Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Word: Praying with Persistent Enthusiasm

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

As this year wraps up I’ve been looking back at the wonderful prayers God has answered.  There have been many!  Things which I couldn’t see a way out of which now I can hardly remember. 

I’ve also reflected on the prayers I am still praying, the ones I’ve been praying all year.  Many of these are prayers for my friends; my family.  Each day I keep praying them, each day wishing I could stop.

I’ve had different emotions to go with these enduring prayers as the year has rolled on.  In summer I was enthusiast, in autumn persistent.  Winter brought boredom, a regret that I ever started.  ‘What if I’m praying for this forever?’ I think.  Or ‘I can’t think of one more original way to ask the same thing, again.’ But it is spring and I’ve found myself reading John 17 – Jesus’ great prayer for his disciples. 

I’ve always taken the prayer to be for all of us – all Christians – but it is also a very personal prayer for the fate of his friends, his best buddies.  Look at verses 12 and 13 for example –

“During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.”
- John 17 v 12-13

Jesus, about to die, thinks of his friends and wants them to be safe, to know the truth and to be the best they can be.  He wants them to have joy. 

I need to learn from this!  I want to have Jesus’ passion when I pray for those I love.  I think summer is around the corner – and so is a return to enthusiastic prayer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick Word: Bringing Ordinary Glory

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

When you think about people who bring God glory, who do you think of?  Mother Teresa, glorifying God on her knees with the poor and dying?  Billy Graham, glorifying God in a voice loud and clear and proclaiming?  Maybe you think of Michael Jones, glorifying God in church on Sunday as his teammates took to the field instead. All of these people are good examples, but do you ever think of yourself?  Your neighbour in the pew on Sunday?  Your husband and friends? 

Sometimes I think that it’s the job of the extraordinary people to bring glory to God – the ones who already have the world’s attention, the positions of influence, the role of missionary or preacher.  But I started thinking about it the other day and realised that if there are 2 billion Christians in the world there are probably only a thousand at a time who have extraordinary positions of influence.  Maybe another million serve him in full time ministry, but what of the rest of us; what of me?  We live ordinary lives – with our families and friends, in ordinary suburbs in our ordinary countries.  Do we have to do something amazing to be able to turn to God and say ‘that’s for your glory God!’?

In John chapter 17 Jesus says “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17 v 4).  The work you gave me to do.  Of course, Jesus was the most extraordinary man of us all, but he didn’t bring God glory by being extraordinary as such.  He brought God glory by being exactly who he was, where he was. The work he gave him to do.

I live a pretty ordinary life, maybe you do too, but it counts.  We bring glory to God by completing the work he gives us each day – raising our children well, loving faithfulness to our partners, caring and compassion towards our friends, honesty in our workplaces, praising worship to God.  He doesn’t want or even need me to be a Mother Teresa, a Billy Graham or a Michael Jones.  He wants me to do my work.  Maybe one day that will be something out of the ordinary, but what I do today counts just as much.  What I do today can bring glory to God.  And so can what you do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick Word: Patience

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

When I was in school I took part in an impromptu speech competition.  What happens is that you get a speech topic and five minutes or so to write a speech on that topic.  It’s high pressure stuff!  I was doing well in our regional competition when I was given the envelope with my new topic in it – ‘patience’.  I remember just staring at it thinking ‘it can’t be ‘patience’, that’s too simple, what is this word?!’  I even had to ask for a dictionary to look it up before I would allow myself to be convinced it was, indeed, the word ‘patience’.

As I’ve grown up I’ve realise that patience is actually not simple at all.  You see, I can patiently wait for Christmas to roll around, patiently wait in line at the supermarket and patiently wait for the slow, old lady to cross the road in front of me.  But I’ve come to think that patience is not just about waiting for things to happen, it’s also about waiting before making things happen – and that is hard for me!

When I get an email that makes me angry I want to thump out a reply on the keyboard then and there; instead I need to be patient, reflect on the best way to respond.  When I feel upset I want to speak out my feelings then and there; instead I often need to be patient, allow myself time to fully understand what I am feeling and why.  When I think I have a great idea I want to act on it in an instant; instead I need to patiently look at the different ways my actions could be interpreted, who my ideas affect.

I remember in my impromptu speech pulling out the line ‘patience is a virtue.’  And it is.  Paul talks in Corinthians about how we prove ourselves faithful to God through our patience (2 Corinthians 6:6).  And in Galatians he lists it as a fruit in our lives of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us (Galatians 5:22).   I don’t know about you but I don’t feel patience is something people value much.  But God seems to value it – being patient seems to reflect him in some way.  So I’m going to value it a bit more too – or at least I’m going to patiently learn to!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quick Word: Real People

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

During the Rugby World Cup I was a bit horrified at the way Quade Cooper, from the Wallabies, was treated.  Quade grew up in Tokoroa, my husband's hometown (the two of them went to the same high school) so I guess the way he was treated by kiwis - booed at every turn, vilified, abused - got a bit personal for me.  But not as personal as it got for his mother.

Talking about it to the Brisbane Sunday Mail, Quade’s mother explained what happened when she went to one of the World Cup games.  She said,

"I was sitting there listening to people all around me saying horrible, awful things about my son. I was really, really upset. I was thinking 'Is this what he has been going through for five weeks?'. I was really hurt that my own people were doing that to him. It was unbelievable how deep the abuse went. And when you are a mum, you want to take all that hurt away.”

I wonder if, while the young couple booed Quade when he got the ball, they thought of their own son, home asleep?  I wonder if, while the middle aged man threw beer bottles in Quade’s direction, he thought of his daughter just about the finish high school?  I wonder if while the crowd said horrible, awful things, they thought about what Quade’s mother might feel as she sat amongst them?  I doubt it.  But all this made my mind go to another mother who watched her son abused.  Who watched her son killed.

In the gospel of John we read;

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them… Standing near the cross [was] Jesus’ mother…”

- John 19, beginning of verses 23 and 25

I wonder if when the soldiers debated what to do with his robe they thought of the clothes that swaddled their own young babies?  I wonder if while people shouted at Jesus to save himself they thought of the feelings of his mother, standing by?  I doubt it.  But I can’t judge them, because sometimes the story of Jesus can become so familiar I lose its heart, its reality.  I forget that people like me walked with him and loved him and thought they lost him to the booing crowd.  I forget that God sent his son to become human, like me.  To a woman who was a mother, as I am a mother.  But, when I forget, something happens to remind me that the story of Jesus is full of real people, just as the game of rugby is played by real men; all someone’s son. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quick Word: Tell Me How, God

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

As I tried to sit down to pray today my daughter began howling in the background, letting me know she wasn’t interested in having a sleep.  The bread machine also started up – loud beeps reminding me I have things to do, do, do.  In that moment I was overwhelming with the sudden knowledge that I have to share God so much of the time now – there are no empty hours.  Even at church I have one eye on Elliot as she empties out my bag and another on the worship lyrics, their emotional call to give myself singularly to God go ignored.

After this realisation I had a choice – I could resent the demands on my time and attention, but how could I feel resentment?  I love my daughter, I’m very aware that she is not mine by right but a gift from God.  And though more full, I love the life I now led, being her mother, her carer 24 hours a day. 

But I didn’t have to feel resentment. I realised I could feel peace and joy - I’m in a busy season of life, but I’m grateful for it, even if aware of some of the costs.  The changes remind me of what I have gained.

Of course I can choose to love the season I’m in, but I still have the problem of trying to find a quiet moment, something I’m sure many parents can relate too!  So I’m praying that God will help me find new ways and times that I can set my heart on him alone in this season of motherhood.  David in the Bible had seasons of war and seasons of peace; times when he was a confidant of kings and times when they wanted to kill him.  Yet in the beautiful Psalm 27 we find him saying;

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27 v 8).

It might have to be in a different way than before but each day God invites me to come and talk with him.  And I’m going to reply, Lord, I am coming.  You show me how.  Each day he says to you, ‘come and talk with me.’  How are you going to respond today?