Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Does Prayer Get You?

In It’s the Little Things, Lena Williams says that a test of true friendship between those of different races is that you have been in each other’s bedrooms. Until Friday, the only time I’d been in my friend Amy’s bedroom was several years ago when some children were playing there during a party.

This Friday, I was in her bedroom helping her pack to go to New York. No, not a trip for fun, but because her 27-year-old son Marcus had died suddenly. He was traveling on a bicycle in Manhattan when the driver of a parked car opened the door in front of him. He was catapulted into the path of a large truck and died immediately. There is more detail at

Where is God in all this? I know Amy. We’ve been prayer partners for years; we just prayed together Thursday evening. We pray for each other’s children and I know Amy prays for her children’s safety and guidance every day. So couldn’t God have made that driver hesitate before opening the car door? Of course he could have. So why didn’t he? I don’t know. I keep going back to the “his ways are higher than our ways” passage, but I don’t think this was God’s doing. Human beings were just doing their things and God didn’t intervene.

I don’t like the suffering that accompanies God’s lack of intervention. I don’t like seeing the tear-stained faces and feeling the gut-wrenching pain of everyone who knew Marcus or his parents.

Ironically, our Bible study group is presently studying prayer, and one thing I’ve gotten from it recently is that many times God’s answer to our prayers is that he gives us peace—not our request, but peace with the circumstances that accompany our request. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). I’d never read this passage in quite that way before. Paul tells us to present our requests to God, and that His peace will guard our hearts and minds—not that God is a fairy godmother-type who will grant our wishes.

So that’s the blessing I pray for Amy and her family, for the newly widowed Adrienne, for the vast network of friends that Marcus leaves behind.

I can just picture Marcus walking up to Ruth and her saying, “Well, Marcus! How great to see you! I wasn’t expecting you so soon, but let’s sit and talk a while.” And there will be his old friend Bud who just died in August, and Marcus will be the first of us to hear Bud speak clearly and walk standing straight and tall. What a blessing for him!

Thank you, Lord, for the assurance of heaven. I pray for those who have no hope, that they will turn to you and receive your peace.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Optimist or Pessimist--Either Can Be Learned

Columbus Day was a special day when I was in elementary school. We’d review “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two” and study his travel routes to the New World. Then after I became a teacher, much of the traditional story was disparaged. I still mentioned it on October 12 each year, though, for it is part of our culture.

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how long ago that was that I was in Miss Sue’s class, or Miss Floy’s class, or Miss Valley Legge’s class. (You know I couldn’t make up that name!) They taught basic values that still serve me well today. Maybe soon I’ll write about the day in 1954 when Miss Floy led us outside and we all added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance for the first time.

I’m now reading The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman. He has excellent explanations for why so many more people in the United States are depressed than years ago when they had more reasons to be depressed. Years ago, everyone espoused the value of God, nation, family, and duty. Today much more emphasis is on self—what we can accomplish ourselves and what others can do for us. Pessimism is a characteristic of depression and he has good tips for counteracting pessimism.

His style is very readable and applicable with any child—or adult, for that matter. He is much more analytical and has studies to back up what he’s writing, but his philosophy for building a child’s self-esteem in a realistic way reminds me of the Haim Ginott books I read as I was rearing my children. You compliment specific accomplishments, such as “You did a good job of putting away your toys” rather than a blanket statement that they might believe is not true, such as “You are a great kid!” Not that you shouldn’t say the latter—just that pointing out their capabilities in a way they can agree with is most effective.

I’m not even half way through with the book, but already I think it’s a must-read for parents. I may be giving a few of these at Christmas this year!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference

My week at Maranatha was inspiring and helpful, both to my Christian goals and my writing goals. The main speakers—Jerry Jenkins, Lynn Austin, and Crystal Bowman, among others—were so focused on presenting Jesus in all their work that I was quite humbled. I’d say a main point I got was that I don’t pray enough over what I write.

So I wonder how many Christians take seriously the “pray without ceasing” instruction. Sometimes I get up with the intention of praying about everything all day, and then I simply forget. I get so caught up in the day’s activities that I don’t think to continue to pray. I doubt that I’m alone in that.

Jerry Jenkins told about asking Billy Graham about his daily disciplines as a Christian. He keeps a Bible open all day so he’ll be reminded to go to it often. He prays constantly about everything that arises in his day. No wonder the man has influenced so many people for Christ! And already my Bible is closed and I didn’t pray about watering the yard. Should I have? I did pray over this blog post and have no idea where it’s going. I guess I just want to remind us all to pray without ceasing. (Yes, I learned that verse when the King James Version was the only one I’d ever read, but “pray continually” is equally powerful.)

I’ve always been inspired by Nehemiah’s response when the king asked him, “What is it you want?” He says, “I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king….”

I can recall specific instances where I was in such a hard spot that all I knew to do was to pray. Afterward, I rarely remembered what I said, but I knew it had been the right thing because the situation worked out okay.

Once a parent accosted me on my way to class one morning. She was upset that her son had gotten a C on a paper—a gift, from my perspective. I suspected she had written it because it in no way fit the assignment as we had discussed in class, so I knew I was treading on dangerous ground. I prayed as I began to answer her. Whatever I said worked for her, because we parted amicably. I still wonder what words God gave me to say to her that diffused her anger and allowed us to remain congenial. And remembering that always inspires me to pray about everything, but especially when I am speaking. I need special prayers to control that tongue of mine, since I know it is “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body,” as we read in James 3:6. But no doubt the “pray without ceasing” approach (I Thessalonians 5:17) can overcome the evil of my tongue. I'm sure I need to pray more about that.