Saturday, January 24, 2015

Golf Ball Call To Prayer

She approached me after I had been away for three weeks, the day after the longest haul of our road trip back from the south to see family and friends.  As the sole driver in our merry little traveling band of a family, and with a grand total of something like 45 hours of driving behind me, that Sunday I was happy to be home and going nowhere for a long while.

I knew we had been away too long, though this trip had been no different than our usual length of time away.  It wasn’t too long to be with dear people we don’t often see (connecting, enjoying, being refreshed), but God has so knit us in to a body of believers, it was too long being away from our church family!  I felt a strong urging to get back home where things were going on in the lives of people I love and had been out of touch with while away.

So that first Sunday we arrived back it was a whirlwind of faces and welcome backs.  In the sea of activity, this dear sister approached me, talked of an MRI to see if a tooth infection had caused neurological damage to her brain.  I was concerned, to be sure, but took my cues from her attitude and disposition, though I know she had to be tempted by fear and anxiety.

She managed to smile. Her trust in her Lord and Savior was so strong and sure.

I said I would pray for her and I did and I do, believing God for her healing, but then news came that she has a tumor the size of golf ball on her brain stem.

A tumor?  The size of a golf ball?  On her brain stem...

I’ll spare all the details of the past few years of this friend’s life.  It’s not really my story to tell.  Let’s just put it this way, the haul she has been on has been a lot longer and harder than 45 hours of road tripping with three young’ns and there is a very long road ahead of her still!  Yet, in the midst of her own struggles and weakness of body, this dear sister has reached out to serve and minister to my family.  

The first birthday I had after my husband left, she invited us to dinner and baked a delicious chocolate cake from scratch.  I am not even sure she could eat it because of the strict discipline she was employing to attain gut healing.  She fed us and sent me home with a heart held and our bellies full.  I want to give this sister a gift back and I think I have found a way.

I was in my very dark, damp, c-c-c-cold basement the other day, instructing children in all the ways of how to do laundry.  Above my washing machine, in a rickety three tiered basket, there rested a bunch of bright yellow golf balls I use for felting old sweaters.  I took one down and held it.  I showed the children.

“This is the size of Mrs. M’s tumor on her brain stem.”

Each one took a turn holding the golf ball.  Then I got the idea that I would put it on our table so we could remember to pray for her before every meal.  When we sat down for lunch, I picked it up again, thinking, “That’s just not good enough.”  I put it in my pocket.  

There.  That’s better.

Every time I put my hand in my pocket, I feel that golf ball and I pray for my friend.  I want to issue a challenge to all of you and to myself.  It doesn’t matter the color, just find a golf ball and carry it around in your pocket or in your purse and every time you see it and think you need to find another place to put it down, don’t.  Pray.  Pray for my friend.  Pray for friends you know with illnesses of any sort.  Pray for marriages, pastors, missionaries, the lost, orphans, ministries, divorcees, single moms.  Thank God for your health today, for your relationships.  Thank him for making a way to come to him for mercy, grace, deliverance: salvation.  Thank him for healing and transforming you from the inside out and taking away the tumors in your soul.  Pray for strength for whatever lies ahead in the path marked out for you in your life.

Just pray.

Perhaps this doesn’t have to be an everyday, all the time thing. Pick one day a week and do this: try putting the golf ball in your sock one day,  your bra the next.  Don’t get all weird on me.  The idea is to allow yourself to be inconvenienced, uncomfortable.  Be hit with the reminder that while we might be able to take it out and put it where we want, people with tumors and illness can’t do the same.  We need each other.  We all need prayer.  Let's do it.  I am thinking I will have the children hide a few golf balls throughout the house and make it a game… when I find one: time to pray.  

Will you join me in this challenge?  What’s burdens you?  Maybe a golf ball in our pocket will remind us to be aware of the presence of a Sovereign God who is always there, always good, always caring and who longs to hear our prayers.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Finding Joy When A-Frayed

The tree needs dismantling.  It is time to de-Christmatize the house.  It’s time.  The ornaments come down, delicate ones wrapped in soft tissue, boxed.  Next year sometime after Thanksgiving, tubs will be dragged out once again and all I’ve carefully wrapped and packed away tonight will be unwrapped and it will feel a little like Christmas morning though Advent will have only just begun.

The process of de-decorating requires that everything gets put away with precise order.  But as I pull ribbon switched back and forth like a river ‘round branches from bottom to top, I pause and ponder.  Memories lie limp over open palms.  Red ribbon sent from Scotland for a wedding fourteen years prior.  Regrets.  For reasons unknown it never made an appearance that day.  It was beautiful, but foolishly cut for some other decorative use and re-tied for yet another.  It will never be as beautiful as it was originally.  I can’t put it back together.

I have to sit with this.  I have to sit with the knots and multiplied ends all frayed.  I sit with the consequence of my own doing.  I am undone as I realize all I am unable to undo.  I have kept this ribbon and made myself use it despite the original purpose for which it was purchased.  Despite a severed union and unraveled dreams.  It is beautiful… it was beautiful.  I have to admit that its time is over.  What is going on?  Brow furrows.  Head shakes.  This is JUST a ribbon, yet part of me struggles to part with it.  The tears come.  Its tartan pattern is bright red and gold with a streaks of royal blue, yellow, green, black and white.  Stewart is the name given to this pattern.  Stewart means, “guardian of the house.”  Another mysterious no-show.  How did I not know?  I wrapped up my dream and tried giving it to myself and spent a lot of time on the bow.

There was another marriage.  There was no aisle, ribbon or guests.  Just me and One called a Redeemer.  The New Guardian of my house (and very life) now nudges.  “It’s time.”  Still I wonder… maybe I can get another year out of it by pressing out the wrinkles… should I try...? “No.  No more trying to make it look better.  It’s over.  It is finished.”

Why is it so hard to throw a thing away when you know its time is over?  When you know there is no other possible use for it?  Because it is like throwing away a dream that never was… that never came true.  It’s like throwing away all the effort in trying to MAKE it come true.  Can I really let go of my efforts?  It is hard to trust that everything really WILL be okay if the dream never EVER comes true… How many times have I asked, “ but what if I never find a ribbon to replace it?  This one has worked well enough... hasn’t it?  ...H-hasn’t it?  

The naked, unlit tree stands as a mirror reflecting my vulnerability.

It's over.


It really will be okay if the old dream is never ever fulfilled in this life. “The old is gone the new has come” and that includes new dreams... dreams that are not mine first, but God's for me.  His dreams for us are far better than can be imagined.  We just have to let go of every bit of the old tattered ones.  The new can’t come if the old keeps getting carried forward.  Next year, I will unpack something new or nothing and it will be alright.  It really will.

J-O-Y.  These three ornaments hang on low limbs, dipping near a quilted nativity tree skirt.  An invitation. I don’t. want. to miss it this time.  No more regrets.  Love came down to rescue me.  Christmas is packed up, but this is a truth which never need be.  All our dreams come true - my dreams - begin with love and humility.

Psalm 37:1-11
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.b
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Philippians 2:8
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Isaiah 55:12
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.