Twitter praying

Today Ann wrote about wounds, scars, pain and the beauty of Christ redeeming our lives. Whoever and wherever you are, life will knock you around and wound you in many ways.

This week the scab on one of my own scars was ripped open again. Then someone told me of their own massive wounding, facing eternity and a crisis of faith. Another story came to my ears of deep anguish of soul and uncertainty of how to face the world again.

My own little scab shrunk back into it’s context. I still hurts, it will take time to heal over again – especially if I keep knocking the top off it like this.

For myself I (weakly) called out to God in my hurt, then asked a friend on the other side of the world for prayer via Twitter. When daylight came I rallied prayer from home also. God heard, and helped. I have likewise prayed for these people I know who are struggling through very dark places and others are praying for them too.

Some time after reading Ann’s post today, I read another discussing The Rise of Confessional Media and inappropriate sharing of personal stories through social media. This caused me to pause and consider whether it is wise for me to discuss the struggles of living the Christian life online? Why add to the noise? This had long been a worry of mine and probably should be – there is already a lot of rubbish out there, who wants more?!

But when it is 3am and asking for prayer takes less than 140 characters to type into Twitter, social media becomes God’s hand reaching across the oceans. The people at either end of the keyboards are just as real as my wife praying with me at home. If we remember this we can speak the truth in love and grow together in Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Sharing our pains and struggles needn’t be voyeuristic or narcissistic. We must take care, some stuff is not for the world to read, but the real stories of hurting and healing, wounds and worship – these are our testimony to the work of Christ in us. This is something to share in humility.


Gifts I have noticed recently (#894 – #902):

894) Wonderful, glorious daylight.
895) Technology, even with it’s pitfalls.
896) Not knowing how little time I have left.
897) Patting my smelly old dog.
898) Waking up during the day when I should be asleep – at least I get to see some daylight.
899) Time to think.
900) Finding a refill for my favourite pen.
901) Eleven years of marriage and still deeply in love
902) Craig, the only other man I know of who counts blessings like this.

Image: iStock

Missing them

Alone at work in the middle of the night.

Alone at work in the middle of the night.

I don’t enjoy this. I want to be at home with my wife and three children, together in the same house, sharing our lives.

This separation is the way it has to be during this particular season. There are some benefits but the cost of separation is high. For some, perhaps, not having the family routine we had become so accustomed to would be a trivial thing. I have a good job, an adequate income, this is a great blessing.

Yet the evening routine with it’s ‘jungle hour’ when the kids become hyped-up and unruly, the wrestling of baths and pyjamas and nappies while trying to catch snippets of today’s news and tomorrow’s weather from the telly. Wanting to collapse with a cup of tea, just my lovely wife and I, but needing to do the bedtime routine first. The dishes to wash, toys to pick up yet again, stories to read for the hundredth time (does he ever tire of Thomas the Tank Engine?).

I miss these things, the mess of being a family together.

God is with you in the crap of life

If you are a Christian there is always reason to give thanks.
True.

But frankly life sucks at times, for Christians too. Even the Crystal Cathedral went bankrupt, the prosperity gospel ran out of cash. All of our lives have seasons where it seems there is little to give genuine thanks for.

When someone like me starts writing about giving thanks in all things while you slog through difficult times an understandable reaction is to want to tell me where to shove it.

For this reason I have been uncomfortable with the notion of listing all the blessings I can count in my life, because it could easily turn into a boasting in what I have, a thinly disguised love of the world. God does promise us many blessings, some of which are to be enjoyed in this world. However, the greatest blessings are those which are intangible and must be grasped by faith.

A particularly slippery blessing is God’s promise to always be with us:

… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20 ESV)

Jesus himself promised to be with us while ‘this age’ remains. In Hebrews we also have what appears to be a quote of Jesus:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

In the gospels there are several incidents in which Jesus rebuked his disciples for their fear. The entire book of Job points to the great value of trusting in God despite overwhelming evidence causing doubt over God’s goodness. Fear is a killer of faith. But this also works in reverse – faith can kill off fear.

When you look realistically at life and cannot help the concerns over whether God really will provide running through your mind, it is not wrong to acknowledge the evidence before your eyes. With that acknowledgement, fear will arise. Faith considers that fear, accepts it as real and then adds faith into the equation.

I may look at our bank statement and see immediately there is not enough money to pay the bills. We have a fixed income so there is no room to squeeze more dollars from anywhere. Juggling bills helps a little but I still fear the prospect of simply running out and being unable to sustain my family. God makes no promise I am aware of that we will not end up in financial sewerage. However, He does promise that He will walk through the poo with me.

To some this will seem small comfort and too subjective to be of any value. I have been in much worse than financial shit and this promise of His Presence is what has kept me going. Often it was pure faith, believing that God is with me in my mess despite appearances. Occasionally I knew He was with me, strengthening my weak knees and lifting me up so I wouldn’t drown.

Intangible, yes.

Real? Definitely.

This is one of the great gifts from God which underlie my more immediate and superficial counting of blessings. The list continues to grow because I continue to need to remind myself of all I have to be thankful for and rejoice in. As a fallen creature this counting puts me in a better headspace to appreciate how awesome His greater gifts are.

I trust you because

To Heather,In writing on this topic (‘I trust you because’) it took me a long time to figure out why I trust you – I just do. There are plenty of reasons, here are three:

Promise

You made a vow to me in the presence of God. I know you well enough to understand this makes a difference – that it was made before God.

We are both well aware that it was God who brought us together, and know His warning about ripping apart what He made one. So this is the unconditional fence guarding our marriage, but there is much more than obligation holding us together.

Vulnerability

I know I can trust you because you have already entrusted so much of yourself to me. You have made yourself exquisitely vulnerable to me, mere words from my mouth could crush you. Having opened your heart to me so deeply as to need me in order to function, I know you are not going to walk away or intentionally injure me.

This goes both ways. My weaknesses are blindingly obvious to you and with this knowledge you could have a powerful weapon. Yet for over a decade you have chosen to unload that gun and lock it away to prevent accidental discharge. Your proven record of trustworthiness.

In some situations vulnerability, even when mutual, can lead to fear. Fortunately we do not have a ‘cold war’ in our marriage.

Friendship

We like each other. Our idea of a good time is to sit together with a cup of tea in our wonky cottage looking out over the harbour and just chat, passing the time of day with no particular point to the conversation aside from being together.

That you care about me is evident, your smile when I come home always lightens my burdens. There is no doubt in my mind that you like me and want to have me around, and I hope my enjoyment of being around you is also obvious.

Perhaps an indication of our friendship is our mutual desire in life to simply grow old together.

What’s this all about:

A blog I follow is running a series of posts called Marriage Letters in which they write a ‘letter’ to their spouse with the idea that by enriching their own marriages they also enrich the marriages of those around them. I’ve been enjoying the series and had good intentions of joining, this is my first attempt. The topic for this week is ‘I trust you because’. Amber hosts a link-up on her blog where you can check out letters from other bloggers.

Pray for your kids – Salvation

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)

This should be my prayer every day for my kids; to know the joy of their salvation – the grace, forgiveness and sanctification of God in Jesus Christ. May they grow in understanding of the riches of the gift they have received in Christ and as their knowledge increases that their joy will deepen.

I like these verses from 1st Peter because the emphasis is on loving God, rejoicing in Him as the One in whom we are saved. With belief like this a child can endure much and remain steadfast in Christ. When our trust is in who Jesus is and our joy is in knowing Him there will always be cause to rejoice even in the worst of times.

Nothing is more important than praying for our children to know Jesus in this way, for them to obtain joy inexpressible and the salvation of their souls.

Download the prayer prompts:

Other posts related to this topic:

Image of girl praying: iStock

Pray for your kids – salvation

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.(1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)

This should be my prayer every day for my kids; to know the joy of their salvation – the grace, forgiveness and sanctification of God in Jesus Christ. May they grow in understanding of the riches of the gift they have received in Christ and as their knowledge increases that their joy will deepen.

I like these verses from 1st Peter because the emphasis is on loving God, rejoicing in Him as the One in whom we are saved. With belief like this a child can endure much and remain steadfast in Christ. When our trust is in who Jesus is and our joy is in knowing Him there will always be cause to rejoice even in the worst of times.

Nothing is more important than praying for our children to know Jesus in this way, for them to obtain joy inexpressible and the salvation of their souls.


Download the prayer prompts:

Other posts related to this topic:

Image of girl praying: iStock

Eastercamp 2012

I haven’t written at all for the last five days, instead I was travelling to – and cleaning toilets at – the South Island Eastercamp 2012. Over 4,000 teenagers from around the South Island converged on Spencer Park in Christchurch for what I can perhaps best describe as a Christian non-stop What Now with rock concerts thrown in. It is loud! It is huge, very well run, and God is there. Surprisingly, even with about 4,100 young people at the camp there is no trouble – a single Police officer had a fairly relaxed four days. But it was loud.
I did discover that while my trusty sleeping bag kept me toasty warm, my ageing bones need more than 20mm of closed-cell foam between me and the hard ground to facilitate a sound night’s sleep. So while I yawned my way around camp, my 10-year-old daughter revelled in being counted an honourary youth group member. She loved the ‘Big Top’ meetings, the activities, lots of people to hang out with, staying up late, most of the food (but not the gluten-free buns!), and came home wanting a closer relationship with God and to read the Bible more.

I learned what an awesome group of youth leaders our church has, how much I need my beloved wife, and was encouraged to more fully pursue a couple of things God has placed on my heart. I will also miss Stormy’s hilarious commentaries as we did our midnight loo-crew rounds.

Photo credits: Eastercamp media team

Melt my icy heart

Thank you God for the warmth of your sunshine,
thank you even for the chill air that makes me appreciate it.
Thank you that my cold fingers remind me of the coldness of my heart,
towards you,
and towards other people.

Just as I cannot control the weather and nor can any man,
so I cannot control my heart.
But you have purchased my soul, you own my heart.
You are the Master Potter and the Refining Fire.

Melt my icy heart, incinerate away my dross.
My stony glare reflects my stony heart.
I could take counsel, I could act kindly,
but what overflows this mouth is the essence of a hurtful heart.
Take away the stoniness, kill my pride.
Teach me to value your fellowship rightly.
Teach me to value others more than myself.

Take me on a journey into knowing you,
and the sanctification of my soul.

I wrote this prayer in June 2010. About a month later I was diagnosed with severe depression and the journey since then has seen some pride killing and steps towards a less stony attitude towards others. God is at work, pray with me that He continues! 

Related to this topic:

Image of icicle: 123RF

Hounded by His help

God is on my case.
He knows my weaknesses, failings, indulgences. He sees when I fold my arms in complacency, monitors how my time is spent. Hearing my claims of piety, He replays them as I turn my back to Him. Feeling my hand slip from His, I am allowed to go – for a brief time.

Soon I hear the baying of His hound. Jesus doesn’t let His sheep stray far before rounding them back up. He confronts me with my wrong priorities and narrow, self-interested obsessions.

For this I am glad. Being reminded yet again that it is so much simpler and easier to follow Him than to attempt cutting my own path through a wilderness of confusion.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:30 ESV)

I am ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I can’t be bothered putting in the effort to follow Christ. It seems so much easier to watch TV or surf the web or just be like the secular folks around me. I want to follow Him, I think about it a lot, I talk about it. But when it comes to putting aside worldly things and coming alone to God in prayer, I neglect Him.

Actions speak louder than words. My actions indicate that God does not ‘do it for me’. They indicate that I’d rather let myself be distracted than to worship Him.

The silly thing: I was mostly unaware of how bad I’d gotten. He gave me a sunny day, a frowning mother-in-law, a pail of paint, a wall needing painting, and an audiobook on an ipod. With all these in place God nudged me outside and caused my scrolling to stop at what He wanted me to hear – E.M. Bounds on Prayer and Praying Men.

I was convicted on my feeble prayer life. Even more, I was accosted my my lukewarmness. Weeds have sprung up and the embers are cooling, I am in a dangerous place!

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
(Revelation 3:15-16 ESV)

Behind my cooling passion for prayer and the Bible and being in God’s presence is a perceived lack of strength to do these things. Yet this is foolish – nobody has the strength to serve God – we must serve in His strength. I am crippled by sin, weak in my human nature. To serve God in passion and holiness I need Him to lift me up.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:27-31 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed recently (#867 – #881):

867) Being ridden on as a “daddy dinosaur”.
868) Son giving me happy spontaneous hugs.
869) An afternoon weeding the garden – good for my soul.
870) Pizza for dinner.
871) Bus driver waiting when he saw me running.
872) Finding a good book to give my daughter.
873) A quiet day at work.
874) Several early nights in a row.
875) Watching ships cruise past from our front window
876) Finishing one of many painting tasks needing done.
877) Colleague swapping shifts with me after I double-booked my time.
878) Bellbirds and Tuis singing.
879) Paper to write on.
880) Walking.
881) Autumn sunshine.