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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to Pray for the Brokenhearted

I sometimes spend the day on a teeter-totter of emotions when I find out about tragedies, especially when children are involved.  I have loved kids since before I realized I wasn't one anymore.  I was that little girl who always pushed around baby dolls, and loved her friends deeply, and cried when friends got hurt.  I loved to babysit, and knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher because I just love kids, and when I go any length of time away from daily working with kids, I feel a tremendous void in my life.  I know all people don't feel this way about kids.  I do know that all people feel this way about something.  I have a dear sweet aunt who is passionate about animal rights, and love love loves her 'kubs,' as she affectionately calls them.  I have friends who are passionate about many different things, and so different things break their hearts.  I get that.  God created us so very differently, that even our pain is different, and our response.  However, I think I've found something that may be a key in one of the ways we can pray.

I am struggling with two tragedies right now.  Get your tissues or skip to the next section.

A car accident yesterday happened locally, right outside the school where I did my first teaching, where I got my first job in a school as a special education para professional for a Kindergarten autism unit.  This car accident shattered me when I heard about it yesterday.  This morning I looked for more information to see if I knew the family from my time at the school.  I don't know them.  But, I know so many families like them.  This sweet, Godly family, had four cute little white kids, and then last year they decided to fulfill the command in James 1:27, and they added two beautiful little brown faces to their home by adopting.  In the car wreck yesterday, a semi truck collided with their SUV and hit it very hard, and made it flip.  Their five year old son was killed.  Two of the girls are in the hospital now.  The mommy was driving, and she has just been released from the hospital.  This is the latest news report about it.  If any of the facts are wrong, I sincerely apologize.  We need to be praying for the Brown family.

The other thing that I can't stop crying over when I think about it, is a cousin of a student I used to teach.  This sweet family has twin five year old boys, a little girl, and the mommy is pregnant right now with another girl.  One of those twin boys is fighting a losing battle with a brain tumor.  This is his sweet mom's latest, honest, heart wrenching post.  We need to be praying for the Sauer family.

This is what usually happens to me when I read about these kinds of things:
I have the initial shock,
"Oh God, NO! That is awful!"
Then my soft heart just breaks for them, and as the tears start falling I am thinking,
"Oh Lord, that is So. So. SAD.  Oh, God, pleeeeeeeeease help them!"
Then I often continue to think about that family/situation and just cry for them, and imagine if it was someone in my family, and I cry harder, and then I try to love my family more.  I continue to pray a super generic "God, please help them," kind of prayer every time they come to mind.

I have been convicted, that my generic prayer, though better than nothing, is NOT enough.  There are people who have the financial means to give, and oh yes, they should give.  This is not a post about money though, this is about prayer.  I saw this post tonight from Chatting at the Sky as God was already working in my heart about this.  This quote that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, reminded me that He gave us the outline for prayer.  I have often used this outline to pray for my family and our own lives.  Today it hit me that Jesus never said, "Pray this only for yourself." or "Pray this only when you're in church." or "Pray this when you take communion." or "Pray this only when someone else starts to, so that your voices will sound cool saying the same words at the same time."  Nope.  He simply said "Pray like this."

This is what he said:
Matthew 6:9-13, New Living Translation
Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
    but rescue us from the evil one.[c]
You may have memorized it like this:
Clothing Design Company Photo Credit

So.  We have an outline.  Let's take that outline and pray it for the brokenhearted.

{Please understand, that this is NOT what you need to say to the brokenhearted - they often do not need our words.  Hugs, food, crying with them, listening to them is what they need.  Don't SAY these words to a hurting person. PRAY these words for them, in your heart, or out of earshot.}

Verse 9: Our father in heaven, may your name be kept holy in this situation. Please help them to be strong enough to not curse you for this awful thing happening to their sweet family.  Help them to continue to see you as a father who loves them, who is holy, who does have a bigger, better plan in the midst of their pain.

Verse 10: May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Your will is always to draw people back to the love of Christ, so that your name will be glorified.  God, please use this situation to glorify you.  Somehow, bring beauty from these ashes, as only you can.  It was never the will or desire of this family for their child to die, so please be with them as they adjust to the new normal of having to accept this.  Please help them to continue to surrender to your will, to seek you, to find you, to accomplish your will.

Verse 11: Give them today the food they need.  God please provide for their basic needs, food, shelter, clothing, whatever needs they may have.  Call out people to bring them meals so they don't have to worry about it.  Touch people who know them to reach out and give to them.  This family is hurting and struggling with the pain of loss.  Please don't let them have to struggle with simple but annoying tasks like figuring out what to make for dinner.  Help me to provide a meal for them.

Verse 12: God please forgive me for any sin in my heart related to this.  I confess I am confused.  I know though, that the family experiencing the loss of a loved one, is in far more pain and suffering than I am.  Please forgive them for any sins they commit right now.  God, help them to be strong against sin, but help them to also feel your continuous comfort and love even when they do say or do things they will later regret, because they are hurting so much.  Lord, help them to forgive you.  It is natural for them to blame you and others.  Please help their hearts to heal, to forgive you even though it's not your fault.  I know this is the result of living in a sin-filled, fallen world, but God, that is not very comforting.  Help them to forgive themselves if they harbor guilt about it.  Help the mother who was driving to let go of the guilt that is sure to come.  Help the family to forgive the driver of the semi truck.  Bring forgiveness to their hearts, so that they can heal.

Verse 13:  Don't let them yield to temptation, but protect them from the evil one.  God help them to fight the temptation to blame you, to get totally depressed, to stop parenting the living children they have because they can't stop mourning the dead. Help them to fight the temptation to lash out at each other in anger.  God help them to fight the temptation to numb themselves to the pain by using something that will hurt their bodies.  Lord, help them fight the temptation to run away from it all, to run emotionally and mentally become withdrawn or closed off to each other and to love, or to run physically by abandoning their families or even considering suicide.  God, help them fight temptations.  Protect them from the lies Satan is going to throw at them.  Protect them from the pain that may want the parents to get so far away from each other, and the memories of their babies that they think divorce is the answer.  Protect them from the media being callous in any dealings with their painful situation. Rescue them from the pain.  Be their comforter. God, help them to run to you now.

I'm not an expert by any means.  I am not saying that any family should react to grief one way or another.  I am saying, that as the Body of Christ, when we hear about tragic events and then we can't stop thinking about them, it is because we are supposed to intercede on their behalf through prayer, and possibly to give monetarily, or make meals, or give in other ways.  I am not saying that this is a perfect script for every situation.  I am saying that we should be more purposeful in our prayers, and using the Lord's prayer as our guide is one way to start.  Pray for people who are hurting, and pray with a purpose.  I am learning the power of this right now in my life.  I hope this helps someone.  Lift up specific prayers for people when your heart goes out to them.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Beginning a New Adventure!

The match has finally been found!  The ministry position we have praying for, hoping for, begging God to bring us into, has finally arrived!  This is an answer to so many prayers.  It has felt overdue to us, but of course, is right on God's perfect timing.   John preached in view of a call the last Sunday in April, and then the church voted on him the first Sunday in May, and we officially decided to accept the position a few days ago.  Meet the new "Associate Pastor of Young Adults and Youth" for First Baptist Church of Somerville, Tennessee:
I know, he's a STUD!

This lovely church is desiring to reach out to the community and serve a new generation of folks, and so they have added a Contemporary Service to their Sunday morning schedule.  John's role will be to primarily preach in that service about 3 times a month, and to reach out to young adults and families in the area, in hopes of growing the younger population of the church.  John is also over the youth department, but they have a really cool guy who is doing a wonderful job with the students of the church, and so they want John to first focus on growing the Contemporary service, and then take on more youth department responsibilities later on.  This is located in a community about 45 minutes east of Memphis, near Oakland, not far from where we lived and worked when John was in seminary.  The church population is a really sweet group of people who are already embracing us from afar via phone and facebook!

The past 7 months of unemployment have been a real faith building journey for us.  We have had many opportunities at jobs that seemed almost right, but just not quite.  We've had a few close calls where we were told "Congratulations! You've made it to the next stage of our hiring process, fill in this long questionnaire." Only to be told a month or two later that the position had been filled.   We've had dark days where we felt like we'd never find a church to serve, doubting the call to ministry, doubting our purpose, and listening to fear.  We've had bright hopeful days where we were able to trust in the Lord and wait on Him, and hopefully anticipate service to come.  

We have come through a season in our marriage and personal lives where we were able to really conquer some sin issues, and set up a more firm foundation for how we want to raise our kids.  We were able to travel some and visit good friends that we had not seen in years.  Our parents were able to spend countless hours with Jonah, and now have been able to get to know Karis.  We've made new friends, and learned new things along the way.  

One of the biggest things I feel that has changed in us is our attitude toward others.  Our pride took a big hit when we had to move in with John's dad.  It wasn't too bad at first, but as the months wore on, we began to feel like real lousy, failure degenerates.  College degrees don't matter when neither of you has a job.  Foster parenting twelve other children doesn't matter when you can't show love and patience to your own screaming little urchins who just keep crying. and crying. and crying.  Having no debt doesn't matter when you don't have your own place to call 'home.'  Having to share one vehicle has also been really tough.  I know that sounds shallow, and over half the world does not own even one car, but after being used to always having two cars, and not needing to coordinate our schedules, having freedom to go where and when we pleased, the one car family was a little rough at times.  Realizing new sin in our hearts, and uncovering old sin brought us low to the point of truly understanding once again that our righteousness is just filthy rags.  We are no better than anyone else.  If we didn't have amazing, loving families to come to and live with, then we would have been broke as a joke on our own.  God used our situation to humble us.  It's a beautiful thing too, that when we no longer held ourselves in such high regard, we realized that we are now able to love people so much more because their sin and brokenness is just a reflection of ours.   All sin is sin.  All people are people.  Jesus died for every. single. person. no. matter. what.    
God has brought us to a heart change that I am certain will enable us to love people and serve them with kind hearts instead of being judgmental or condescending.  He has prepared us to serve by teaching us to see people through the lens of grace, instead of the lens of the world.   I am so thrilled and excited to get to know the people of this church and this community and to learn with them, grow with them, and love them.  

We did not make this decision lightly.  We prayed and prayed and prayed and fasted together and called on some of our prayer warrior friends to pray for us, and then we prayed and prayed and prayed and fasted some more.  We fought our fleshy desire to stay as close to home as possible.  We thought of reasons to say no, but kept coming back to the biggest reason to say yes: God calls us to Go and Make Disciples, and He wants us to go.  We have total peace that this is where God wants us to serve.  I saved this K-Love Scripture picture to my phone and prayed it back to God often:
God, we want your will, so show us your path!
We accepted the position and had peace, but then the weight of the world crept in so suddenly that we got stressed out about finding a place to live, how would John get ordained, and how were we supposed to load and unload a U-Haul by ourselves with 2 babies around all day!? The very next day ALL of those problems were handled.  One of the really awesome guys from the church found a condo open right across the road for the church and asked the manager to hold it for us.  He then informed us that we don't even have to pay rent until June 1st.  This is how I explained the next few moments to some dear friends in an e-mail I sent a few days ago:

 "I suddenly started bawling my eyes out.  I felt such joy and peace wash over me as if God was saying, "You may be leaving your family again, but you are stepping into the Body of Christ, where people are so excited to embrace your family!"
I thought about the fact that my grandmother died 2 years ago, and how we are about to gain over 100 new grandparents.  I thought about the fact that every time we've moved before, we've had to find a church.  This time, we're going into a church that is excited to welcome us!  I thought about how hard it has been to move to new places where we don't know anybody, and how now we are moving somewhere where the whole church knows us already, and we get the pleasure of meeting them, and we are close to LOTS of friends we met in Memphis!  I thought about how long we've waited and prayed and begged God for a place to serve, and how perfectly our family is going to fit in here.  Joy washed over me and I kissed the baby over and over and she began to laugh.  Her first laugh!  Jonah's first laugh was the day we had to say goodbye to our foster babies we thought we could adopt, as we got ready to move away from Memphis.  Karis' first laugh was today.
John was out running errands and so we had talked on the phone about the condo.  When he came home, I told him my feelings and he said, "You know what else?  The pastor called and asked me when we are moving because they want to pay for a real moving company to help us move, to help load the boxes and everything, and they want to have a welcoming party for us when we arrive, and people to help us settle in."  WOW!  We have always moved ourselves before, with one or two friends helping lift the heavy things and load the trucks. John unloaded the whole U-Haul alone when we moved into seminary.  I laughed.  We smiled.  The joy is really setting in as this body of believers is already stepping up to help us out as much as they can.
A few minutes later he said, "Oh, and I talked to Brother Michael," our pastor from Bartlett Baptist Church in Memphis where John was the Associate Youth Pastor while he was in seminary, "He said they are already planning to have an ordination service at the end of this month to ordain 2 other guys, and it would be no problem for me to be ordained then too. So as soon as we get there, we can do that too."  Holy Moly!  How many stressful things can be completely taken care of in a matter of hours!? Also, it will be so nice to see some of the people from that church again!"

We serve such an awesome God, who takes care of all of our needs!

We had already planned to celebrate Mother's Day here this weekend, and then Jonah's birthday next weekend.  Then, we are moving on the 20th.  That's TEN DAYS away!  It's Friday, and John and I are going out on a date tonight, to celebrate the job, and to try to get Karis to take a bottle from my mom.  It's been a long time coming, but God's timing is always perfect.  We have had a long sweet time of rest to spend with family and friends to get us through this pregnancy, birth, and first few rough months of a screaming newborn.  As Karis' temperament seems to be evening out a little, we are preparing to move again.  I am so excited!!! Eeeeek!  

 THANK YOU so much to every single person who lifted up a prayer for us during this time.  Prayer is such a powerful tool!!! 

Please continue to pray for our little family as we make this transition and fit ourselves into this new place. Pray that we would have servant hearts full of love for the people we serve.  Pray that we would be open to continue to hear God's voice leading us in every interaction, so we can help to grow their body by reaching out into the community. 

Let me know how we can be praying for you!  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Mess

Joining up with Lisa Jo Baker, for something I haven't done in a long time, but sincerely missed.

Five Minute Friday with over 200 other aspiring writers. Check it out!

Go: Mess

You mean the mess that is five piles of laundry on my bedroom floor that I waded through to get from the bathroom to the bed?

The mess that is the two sinks full of dirty dishes overflowing to the counter tops until we have absolutely no forks or knives left and you have to stand on tip-toes to reach the faucet over the pile of plates and cups?

The mess that is the kitchen/dining room floor that I sweep/vacuum when I remember to, less than once a week?

The mess that is the pile of cloth diapers in the hallway overflowing the wet bag because for some reason I just can not remember to get a plain garbage pail at Walmart to store the dirty diapers?

The mess that is my toddler's face right now because he has a cold, and so snot dries to his nose and the skin around his mouth and then food also gets stuck, and what I hope is sweat making the front of his hair look like that?

The mess that is my constant daily wardrobe of yoga pants or pajama pants with ANY top that will just open easily down the front so I can pull out a boob for this three month baby who refuses six different brands of bottles?

Or do you mean the mess that my heart was in before I realized I needed Jesus?

The mess that acted like I was more important than others?

The mess that thought for some reason I was better than that woman walking down the street with pants that were way too short but obviously not capris?

The mess that had so much puffed up pride I looked down my self-righteous nose at people who had obvious sin, while I just continued to brush mine under the rug?

The mess that sang songs like "Amazing Grace" and had no idea what that really meant?

The mess that looked at half the world and thought they deserved their plight?

My house is a mess because I am raising two babies.  My heart was a mess because I was praising myself.  When my babies are a little bigger, I pray my house will be cleaner.  My heart got cleaned up when I realized that there is nothing I can do worth praising, and I started to praise Jesus instead.

I thank God for the mess that represents the babies.

I thank God for cleaning up the mess that was me.


Edit: I thank God for cleaning up the mess that IS me, every single day!