Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Power of a Prayer

This afternoon I left a note for the stranger in the booth next to me. It was written on a scrap of paper dug from my purse. He had done nothing. I left it for him anyway... And then I practically ran from the restaurant. My hands were still shaking half an hour later... and tears threatened to spill... but there's a smile on my face and a joy in my heart. Yes, that's a teaser.  So now... the rest of the story....  ;)

Yesterday a man and his young son were ahead of me in line at a build-your-own-burrito-type restaurant when I noticed he appeared to be carefully calculating what his lunch would cost.  I was tempted to pay for his, but it was a little awkward the way the restaurant was set up -- I was at the other end with my order not even started.  I guess that was still in my mind this morning because at the end of my quiet time I decided that today I would pay for whomever was in line behind me (an idea sort of borrowed from a local radio station)
I actually prayed several times throughout the morning that God would bring the right person into line behind me -- someone who needed the blessing.

After dropping my daughter off at work, headed towards the restaurant, the whole thing started feeling very silly to me.  What are the chances that someone counting pennies is really going to end up in a restaurant for lunch?  One where I normally spend over $9 for a bowl of soup and a medium soda?  So I started praying that it would at least be a person who needed some encouragement.  The closer I drove to the restaurant, though, the more silly the whole thing seemed.  I walked in and almost sighed with relief when no one entered behind me.  Sort of.  There was also a small twinge of disappointment. 

The table where I usually sit was taken so I slid into the booth in front of it, watching the captions on the news station on the TV.  As I watched, my heart was drawn to the man in the booth between me and the TV -- the man sitting in "my" normal booth. He was a slightly older gentlemen, dressed in business attire, working on a laptop and with his back to me.  I couldn't tell you why, but I started praying for him -- telling God that I didn't know what was going on in the man's life, but He did... and asking Him to work in it.  There was nothing about the gentlemen that should've initiated those thoughts or prayers...  he looked the picture of the successful businessman.  He held himself well.  The face wasn't the same, but his age, build, dress and his posture/composure reminded me a lot of Mitt Romney.  He appeared to be a guy who had it all together.  But... something in my heart just wouldn't let it go.

At one point the man stood up and gathered stacks of papers and folders.  I saw his profile and his wedding ring... and increased my prayers.  Again, no reason - but my heart just sure that he needed it.  Then, instead of leaving, he sat down on the other side of the table (now facing me), and pulled his laptop around.  I saw him shake his head as he stared at the screen...  and the way his fingers rested against his temple as he glanced through the paperwork in front of him...  I just started praying harder.  After awhile he stood up again, this time putting his laptop in his bag.  He glanced at the papers in his hand and something in his posture just... I don't know...  there was an uneasiness in his spirit.  He left his things at the table and returned to the cashier area -- apparently to return a pen.

I had a flash of an idea... but knew I didn't have time.  When I glanced back up, though, he was nowhere in sightSo... I started rummaging through my purse.  No notepad.  I remembered I had a printed report and wondered if maybe there was a half sheet I could tear off.  After a few moments, I found one.  I tried to quickly tear it on the edge of the table, but the table was too rounded to give a clean tear.  And I needed to tear off yet another edge to remove a printer footer....  Ugh.  So now I had an extremely jagged-looking scrap of paper.  Great.  I was out of options, though, so I pulled out my pen and wrote, "This may be weird... but I prayed for you over lunch today."  
As I finished writing, the man started to return to his table and I figured I'd lost the opportunity... but then he was gone again!  Frantically, I shoved papers back in my purse, not even zipping it; slapped the note face-down on his table; gathered my trash; and practically bolted towards the door.  
I rushed out to my car, wondering if I should've left the note face-up... maybe he wouldn't even see it.  That's when I realized I was parked directly in front of the window where he now stood gathering his things.  I ducked my head and fumbled with getting my keys in the ignition, lifting my head just in time to see him reach for my scrap of paper and flip it over.  I hesitated... and saw him read it.  He just stood there for a moment, staring down at that jagged little slip of paper in his hand... then a slow smile spread across his face.  I should've had the car in gear... meant to have the car in gear... meant to be gone already... but something held me.... I was still there when he looked up.  He glanced around the parking lot for a few seconds, searching... and then met my gaze.  I froze.  Then I managed a smile... kind of a "knowing" smile...  hopefully an encouraging smile.  Heart pounding, I put the car into reverse and took off -- my hands literally shaking.

As I pulled away, though, I realized... God had this exact encounter in mind when He had me praying for someone whom I could bless with my lunch hour.  His plan was different -- and so much better -- than what I had envisioned... but He was in it all along.  And then... I reflected back to my quiet time this morning and was stunned to realize just how planned it all was (you'll understand why in a minute).  And as I realized that, it also hit me what was playing on my CD at that very moment -- "The Power of a Prayer" by Matthew West.  Wow.  Major God-wink!  So here's the journal entry from my quiet time....

November 28, 2012
I realized something this morning.  On the way in to drop my daughter off at school, it hit me – I was actually looking forward to pulling back in the drive, opening my Bible and seeing what You had to speak to me today!  I also realized that it was the first time in a long time that I came with expectation.  For the last couple of months, I have been regular because I knew it was what I should be doing… but not because I really felt like I was hearing from You.  That’s changing.  And… I realized… it took stepping out in obedience even when the “feelings” weren’t there.  And it took time, coming consistently even when I wasn’t feeling or seeing results.  And… the same probably applies to other areas of my life as well.  I’ve got to keep trying, striving, even when I don’t “feel” anything; when I don’t see results.  Not what I wanted to hear!  LOL!  And I’m not sure how ready I am to apply it, either.  So… keep working on me, Father.
It's funny how two different devotionals this morning touched on prayer.  Funny, too, how my “random” Psalm reading ended up containing the “scripture of the day” from my Bible app (Psalm 19).
I think of prayer and I think of my Great Grandma Cora.  To be a woman like her!!!
At one time, I was headed in that direction.  I remember praying for things like my niece's hearing aids – and suddenly they worked!  I remember my sister even joking, "Just have Jenn pray for it!"  I remember feeling so close, so confident, so connected.  When did that change?  When did I stop praying?
Cora Monroe was more than just a prayer warrior.  There was a sweet spirit about her.  A discerning spirit.  I’ve often wondered what she prayed for my sister and me.  I don’t know.  I do know I believe the spirit she had was Yours; from spending so much time at Your feet.

So... bring me back to that place where I believe my prayers matter.  Where I want to spend time with You.  Where my first thought is prayer.  Let me be a woman like my Great Grandma Cora – one who spends so much time at Your feet that others can smell your scent all over me; see your peace surrounding me.  I am NOT Cora Monroe by any stretch right now.  Any resemblance that comes will be Your doing, not mine.  Ignite that small ember of faith in me, Father.  I know it’s still there.  Fan it with Your breath… until its fire consumes me.
May the words of my mouth
And the meditations of my heart
Be pleasing to You,
My Rock & my Redeemer!
 May my every thought turn towards You!

Believe it or not, I honestly wasn't thinking about that journal entry when I felt the prompting to pray for the man in the restaurant.  The tears I mentioned in the teaser?  They were simply due to realizing that God had reached down and used me to encourage someone else... just the realization that God was moving in my life -- that He allowed me to see with His eyes for just a second, and be prompted to pray... then to see the smile brought to the man's face as a result.  That in itself was amazing.  

Then... when I finally put it all together with the journal entry/devotions on prayer this morning... with my request to be brought back to a place where I believe my prayers matter?  Wow.  What an answer!  And my heart swells -- because I know that God is definitely on the move.  He is faithful to His Word... generous to His child.  Very, very cool. :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

1000 Sleepless Nights...

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything here. First, things were busy with a move out of state. Then… the things that most occupied my mind weren’t things I could readily share.  Truth was, they weren’t mine to share. They’ve impacted my life and my faith immensely, though, so I am going to share that… because I am simply amazed at what God’s doing in me.... 

Ten years ago I faced some hard circumstances in my life.  Those circumstances have in effect shaped me this last decade – while I still believe, it’s been difficult for me to always trust; to always have faith.  But the last several years have had their own set of difficult circumstances as well – hard stuff… really hard stuff.  To be honest, prayer wasn’t always my first response.  I’m a “fix-it” type person and so my inclination is to try to figure out what I need to do to, well… fix the problem!  In recent months, though, I've been slowly coming to the end of myself and I’ve found myself praying more and more.  I’m actually beginning to really understand that whole “pray without ceasing thing!”  I've been praying when I'm not even fully conscious!  Yet… I’ve still been trying to figure it out as well – what action of mine will help to bring the desired results?

One night earlier this week, as I was thinking and praying about it, I suddenly had this thought come to me:  the “fix” wasn’t going to be anything that I say or do.  Whatever was going to happen, it was going to be God showing himself through the situation – totally out of my control or abilities. The next day, though… with some other things going on… I still thought that I might have some impact.  It didn’t happen.  The day was a total roller coaster.  Any hopes I had were pretty much crushed. 

That night I found myself sitting on the porch swing over-looking the lake in the dark, remembering the “thought” from the night before, and crying out to God in total surrender… surrendering things that I hadn’t been sure I could ever surrender.  But I did.  I gave Him permission to totally break my heart… praying, “Whatever it takes, God – go ahead and do it.”  I knew the “whatever” could be – and probably would be – pretty awful to go through. I can't begin to explain how awful.... But I was convinced that the thought from the night before – that it would only be God showing himself through the situation – was truly God speaking.

So... I’m now going through each day knowing that nothing I do or say is going to matter in this situation – that I can’t “fix” it. That knowledge shouldn’t be freeing, at least not by the world’s standards. Yet… it has been. My heart has been lighter, a weight taken from me.  Every once in awhile my mind still starts churning on ways I can try to fix it, influence the situation in some way... but then I turn around and remind myself – it’s not up to me to fix it! I just have to turn it over… lay it in God’s lap... trust... and love with everything that I have.  My heart lightens again.

I’m not saying that the situation is anything different than it was… or that I’m any happier about it than I was.  But…  I’ve found freedom in trusting God.  The storm hasn’t changed... but... I have…. Which…  considering how much I’ve struggled with faith and trust the last decade… maybe there was something to all those sleepless nights….

… what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
this world can’t satisfy

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
- Laura Story, “Blessings”

BTW – I know... it’s not really over... it’s going to be a continual struggle to keep surrendering... especially for a “fix-it” type like me... ;)   So… don’t expect perfection from me just yet! ;)


Addendum/Clarification:  I don’t believe in any way that God brought this situation into our lives simply in order to change me. I don’t believe He works that way. Sin and a fallen world have brought pain and suffering into all our lives. But God has used it -- will always use it when we let Him -- to bring something better... in this case growing/restoring my trust and my faith.