know each other… found we had some things in common.  In the next couple weeks I invited her to my home and we talked and prayed together… found even more common ground and I experienced the powerful ways God uses this new friend to minister to others, including me.  I asked God, “What’s up with this?  She’s really nice!  I want her as a friend for many years to come Lord!”

  • A real, biblical friendship is born…

Just a few weeks ago I finally shared with my friend the struggle I had with our first encounter.  Honest and tender feelings were talked about; prayed about; forgiveness was cemented in my heart.    I openly admitted that in the time since the incident I realized that deep down I knew my friend had not meant to be critical or in any way hurtful… it was my bruised and defensive ego that had gotten offended when it really didn’t need to be.  My friend openly admitted that sarcasm is a problem she struggles with… she was quick to ask forgiveness and I felt her deep sorrow for what had happened.   We both understood that we have a real spiritual enemy out there and from the first time we met he did not want this relationship to happen.  But now the victory was ours.  We walked away from each other full of peace and joy.

So I have a new, wonderful and precious friend.  And in my heart and in my mind… Nothing ever happened!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Col 3:12-14

A Prayer

Father God I thank you for my precious friend and her soft and caring heart.  I thank you for your instructions… for your comfort and for your love.  Show me when my bruised and defensive ego chooses offense over forgiveness.  Continue to teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me… pure, simple forgiveness just as if nothing had ever happened.  And above all help me to put on love, which binds us together in perfect harmony.  Without You Lord just think of the friendship I would have missed.