{re}fresh

Month: February, 2014

When Things Get Weird, God Gets Weirder

by Mike McKinniss

basketballprayer

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:17-18

A senior on my college campus invited me to a men’s prayer gathering. “Cool,” I replied.  “I’ll check it out.” But, I confess, I was a little leery.

Prayer is a powerful and essential aspect to our faith.  Uttered by the right kind of people, prayer causes droughts and ends them (James 5:17-18).  Prayer changes things in remarkable ways.  But prayer is also mysterious.  Like most mysteries, it can attract some weird people, and I am weird averse.

So I was a bit nervous about this prayer meeting, but I showed up anyway.  The place was packed with men, thereby dramatically escalating the potential for weird.  With some trepidation, I wedged myself between two other guys at the kitchen table and wondered where this whole thing might go.

I was relieved things were wholly normal.  So normal, in fact, that all these years later, I can hardly recall a single thing that day. Except for this:  Steve.

Steve was a member of the basketball team, a quiet guy. I knew who Steve was, but we weren’t close friends. Since it takes an act of God for me to introduce myself to someone new, I think we were on facial-recognition terms only, maybe even nod-in-your-direction-when-we-pass terms. Anyway,  Steve had blown out his knee playing summer basketball.  He was supposed to be our schools starting center, but now it appeared all hope of playing that year had been burst, like a ligament stretched too far.  For those who have suffered such injuries, there comes the question of ever playing again.

As the prayer meeting progressed, the guys prayed for Steve’s knee; his comfort and solace under the circumstances.  Let not the let down get him so down, Lord.  And so on.

I was uncomfortable because I imagined that this prayer gathering might get weird.  It wasn’t weird. It was normal, but my discomfort was growing in inverse proportion.  I was about to get weird.

Before I knew it, I began asking God for something I thought would have been impossible at the time.  I didn’t ask for Steve’s immediate healing because that would have been too much for me…then.  Instead, I declared that Steve would find himself playing that season, that his recovery would be so speedy that all would know that the Lord had done it.

Having thus spoken, I shrunk back against the cinder block wall and kept my mouth shut.  Who was the weirdo who prayed such an outlandish thing? Me!

By spring, I’d long forgotten that prayer meeting as classes and homework and papers and exams took over my life.  I don’t recall if any men kept meeting for prayer, as the organizer had hoped because I never returned. But one evening in March, I sat in our gymnasium’s bleachers, textbook and highlighter in hand, half an eye on a late season snooze of a basketball game (our school’s sport was soccer; basketball games were a decent place to get some homework done).  A friend seated next to me nudged me with his elbow.

“Hey, check it out! Remember when you prayed for Steve to get playing time this year, in spite of his knee?”

Steve was checking into a game for the first time all season.

“I did?”  I had seriously forgotten.  “Oh yeah.  I guess I did.”

Slowly it began to dawn on me in this near empty gymnasium: Weird is nothing to fear when it’s focused on something good.  In fact, it’s favorable.  You never know, God may just be into the same kind of weirdness you are.

To learn more about Mike, please visit our Contributors Page.

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God is Love

by Rob Dunne

Man-Journaling

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

The rigorous three mile hike cleared my mind. As the trail leveled out, I looked for the familiar marking I etched on the birch tree designating where to depart from the foot path. Climbing down to the small outcropping, I settled on to my “rock seat.” Still cool water slaked my thirst as I wiped sweat from my brow.

Lifting my gaze skyward, air foils carried birds of prey in wide circles. I reached inside my backpack and fumbled for my journal and pen.  The page filled while my mind emptied itself of life’s distractions. Slowly, Father God ministered to my heart while I dare asked, “How am I doing, Daddy? Am I living a life pleasing to you?”  That still small voice answered, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

It is comforting to know that God chooses to speak to us in a still small voice. Like Elijah, He could have chosen to pass by and have a great and strong wind tear into the mountain and break the rocks in pieces. Or, he could have chosen to speak through fire. Had these been His mode of communication, I would have either tumbled a hundred feet to the ground below or found myself trying to out run the raging forest fire. I was relieved He chose the still small voice and not the wind or fire.

My main love language is encouraging words. Years ago, I was taught to personalize the Word of God by substituting the pronoun for my name. For instance, in the story of the prodigal son, I changed the wording as follows: “Rob, when you were still a great way off, I, your heavenly father,  saw you and had compassion, and ran and fell on your neck and kissed you.” This practice allows God to speak encouraging words over me.  My heart soars when I hear that I am a good and faithful servant, that Jesus loves me and that He is my friend.  Those words of love are contained throughout the Bible and can be used to speak to us on many levels.

God’s love for each of us is real. The bible says that we can know His love for us. This knowledge comes from reading His Word and taking the time to be in His Presence. By clearing your mind and heart, you allow space for your heavenly Father to speak to you. He can also love you through other people when they spend time with you, help you with a project or give you flowers.

How is Daddy loving you today?

To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our Contributors Page.

Don’t Anther

by Wendy

Image from WatsonWorld.com

Image from WatsonWorld.com

by Wendy Coy

“The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn’t been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don’t anther.”  

Ogden Nash, “The Panther”

I wanted to worship.  I wanted to sing to the King of Angel Armies, the One who wins battles for us.  Instead, Ogden Nash’s panther was inside my head, mocking me. To my knowledge, Ogden Nash was not a curator of Biblical knowledge.  “Go away!” I screamed (silently) at the disturbing phrase rolling endlessly in my head.

“Don’t anther… don’t anther… don’t anther!” the voice chortled gleefully, ignoring my commands.

“Why won’t this go away?” I asked no one in particular, grinding my teeth in frustration.  Worship seemed out of the question.

“Don’t An-ther… don’t AN-ther… don’t ANTHER!”

Wait.  There might be something to learn here. I bludgeoned through the noise in my head until I could find the memory.

Since we signed papers for a new faith venture, we’d been body-slammed by a swarm of mosquitoes:  exhaustion, viruses, crankiness, allergies, insomnia, arguments, email fails, tax surprises, software glitches, browser nonsense.  The toothpaste-tube pettiness of life hooked us, kicked us and left us curled on the floor.

Our faith declaration seriously rattled something or someone, threatening the status quo.  The stalking panther crouched and readied his spring.

Could Ogden Nash have something to say about this assault? Apparently so, as God connected the dots between the King of Angel Armies, the Lord’s battle-ready warriors… and Ogden’s panther.

“Don’t ANTHER!”  Ah, there it is.  The answer in the poem, with a Scripture not far behind. My internal song changed: “The battle is the Lord’s!”  (1 Samuel 17:47)

His, not mine.  God’s armies standing behind my flailing arms, their swords drawn and weapons ready.  I could engage, scream at the Satan-panther, and grab my sword.  I could ignore, run, hide, get out of the way.  Or I could march in a different direction, deftly avoiding the now obvious attack, striding firmly toward what the Lord had directed, and watch the armies of God take all the captives.

Only one thing I knew:  to fight at the Satan-panther’s level assured loss.

“I will deFEAT you,” the panther erupted.   Wide-eyed, I sheathed my sword, kept the panther in my peripheral vision, and kept walking. “Don’t anther…don’t ANther… don’t ANTHER,” I sang, forging ahead with the Lord’s vision.

Hide ‘n Seek

by Dawn Aldrich

hide-and-seek

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord…

Jeremiah 29:13-14

His toddler feet pedal past me resting only when he’s found a suitable hiding place behind the rungs of a dining room chair – the one his daddy usually occupies. Through uncontainable giggles he yells, “Come find me, Grams!”

Playing along, I seek him out behind curtains, under the couch, around corners and with every failed attempt he squeals, “I’m here, Grams! I’m here!”

Amused by his own clever hiding skills he’s more excited about being found than staying hidden. His heart soars when I finally spot his big blue eyes twinkling between the rungs of his hiding place and he runs to catch my embrace as I announce, “I found you!”

There’s something about that pursuit that thrills this little boy – the hope that the one he loves adores him enough to seek him until he’s found. He anticipates the reunion with overwhelming, uncontainable joy. Kids get it. Their wanting to be discovered rather than staying hidden; the joy of the reunion and the thrill of a loving relationship.

The pursuit of the seeker brings great joy to God’s heart, too. Knowing those He loves adore Him enough to seek him, pursue His presence until they find Him and run into His arms. The thing is, like a toddler, God never really hides where he can’t be found. He’s right there in the open room calling, “Come find me. I’m here. I’m over here.”

So, how do we find an invisible God?

Unlike seeking a giggling toddler, we don’t have to run too far or look under the couch. We simply have to sit still; be still in our physical being and breathe, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Then, listen and wait. This may seem awkward at first, but listening and waiting are the most crucial steps in hearing from God. As we sit silent before God,  we prepare our hearts to hear the Holy Spirit. Thoughts may pop into our heads or God may give us a picture or a single word. Always, these exchanges from God’s Holy Spirit encourage, instruct and comfort–never condemn.

These thoughts, words, pictures reveal God’s loving intent toward us. These words are worth recording. Why? When God spoke through his prophets in the Old Testament, he would instruct them to write His words down so that His people would know His intent for them from generation to generation. I think recording God’s personal word-gifts are just as important to us today, even if they are meant for our eyes (hearts) only. Having a physical, visual reference of God’s love and intent for us, His instruction for our lives, His personal love letters for our hearts will spur us on in our faith journey.

Will you thrill the Master’s heart and seek Him out today? He’s waiting to lavish His love on you.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

Blessings on your day,

Dawn

To learn more about Dawn, please visit our Contributors Page.

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