At Noon

 Listening.

 

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. Acts 10:9

I love the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. The one’s calling to reject the foundation of the law on which he had lived his life thus far; and the other’s faithfulness to what he knew and understood of the Lord.  Peter was confronted on that rooftop by the Lord in a vision and asked to do something that he had been taught all of his life was wrong. Peter was still sitting on the rooftop, contemplating what he has just seen and what it could mean, when the meaning of it all became suddenly clear- with a knock at the gate.  Peter had to make a decision to obey the Lord and go against what he was taught in the written law or to stay where he was and ignore the vision.  In an incredible meeting Peter revealed what he learned from the Lord to Cornelius. The salvation of many was the result, confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the door to Jesus was firmly and finally opened to the world in an unmistakable message to the Jewish community.

I have found myself on Peter’s rooftop more than once in my life. That place, where God speaks and I am asked to go beyond what I know – to trust Him for the next thing He will do. When he calls me out of my comfort zone to be, do, or go- I resist, question, sometimes protest, and have on more than one occasion ignored (that one is hard to admit).

It’s scary to confront and easier to retreat and disregard what He is telling me by justifying it away. Yet, once that moment has come He will not let it go until I respond to what He is asking or until my opportunity for obedience and trust has passed and the torch is given to another. He will accomplish His Will. When that happens, I am saddened to the quick that I have been disobedient. At those times the words of Mordecai to Esther echo in my brain, actually, they don’t echo- they are broadcast over the loud speaker to my heart: If you remain silent at this time relief and deliverance will arise from another place, and who knows but that you have come to this place for such a time as this? (paraphrasing). For Esther, her trust in the Lord truly was tested with her life. She chose to move outside the law to rescue her people from extinction placing herself in danger before her earthly king and husband.

When the rules seemed to change for Peter and Esther, they moved out into the unknown future; they understood the cost as they chose to trust the God they knew. They trusted God to bring them to the place where His Will would be accomplished.

Wait right there! Hold your horses!  Their experiences were large and were of great importance to the Kingdom of Heaven; everyone can see that. 

And so are ours.

When I am called by God to move from the familiar to a place far beyond my understanding, God is leading me to realize that it’s just as important in the situation to which I am called as it was for Peter and Esther. I am learning to listen to His voice, to grasp that what He asks of all of us always has eternal consequences at stake. 

One more eternal soul living forever in His Presence.

He wants me to place my trust in Him. God calls me to a faith that has its confidence in who He is and assurance in Him when I do not see the path ahead. I know that it may not be safe; Esther’s safety was certainly at stake. I know that it may not be popular; Peter knew the uproar that would occur as the Jews realized that the Messiah was not just for their deliverance, but that God had invited the whole world to the party. If only they had listened…

And, I know there may be suffering; in fact it’s almost a guarantee, as Peter well knew:

 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1Peter 3:14-15a

 When I pray, I am extending my trust to Him and to His Will.  

Meeting Him on the rooftop may bring me to a place I’d rather not be, but I’m learning that I’d rather be obedient than straining to get away. Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice for all is the reason for the hope that I have. 

Peter said it best, I think:

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of 

eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of 

God.” John 6: 67-69

7 a.m. Praise and Thanksgiving on the Rooftop

If you have read  my previous post, you can probably guess that I am not a morning person.

For 16 years of my professional life, when I went to work I drove east across the lake near our house. If only I could have pulled over and stopped every morning to wait for the day to complete its awakening. This is where praise and thanksgiving became a daily habit and a sure reminder of God’s love for me.

Every morning was and is a masterpiece!

I know, what about the mornings that are stormy? Those too!

A gift from the Original Artist’s Hand. The purples, oranges, pinks, blues, reds, black, grey in a myriad of combinations; His brush strokes cross the sky, reflected in the dark waters of the lake on those mornings when the sun is about to break through. Other mornings, the raindrops hammer the windshield. I can barely see the dark boiling clouds. The greys, the navies, the silvers, and the black surround me.  My favorite mornings, the days that vision is obscured- totally white-grey curtains of fog. I open t he window, turn the radio off and just enjoy the subdued sounds, muffled in the distance. The cool moist vapor floating through the window onto my face is a reassuring touch. And finally, a Christmas gift, no matter when it happens in Texas- snow. We get “snow days” in Texas, some years 2 or 3 days, some years none. When it comes, it’s an excuse to celebrate. So, no matter how little, whenever there is snow = no school. Those are the days I stand outside and just absorb the silence down into my soul. He gives me something that no one else ever could.

I told you they were gifts!

His Masterpieces were His reminder to me that I was not lost in the struggle in the night; that each day’s arrival presented a new opportunity. Those work days and the struggles in the night have passed; but whenever I see the gift of a new morning I am doubly blessed and speechless in thanksgiving for the reminder that He paints the sky for me.

Here’s where the screeching halt comes in and the sugar is scraped off the screen. I will continue to say that prayer is extending my trust to Him and to His Will  Praising Him and offering my thanksgiving for all He has provided proves my trust in Him. Regardless of my circumstances, I  praise God for who He is and am thankful for all things. I do not do this only if I feel like it- a lot of times I don’t really feel like it. But my faith is built on what I know of Him and His Character, not on my feelings. I am compelled to do so because He loves me, because I trust Him and because I believe that what He says He will do. Paul expresses it best for me in Ephesians 1:3-6-Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

 

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100

At 3 a.m. In the Throne Room of Prayer

Or will this ever go away?

Through the past twenty-five or so years, I’ve been awake at this hour for two to four nights a week. Not sure what started it.  Depression, stress, work, parenting, caring for aging parent… all of them played a role in its inception. I have no problems going to sleep, but somewhere in the middle of what should be a good night’s sleep I am regularly awakened and can not go back to sleep. It’s at this time of night those things that were in the back of my mind are now in the forefront and I begin to rummage through them over and over again. They keep playing in my head like a bad spot on a record that my brain must go to at that hour when I have nothing better to do than sleep. Because of this,  “praying without ceasing” became very personal.  

Initially, because I didn’t want to disturb the rest of the house, I would try to read a book. Then I  worked on my Bible Study, which melted into prayer, and then into pleading, and finally into begging God for the help I so badly wanted and thought I needed. At times I would curl up on the couch, then progress to my knees, and when it was really bad I would eventually be prostrate on the floor at the foot of the Throne begging Him to fix the things in my life that “weren’t right”.

It’s hard to cry silently in the middle of the night.  

I spent most of those nights begging to understand my grandmother/mother. To be able to communicate with her on the same plane of existence, asking what it was I was supposed to glean from the garbage I had to wade through with her. On other nights, I begged Him to fix her, fix me, fix the situation, take her (oh yes, I did), take me, or take the situation away- out of my hands. In the middle of the muddle I couldn’t even grasp with my heart that it was always out of my hands.

 It has been said that the Lord answers every request and that His answers are one of three possible: Yes, No, Wait. (Yes, I really heard this in a church). I think that this short explanation could demean what prayer really is to me and could lead me down the path of  “What’s behind door #3? Yes? No? Wait?”  

Was God was saying yes, no, or wait? Out of the pain of life with her, in those sleepless nights, I went to the Word frequently seeking for answers. And then… right there, Smack dab in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke these words and they became engraved on my heart, in my eyes, and in my soul-  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

There’s a progression in those verses: we are told to ask, to seek, and to knock; and that everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and when one knocks the door is opened. Am I willing to ask, seek and knock? Am I willing to take what I receive, accept what I find, and go through the door that is open before me?

 Jesus continues, saying that the Father will give good gifts to those who ask Him. (v11) 

He was saying “Yes.” 

What was I asking for in the middle of those long, long nights? In retrospect, I realize that all I wanted was relief from the pain. I didn’t want His “Yes” nor did I want His good gifts. I had an “are we there yet?” mentality. I moaned, like Job- how long? Like Hannah, I was sad, grieving for something I didn’t have.  Like Jonah, I sometimes felt like it would be better if I died.  Like the teacher, I would throw up my hands and exclaim “meaningless!” But God (yeah, there it is) was willing to give me “good gifts”. He had already said, “Yes!” I just didn’t hear it, see it, or feel it.

So, I continued wandering around in my own Sinai. Begging and pleading for Him to fix my life using my definition of fix. He must have shaken His head over and over, listening to me act like a beggar in the street instead of the child of the King. I am only now getting that it was a matter of trust.

I said in the previous posts, prayer is extending my trust to Him and to His Will.

In those moments, I didn’t trust Him to give me good gifts. I was saying, “My will is better for me than accepting Your Will.”  The truth here is this: bringing me through that part of my life to come out safe on the other side (prepared to do the work He has for me to do) and to truly trust Him more than I trust myself were the good gifts.

Dear Ones, trust Him. Trust His Will. Trust Him for the good gifts He is willing to give you. Ask. Seek. Knock.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

See you at 7 on Monday Morning! 

Five Minute Friday: See

She sits. Squirming. The scissors close to her ear. It tickles. Another squirm. Finished. A look in the mirror. “See Mama, I’m pretty!”

She sits again. He is squirming. Legs akimbo. He squawks. His eyes flash. He watches in the mirror. He squawks again. She hands him a lollipop. He moves as the clippers come close to his ears. He is DONE. She is not. The lollipop is launched across the room. Now she is done. He grins.

The first child is mine, when she was three, her first haircut. The second is hers, he is almost three, not his first haircut.

I see her in him. I love what I see.

Ding.

 

This is my contribution this week to 5-minute Fridays.

Midnight in the Garden of Prayer

When I find myself in a garden at night I sense a serenity there that is  accompanied by a sense of possible danger. That slight line of fear in the background of what I cannot see lurks there in the darkness- the unknown and unseen. There is a permeating fragrance in the darkness that I don’t notice in the daytime, sounds that are no longer subdued by the busyness of the day’s activities, and a silence that can be overwhelming. That’s what happens when I meet with the Lord in the late evening.  The fragrance of His Presence announces our time together. Quietly, He speaks to me. Things that go unnoticed during the day and the requests of the urgent bubble up to the surface. Both the things seen and heard, the things unseen and unheard require my attention. And I request His.

 

 Frequently, I share the result of a late evening conversation, a last look at email that brings a request, or the text that just popped up before I hit the pillow. It’s the needs of others in my life that keep us talking way past midnight some evenings. A poor report from the doctor, an accident, a sudden split of a marriage out of the blue, a child’s confession that changes the course of a life. My ability to grasp an understanding of these situations is almost non-existent. My ability to comfort those in need is so poor. I’m in a state of overwhelming inadequacy speaking straight from my heart to His Ear. There is a helplessness and a fringe of fear accompanying my requests for the urgent. 

 

He is gracious some nights and I confess that I fall asleep. Knowing that He knows what is on my heart is the comfort that lulls me to sleep. 

 

Could it be labeled as “my attention drifts and then I fall asleep because I’m warm and comfy”? 

 

Absolutely. 

 

Am I like the disciples who fell asleep as Jesus was wrestling in prayer in the Garden? 

 

Oh, yes. I admit it.

 

I know that I am weak.

 

I crave sleep-a lot.

 

And I ask forgiveness for leaving the conversation early when I fall asleep in my humanness.

  

Over the years, I’ve seen though, that usually the nights God allows me to fall asleep are when those things are so big that I’m so overwhelmed and totally helpless that all I can say is “Jesus”; and I know when that happens that I’ve handed them over to Him and He has taken them.  All. 

 

I don’t say this lightly. I don’t forget those issues that I’ve brought to Him by ticking them off one by one, marking them done, turning the page.  They have trusted me to bring their requests before the Lord. What I do know is  that He is the Author and Creator of all and that our only hope lies in His Hands. What is important is that I can leave those things with Him and not snatch them back- repeatedly. 

 

I say this because I’ve done it- repeatedly. I am still learning.

 

Trust. Small word. Big act. Prayer is extending my trust to Him and to His Will.

 

See you at 3 a.m. Sunday morning! 

 

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

 

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Genesis 18:14

 

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17

 

 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

 

 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27