Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another little prayer request...

I was eating lunch this afternoon at about 12:30, when I heard my phone vibrating from in my purse across the room, but by the time I got to it, the caller had hung up. It was my dad; he had called three times, and had left me a voicemail right at noon.

He said my little sister was in a wreck. She is okay, but she's very lucky to be okay. Someone ran their red light and hit her pretty much head-on. My dad said her car is demolished. Thankfully, she just has some scrapes and bruises. When I talked to him, they were sitting in the emergency room, waiting on her to get checked out, just to be sure she's okay. I'm sure she'll be fine, but she's probably pretty shaken up. I know I would be.

Also, he found out that the driver that hit her was not insured. So they've gotta deal with that, too. So if you all would be so kind as to remember my sister, Laura...well, I know we'd all appreciate it.

Much love!

Update 1-1-08:
Here's a pic of my sister's "demolished" Nissan Altima...


And to think, she walked away w/just some scrapes and bruises! God is good!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ponderings on Prayer (Part 5)

I was going to ask you all to think with me for a little bit more about Jesus, praying in the Garden. I was going to ask why He prayed so hard for something that He, in His infinite knowledge and wisdom, knew wouldn't happen??? Seriously, I wanted to ask you all...if there were any other way for the omniscient, omnipotent Creator to accomplish this task of saving our souls, don't you think He would have thought of it before that moment??? So, in essence, wasn't Jesus praying for a cup to pass, even though He knew that it mustn't???

I was going to ask you all if anybody besides me wondered what the point was or if this lead anybody else to think that there must be some other reason He was praying??? That there is some other reason to pray to God, besides just asking Him in the hopes of getting what we ask for???

But before I had the chance to ask you all these questions, I came across this post. I found it incredibly comforting and very insightful at the same time, and I wanted to share it with you all. So stop wasting your time here on my ramblings. Go over to his place and read this post. In fact, while you're there, pull up a chair...kick back...put your feet up...stay for awhile, and take in even more of his insight. There's plenty there to keep ya busy for awhile...plenty to teach you and challenge you and bless you and encourage you. So spend some time over there...you won't regret it. I know I don't.

Much love to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ponderings on Prayer (Part 4)

In the last ramblings on prayer, I discussed the idea that the things that we do physically...and the way that we approach God mentally...they can make a difference. Now I want to ask, do you agree with that, with the idea of approaching with such humility? Does it matter how we approach Him? If so, why?

Jesus tells us so much about prayer, and how God gives to us. When teaching His disciples to pray, He tells them that God already knows what they need before they ask. He tells them that "Everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifs to those who ask him!" Later, He says, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Finally, He says, "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."

Those sound like some pretty powerful promises to me! So are we to approach the throne of Almighty God expecting such? I believe so. The Hebrew writer says so. He tells us to approach the throne with confidence. So how does that coincide with the idea of approaching Him with humility???

Confession time: It is hard for me to approach Him with confidence sometimes. It really is. Because the fact is, we don't always get everything we pray for. We just don't. Most recently and specifically, many in my church have prayed for an 8-year-old boy to be healed of a brain tumor. That cancer took his life last week. Many in my church have also prayed for the healing of Brent, only to receive the report from the doctor that the complete healing we so desperately want for him will be extremely unlikely. These are just a couple of examples.

So how do you deal with that??? How do you approach with confidence, in light of such issues???
The only example I know to look to is that of our Savior. Did Jesus ever pray for anything and not get it??? When Jesus was in the Garden the night before He was crucified, He prayed like I've never prayed before. Dr. Luke tells us something very interesting, something that the other gospel writers leave out. He tells us that Jesus' sweat was like drops of blood. This is an actual medical condition, called hematidrosis. It is a symptom of extreme stress, in which the blood vessels around the sweat glands actually rupture and blood is secreted into the sweat glands. Have you ever been that stressed out about something??? I know I haven't. But our Savior was...that's how desperately He prayed that night, as He begged, "Dad, if there is any other way..."

Was that prayer answered???

I'm gonna go out on a limb here (and hope that I don't get struck by lightning as I type this) and say that God did not answer that prayer, at least not in the sense that Jesus did not receive exactly what He wanted. But I think this verse, written by one of His followers, might give us a clue, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!"

Jesus' prayer was answered, however, because His attitude was one of submission to the will of His Father, as He prayed, "Not my will, but Thine..."

So my question to you all then is this...how do we find that balance??? How do we find the happy medium between approaching God with confidence that He will answer our prayers, and at the same time coming to Him in humility, trusting Him to know better than we do...even when we don't understand the momentary answers that He gives???

On a previous prayer pondering, I received the comment, "Fasting has led me to believe that when God's answer is negative, it's never just "no;" it's "no, but wait." I can't prove it. I just believe it."

I want to believe that, too.

Sometimes, it's just easier said than done.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kimberly Is My Hero!

Kim is a friend of mine from my singles group at church, someone that I don't necessarily know very well, but she is quickly becoming one of my favorite people.

First of all, she reads my blogs over at PV Singles...and she seems to actually get something out of them! (That idea...the idea that my ramblings would be worth anybody else's time...is just beyond me. Seriously. I don't get it.) So the fact that she takes the time (or that anyone takes the time, for that matter!) means the world to me.

But more importantly, Kim is now what she called my "blood buddy." Although I prefer blood sister. Because she is my sister, you know...through Christ.

Today my church hosted a blood drive for Brent, the young man I wrote about in the previous post. He is still in critical condition. He needed blood for his surgery on Tuesday, and will likely need more in the future. So I felt both the need and desire to donate in Brent's name today.

But I've never done it before. The idea of a big needle being strapped to my arm really does freak me out...even as I type this, after the fact, it creeps me out a little to think of it...it's almost a phobia. But I went into the room this morning and watched some people donate during our normal Sunday morning class time. Kim, who volunteers as a blood drive coordinator for the Red Cross, was one of the first to come ask how I was doing and if I was planning to donate. I confessed that I had never done it before and was thinking about it, but I told her I was a little nervous about it (that was the understatement of the year!) She was so supportive; she was like, "I know you can do this, Lacey, you'll be so great at it! I'll sit with you the whole time, if you want me to." A while later, I went upstairs to go to late worship, and as I was leaving she asked if I was coming back. I told her I was; so at that point, that meant I definitely had to come back. I couldn't lie in church.

During worship Sunday morning, we sang, "I Am Mine No More." I couldn't help but think that if I've been bought with blood, surely I could stand to give just a little of mine. I took a little bit of comfort in that thought. After going home to change clothes and eat a healthy lunch of a cheeseburger, a brownie, and some juice, I was ready to donate.

But I was still scared. The guy that was talking to me during the pre-screening asked if it was my first time. I told him it was, and that I was afraid. He said, "There's nothin to be scared of. We haven't lost one yet today!" But even as I was answering questions, giving him my name and SSN, he was like "What's with all the heavy breathing?" I was really nervous. I told him so, and said, "I just don't do needles." He said, "Oh you don't have to, we'll do that part for you. In fact...we insist that you don't."

After I finished the screening it was time to wait. I know I looked nervous, cause everyone asked me about it, and had words of comfort. I'm sure at some point, there were tears in my eyes...just my being afraid...that's how seriously freaked out I was. I wasn't crying, but my eyes were definitely getting a little misty.

Then it was time. Kim was there almost the whole time. She talked to me to keep my mind off of the needle...especially when, about half-way through, I stopped bleeding, and they had to insert it further...and then, when I stopped bleeding again and they had to move it or insert it even further again...or something like that. I'm not sure what they did to make me bleed more...I tried not to look...I just know that when I started bleeding again, this time, I could feel the needle in all its sharpness. She talked to me about my blogs on prayer and fasting. She told me about a retreat-type place that she thought would be a good place for a girls' retreat. She asked me about Christmas, the buying of gifts and where I was going. At one point, she was literally holding my hand, as they were re-inserting the needle, trying to make me bleed again.

When it was all over with, she pinned me w/a first-time donor pin and told me I was now her "blood buddy." I still prefer blood sister, though. Because she helped me to overcome one of my fears. She helped me to give the gift of life to a brother who is in a hospital bed in critical condition.

Most importantly, she helped me to be a little bit more like my Savior.

I love you, Kim!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Prayer for Brent

While we're pondering on prayer, let me ask you to take some time to lift up in prayer a young man that I attend church with. He was involved in a motorcycle accident Saturday afternoon, and he was hurt pretty badly. My understanding is that he seems to be past the life-threatening portion of his injuries, at least for the time being, he is stable, but he is in ICU and is still medically sedated and will be for the next 3 days or so.

You can read more about his injuries here.

Please pray for Brent.

Much love.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ponderings on Prayer (Part 3)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my first "Ponderings on Prayer" to my church's singles website, which has blogging capabilities. If you recall, in that first post, I listed several questions, such as when, where, why to pray, postures in prayer, fasting, etc.

One of the comments I received back over there was, "I dont worry so much about the technical aspects of my praying, I just pray. If I cant get myself to bend my knees at times and pray in certain postures I think Im supposed to be in, then Ill just talk to him however I can in that moment."

I have to say that I agree with that comment completely; I don't think it always necessarily matters where we are or what we are physically doing when we pray. God still hears and answers. The Bible just encourages us to pray continually. Sometimes prayers are spontaneous, leaving us no options as far as what to do.

But what about the times when your prayer is not spontaneous? The times when you actually set aside time to approach the Father and tell Him what's on your heart? That's what I'm inquiring about. I just can't help but wonder if what we do in those times really does make a difference, not necessarily in God's reaction to us, but in our frame of mind and how we approach Him???

This question has been brought to my attention recently because of someone I worship with. I dunno whether to call him a friend or an acquaintance; I don't know him very well, or at least not as well as I'd like to. I rarely speak to him. But he speaks to me, almost every time we worship together, without even knowing it! You see, nearly every time we pray, he goes to his knees in prayer. Most Sundays I am privileged to witness this, and am challenged to approach God with the same mindframe--with such humility. And I can't help but wonder if he knows something I don't.

I believe that when we take the time to physically approach God like that, it can make a difference in our prayers. I believe this, because I've done so before, though not often, and only in the privacy of my home. (I'm not sure how I would feel about it in public worship.) But also, I've discovered something that I've done physically that seems to have a positive effect the way I feel while praying...

And this may sound like the stupidest thing in the world, but I'm going to share anyway...

It's my hair...I've grown it out. I know that Paul tells the church at Corinth that "if a woman has long hair, it is her glory." That's not necessarily what I was going for, though. It's not really something I did on purpose. See, my hair is very wavy to slightly curly. At the beginning of this year, I had put a light perm in it, just to enhance it's curliness. When I got tired of it, sometime in the middle of July, I put a chemical straightener in it. So all this time my hair had been growing, but I did not realize how much so, until I straightened it and saw how long it really was. And I noticed then that when I would bow my head in prayer, my hair was long enough to cover my face.

That's it for me, really. When I approach God, sometimes I feel so unworthy that I like for my face to be covered. And in accidentally letting my hair get longer than I normally do, (normally i keep it shoulder-length) I discovered that it does a wonderful job of that for me.

So it is now December, and (save about an inch or so trim) I have yet to cut my hair. It's about as long as it's been in a decade. If I could, I would post a picture, so you can see the difference between "normal" and "now." But there are very few pics of me floating around out there. (That's the way I like it.) I think I'm going to continue to grow it until it's long enough to donate. Until then, I feel like that's a physical way that I can approach God with humility, even in public worship, without feeling so self-conscious.

What about you? Do you think that the things we physically do when we pray can make a difference??? Are there some specific ways that you like to approach the Father? If so, do you only do them in private prayer, or do you approach Him that way in public prayer as well???

Even more of my ramblings...

Much love.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Vast Majority

They say that the vast majority of people involved in car wrecks are within just a few miles radius of their homes.

Last night I became a member of that vast majority when someone rear-ended me.

It was the perfect ending to my day. I had to work till 6:00 last night. At about 7:45 I went up to my church building just to hang w/some folks in our singles group. We try to do that most Friday nights...we'll get together just to play cards or games or watch TV or a movie or whatever. When I walked in, there was already a game of spades in process. I just sat and visited with folks most of the night, as we turned on the TV to watch "Die Hard With a Vengance" (gotta love Bruce Willis!) and I played w/my friend Don's new 13-week-old Yorkie (I want a puppy!)

It was nearly 11:00 p.m. when I left the church building last night. I live not more than a mile and a half from my church. It's a drive that takes about 4 minutes...only because it's mostly through a residential neighborhood, and because there are 2 stop signs and 3 stop lights on this short, mile-and-a-half-long drive. So you can imagine the frustration when, not quite half-way home, someone dented my bumper at one of those dadgum stoplights. My 4-minute drive home took up an hour of my night, and I walked through my front door just a few minutes before midnight.

Despite living in a world that encourages us to be like everyone else--a world that tells us, "Everyone's doin it!"--I don't like being a member of this majority! It's NOT always good to be a member of the "in" crowd. Just because something is normal, or even likely or expected, does not mean that it is a good thing. I guess that's the moral of the story, really.

Can you think of any other time when it's not good to be like everyone else???

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."--Matt. 7:13-14

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ponderings on Prayer (Part Two)

Perhaps I'm putting the cart before the horse in writing this one. With all the questions about prayer that I mentioned in my last post, perhaps I should start with something a little more basic. I probably should study prayer itself before throwing anything else into the mix.

But let's live dangerously. Because this is a topic that's been especially on my mind lately, I was eager to study it and discuss it here. The topic is prayer and fasting.

All my life, growing up going to church, I heard multiple lessons on prayer. More than I could even begin to count. I can't recall EVER hearing a lesson on fasting. Seriously. The first lesson I think I ever heard on fasting was back in the spring of 2006, when, one Wednesday evening, we discussed the idea of participating in Lent; that is why we, in the CoC, typically don't; but why maybe we should, why it might be a good thing. So I was 22 years old before I ever heard something that even resembled a lesson on fasting.

So I decided to do a little bit of research and study myself, just to see what I could come up with. Here' s a little bit of what I found, and what I've learned from it:

--Fasting was done for several different reasons, but what I noticed most often is that it was done in mourning/confession/repentance. When people faced their sin and recognized their need for change, fasting, in sackcloth and ashes, was a common response. In I Samuel 7, after the Philistines have returned the ark of the covenant to Israel, Samuel urges the people to devote themselves to God, and the people assembled and fasted as they confessed. (I Sam. 7:2-6) In II Samuel 12, David spends days in fasting and prayer after he is confronted by Nathan regarding his sins, as He pleads with God for his son's life. (II Sam. 12:13-17) In Ezra 10, we see Ezra in prayer and bitter mourning over the sins of the exiles, and their unfaithfulness to God. As he mourns for them, he takes no food or drink. (Ezra 10:1-6) We see the same response in the opening verses of Nehemiah. When Nehemiah hears the report of the condition of the exiles that have returned to Jerusalem, he spends several days in fasting and prayer. (Neh 1:1-4) In Jonah 3, the king of Nineveh responds to Jonah's warning by declaring a fast. (Jonah 3:3-9) There are other mentions of mourning with prayer and fasting in the books I've already mentioned here, and even more, too numerous to mention, in the Psalms and Prophets.

--Another reason people fasted was in asking God for assistance or guidance. This can also be seen in Ezra, as he proclaims a fast in order to ask for God's protection as they travel back to Jerusalem. (Ezra 8:21-23) We see Queen Esther request that her people fast with her as she prepares to speak to the king regarding Haman's edict. (Esther 4:15-16) Most interesting to me, though, were the examples that we have in the New Testament, of Christians fasting. In Acts 13, the church at Antioch spends time in fasting and prayer before sending Paul and Barnabas off to do missionary work. (Acts 13:1-3) And in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas appoint elders in the church with prayer and fasting. (Acts 14:21-23)

--Fasting was done in community as well as individually. So often, in the situations listed above (and many more like them not listed above) a fast was "declared" for the whole community to participate in. This grabbed my attention just because I'm so incrediby intrigued by the whole concept of community; the idea that a group of believers, a community of believers, living out their worship to God together seems to warrant special attention from our Father. (Matt. 18:20)

--God is more concerned with the heart than with the outward actions. This seems to be a major motif, not just of the passages that I looked at on fasting, but of the Bible in general. Often times, God would not accept the fasting and the sacrifices of His people, because they were just paying Him lipservice. The would participate in such religious activities and at the same time fail to treat each other with love and brotherly kindness. This is mentioned often in the prophets (Micah 6:8, Amos 5:21-24) and is repeated in the New Testament by Jesus Himself. (Matt 23:23) This idea most definitely applies to fasting, In fact, I couldn't help but notice Zech 7:1-10 (which applies to fasting) and its similarity to what James tells us is God's idea of pure and acceptable religion at its core. (James 1:27)

--God promies that we will be blessed by fasting. He promises healing and righteousness. He promises His Presence to guide His people. He promises joy in the Lord. (Isaiah 58) If we approach God with prayer and fasting, with the right heart and spirit, He will take notice.

--Just because you are fasting, that does not mean that God will give you everything that you ask for right at that moment. He is still God, His ways are still higher than ours, and He still knows what we need better than we know what we need. Even when you are fasting and praying for something in particular, you may not necessarily see the results that you expect. Let's look again at David, for example. After he sinned, he spent days in prayer and fasting, pleading for the life of his child. But what was the end result? And what was David's reaction to it??? I think there's alot to learn from David in this situation. (II Sam 12:18-23)

--Finally, we can look at the example of Jesus, who fasted forty days and forty nights before beginning His ministry. If Christ took some serious time for himself to fast and pray before beginning such a task, why shouldn't we? Jesus took time to teach His followers about fasting (Matt. 6:16-18), which leads me to believe that it is something we should still practice.

A couple of weeks ago, in our Singles class, we were studying Ezra, and we noticed that he fasted often when praying. Our singles minister asked if anyone had ever fasted and if they would possibly share that experience. I don't recall anyone having any comments at that point. He challenged us to do so--to spend some time in both prayer and fasting. I had never done that before, at least not until recently. So I guess you could say it's something I'm still working on. For about the past month and a half, I've decided to pick just one day a week to spend in fasting and prayer, as I work on certain things...but mainly just on keeping my focus on Him. For me that day is Wednesday. The amount of time varies...sometimes it's not quite 24 hours, sometimes a little more, that I abstain from food. After I go to bed on Tuesday night, I try not to eat until after church Wednesday evening (usually around 8:30 p.m). However, I don't go completely on nothing. I usually drink a little juice throughout the day, just to keep my blood sugar from completely bottoming out. (But then, a part of me can't help but wonder sometimes if this demonstrates a lack of faith on my part?) And I also usually have a cup of coffee (black--no cream or sugar) during class on Wednesday night.

It doesn't seem like much, I know, especially in light of our Savior's example. My goodness, I can hardly imagine going without food for 40 hours, much less 40 days! But I'm convinced that God has blessed and will continue to bless my feeble efforts. I use the extra time that I have on my Wednesdays to spend in more fervent prayer, both for myself and for those that I care about. I pray that God will use this to teach me to rely on Him, rather than self. I pray that He will use this to teach me how I should hunger and thirst for His kingdom and His righteousness.

But more than anything, I pray that He uses my hunger to teach me how I should desire Him.

What about you? Is fasting something that you practice or have done in the past? Do you feel that it's something that we don't study and/or practice enough? Why is that???

Just some more of my ramblings...

Much love to you all.