ARCHIVES: October 2016


10.28.2016

Early Voting; Early Praying

fullsizerenderEarly voting has begun. I’m doing laundry to be sure my Election Day Outfit is clean, and I’m also tapping into the Book of Common Prayer, which offers a pretty fab petition we can use in the days ahead.

Here it is, if you want to turn it into your own Friday Prayer:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our power and privileges:

Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.


ARCHIVES: October 2016


10.26.2016

I can’t be responsible. Seriously?

fullsizerender

You know how it is when you learn a new vocabulary word and then you suddenly start start hearing it all the time? It’s that way for me with songs. I don’t listen to a whole lot of music, and so when I hear the same song twice in two days, I notice.

Which is what happened to me this week with the new (I guess it’s new?) single, Ain’t My Fault. I first heard it performed live by a group of adorable, fresh-faced college students at a concert last weekend. And then, yesterday, I heard the recorded version by the actual artist (a Swedish gal named Zara Larsson) during my workout class.

Here are the lyrics (in case you are like me and you are a “Billboard Hot 100” ignoramus):

It ain’t my fault you keep turning me on
It ain’t my fault you got, got me so gone
It ain’t my fault I’m not leaving alone
It ain’t my fault you keep turning me on…

No I can’t be responsible
If I get you in trouble now
See you’re too irresistible
Yeah that’s for sure

There’s more, but you get the idea. And when I heard the song for the second time (and yes, I was trying to figure out the lyrics while everyone else was perfecting their squats), I thought to myself, “What the heck?”

What the heck is wrong with us? We can’t be responsible?

Can you imagine what a prosecutor would do with that line of defense in, say, a sexual assault case? Or even a theft? “That diamond necklace was just too irresistible…”

Even more than that, though, I feel like this song (which is of course very upbeat and catchy and actually a little bit irresistible) typifies so much of what is upside down in our culture. A friend of mine, who is mom to three young adult men, tells her sons that a woman should be able to walk, stark naked, through a fraternity or a bar, and be safe. She wants her boys to have enough self-control to respect every woman, no matter how she acts or looks.

As a mom to three young adult daughters, I take a similar-but-opposite tack:  “Don’t you dare walk through a fraternity or a bar lookin’ like that.” I want my girls to demonstrate the exact same measure of self-control and not disrespect the young men in their world by trying to attract their attention in an inappropriate way.

In both cases, for our sons and our daughters (and for that matter, for us), it comes down a willingness to be responsible. To exercise self-control. Because words like “It ain’t my fault you keep turning me on” are baloney. We all have eyes; we can look away. We all have feet; we can walk out.

Back when I wrote Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, I devoted an entire chapter to stories and prayers about self-control, diligence, and self-discipline in our kids. Back then, the need for self-control centered around things like swiping erasers from the first-grade supply closet, or even falling out of your chair at the dinner table (something our kids managed to do with astonishing regularity). Now (and I am not telling you anything you don’t already know) the need – in my kids’ lives, and in mine – is much more serious. Like, I wish my biggest self-control issue was needing to stay in my chair.

If you, your child, or someone you love struggles with personal responsibility (or if you’ve maybe heard “It’s not my fault” one too many times), here are three of my favorite prayer verses from that long-ago chapter. They worked for the stolen erasers and, thanks be to God, they are just as powerful for our lives today:

May _____ make every effort to add to faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Do not give ______ a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

May your grace, which offers salvation, also teach _____ to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life. (Titus 2:11-12)

Amen.

 


ARCHIVES: October 2016


10.21.2016

The Power of Love

When Hurricane Matthew visited Virginia Beach two weeks ago, he left us without power for five days. That in itself wasn’t so bad (I am a big fan of candlelight), but he also knocked out our phone, cable, and Internet access (hence the lack of blogposts) until yesterday. Truth be told, I didn’t really miss those things, either (especially not when you consider what the people in Haiti have been through, or even our water-logged friends just over the border in North Carolina).

What was a bit tricky – and this was a first, in my hurricane history – was the fact that a forest of downed trees and power lines meant that Robbie and I (along with a handful of neighbors) we were basically trapped in our darkened houses for the better part of a week. This pic doesn’t show the full carnage, but you can see why getting a car out would have been kind of iffy:

fullsizerender

When people realized our plight (and it was hard not to:  Firemen, police, the local news, and even the National Guard showed up on our corner to check things out), we began getting all sorts of offers. Did we need coffee? The loan of a car, if we could reach it? Would it help if people just threw food and flashlights over the power lines?

We said we were fine (and we pretty much were), but then Robbie went down to check on the basement. Most Virginia Beach houses don’t have ’em, but our place was built during Prohibition and it came with both a basement and what was left of a still. Because I guess, back then, there were fewer hurricanes and more thirsty people.

Anyhow.

The water was rising. We had a pump, but no way to power it. The very cute generator we had purchased after the last big storm had benched itself, after just a few hours of playing time. Should we, I wondered, try bailing? It sounds so romantic and adventurous in books. Robbie was less than enthused, and eyeing the flight of steps and our bucket, I had to agree: As a basement app, bailing is sort of meh.

We were stumped. But then Along Came Gary.

fullsizerender

Gary Cole is the sort of man you want in your daughter’s father-in-law. We got him as part of the package when Annesley married Geoff, and the minute he heard about our situation, Gary picked his way through the trees (keeping an eye on the still-popping power lines) with a black box that he called an “inverter.” Being an English major and all, I immediately deduced that an inverter is something that changes a direct current into an alternating current so that you can use the engine in your Toyota to get the water out of your basement. Obviously.

Here’s what the thing looks like, up close:

img_7850

Gary’s contraption made short work of our water problem. Most guys would have popped a Bud and given themselves a high five at that point, but not Gary. For one thing, he’s a milk-and-cookies guy. And for another, he’s thorough. He stood back and looked at our whole house, in all of it’s food-spoiling glory. No generator? No problem. Gary said he knew a guy. And the next thing I knew, Gary and The Guy had hauled The Guy’s generator through the trees and into our driveway.

img_7863

All I could think, as I looked out the window, was how these men (and all of our other friends and neighbors who banded together to help one another) were living out verses like Philippians 2:4 (“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others”), Galatians 6:10 (“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us to good to all people”), and Matthew 22:39 (“Love your neighbor as yourself”).

I wouldn’t wish a hurricane on anybody. They can be nasty things. But having been through a boatload of them (smallish ones, anyway), I must say that those storm clouds can have a silver lining. In bringing our normal, busy, self-centered lives to a halt, they make us stop and notice each other. And in a world that feels increasingly adversarial and selfish, it was really nice to see these verses about looking out for one another come to life – and to realize afresh what love does.

And, since I didn’t get to post a Friday Prayer last week, I’ll tap into the (a-hem) power of one of the letters that the Apostle John wrote, toward the end of his life. Let’s make these simple words both a prayer and a resolution for our lives:

Let us love one another, for love comes from God. (1 John 4:7)

Amen.

 

 


ARCHIVES: October 2016


10.07.2016

Friday Prayer for Walking in the Light

blessed-are-those-who-have-learnedWhat’s the secret to a happy life?

Psalm 89:15 offers a good answer:  “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” That’s the  NIV; other translations (like the Amplified Version) tap into the original Hebrew and call these folks “blessed and happy.”

Whichever word you choose – blessed or happy – this verse is a beautiful way to pray for the people you love:

Heavenly Father,

May ______ be blessed because he/she has learned to acclaim you; let _____ walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. (Psalm 89:15)

Amen.

(And P.S., that’s a picture of Robbie, walking in the light in Iceland, where he says it never really got dark. I wanna go there.)


ARCHIVES: October 2016


10.04.2016

Raise Your Ebenezer!

Back when I started blogging three years ago, the website brainiacs told me I needed to lump my posts into “categories.” So I did. And I feel pretty good about “From the Bookshelf” (where I recommend some of my favorite reads) and “Prayer Helps” (which features scripture prayers and other tools), but the “Try This” category is sort of hit-or-miss. Long-time readers will remember the Mac-n-Cheese and Peas and Fleas failure, and I still get occasional emails from people who tell me that it didn’t go so well when they put Grandma under the sheet.

Today, though, I think I have a “Try This” winner. Not only has this one stood the test of time by serving as an anchor to the past, but it provides a launching pad for things like hope and security as we look toward the future.

Make yourself an Ebenezer stone. Like the one in the second stanza of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (the one that made some contemporary worship leaders change the lyrics, since nobody knew what they were talking about).

Now, I realize that when we hear “Ebenezer,” most of us think of Scrooge. But he wasn’t the first Ebenezer. Nearly 3,000 years before Charles Dickens tried to get Londoners to provide for the poor with A Christmas Carol, the prophet Samuel tried to get the Israelites to acknowledge God as their provider by setting up an Ebenezer stone. If you are fuzzy on the details, here’s the story (and you can read more in 1 Samuel 7):

The pesky Philistines had come to attack the Israelites (again), and the Israelites were scared. They didn’t have a king yet, so they turned to Samuel. “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines,” they begged. Samuel agreed. But that didn’t stop the Philistines from advancing; they “drew near” while Samuel was praying! But then something wild happened: The Bible says God “thundered with loud thunder.” As a result, the Philistines panicked, the Israelites gave chase, and the end result was what has to be one of the most epic (an unexpected) upsets in history. To commemorate the victory, Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer (which literally means “stone of help”), saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”

Today, if you google “Ebenezer Stone,” you might get a picture like this:

maenllia-1690977-o

I like it, but I can’t see Samuel setting that thing up. I’m thinking his rock might have looked a little more like this:

img_0513

Who knows? But how the stone looked isn’t the point of the story. The point is that the stone served as a marker, a place the Israelites could return to in the years to come, a reminder of how God had fought for them and protected them in their darkest hour.

We can do the same thing. When God does something for us, we can take a rock (it doesn’t have to be big) and make our own Ebenezer. I did that earlier this year, when Robbie transferred to U.Va. I thought he knew all about the school (we’d taken him there since before he could walk), but I was wrong. Robbie knew all about the football stadium. The library? Not so much. He had to find that, and then he had to go looking for all of his classes, his advisor, and a host of other unfamiliar people and places in what turned out to be a big and sometimes daunting world.

Robbie is a surfer, and I guess those first few weeks were a little bit like paddling out through the breakers, trying to get to the smoother part of the ocean, where things settle down and you can wait to catch your wave. And when he did – when Robbie finally texted us with some good news and we felt like he was maybe hitting his stride – the words “thus far the Lord has helped us” just popped into my mind. So I found a stone (a smooth one from the beach, which seemed appropriate for my boy) and marked it:

img_7786

On the flip side, I put the date:

img_7787

In years to come, Robbie might never remember what was happening in his life in September of 2016, but he will know that the Lord was right there with him, helping him paddle through the waves.

I love the story of the Ebenezer stone. I’ve made them before, and I am sure I will make them again. I have a spotty memory and my heart is prone to wander, so I need those tangible reminders of God’s faithfulness – both so I can thank him and so I can look forward with hope and confidence, no matter what the future holds. The God of “thus far” is the God who “ever shall be,” and to me, that is exciting.

And you know what’s even more exciting? We might not have a Samuel in our corner, but we have Someone even better. The Bible says that Jesus is praying for us, right now. Romans 8:34-35 says that he always talks to God about us – and that nothing can separate us from his love! So even when we aren’t sure what to pray (like, when we don’t know which direction our Philistines are coming from, or what we should do when they attack), we can count on the fact that God already has us covered.

And that right there is enough to make me head back to the beach to find some more stones.

 




Created with love by Yellow Leaf Marketing.