Praying it out on a hard day

Worry hits me like a sharp, shallow breathing,  right in the middle  of the Wal-Mart.

There I am, just picking the cereal for the week and mentally running through what we already have at home  in the pantry, when I realize my breaths are kind of shallow, kind of pained deep in my stomach.

Maybe it’s not even worry; it’s more just thought after thought piling on over time.

Thinking about the to-do-list items, an upcoming birthday, field hockey and dance, rehearsals, families around me in need, work craziness, and ministry decisions.  I’m thinking about playground woes with mean girls for one daughter and tween emotions for two others and preschool for my son.

I  feel “off.”  Unsettled.  Worn down.  Tangled up.

As I push my cart around the store, I take some deep breaths and pray some  quick prayers.

Dear Jesus, for my children….

Dear Jesus, for my own brokenness and sin….

Dear Jesus, for  those around me….

Send peace . Be our peace, Lord.

I also chide myself.  How foolish, like a tiny child, stressing over things not worth stressing over, thinking and mulling over decisions that will  just come and work out and happen.

It all piles on in one day, though, my own problems to  sort through and a host of others for people I care about:

A child with heart disease, a family missing loved ones in the aftermath of a hurricane in Puerto Rico, a dad’s death and a hard hospital visit.

This is a hard day.  A hard day that is making me tenderhearted.

All that sorrow tumbles me into  a sweet place of just crying with Jesus.  I think maybe He weeps, too, just as He did when He stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb and saw how hard it is for all of us, how scared we are, how we mourn.

For a little while, I feel guilty for letting the smallest things in my own life land on my wimpy shoulders  like heavy burdens.

I think, “Count your blessings!  Buck up!  Get over it already!”

And, maybe that’s a little right. Maybe my perspective is off and I needed a little spirit-check, that what has me personally weighed down is foolishness compared to the deep concerns of others.

But I read this also, right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ( Matthew 6:25 ESV)

We’re no different than the crowd of people surrounding him on a mountainside that day.

We feel anxious over the daily things that pound at us.  The food we eat.  The clothes we wear.  The bodies we walk around in. The tiniest mundane details of our everyday life.

Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t be anxious about your cancer diagnosis or don’t be anxious about a divorce or a foreclosure.”

He said don’t worry  about any of it.  Don’t worry about lunch and dinner and your outfit for the day and your body type.

And he was so gracious about it.   He didn’t tell  the crowd to get over petty concerns because He was actually going to–you know–be persecuted and die for them because they were, after  all, heading for  eternal  damnation.

Hannah Anderson writes:

“Jesus understood …that small things can unsettle us more than large things; so when He called  the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to  do the same–He does so in context of very mundane, very ordinary concerns…  At the same time, He doesn’t shame us for worrying about them.  He doesn’t tell us just how to be grateful, to remember how much better we have it than other people…..Instead, He asks if our worry is actually accomplishing anything” (Humble Roots).

It’s not, of course.  Worry isn’t accomplishing  anything for anybody.

But it is a prompting to prayer.  It’s the catalyst that stops me from just standing nearby as a helpless bystander and instead rolling up my sleeves to get in the fight.

I can’t fix this.  Not any of it.  But I can pray.

I can pray it out.  Pray it like that’s our only hope because that’s exactly who Jesus is:  He’s our Hope and our Strength and our Peace and He is who we need when we’re worrying over our children and He is who we need when our friends are facing down death and despair.

So  as I stand there in the middle of the Wal-Mart and then in my minivan and then in my home, I begin to pray it out to Jesus.

 

 

Weekend Walk: 12/31/2011

Hiding the Word:

What to pray?  What to say?  It’s the final day of 2011 and somehow that heightens the importance of the verse we choose to meditate on this week.  It’s like setting the tone for the new year and there are so many powerful verses to choose from!

I just finished reading Billy Graham’s book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well (click here for my book review).  It reminded me of the days when I worked in an estate planning law firm.  Most of our clients were seniors coming in to plan for their future.

We had clients like the lady who owned a bakery and always brought in trays of goodies when she visited our office.

We had clients like the wealthy grumpus of a couple who cut their son out of their will because he married someone they didn’t like.

I remember thinking then that I needed to choose what I would be like as I aged.  Did I want to be sweet and giving?  Did I want to be cranky and unforgiving?

If I left the end-result to chance, who knows how I’d turn out!  Yet, if I prayerfully asked God to form my character and guide my steps, I had hope for my future.

Isn’t that a little like a new year?  Instead of asking God for all the things we want Him to do for us in 2012 or all the things we want to get from Him, what if we instead invited Him to work on our hearts and transform us?

So, my verse for this week is a prayer to start the year:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
         Be acceptable in Your sight,
         O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer
(Psalm 19:14).

What are you praying that God will do in your heart and life in the new year?

Weekend Rerun:

They Will See God
Originally published 03/25/2011

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Psalm 105:4, NIV

A few weeks ago, I waited in the line of moms and dads who were picking up their children from our church nursery.  I could see inside the room where my daughter was playing, but she couldn’t yet see me.  As the parents before me went into the room, my baby started craning her neck to see if she could find me in the crowd.  She looked up as each new adult entered the room and kept searching every face to see if it was mine.

Then she saw me.  I watched her face change from searching . . . searching . . . searching . . . to pure joy at finding Mom!!   She beamed.  She ran to me.  She practically knocked me over with her embrace.

Really, there are few moments as a mom more precious than seeing a little person so excited just to see your face.  To know that you are so very loved by someone sweet and innocent, even though you aren’t perfect or even the best.

That moment with my daughter made me think of how I should passionately and intently seek after God, for intimacy with Him and time in His presence, and for opportunities to give Him heartfelt adoration and praise and to show I love Him.  After all, He is perfect and the best!

I want to see God.  I want to do whatever it takes to have a closer relationship with Him.  Just like David, I can say, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8, NIV).

Sometimes all it takes to see God is persistently pursuing His presence.  Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (NIV).  Also in Psalm 27,  David said, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14, NIV).

My daughter kept searching the crowd of parents in the church nursery and ultimately she did see me.  I came at the appointed time.  She was not abandoned and left alone.  All that she had to do was wait and not give up.

Don’t stop searching for God’s face in the midst of your busy life, your family stresses, your ministry concerns, your health crisis, your financial struggles, your job disappointments, your heart-wrenching fears.  Keep seeking with all Your heart.  You will see God.

But, actively seek.  Sometimes we wonder why we aren’t seeing God’s presence in our lives, but we are relegating Him to 10 minutes of our day as we skim through a devotional.  Or we think that listening to a sermon and some Christian radio counts as connecting with God.  Be willing to give God your time sacrificially.  Invite Him into every part of your day and immerse yourself in His Word so that you know Him more fully.

There are other times, though, that finding God takes more than just pursuing His presence.  Matthew 5:8 tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (NIV).  Seeking God also means pursuing purity.

Earlier this week, I took a day off from writing.  It was partly out of necessity because the day was so hectic with appointments, work, family and ministry.  But, it was also because I needed a time out.  Someone did something in total innocence that frustrated me.  It wounded my ridiculous pride and I reacted with some pouting and whining and, yes, I admit–a private little tantrum.

It was sin and I knew it.  I needed some time to get right with God.

As much as I could, I spent the afternoon in God’s Word, letting Him sift my heart, reveal the sin and deal with it.   I seem to have these pitfalls, these consistent sins that trip me up, hindering and entangling me (Hebrews 12:1).  Do you have some of those—-lessons that you need to learn over and over and over and you wonder if you’ll ever get it right?

Unfortunately, these sins separate me from God and obscure His face.

Fortunately—or more accurately— amazingly, God extends abundant mercy and compassion when we confess our sins to Him and ask Him to make us clean. We are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).

That day, I prayed through Psalm 51, which was David’s Psalm of repentance.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to hide the sin after she became pregnant.  Adultery.  Murder.  It seems like a lot for God to forgive, and yet God’s grace is big enough for any sin we lay at His feet.  Like David, I prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NIV). I want a steadfast spirit, not my roller coaster reactions when I feel hurt or wronged.

Paul wrote, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV).   Purity of heart isn’t something we stumble on accidentally.  It’s not a spiritual gift that God gives to some people and not to others.  Instead, it means confessing sin and also actively pursuing purity and “perfecting holiness.”  It means asking Him to dig deep in my heart to root out the ugly sins that have such a deep hold on me, even when it hurts, even though it embarrasses me to face up to what’s really lurking in my soul.

It’s worth it– Seeing God’s face and knowing that–not only am I lighting up at finding Him in the crowd, but that He’s grinning at the sight of me washed clean and anticipating His presence.  I want a pure heart so that I can see God.  I don’t want to miss out on His presence, His peace, or His activity in my life.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see God?  Right now, that might just be holding on to hope with all your might.  Pursue His presence and keep waiting with expectation for God to show up in all His glory.  Do not give up.   Or, it might mean getting on your knees and asking Him to cleanse your heart and forgive you.  Then, with a pure heart, you will see God.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King