One Nation Under Prayer

Neglecting my personal time with God – yep, that’s been me. That wasn’t my intention when we had family arrive in town for a week of visiting, my intention was to continue my Bible reading and dedicated prayer time. Also on the intention list was continuing to get in 10,000 daily steps as well as maintain the calorie counting I had been doing for weeks; I struck out three for three this last week.

But today is a new day.

This morning I planted myself in a chair with my reading plan, my Bible, my prayer journal and a favorite pen. What I experienced was reminiscent of “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. Here’s how it went…

I caught up on three days of reading (thank you YouVersion for working to keep me on track) – which meant today after reading parts of 2 Chronicles and  Psalm 48, I also read the entire book of Hosea. Which inclined my heart towards our nation, which directed my mind to our leaders, which led me to pick up my prayer journal, which led to a prayer for our Speaker, our President, our leaders, our people and our land.

This is not like me. I am embarrassed, and even a little ashamed, to admit much of what goes on in politics seems almost too big and complicated for my mind to process. It seems to me as if it’s more negative and more bi-partisan than ever ~ with much irresponsibility I ignore most of it. But today I felt strongly that I was to pray over all of it. So I did. Which then led me to wonder how my little, uninformed prayer could even matter.  Which led me to wonder if we, who believe in God, who lean into prayer and trust that it matters, we who believe our prayers are heard in the throne room, what if ten of us prayed for our President, our Speaker, our leaders, our people, our land? What if a hundred of us prayed, or a thousand, or more?

Which led me to be reminded that the prayer of even one person matters. Moses sought the favor of the Lord on behalf of the people (Exodus 32:14), Abraham stood before the Lord on behalf of the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). In Ezekiel 22:30 God was looking for just one person to stand before him in the gap on behalf of the land, but none was found. So, yeah, I guess my little, uninformed, probably very feeble prayer mattered today in the throne room.

But And…what if just nine more prayed? Or ninety-nine? Or nine-hundred and ninety-nine prayed. For our President. For our Speaker. For our leaders. For our people. For our land? Not for our perspective to be sought, but for God’s will to be done.

What if….

Church Camp – What it Can Mean

While at church camp a little boy heard the message about Jesus – a message created for just his age group, a message he has certainly heard before but maybe didn’t understand.

My sixteen-year-old daughter walked by a fellow counselor (a good friend of her’s from church) kneeling down talking to a little boy – a wee one she had watched grow from a baby to a boy old enough to go to finally attend elementary school church camp. They were away from the group, which made her wonder if he was being reprimanded gently and lovingly reminded that there are still rules at camp that have to be followed. She hoped this wasn’t the case. But as she walked by she didn’t get quite close enough to hear any of the conversation, so she didn’t really know what the conversation was all about, she just knew it looked a little serious.

Later that day, when all the counselors were together, her friend told the story to the group of fellow counselors…

As he and his group of kids were walking through the camp that day the little boy looked at him and said that he had checked the box on the card the night before at the worship time that said he invited Jesus into his heart. The wee one told the counselor that he had never asked Jesus to live in his heart and he was wondering what that really meant. So the counselor, who had seen this little one grow in church, kneeled down and told him all about what it means to have Jesus as a forever friend.

What an amazing picture this creates in my mind, a wee one standing and a big one kneeling explaining what it means to check the box – to invite the Savior into your heart.

I just love church camp.

Giving up vs. Surrender

There are two things that come pretty naturally to me – trying to control and simply giving up. There is one thing that is better, but harder for me to get to, and that is surrender.

It’s been a little over six months since Mister was placed in the program that quite honestly was is his last, best and most hopeful chance to get some things worked out, change some thinking patterns, and find healing and renewal. But he hasn’t responded in the way we had hoped and prayed that he would. He is responding in very old, familiar and unhealthy and ways.

About a month ago, after FINALLY being on the cusp of some forward movement in the  program, he was involved in something very serious, something that moved him backwards in a big way. As I listened to what happened, I felt a little numb. I prayed. I cried. I talked it out with a very small circle and then I prayed some more.

There was a meeting that was to take place a few days after the incident and I was hopeful that a humble and contrite Mister would show up at that meeting. I was hopeful that this was his rock bottom and that he would begin to look up. I prayed. I asked others to pray. I even fasted for the first time ever in my life. I begged God (again) to life the weight, remove the scales, bring the light. Then I waited for the call that would bring me news of the meeting.

The meeting didn’t go well. In fact, in the weeks that have followed, there have been more concerns, behaviors and attitudes.

It’s just so frustrating. And it makes me sad. A new and positive life awaits this boy who has been through so much, but it’s just so hard for this one to step into the promised land. As soon as he sees that it might be within reach, he turns and runs for Egypt, shooting darts at those who pursue him.

There have been whispers in my head that say:
He’ll never change.
It’s been seven years, really, he’s never going to change.
Just. give. up.

Seven years ago I believed that love, the right environment, prayer, support and community would be enough to buff out what this boy has been through. It wasn’t. We added counseling, mentors, more prayer, church camps, systems, structure, and sports. It still wasn’t enough. And now this, a program away from our family, but run by people who are near to our family – sometimes things happen that we cannot explain except to say, “God has provided.” Yet, six months and one week into this program, his actions and responses reflect that his heart is still hard.

My heart has been going through its own process since “the incident”. I’ve been discouraged, disheartened, mad at God for not swooping down and shoving his Holy Spirit into this child! (I know, I know, God doesn’t shove anything on anybody, so there you see reflected my desire for control!) I’ve been weary in the seven year wait for the heart and mind of our dearly loved Mister to be softened and turned. I’ve been tempted by the whisper that yearns for me to believe that he will never change.

But I’ve been reminded that seven years, though terribly long for us (especially in our instant society), is not 40 years (desert) or 400 years (Egypt). I’ve quieted the lie that says he will never change, with the truth that he absolutely can change. I’ve come to believe, with all that I am, that God will do something amazing during Mister’s time in the program. Here’s why I believe that – because it doesn’t make sense. I don’t see how, I don’t see when.

I have completely surrendered Mister to God. For seven years, with many friends, family and church community help, we have carried the mat, we have torn off the roof, and now, I have laid my portion of the mat down before the healer.

So my reply to the lies whispered in the darkness…
He will.
I know, he will.
I won’t.

 

25 Years of Making a Difference

The other night our church celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary; twenty-five years of service to our community and the world, 25 years of changing lives. We celebrated, honored and appreciated our founding pastor, Stan Buck and his family. It was an amazing, moving, incredible evening; one I may never forget. I’m sure there will be more posts to follow, but for now I am captivated by those 25 years; what it was, and what it means.

I was sitting in the second row and when I turned around to see all the people behind me, it was a sight to behold. Every chair filled, right to the back of the room, then people standing behind and around the chairs, then people standing in the lobby. So. many. people.
Can you imagine being at the first service? You’ve prayed, made over 19,000 phone calls to the people in the area, you’ve done a mailing, prayed, set up chairs, prepared your message, prayed some more, and then you watch the door and hope people come through it.

In a video message, Stan mentioned, at times, during those early years, wanting to make the phone call that would allow him to walk away from ministry. This surprised me, I only know him to be a very strong, organized, determined man. But I cannot imagine the many frustrations of beginning and leading a church, so many things likely not going the way you imagined.

Ministry = people, and the truth is, people = messy.

As I thought about then…and now, this thought has come to me over and over…our culture today is very instant. We aren’t used to waiting very long, if at all, for feedback, results, change and more. We lose our focus, and we want the next thing. When discouraged, it’s easy for us to move to the next thing – as there are many next things screaming for our attention and time. But when you’re in the business of people, well…people need time. We’re set in our ways, we don’t want to change, we’re confident in our beliefs, or non-beliefs, or simply comfortable in our questioning. We want to know what the church will do for us, we sometimes show up with our consumerism attitude. We church-hop if we don’t get, hear or experience what we like.  But....we’re also giving and generous. We are hungry for a change in our lives, we want to know God, or know him more. We’re a mix of all of that…which I imagine can be exhausting at times for pastors.

I saw so many of our young leaders at this celebration and I wondered what they were thinking. Here’s what I was thinking, Look at all these people! Young leaders, know that 700 people did not walk through the doors that first service, or the 100th service, or the 500th service. Life change did not take place after each and every service. (Be encouraged young leaders.) But after 25 years of sacrifice, leading, hardship and heartache, after hundreds of good decisions and probably a few not so good decisions, of having babies, sending those babies to college and then walking those babies down the aisle, our founding, and senior pastor had the honor of sitting and watching people POUR through the doors one Sunday evening.

Perseverance, commitment, passion, faith, obedience and so much more, poured over 25 years, sprinkled upon thousands of people, passed on to countless more. Our founding and senior pastor is sick, which makes this more than just a celebratory piece – it’ a challenging piece to other leaders, and it’s a reflective piece. The time for him to add to his legacy is nearing an end but the impact of his legacy will endure because he invested, cared, nurtured, made wise decisions and hard decisions, and the truth is, he likely screwed some things up too – he isn’t perfect. But he is good, and he is faithful. He loves his wife, adores his girls, cares for his congregation – and dare I say, the world. Congratulations to you, Stan Buck, on 25 years of service to the church. You have been a good and faithful servant, and when you enter into the presence of the King, I believe you will hear, “Well done.”

 Keepsake Portraits & Designs.
To read more of what I have written on Stan Buck since his illness, click here.
His CaringBridge is here.

Going to Church

I want my kids to go to church. Although “going to church” really isn’t the goal.

I wrote here about Zach and Erin going to spend the weekend with Courtney recently. At the end of the article I mentioned that they even went to a church service while together…without parents. Meaning no one told them to go to church. I love this. But even as I write that – I know it isn’t the act of going to church that I desire. I don’t long for obedience, I hope for them to have their own desire to take time out for God.

Lots of people go to church. There was a time (actually there were years) where I “went to church”. It’s what Kevin and I did on a Sunday morning. Then we came home, read the Sunday paper, got groceries, maybe took a nap and then prepared for the work week. I was able to check the box, “Went to church”, but it didn’t carry over into the other parts of my week.

But I do value my kids to going to church because I believe when they go to church, they have an opportunity to focus on, consider, learn more about, and take time to worship God. The hope is that they are taking in teachings, using their minds and their hearts to consider positions, feeling challenged in areas of weaknesses and convicted in areas where they are off track. I hope they use this dedicated time to block out the distractions and worship the one who created and calls them.

The world is constantly crashing in on them. They don’t need to put any effort into being influenced and challenged by culture, but we all need to put effort into holding the world at bay to consider what we believe and what we will do about what we believe.

I don’t long for obedience, I hope for them to have their own desire to take time out for God. When my kids choose church for themselves, my heart feels not pride, but gratitude. I believe one of my “jobs” as a Christian mother is to lead my children to Jesus, introduce them, hope that they take His hand, and then allow Him to lead them in this world.

They will leave my home, I will lose my “majority stake” in influencing them, but if through our partnership with the local church they have their eyes on Jesus then I will be more confident in letting them go.

These Sibling Relationships – read it here.

Anger, Frustration and Forgiveness

The last few weeks of parenting the youngest has caused some disruptions in my heart, and it’s messed with my mind a little bit. If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you may know we were foster parents to him when he was eight, after a year and a half he was moved to try a reunification with his birth mother. When that failed, (after trying for a year and a half) he returned three and a half years ago and we adopted him into our family.

That “into our family” part has been tricky. It’s hard to pull in someone who is resisting. But, a few months ago, much of his darkness departed and he began to make good progress. Less argumentative, more peaceful. Brighter eyes and an open attitude towards many issues. My sister recently told him that she had heard he was making some good choices lately and that she was happy and proud of him. He told her “Well, I’ve been doing some healing lately.” Good, good stuff.

Then a few weeks ago it began to feel like everything was coming undone. Anger and deception were back. Arguing and manipulation resurfaced, and then sabotage followed, even an in school suspension this week. But that’s where this post will stop describing him.

Here is what began happening to me, I became full of anger, fear, frustration and bitterness. After so many years, and so much effort, time, tools, therapy, mentoring, teaching, techniques, prayer, prayer, prayer and more prayer, why and how is this happening all over again??!! I was sucked back into the vortex of what seemed dark.

I felt justified in this anger and frustration. For everyone who ever wants to come right out and say “Well, if you just did it this way…”, I invite you to come into my world and parent into this for as many years as I have and then tell me which way to go. (Do I hear a little resentment too?) Which isn’t to say I don’t need direction, I do…oh my gosh…I do.

A few friends – who love me and love the Lord – spoke into me. They allowed me my feelings of anger, frustration, even bitterness. Then they boldly told me those feelings needed to be dealt with so that they could not take root. This was truth, and I knew it.

I needed to open my Bible, Where to begin, what do I need to read? I wondered. I was led, by what I believe was the Holy Spirit, to go right back into my already established reading plan. I know where you are in the Bible, I felt God would tell me.

So I opened my Bible and read Matthew 8, Jeremiah 42 and Isaiah 52. And the prayer flowed….Lord, if you are willing, take away my fear, bitterness and anger…as I continued my prayer – straight from scripture, confessing both my unworthiness and my need for forgiveness, I asked boldly for a calm to the storm – not the one on the outside, but the one on the inside. That I would awake and clothe myself with strength, that I would remember that the Lord goes before me, and is my read guard.That I would act wisely. I confessed my inadequacy and my limitations to parent this one from such a broken foundation. And I placed my eyes back upon Him and asked in His great love, mercy and compassion, that He would hear my prayer.

I was talking to a friend this morning about this and as I shared my prayer, she asked if I would be willing to send her this prayer. She said in her own parenting struggles she could really use this to begin each day.

Maybe those of us who sometimes really, really struggle – maybe we are not alone. But in the darkness, it’s easy to feel alone, and embarrassed, by our feelings – or lack of feelings. I’m here to confess to all of you – sometimes I’m off track. Sometimes I lose hope. Sometimes I do not know what to do with the feelings that well up within me. But then I am reminded, sometimes by a good friend, that Someone knows my course, I have a God in which to place my hope, and He knows exactly how to dispel the feelings as well as shed light on the darkness.

If you need to know this today, then consider this a message from a friend ~ Allow for your feelings, then make sure you deal with them so that they do not take root.

Love,
Sheri
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5

A King. A Threat. A Prayer.

In my Bible reading plan for today I was to read Acts 3, 2 Corinthians 7, Jeremiah 28, and Isaiah 36. So, I love when this happens….I read Isaiah 36 and thought hmmmmm….I wonder what happens next. (Seriously, I LOVE when this happens when I am reading the Bible!)

One King (Sennacherib of Assyria) had sent some guys (a field commander and a large army) to another King’s (Hezekiah of Judah) guys and basically said, Let’s make a deal – we’re going to wipe you out anyway, so quit basing your confidence on your King’s message that The Lord will deliver the city, He won’t. So come and make peace with us and then we will take you to a place where you will have plenty and not have to experience the hardship of what will come from battle. Oh yeah, and they throw this in, Furthermore…The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it. (note to myself…both claiming God gave them a message – in direct opposition of each other. Ever been in that position?)

I wrote this in my margin in summary of chapter 36, The people heard a threatening message. They also heard a promise…IF the gave in – or surrendered. I had to read the next chapter.

The cliff notes are that King Hezekiah heard this, tore his clothing, put on sackcloth (as a sign of great distress) and went into the temple of the Lord. This intrigued me because there are so many Kings in the Old Testament that don’t inquire of the Lord. I discovered there had not been a King go to the Temple and pray to the Lord in about 250 years! Now I was really paying attention, this King was someone I wanted to know more about.

He then sent his guys to Isaiah the prophet and asked him to pray. Margin notes added at this point are: 1) Go to the Lord, 2) Seek Godly counsel, 3) Ask for prayer.

There are more threats that come to the King through messengers and a letter. With the threats, they also give evidence of what is to come; they name the countries that have already been destroyed, the kings who are no more and ask about the gods of the destroyed nations.

Here is what I love about Hezekiah…he read the letter and then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And then he prayed to the Lord.

Really. Let this sink in…the King didn’t go to his army, he didn’t rally the people, he went to his God, who is unseen, and spread it all out before Him and prayed.

Pause. Margin note: Lay it all out before the LORD and pray.

He asks God to give His ear and His eyes to what is going on. He acknowledges the truth and severity of the threats but also the truth that the other gods were fabricated of wood and stone made by human hands. Then he asks God to deliver them from the hand of King Sennacherib – so that all the kingdoms would know the Lord, the only God.

God sends a message to King Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah and it begins with this, “Because you have prayed to me concerning…..”
Margin note: Prayer matters!

I continued reading on through chapter 38. Hezekiah is ill and is at the point of death. He “turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord…” In verse 5 God sends a message again through Isaiah and in part says, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears…”
Margin note: Prayer matters.

I just had to write about this reading today, and these are my overall takeaways:

  • I have felt threatened – if even in my heart – and there have been whispers of promises that began with, just surrender…it’ll be easier of you do. This hardship will pass if you just give in.
  • This is when it would be time to go and turn to God – even if I haven’t in a long time. However long its been, it hasn’t been 250 years. (!)
  • Seek Godly counsel.
  • Ask for prayer.
  • Lay it ALL out before the Lord. Ask for His eye and His ears. Ask not for selfish reasons but for a result that will make God known and bring Him glory.
  • Prayer matters.
  • Prayer matters.
  • Prayer matters.
    When I am praying for my daughter away at college, it matters. When I lift up friends who come to my mind, parents who are estranged, people suffering with illness with no relief, the prayers offered up matter. I don’t have a prophet coming and telling me the result of my prayers, but I have faith in what is unseen. When there is nothing I can do – there is. Prayer matters. I loved the richness of this word today. Thanks for taking time to read my thoughts on it. You can read Isaiah 36-39 here.

He’s Back!

Sunday, August 7, 2010, our pastor, Stan Buck, was back in his spot at our church. He hasn’t been in his spot since May 15th. On May 19th a brain tumor was discovered and May 20th it was removed

Its been a long eleven weeks.
Its been a miraculous eleven weeks.
Its been an emotionally draining eleven weeks.

If you go to church, you know that many of us have “our seats”. Mine is in the front, third row, right side, on the end. I sit here because I am easily distracted, in this spot I can focus more easily on worship and the message. Our pastor sits two rows in front of us, and its been unnerving to not see him in his spot this summer.

But this past Sunday he was back! I didn’t realize how much I appreciated seeing the back of that guy’s head over the past nine years! Its hard to articulate what it felt like. It was overwhelming, it was comforting, it was joyful, it was evidence of the grace of God. It warmed my heart and made my feet move during worship.

He will be preaching “Messages that Matter” over the next three weeks, I cannot wait to sit under his teaching again. I am overjoyed by his return. I am praying still for his recovery. I am mindful of God’s grace. I am aware of my own brokenness and mortality. I am stronger for this even as I feel weak in the knees.

In all of this, with hands lifted high – in grief and in joy –  I am again made aware that God is good…all the time. No matter what.

Click here for “Face Down” my first post about this.
Click here for “Getting up to Follow” my second post.
Click here for the messages from Sonrise Church, Southwest Campus

This is Faith…

Last Sunday I experienced faith in church. Let me explain…

On our worship team this past Sunday was a mom who had her third baby seven months ago. Seven months ago she also lost the twin that was her fourth baby.  But her healing, comfort, and even joy have been restored and she led with a hand in the air in worship. It felt holy to me to see the restoration work of the LORD.

Also on Sunday during one of the worship songs, our pastor’s daughter – who was in front of us – appeared to be dancing. It was as if she couldn’t stand still – the joy and worship was coming right out of her feet! It was amazing to experience this because her dad is in the battle of his life – for his life. (See below for links) It was pure joy to see this and is living proof to me of God’s providence and light even in the midst of darkness.

What I saw in these two women on Sunday was:

What I saw was faith.

I do not have it within myself to restore myself.
I can create happiness, but my joy comes from the Lord.
I love many things, but I worship the LORD.
I cannot see Him.
I cannot touch Him.
Sometimes I don’t even feel Him,
but I have faith in Him.

These two women would have every worldly reason to sit down, hands in lap, even turn from God….in anger, from agony, in disbelief, but they don’t. They have faith in what is unseen. Thank you Carrie and Ashley for leading me to the goodness that is God.

(I wrote something down that Pastor Stan said years ago…You may not see His hand, but your gonna have to trust His heart. That is faith. Amen, Pastor Stan, Amen.)

Click for: Face Down & Getting Up to Follow

Getting Up to Follow

When I woke up the morning after hearing the pathology report of Stan’s (our pastor) brain tumor, I thought I would feel better. I didn’t. But I knew I was going to pray with some others that morning and there was hope in that. We read scripture, sang worship songs, prayed and talked. This news is too heavy to carry alone; it weighs me down and fogs me up, I have to give it Jesus and trust in the love of the Father. I had a great need to worship with my church family this morning, and I know I need to be led through this.

Fortunately, Stan Buck, the founding and lead pastor of our church, is leading still, and its some of his most powerful leadership. He trusted God immediately and completely with the news of the tumor. On May 31, he posted this on his Facebook page:

My soul is finding rest, my body is healing! Feeling very good, sensing a deeper renewal coming in my body, mind & Spirit! This surgery surprised me – but this season of healing is allowing me to go deeper and grow!Embracing this weakness, becoming stronger by grace! (2 Corinthians 12:9 I’m grateful – prayed for – finding a peace in being made more whole in being who God has created me!

One of our other pastors has met with Stan and reports back that Stan keeps saying that nothing defines him except for this: he is a Bondservant of Jesus Christ. (You can click below to read more about that term.)

On his CaringBridge web page the other day, his wife wrote that Stan is feeling physically good (which is amazing, considering he just had brain surgery) and that he is enjoying playing the piano and guitar and singing songs to the Lord. Singing songs to the Lord. What a leader. The power of his leadership today is undeniable. The places he is taking us, without even talking with us (he is fasting from email, texting and Facebook), is deeper than I have been. He is reminding me of David, assaulted yet singing songs to the Lord.

Stan has been our pastor, our friend, our leader, my boss (while I worked on staff for four years), and my mentor in many ways. He has been one to re-direct me as well as tell me that he is proud of me, so this is personal. The day Stan received the pathology report, he wrote down a few words for his daughter to post on CaringBridge, it ended with this: My soul finds rest in God. (Psalm 62).

So I guess mine will too. Lead on teacher, we are following.

Bondservant        Previous Post: Face Down