Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Provision for the Vision (Something to Say)

The other day while praying, I had a small revelation.  It wasn't a huge revelation, like when I learned puce is not a shade of yucky green, but it's still something that helped me see things a little more clearly.

I write my prayers usually, mainly because I communicate better in writing, and also because it helps me stay focused. I'm also a very visual, word-centered person.

And I wrote in my prayer something along the lines of, "...Lord, give me vision and provision...."

I had to stop there for a second and geek out, and I think God completely understands when we geek out in the middle of prayer, especially when it's because He's shown us something.

Another thing you should know about me: I am fascinated by root words. I like to see how little bits of prefixes and suffixes are added to roots to make new words with new meanings. Sometimes, when I break a word apart, I realize on its basic level, that it means something slightly different than what I thought, or it has a slightly different connotation.

In the case of my prayer, I came across two words with the same root word that I never truly connected before: vision and provision. And I geeked out.

Now "vision" is a relatively easy word in regards to the root word, which is "vis."  It means simply "to see." A vision can be something one sees: "Ruth is a vision of loveliness." It can be a dream or heightened state when something supernatural is revealed: "I had a vision that you were going to die tomorrow if you didn't read all of Ruth's blogs." It can be the state of seeing: "Ruth has dreadful vision, but she sure does look cute in glasses." In the case of my prayer, however, "vision" meant "a goal or dream to aspire to acheive."

Sometimes it's scary to ask for vision. It's scary to say, "God, I've got a big imagination, but it's not big enough. Can You lend me Yours? Can You show me how You want me to come alongside You in what You're doing?"

It's scary because if we open ourselves up to God's possibilities, it can change our whole world and our outlook on that world. It can mean that we start caring about things we never gave much thought to before. And caring leads to vulnerability. And that is scary.

I did ask for vision; I do ask for vision. But that's not all I asked for. I also asked for provision, a word that I just realized has the word "vision" right there in it. 

Pro-vis-ion. Provision just doesn't mean that everything that is needed will be given, it means that everything that is needed is already seen (by the Provider) before it is needed.

And that means that if the Provider gives a vision, He already knows what is needed in order to attain the vision. That includes physical needs as well as Spiritual. He's not giving us anything blindly. He knows exactly what we need and will provide it.

And that's so good to know.  It's so encouraging. I'm preparing to go out in faith on a mission trip in August to a strange land. I'm not even entirely sure what I'll be doing, who I'll be talking to, how they'll receive me. But I believe I was called to go on this trip, I believe God had seen and made provisions for me to go on this trip long before I ever knew I was going.

The other day while going down a flight of stairs, I missed a step, fell head first, and landed on my face. I walked away with a bruised eye, a bruised shoulder, a slightly bruised ego, and the knowledge that I got off easy from that one.

Because the entire time I was falling, which was probably only about three seconds, but seemed like one of those eternal turning point moments where everything slows down and etches itself in the long term memory forever, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to break my neck and die right there. I remember after I fell, I exclaimed to the witnesses "I'm okay! I'm okay! I'm okay! I just hurt my face!" It really wasn't for their sake as much as it was for mine, because I was really quite surprised that I was still alive.

Matthew West, one if my favorite singer/songwriters, wrote a great song after a period of time where he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to sing again. He'd had surgery on his vocal chords and had to trust that God would provide for his and his family's needs, that God would provide a different vision if he could no longer sing.

The song is called, "Something to Say." I had been listening to it all week, all day, right before the church meeting where my pastor announced the mission trip I'm taking.  And he said, "I want a lot of you ladies to sign up for this trip, because I believe you have something to say."

And I believe that, too. I believe it because God's provided me a vision, and He's going to provide in the midst of it.

The chorus in that Matthew West song goes, "You've got something to say. If you're living and you're breathing, you've got something to say. You know if your heart is beating, you've got something to say. And no one can say it like you do. God is love and love speaks through. You've got it. You've got it. You've got something to say."

I've got a black eye, but I'm breathing. I'm a klutz, but my heart is beating. I've got anxiety and insecurity and fear and the knowledge of my own many weaknesses....

But I've got something to say.

The One who gave me the vision has provided, is providing, and will provide.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Intercession as Leadership

This morning, I began my prayer thanking God for the ease of which I can come into His presence. And then immediately thanked God for the incredibly difficult things He has done to enable me to easily come into His presence. Because I'm usually praying in my pajamas or in tshirt and tattered jeans, and I'm entering a throne room, going into the Most Holy Place before the Most Holy King. Yet, there's no ritual, no big production, no methodic cleansing. It's just me, in the presence of God.

And intercession is a really interesting thing in light of that. It takes a certain degree of boldness to ask God for anything. It also takes trust-trust that He who had enabled us to come to Him will hear us.

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is from THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW. The newly winged, newly named flying horse, Fledge, addresses the children traveling with him, who are curious as to why Aslan didn't think to provide for their meals on their journey:

"I'm sure Aslan would have, if you'd asked him," said Fledge.
"Wouldn't he know without being asked?" said Polly.
"I have no doubt that he would....  But I've a sort of idea that he likes being asked."

Asking for things in prayer is a sign of trust, of obedience. But when it comes to praying for others, I think that sometimes trust is taken to another level, specifically when praying for those who are without Christ or who have strayed from Him.

There are many examples of leadership in Scripture-good and bad examples. There are judges who do really bizarre and mighty things. There are kings who worship false gods, as well as those who try to tear down the idols.  There are shepherds who become rulers and sinners who become apostles.

Sometimes it's easy to see leadership. It's some mighty act of prowess or some major proclamation or accomplishment. But lately I've been seeing that leadership can be something very simple. It takes a lot of humility and boldness, yet most of the hard work has already been finished.

When Sodom was about to be destroyed, Abraham did something very bold, even dangerous. He stood between God and the city, asking that if only fifty men, only forty-five men, only thirty men, only twenty men, only ten men be found who were righteous, that God might spare the city. And while Sodom was destroyed because not even ten righteous men could be found, it's amazing to see how God listened to the prayers of Abraham.

After Israel had made the golden calf while Moses was on Sinai, God revealed to Moses that He planned to kill the Israelites. But Moses stood between God and the people, pleading on their behalf. And God relented.

Very shortly afterwards, Moses prayed for God to be with Israel, with him as he led this stubborn people. He wanted to see God's glory, for He couldn't lead the people alone. And God let Moses see His back, not His face, to see where He had been. He had been with them and would continue to be.

I think of the friends of the paralyzed man who tried to vary him to see Jesus.  When they couldn't get through the crowds, they cut a hole in some stranger's roof and lowered him down on a mat. That might not be traditional prayer, but symbolically, they were carrying their needy friend to Jesus. And Jesus didn't just heal him; he first forgave his sins.

And I've been very convicted lately about the need to pray for others, especially for those who don't even know they need prayer, or who don't know they need the One who has made prayer possible.

I have friends who are so lost they probably would laugh at me if they knew I was praying for them. It seems hopeless. It's very discouraging sometimes.

But I think we're called to be bold, to be leaders, to stand between God and those for whom we are praying, pleading on their behalf.

It doesn't always mean they will come to Jesus. And prayer doesn't excuse us from speaking truth in love. But prayer is the first line of defense against satan, not the last, as we sometimes foolishly believe. 

James wrote that the prayers of the righteous avail much. They are effective. And with all that God has done to enable us to come to Him, we should certainly come.

It's not easy, pleading for others, but the hardest work has already been accomplished.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


There were two great environmental perils when I was a kid. The first was sunshine. The second was mosquitoes.

The mosquitoes have always seemed to like my blood--more than they like the blood of other people. I think they know I'm more sensitive to their venom, too. It makes me swell up and itch like crazy--so much so that it never mattered if I tried to keep myself from scratching. I'd scratch in my sleep, and the result was that my feet and legs were so scabbed up that other kids asked me if I had leprosy. Since I generally ran around barefoot all summer during my Kentucky childhood, my legs and feet were just a mess from about May-December. Why so long? Because it took that long for the scabs to completely heal. Santa usually brought me new skin just in time for Christmas.

And then, the sun. Oh, the sun. Spf 100 is a blessing, but back in the dark ages of my childhood, there was only spf 15, maybe 30 if you could find it. And the summer I was seven, I neglected to reapply sunscreen every 30 minutes (yes, I really do have to do that when I'm swimming), and I got a third degree sunburn all over my back and shoulders. I was really sick, and the skin was so badly damaged. It took all summer, on into the fall, to heal.

The thing is, while I'm almost certain to have skin cancer one day, there is no visible evidence of that horrible burn on my back. And when I look at my feet and legs, there are no mosquito scab scars.

My mom once commented that it's good that it takes me a while to heal. It means there is less scarring.

And I can only think of three scars that I have on my whole body. One where the late, great Tuxedo the cat got into one if her schizo moods and badly scratched my arm two days before my sister's wedding (when I was wearing a sleeveless dress, of course--I was so mad at that cat). Then I have my blood donation scar on the inside of my right elbow. And...well, hmm. I did have a random scar on my left foot, which was the result of a phantom injury. One day I just looked down, and my toe was bleeding. No pain. It left a scar, but I just now checked, and that scar has vanished, too. I never even noticed it was gone until now.

Because apparently, I'm just not one to scar easily.

The downside to that is that it takes me awhile to heal.

And I'm not sure that's how the rest of the world works.

One summer, when I was grown, but still very young, a friend got a bunch of us girls together, and she asked us about our scars. She was going to make an application, comparing our physical scars to our spiritual lives. I remember the others all having many scars to talk about. I just had three. The three I mentioned-which goes to show you that I haven't acquired any new scars in over a decade, and one of those previous scars has even healed. That one took a particularly long time-because I guess some take longer than others to heal.

I'm being weird and philosophical, as usual, but it's not just the physical lack of scars and unusually long healing time that defines me. And maybe I often struggle with being far too introspective in a world that desperately needs people to reach out instead of look within. But I guess I am not the sort who can reach out without first looking within.

But the world is scarred. The world doesn't want healing. The world hides behind the protection of scar tissue, tissue that formed because is easier to put up a harsh exterior than to be vulnerable for the length of time it takes to heal. It's easier to say, "I'm fine. I've taken care of the pain with my new scarred skin" than to say, "I can't heal myself. I need help. I need to be made new."

And I'm not saying I'm better than anyone because it's my natural tendency to take a long time to heal, to naturally just not scar. Sometimes I struggle with bitterness and anger and want to put up a bold false front.  But something, Someone, prevents me from keeping charades up for too long. It's not that I can't lie-I'm a sinner and a coward like every other liar. Sometimes, very often actually, my cuts and scabs are of my own design. a continual facade? That is impossible for me. I don't scar. I take a long time to heal. And I show my ugly scabs in those long times of healing, until I'm given new, whole skin. Until I'm made new.

And sometimes that makes people pretty uncomfortable. Because no one likes to see another person's ugly scabs, either. So we look at scars and treat them like battle wounds, something to be praised. Sometimes they are. But sometimes we build monuments to ourselves, treating scars like personal victories, stubbornly clinging to what we have accomplished in our own meager strength, instead of holding out for the new skin, the healing we can't provide for ourselves.

I'm not trying to be insensitive. My own wounds have been so minor compared to some others. And sometimes scars are so very necessary. They protect a person's heart, sometimes the hearts of others involved, too. I'm not condemning anyone, because there are so many different circumstances involved in different situations of pain and hurt.

But the things that make up scars, the pride, the jealousy, the anger, the fear...these things can't be healed overnight.

Like that phantom scar on my foot, that appeared one day about two decades ago, and somehow faded over time, even old scars can heal. And maybe they might fade away without one even realizing it, as one clings to truth, renews the mind, seeks the face of the Healer. Maybe one day one will wake up and find the scar gone, healed, new skin in it's place.

And that is a wondrous thing.

It's something worth waiting for.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fiction Friday: The OTHER Trouble With Editing

Right now I'm in the process of editing one of my own novels.  It's a tedious process, but one that I hope will have rich rewards.  I could go on and on about that particular topic, since (after a couple of years of leaving it alone) I'm falling in love with my book all over again.  I think it's about ready, but...that's not really what this post is about. 

Editing is hard.  Hard, yo.  You've got to take everything you've written, read over it a bazgillion times, just to make sure you have worded everything as well as possible, that you have explained everything as well and concisely as possible, that you have made your characters as believable as possible.  Sometimes you have to make changes you don't want to make, but it's all in the effort to make the story, characters, words as good as possible.  So yes, that's the trouble with editing.

The OTHER trouble with editing is something I really wasn't expecting.  Say, after spending some time editing my book, I want to go read a book that didn't come out of my own head.  So I read another book, just wanting to enjoy some effort-free fun for a bit.

Only, suddenly the editor in me doesn't want to die!  I find myself trying to just enjoy a stupid novel, when all of the sudden I see something that catches my attention.  In a lot of books these days, there ARE OBVIOUS ERRORS, which drives me crazy.  So the editor in me just wants to punch both the author and publisher in the face, out of tough love, of course.

And you know, I was doing stuff like that way before I was writing my own books.  My mama is an English teacher.  I always loved English.  I liked it when we diagrammed sentences.  In college (and sometimes now) I'll diagram sentences for fun.  That's what kind of sick person I am, okay. 

So I don't really think that the obvious editing errors I catch are a symptom of being an unpublished novelist.  Those are just symptoms that I'm not right in the head and can't turn off the inner Grammar Nazi.

But sometimes when I'm reading a book, I find myself second-guessing the way something is worded, the way a word is overused, the way a character seems to do something slightly out of character.  And suddenly I'm seizing up the book and trying to tap the words on the page with my finger cursor, so that I can correct something that is simply not mine to correct.

I have a problem. 

I wonder how professional editors handle this sort of thing.  I mean, editors of actual novels that work for actual publishing companies probably don't have this problem, because when do editors of actual novels that work for actual publishing companies ever have TIME to read anything that they're not actively editing?

But other type editors and other Englishy writer-type folks...

Do you have this problem?  Let me know I'm not alone!!!! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Feel the Need, the Need to Intercede

Ok. Aside from the corny title, thus might actually be a serious post. I'm one if those people who loves humor so much, that some people don't even know I have a serious side. I do. I seriously have a serious side.  Seriously.  And sometimes that means I take myself too seriously, which is almost always sinful. Sometimes, it means I take life and the matters of life seriously, which is often a good thing. But life and the matters of life (resisting the urge to insert a "Hitchhiker's" 42 reference here...oops, too late?) can be taken too seriously, as well. Because while life and the matters of life are very important, I think it's a constant temptation to worry too much about them.

Last Friday, I went to work. It's about a 25 minute commute. I remember the perfect late spring breeze through my open car windows, the morning-blue sky, perfectly pockmarked with white-gold clouds. And I just sang along with the radio and thanked God for all I had: An apartment to live in, jobs to drive to, a car that was running really well. Everything was pretty great.

Then, on the way home from work, my transmission decided to go the way of its fathers. It shuffled off this mortal ignition coil. If it hadn't been bolted to my car, it would be pushing up daisies!

It was an ex-transmission.

Well, okay. It lived (barely) long enough to get me home. And to work (only a ten minute drive, this time) and back Saturday. And to the mechanic who will put it out of its misery, replacing it with a new transmission...which will only cost me my first-born child. And I don't have a first-born child. So the mechanic had to settle on me maxing out my credit card.

I hate being in debt...and grown up decisions. But at least the grown up decision has been made, and hopefully the expense won't be greater than what he estimated, because I don't even have credit to cover anything more. ...and it's sad how thankful I am that the bank voluntarily raised my credit limit just a month or two ago...

This is not a sob story.  It's just the reality of the situation. I was barely making ends meet, then Boom! goes the dynamite, and now I'm living on a prayer (my apologies to Mr. Jovi...and to awkward substitute sports announcer meme guy).

But in the middle of all the decision-making, on Saturday morning, when the cold reality of my dead transmission hadn't even fully dawned on me, I had my usual morning prayer time.  Only it wasn't a usual prayer time at all.  And I wonder how I ever started thinking of meeting with the holy Maker of the universe as a "usual" thing. Because a sinful, created being going into the presence of a holy, Creator King, that's actually really unusual. It is every time we pray, and yet He calls us to it.

But I prayed that morning, praying for my situation, yes, but I just felt led to pray for others. God kept laying people on my heart-friends who were having worse financial situations than mine, multiple families I knew with dads who were being deployed overseas, people who felt lost and who were trying to be found, people who had struggles of so many kinds. And suddenly my life still looked pretty good. Not perfect, but so, so good.

Because God was doing so much as I was interceding for others. He was speaking to me, meeting with me. Because as I prayed for others, He called to mind various things about myself.

Like when I thanked Him for providing health insurance for a family who really needed it, He heard the spilt-second complaint of my heart, one that was so fleeting I almost missed it. He made me go back and briefly deal with Him about the discontent in my heart over the fact that I've been without health insurance for eight years (Seriously...a very small part of the reason I give blood fairly regularly is because they test it and are supposed to inform you if they have any concerns abut the results). I should be grateful I'm healthy, because so many people I know aren't healthy.

And God has shown me that all I'm going through right now is actually an answer to a prayer I prayed abut a month our so ago. I asked God to help me stop complaining so much. I was praying for the wrong thing. I wanted to be rid of something, but He wanted to add something. That's usually how He works. Because I was limited in thinking I just wanted to be less whiny. He wanted to make me more grateful.

I've written a lot on prayer and gratitude. I'm not an expert on any of it, but I'm learning that gratitude is essential in prayer. When I was a kid, they taught us in church that prayer should have a set format and structure. We praise God first, then confess our sin, then bring Him our needs, then intercede. And that is helpful, and there is flexibility in that format, and I've used it to structure my prayers....

But, (sorry non-whovians for yet another Doctor Who reference) I've assumed that prayer has to have strict, separate elements of praise, confession, requests, and intercession, when actually, from a non-legalistic, free-(indeed)-spirited perspective, it's just a big ball of gratefully-waitfully, prayery-warey...stuff.

Because lately my prayers have been so jumbled (much like this blog post is turning out to be). I do start out thanking God for even working it out that I can come to Him...but from there, the Spirit has just been guiding me through intercession, praying for myself, for others, with gratitude, with supplication, with confession.  All at the same time.

And I'm learning that the matters of life are so secondary, or even tertiary. Because it's good for me to ask for my daily bread (or in my case, daily produce, because I'm really eating fruits and veggies like a champ these days). I believe God wants us to ask Him, even if He already knows we need them.  He likes to be asked. 

So it's good to ask. But it's better to ask God for our daily bread, knowing He's not going to give us a stone instead. And it's even better to get really down deep and pray that God will provide bread for others, knowing He won't give then stones, instead.

And that takes faith, praying for others. Because sometimes I catch myself praying wrongly for myself. I pray that God will give me this or that if it's His will. Instead, I should be praying to be like Him, and not even worry, not even second-guess that He will provide the blessings that He desires to give me.  These blessings will, yes, provide for my needs (needs that might vary, given the situation-God provides what we need to accomplish what He has for us), but will also allow me to bless others and glorify Him. I should be seeking His Kingdom and its righteousness, trusting that "all these things" will be added.

For some reason, it never really hit me that prayer for others should be similar. I catch myself praying my will onto people. "Father, help Bob stop doing this or that. Give him grace to do this or that. He needs this or that." It sounds good, but it's a prayer from my perspective, not God's.

And when I realized how much I was praying my will, not God's will, onto people, I realized how shallow my intercession was.  And honestly, having been the victim of having someone else's will prayed onto me, I know that sometimes that prayer is entirely unwanted and unhelpful.  Because people are limited and often have no idea what others are really going through, nor do they know how to help, how that help will come, etc.  But God sees everything, knows every person, knows how to make all things work together for our good.  So intercession can't be mere shallow requests, based on our will for other people.  We can make some decent judgments on what might help others, and we can ask what others need.  But true intercession means we have to pray for God's will first.

And that change in perspective has made intercession into so much more than what it was before. Because before I understood that intercession was a very real way if bearing burdens. God invited us to plead on behalf of others, essentially coming alongside God in the work He's doing, and in that truly being a part of another person's struggle.

But the shift in perspective has deepened that. Because when I prayed my will onto someone, even though my intentions were true and God heard and worked in and through the prayer, there was always the feeling that I was outside looking in on another person's struggle, trying to fix it in my own feeble understanding.

Because instead of humbling myself, I was saying, "this person needs something fixed, and fix it this way, God." But the change in perspective allowed me to say, "This person is struggling. I'm struggling, too. And I don't know how to fix either of us, so help us seek You first and trust and obey. Help us encourage one another. Work how you're going to work, and lead me to pray how you would have me to pray."

And lately, prayer has just been so blessedly beautiful.

I plan on blogging a bit more about intercession I'm the next week or so. It's not really something people think a lot about, but I think it's a gift. Intercession is just such a gift. It's a gift to others, but also a gift from God to even have the ability. For He's constantly at work.  And prayer, all kinds of gratefully-waitfully prayer, is His call to come along beside Him in that work.

We are blessed.