Sunday, September 25, 2011

Two-Handed Praying

We’re all familiar with Jesus words: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.”

Yet, eventually, we all come up against the uncomfortable truth that God doesn’t always do what we ask Him to do.
When that happens, some of us get mad at God and stop talking to Him entirely. We figure we’ll teach Him a lesson by giving Him the silent treatment.

Others of us don’t walk away from Him entirely, but we do stop praying for things we want and need, and for Him to do anything in and through us. He’d likely say no, anyway, we think, because He seems to like giving us only hard things. So we keep walking alongside Him, but all communication has ceased.
Some of us want to keep praying, but we’re so confused by God’s methods that we play it safe. We pray only for things that are within the realm of our imaginations. We don’t ask for much...and we don’t get much in return.

I suggest we continue to pray... but to exercise two-handed praying.
With one open hand, we must continue to ask God for what we need... and want.

The Bible book of James says, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.”
Jesus summed up at least one of His parables with, “You should always pray, and not give up.”

The Bible also says, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Only God knows (literally) the things He’d like to give us, or do in us, or in the lives of others...but He hasn’t – because we haven’t asked.

So we should pray for things we need and want, good things we want God to do. We must ask, ask big, and keep on asking.
With the other open hand, we pray in surrender.

Jesus also taught us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Later, on His way to the cross, He begged His Father to let Him escape the agony ahead. But then, “Not My will but Yours be done.”

Yes, we must pray in surrender, letting God do what He wants and accepting that His ways are better and wiser than ours.
But we must not surrender without asking! Surrendering without asking is resignation, which quickly creates a cold, hard heart.

And we must also not ask without surrendering! Asking without surrender is acting like a spoiled child, demanding God give us everything we ask for, claiming we know best.
But when we pray with two hands, open hands, we ask great things from a good God...and we trust Him to do what’s best.

We see Him do amazing things in response to bold prayers.
We hear Him say “No” in ways we realize are the very best.

We also trust Him to be good, to give and to do good things.
And we trust Him to lovingly withhold what is not-the-best.

So let’s have no more one-handed praying.
No more closed or selfish hearts.

Two open hands.
Ask and surrender.

Watch and see what God will do.

-- Reenie
Thanks to JH for helping me clarify the points in this post.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

If You Don't Do It...

Three young women were asking each other,
"Do men like strong women... or meek women?"

The woman who introduced the question is capable. She's independent. She's strong.
And she's confident...about everything except her single status.

What she was really asking was:
"Should I change who I am, so that a man will like me?"

Her friends offered various perspectives, none of them providing much wisdom.

I wish I'd told those women they'd been trapped into believing a lie.

The lie is that we have to be a certain way,
we have to do certain things...
in order to be loved romantically,
in order to be married.

it's easy for us, ahem, older folks to tell young women they're wonderful and beautiful just as they are.
It's so obvious they don't need to be like anyone else.

But sometimes we who are older are not that much wiser.
We get stuck on the same lie, though usually in a different form.

Lots of us
-- old and young, male and female --
believe we have to "be" and "do" a certain way.

Otherwise, we think,
we won't be good enough to "win" a romantic relationship,
deserve a good career path,
or earn society's approval in general.

Sometimes, we think,
those who don't conform
don't even deserve to have good friends
or the love and blessing of their families.

But no matter how old we are,
how much experience we've gained,
no matter how wise we should be...
if we believe these things,
we've been trapped by the same lie.

The TRUTH is that God didn't make us to be all one way.
He didn't make us to squeeze into our society's mold,
or live up to anyone else's standard.

The God of the Universe planned for each of us to be unique,
and He wants us to stay that way.

Therefore, we shouldn't focus our thoughts on figuring out what the world tells us to be,
and becoming that.

We shouldn't make it our aim to be like our most popular friends
or our most ambitious co-workers.
And we certainly shouldn't try to be like the people on the magazine covers.

Our noble and lofty lifetime goal should be become the best person God made us to be.

Not always easy,
but perfectly simple.

If God made you to be the nurturer, the caregiver, in your family and circle of friends,
but you're always trying to be the entertainer...
who will do the caregiving?

If God made you to be the entertainer,
but you feel guilty for not being the caregiver...
who will do the entertaining?

If God made you to be a thinker who shares wisdom borne of experience,
but you get jealous because the entertainer gets all the attention...
who will pass along the wisdom you've learned?

If God made you to be an artist, the creator of large and messy projects,
but you spend your life longing to be an organizer whose house is always spic-and-span...
who will bring your creative beauty into the world?

And if God made you to be a teacher...
an organizer,
a courageous leader,
a change-maker,
an encourager,
a gentle supporter,
a coach and guide,
a fixer,
a builder,
a designer,
a friend with a listening ear...

but you waste your time and energy trying to be someone else...

who will do the job of being "you"?

YOU are precious and wonderful.
God designed you
and created you uniquely,
just as you are.

You're not perfect,
and you're not complete.

I'm not either.
That's why we need each other.

So, I beg of you...
let's become the best YOU and ME that we can be.

let's care,
and encourage,
and entertain,
and share wisdom,
and support,
and lead,
and repair,
and build,
and create,
and make a difference...

Let's, each of us, fill the one-of-a-kind shape God designed for us to fill.

Together we'll be complete.
Together, we'll do awesome things.
And, together, we'll be just about perfect.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Setting an Example

I went for lunch with my teenaged nephew BB the other day.
He chose a restaurant in downtown Calgary,
and I agreed only because it was a holiday,
and I thought it would be easy to find parking.

We found a space in a privately-owned lot,
and then I tackled the automated payment system.

I slipped in my credit card,
then waited for selections.
Eventually, it offered several,
and I punched "holiday rate", expecting to get a cheaper-than-usual hourly rate.
Instead, I was charged $12 for our intended two hours of parking.

I wasn't happy, but it seemed there was nothing we could do to change it.
We waited for the machine to produce the receipt.
And waited some more.

I was getting a little hot under the collar
when a parking company employee drove onto the lot.

I quickly made sure to tell him exactly what I thought of his system.
I didn't yell, and I didn't use any words my mother would disapprove of,
but my tone left no doubt that his system stank.

To his credit, he immediately left his car,
helped me re-navigate the system,
and pay a more reasonable rate --
only $6 for two hours.

I expressed my concern (same polite words; same unmistakable tone)
that the system would now charge my credit card twice... or even more.

But again, there was nothing else I could do.

As we walked to the restaurant,
I was still muttering fiercely in the same unmistakeable tone.

But BB,
my young 16-year-old nephew,
who had listened to his "mature" auntie complain up one side of that system and down the other and then start all over again --
BB responded to me with words that were gracious and patient.

I pointed my finger at him and said, "YOU are showing a much better attitude than I am."
But I returned to my complaining a couple times more.

BB expressed understanding of my frustration
but was always gracious.

As he continued to respond gently and quietly,
I finally said,
"Okay -- I'm going to stop complaining now."

And, strangely, when I stopped complaining,
my attitude about everything else improved, too.

A couple thousand years ago, Saint Paul advised his young protegee, Timothy:
Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young.
But be an example in life, in love, in faith and in purity!

I guess the lesson is still current.

Thanks for the example, BB!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Worst Thing About Teachers

The best thing about teachers is their humanity.

They have a remarkably personal ability to build a caring, one-on-one relationship with each individual student.

They can adapt the very same lesson to fit each student’s unique learning needs.

Teachers have an amazing capacity to give everything to their students
every single day.
Then, in evenings and on weekends, they keep giving more.

Teachers know their students’ feelings are fragile.
They also know their students need firm boundaries.
They can be gentle and tender-hearted one moment,
and no-nonsense firm two minutes later.

They’re always learning –
new strategies, new content and new insights about their students.

Teachers stretch themselves a little further,
give themselves a little more,
work a little harder
and persevere a little longer, 
hoping just a little more effort will make the difference for one of their students.

The worst thing about teachers is their humanity.

Teachers have a lot of patience...
but sometimes they run out.

They keep on giving...
but then they get exhausted.

Teachers take care of students, colleagues and parents...
but also need time to take care of themselves.

They’re always learning new ideas...
but there’s a lot they’ll never know. 

Teachers love each student...
but they have to work harder at loving some than others.

Teachers are professionals...
but they'll never be perfect.

Teachers' gift... and their that they're only human.