onboardplaneWhile traveling on a plane recently, I found myself seated next to a young woman who was attractive, prime, proper and aloof.  I don’t mind people who don’t want to talk on a plane because I like that alone time also.

However, she was clearly impressed with herself. Because I admire that in younger women, she caught my attention  Therefore, even though she wasn’t interested in speaking to me, questions flooded my mind.  I wanted to know her.  I quietly and silently prayed that somehow I could be a blessing to her.

I felt that she was a person who had newly acquired her positive self-image because there was still a bit of uncomfortable awkwardness about the way she sat straight and tall.  It was impossible to notice that she took out pictures of cosmetic sample and flipped through them several times.  I felt that perhaps she recently took a job that helped her to see how valuable she really is.

We waltzed a bit in our seats, shifting and maneuvering our computers, phones and purses to avoid contact.  She was the one who was leading each dance, while never allowing my eyes to meet hers.  My interest grew.

boarding passThen she lost her boarding pass and all the defenses and reserve melted.  Panic slipped into the space that had been occupied by self-assurance.

“I lost my ticket,” she said in broken but clear English.  I knew that she meant “boarding pass” for her next flight; but I didn’t see the need to correct her.

“Oh, I found one in the front pocket of my seat.  Perhaps, it was yours.”   No.  We searched together but we couldn’t find the missing boarding pass.

“Don’t worry.” I said, as her black and delightfully expressive eyes filled with tears.  Her look questioned me.  I explained the procedure to get another boarding pass.  But she didn’t understand.  I clarified several times.  Finally, she seemed satisfied.  She sat back in her seat and grasped her Gucci handbag.

“I don’t need to worry,” she reassured herself out loud.  “I can get another ticket.”  She smiled at me and I felt such love for her.  In that moment, it was as though God had given me another daughter.

I touched the sleeve of her elegant leather coat and prayed soft enough that only she, the Lord and I could hear,  “Father, help her find her ticket.  She needs to have it in her hands.”  Again, she smiled shyly.

Then she reached down on the floor, moving her hand between her seat and the wall of the plane.  “It is here!” she exclaimed, smiling from ear to ear. “I found my ticket.”

I settled down to resume our previous positions; but the barriers were broken for her and a flood of questions followed.  We spent the next 20 minutes getting to know each other as only two women who are strangers can do.  As we parted from the plane, we smiled and walked away.

There are times in our lives that God can reach out and touch us in such a powerful way that there is almost heavenly music in the air.  Others times, there is only a smile and word of reassurance needed to reach the heart of a person.  Yet, how important it is to grasp the moment, knowing that God alone can make hearts confident.  I’ve prayed all this week for this wonderful, young woman.  I hope we meet again in heaven.

end of a roadCarla is not adjusting well to this time.  It is an end of an era for her.  Carla  is a high functioning person with intellectual disabilities.   Both parents have died.  She became too ill to live in her own apartment any longer.  For health and safety reasons, Carla has been moved into a group home where she can receive medical attention and help with personal care.

Joseph is experiencing the opposite.  It is also an end of an era for him.  His mother’s health has forced his family to make a hard decision.  He, too, has been moved into a group home.  While living at home, Joseph was never allowed to dress, shave or clean himself.  He was told where to go and what to do.  At the group home, he is required to clean, dress and shave himself.  He must take part in the chores and activities of the household.  He is required to do his own laundry and clean his own room.

Carla’s personality is softly pleasant.  Her manners are tender and appealing.  Joseph’s manner is gruff and abrasive.  He never walks.  He struts, giving the impression that he thinks more highly of himself than he ought.

unhappy catWhile Carla finds group home living restrictive and oppressive, Joseph has never had more freedom.  Carla has fewer chores and responsibilities now that she no longer lives in her own apartment. Someone cooks her meals, helps her with her household chores when necessary.   Without even informing her, the staff completes the paperwork required by the government which she often hid rather than traverse through the unintelligible maze of questions.  Carla resents the assistance she receives.

The demands on Joseph have multiplied but his finds increasing freedom in this new arrangement even though it is wrapped tightly with chores and requirements.  Of course, Joseph has never been one to complain.  He takes life as it come; and he trusts the Lord to work things out for his benefit.  Joseph often prays out loud, seriously or happily asking God to help him.

Carla admits that she almost never prays.  The requirements of “religion” are much too difficult and confining.  Carla cannot grasp the concept of God being a friend–her friend.

Joseph’s cognitive level is far below Carla’s but his faith quotient soars far above most other people.  He prays and expects an answer “because God loves me.”  He believes that “all things work” for his good because “God said it in the Bible.  Therefore, it’s true.”

In short, Carla is miserable and has been for years.  Joseph is joyous. Each day is a welcomed adventure.

sitting on a porchEach of us come to times in our lives when things radically change.  We graduate from college.  We get married.  Our first baby is born.  The first child enters kindergarten.  Then poof.   In a few short days, she is entering college.  The children leave home.  The children come back home.  A spouse dies.

Our IQ does not determine the position of our misery barometer.  Through prayer and fellowship with our Heavenly Father and Savior, Redeemer, Friend Jesus that our barometer are adjusting determining the joy and love into which we motivate through life.  I am praying that my life will follow the example set by Joseph.  Even though, he is a young man with a lousy personality and low IQ.  Joseph has tapped into the life-giving force of the Lord Jesus.  His example gives my hope and joy.

hillary-clinton-secretary-of-stateDuring the morning, I performed some mindless cleaning and straightening of a supply closet.  Also, I listened to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she testified before the Senate.  Later, in the afternoon, I met in a strategy meeting with a co-worker and friend regarding changes that need to take place in our ministry.

In both incidences, I came away fascinated with the levels of communication that we all demonstrate.  Secretary Clinton shyly accepted the compliments of the Senators and Congressmen.  She choked with emotion as she recalled meeting the plane with the President to bring home the dead bodies of the four men murdered on 9/11/2012.  She angrily beat the table with her fists in response to a question poised by a Republican Senator.

Later, at our strategy meeting, some of the same emotions surfaced.  While emotions are an important part of our personalities, I wonder how often these necessary power-charged expressions become the villain.  Emotions often keep us from saying the things we mean.  Even worse emotions hinder our being able to communicate the things which need to be said.

Wedged between these events, I’d attended a Webinar explaining the appeals process in the State of Florida.  As I listened to three lawyers explain how to prepare and present a case in an appeals hearing, the application demonstrated by Mrs. Clinton and the Senators was shockingly evident.

honor guardMrs. Clinton was prepared for every question.  She accepted responsibility while denying all knowledge or the ability to make adjustments which could have saved the lives of our Ambassador and the other three men.  The Senators did not understand the events as clearly as she.  They were scattered and disjointed.  However, neither the Senators nor Mrs. Clinton presented the kind of information needed by the American public regarding the Benghazi murders.

Mrs. Clinton was pleasantly evasive.  The Democrats were obliging and congratulatory, more focused on letting people know how much they loved and appreciated the Secretary of State than participating in the Republican “witch hunt.”   Almost all Republican Senators showed controlled anger and a need to get their individual point across.

BenghaziThere was no request for a narrative regarding the timeline of the events.  The information needed and wanted by the US public was not presented.  I could sit, listening and understand all the mistakes made by these women and men as I took mental notes during the Webinar on the appeals process.

However, after the Webinar was over and I merged into a strategy meeting, I repeated all the mistakes I’d earlier recognized in others.  Setting aside my mind, I let my emotions rule the decision and processing of future needs.  I spoke emotionally, not logically.

Saying what we mean is much harder than we often recognize.  It takes discipline.  There must be preparation.  However, most of all, we must say what we mean–not what we feel.

In writing to the Romans, Paul was emotionally involved and those emotions are evident throughout his presentation. However, he did not allow his emotions over rule his presenting to the Roman church and to us a concise and valuable summary of God’s salvation plan.  He does not deviate from the primary message.  We are saved by God’s grace and only by his grace.  Our works must be an outgrowth of our love for the Lord, demonstrating the mercy and grace of our Father.

Because the mentally challenged community is not able to communicate at a mature level, it often becomes our responsibility to give voice to their needs and hurts.  It is important that we not only understand our members.  We must also make advocate for them in a prayerful and concise way, saying what we mean not what we feel.

camelsOnce again reading about Abraham’s sojourning from his family and country after receiving a command of the Lord makes me realize how portable our lives could be.  Perhaps portability should even be an expected the way of life. The most important thing we have goes with us no matter where we settle.

Of  course,our relationship with the Lord and our ability of communicate with him are the most important things in our lives.  Prayer enables us to speak with the Lord and allows us to hear from our Savior.

walking in the desertIn the past few weeks, the Lord impressed me to move my prayer spot.  I’ve prayed for years in the living room.  Yet, several mornings he told me to go into the family room instead.  This week I’ve had visitors; and I’ve been praying in the bedroom.  I’ve hated praying in the bedroom because it’s much too easy to snuggle down into the blankets and go to sleep.

Determined to continue in my prayer routine, I’ve pressed into the time and felt a new joy in my prayer, even though the surroundings aren’t as familiar.

comfortableAgain and again, we are reminded that God wants us to seek him, not a place or event.  I find that I’m an expert at putting everything in front of the Lord.  I must struggle daily forcing my will and my desires into the background.  He rewards and allows us to grow and become productive followers when we allow him to move us from our comfort zones back into his will.

cross and prayingAfter 6 decades of praying, I’ve developed an awareness that the Lord honors and values our prayers far more than we do.  Considering prayer, I often think about my adult children.  They often call me merely to check and see how I’m doing.  No matter what time they call, if I’m able I answer the phone.

As they approached adulthood, I attempted to make them my friends.  It is impossible to express what their friendship and consideration for my well-being means to me.  I don’t always like or agree with their needs or desires.  Yet, I’m going to listen, give advice if they ask for it and help whenever possible.

parent and hildBeing a human, I can hardly imagine the great heart of God as he listens to our prayers.  Whether complaints, concerns, petitions or intercession, God desires to pour into our lives his blessings of grace and mercy.  Therefore, I cannot ever imagine a time that the Lord will say “No” to a plea that comes from the needs and concerns of one of his children.

However, I’m convinced the Lord always responses, “I’m not going to give you what you desire.  In my wisdom, I know that this is not my best for your life.  I’m going to give you something much better.”

James wrote that we have not because we ask not.  That implies to me that God is far more eager to answer our prayers than we are to pray.

Should our prayer life be thoughtful and reasoned?  Of course.  Should we desire God’s best for our family and friends?  Absolutely.  Should we be concerned that this bountiful, loving God will withhold from us any good thing?  Never.  Can we trust him to honor and answer each prayer with the same mercy and grace that poured from Calvary into a world lost in sin? Yes, with certain assurance.

waiting

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of prayer is when the Lord answers, “Wait.”

We’ve all experienced that waiting time.  Personally, I’m quite ready for my prayers to be answered the day and even the moment I ask.  I’ve prayed for a good friend for more than 25 years to receive the Lord.  Daily, I’ve asked that He bless and help her.  Recently, I paid her a visit and learned that she had received the Lord as her Savior.

joyful peopleI must admit that rather than being overjoyed, my reaction was much more subdued.  I quizzed the Lord about my emotionless reaction.  In my spirit I felt His response, “If I’d done the work more quickly, you would’ve wanted to take credit.  I wanted you to realize that I’m the Savior of her soul, not your prayers.”  Understand this wasn’t a rebuke from the Lord but a simple statement of fact.

The New Testament records an interesting verse. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (John 11:6).  

Jesus had received a plea for help from his best friends, Mary and Martha.  Their brother, Lazarus was dying.  Jesus didn’t rush to his bedside to comfort and heal.  He waited.  Oz Hillman wrote,

God often has to delay His work in us in order to accomplish something for His purposes that can be achieved only in the delay. Jesus had to let Lazarus die in order for the miracle that was about to take place to have its full effect. If Jesus had simply healed a sick man, the impact of the miracle would not have been as newsworthy as resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days. This is Jesus’ greatest “public relations act” of His whole ministry. What many do not realize is that the key to the whole story is in the next chapter.

Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” (John 12:18-19)

The Lord was setting the stage for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It was only after this great miracle that the Pharisees began to see that the only path to the elimination of Jesus’ influence was his death.  From that moment they purposed in their spirits to destroy Jesus.

God's plaMonths ago, I shared with a young pastor who had been elected to an important office some on the things that I’d learned while serving in a similar position.  He reaction was rejection of my ideas. Then, last week, we again sat at a meeting.  He shared his discouragement and the lack of success he had experienced in his ministry over the past two or three years.  Another more experienced pastor quietly shared what I’d proposed a year ago. The young pastor heard and adopted the plan

After the meeting, the older pastor came to me and whispered, “You said that a year ago; but he couldn’t hear it then.  He had to learn the hard way.”  Then the seasoned minister grinned, “We all have to learn the hard way–our way.”

Delays aren’t merely part of God’s great plan for eternity.  They are also part of his plan for our lives.  Perhaps the hardest to receive–yet most profitable–answer God can give us to our prayers is “wait.”

praying on her kneesPrayer is an eternal mystery that haunts even the most devote warrior in God’s kingdom.  For Frances, prayer was her bread and drink.  She spent her days and nights in supplication to the Lord.  I earnestly believe that it was the prayers of Frances that turned our nation back to the Lord in a great way in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Of course there were many others who also prayed and sought God but I experienced first-hand the result of Frances’ ministry.  I sat under her teaching and walked hand in hand with her during her times of struggle.  I also saw her confidence in prayer.  I rejoiced in what God was accomplishing through the hours spend listening, speaking, loving and even wrestling with a holy God.

tent meetingsWhile TV pundents often proclaim that everyone was stoned during those decades, there was an underground movement that consisted of late teens and young adults whose hearts pled for God to change them and our nation.  My husband and I were part that movement–the Jesus Movement.  We led a vibrant and holy group of teenagers whose sole ambition was to find a deep relationship with Jesus.  They gathered under tents and in churches.  They fasted and held all night prayer meetings.

While the focus beamed on the teens and the other young men and women who led this army of teenagers, it was the matrons and masters of prayer–such as Frances–who had plowed the ground, planted the seed and rejoiced in the harvest.  Their battle was hard-fought.  They struggled and wrestled with the enemy of our souls on their knees, weeping, laughing and facing that dreaded enemy with grace, courage and valor. The power of the Holy Spirit never failed them.  The Father’s love always embraced them and assured them that his great destiny would save even the most horrible reprobate.

These prayer warriors didn’t possess the advantages of social media, blogs or the Internet but their prayers had world-wide and lasting effects.  Somehow, Christian leaders from around the world heard about Frances and came to her humble home for prayer.  They delighted in staying in the home of Frances and her husband. eating her food, laughing and enjoying fellowship long into the night.  But they came for prayer–recognizing her vital connection to God that brought success in ministry.

joanFew of us have been given the grace Frances possessed in determined, steadfast prayer.  Yet, all of us can seek God with the grace God has given to us.  Frances died stubbornly, without fanfare.  She resisted death even after her strength and vigor had been long spent.  I asked her oldest daughter, “Why does she struggle, resisting death so strongly?”  She believed that Frances clung to a desire to be on earth when the Lord returned.

Was this woman of God perfect?  No! Was she a warrior who helped to change the world for Christ?  Yes!