I Used the Right Tool the Wrong Way. Again.


Let’s be honest.  If I wanted to hide, I wouldn’t stick a hundred hedge clippers in the ground and crouch behind them, I’d find a cave or a big rock and hunker down.  If I wanted to protect my skull from fracture, I wouldn’t duct tape a bunch of putty knives to my scalp, I’d get a helmet.

Just like it makes no sense to use hedge clippers as a wall or putty knives as a hat, it makes no sense to reduce my prayers to a defensive tactic – a flurry of words to ward off doom – when they  are intended to be a powerful connection with an Almighty God.

Sadly, I do this regularly.

Here’s an example:  My daughter was having surgery one day last week and I asked everyone I could think of to pray for her.  Neither her life nor her long term health was in danger, but you wouldn’t have known it by the way I was storming the gates of Heaven with my petitions.  I was cowering before God, asking Him to protect her, calm her, make her recovery swift and complete.  And I guess I was hoping that if enough people joined in and echoed my concerns, the numbers might impress Him and He might decide to act. Have you ever done that?

After the surgery, she was in pain for days and the only time I felt I could relax and not worry about her was NOT when I was praying – which would have been the good Christian approach – but when the doctor was with her and reassuring me she was healing just fine.  I had faith that she was safe in the hands of the doctor but apparently I didn’t rest in the knowledge that she was even safer in the arms of the Great Physician.

I pray and pray about things, fearing that if I stop, things will get worse.  It’s as if deep down, I don’t think I’m really going to get a positive answer from God; I’m just trying to hold disaster at bay.  Do I think my volley of words-words-words can do that?

I frantically keep it up, repeating the same requests over and over.  If I were of another faith tradition, I might be lighting candles, chanting mantras, or flailing myself with a stick.   And I would be no more successful in personally controlling the outcome than if I said or did nothing.

My lack of faith astounds me.  And even worse is the way my actions insult God by implying He isn’t good; that He can’t be trusted.

We use the term “prayer warrior”, because our prayers are an offensive weapon – against evil, apathy, and pain.  Our prayers can DO something, not just KEEP something from happening.

I want to be humble in my prayers, accepting that the outcome of all I pray for is ultimately in God’s hands and that He is good.  But I don’t want to be shrinking and sobbing, fearing the worst.  I devalue my own prayers when I do that; I want to be confident that God is trustworthy.

I don’t think I’m alone in this dilemma, am I?

Every Friday I have a standing phone “date” with my Dad, always my go-to spiritual resource and mentor.  I asked him what he thought about this . . . this apparent lack of faith, this weakness of mine.  You know what he told me?

“Honey, the Devil can’t take away your eternal salvation- that is assured – but he can mess with your witness and make you miserable.  He can make you doubt and worry and take your focus off God.  That’s when you run into problems like this.  Just keep your eyes on God.  He’s always glad to hear from you, even when you’re wringing your hands.  I’m sure He just wishes you wouldn’t worry about things He already has under control.”

That’s the key.  Stop letting the Enemy get me in a ditch with his foot on my neck.  Keep my focus on God, not on myself or my need to control things.  Remember that my prayers are a strong connection to the One who has already won the battle and longs to comfort me, not a desperate deflecting tactic from a position of weakness.  I have no reason to be fatalistic when I have all of Heaven on my side.

Can you relate to this?  Feel free to weigh in with your comments below.       

The Critical Importance of Sunsets, Easter Bonnets, and Pie


Have you thought about how you came to have (or not have) faith?  Where and how your traditions and the things you believe about God were formed?  What formed the basis for your personal beliefs as an adult?

Many of my friends come from faith backgrounds very different from mine and I am always fascinated to hear how they came to embrace the beliefs they now have.  Sadly, some have specifically rejected the idea of “religion” altogether and have gone their own way.  Theirs are interesting, if wrenching, stories, too.

For me faith took root in my family, specifically the Christian upbringing I was afforded by my parents.  Generations before me believed in God and in the divinity and sacrifice of Jesus to redeem humanity from sin.  Those beliefs were incorporated into our daily routine and the rhythm of life in general.

We prayed before meals.  It seemed we went to church every time the doors were opened (my Dad was – and still is – a pastor, at the age of 89).  Everyone in our family had their own Bible (the King James Version, naturally!)  We studied and memorized Scripture passages, many of which come to mind now when I need them most.

Our family’s social life revolved around the church.  Fellowships, potluck dinners (we called them “dinner on the grounds” – a very confusing concept to me as a child), Wednesday night “suppers”.  We were Baptists, so we enjoyed pie and coffee at church members’ homes, never a cocktail or a game of cards.

Of course, we always got new clothes to wear on Easter – maybe even a “bonnet” – usually from the Sears catalog!

We acknowledged God in the beauty of creation.  Growing up in Key West meant we were constantly reminded of His presence all around us.  I specifically remember my mother looking at a breathtaking sunset one evening as we sat on lawn chairs in the front yard after dinner, and saying, “How can anyone say there is no God?”  I was about 8 at the time but to this day, when I look at a sunset I remember the awe and sincerity in her voice and I am grateful to the One responsible.

When we visited relatives in North Florida and South Carolina, we practiced the same traditions and shared an understanding and acceptance of the same truths.  Faith in God, faith in Christ, these were indisputable and foundational.

When my mother succumbed to cancer in 1997, the assurance of her eternal destiny and the certainty that I would be reunited with her in Heaven were what got me through – and continue to comfort me now.

Faith.  I personally don’t believe it can be inherited from your parents nor can you “vaccinate” your own children with it.  But it certainly can be modeled – with consistency and depth.  How fortunate and thankful I am for my parents, for those who came before them, and for our church community, all of whom brought their faith to me in tangible and memorable ways and helped me make it my own.

Did your family traditions help you form your personal faith?  What values were modeled to you through the rhythms and routines of your young life?  What are some of your most significant memories?