Sunday, May 24, 2009

Eighteen so soon?

Yesterday my "baby" graduated from High School. In 64 days she will become an adult.

The last of my children has completed that journey from baby to toddler to child to teenager to adult. Officially, our "child-rearing" days will be over. Tears fill my eyes even as I write the words and contemplate that thought.

Please don't confuse the sentiment, however. I am in no way unhappy about the progression. It is well and good. It is how it should be.

My daughter, in fact all three of my "children" (there should be a name for adult children to differentiate them from children-children) are wonderful, intelligent, motivated persons. I am pleased with each of them and enjoy being with them. I would not keep my daughter from turning 18 for anything. I only miss the baby and the little girl that she was. Indeed, she was quite a special little girl.

From the very beginning, she had the advantage of having two parents and two "little" parents. With siblings who were 9 and 11, she grew up with more instruction than perhaps she needed. There was always someone available to hold her, to talk to her, to sing to her. She did not lack for stimulation.

I can clearly remember the first night we heard her laugh, really belly-laugh. Our son Noah had been playing with her and had done something, made some sort of sound and she erupted into this shaking mass of baby laugh. We all fell apart laughing in response. Then we tried what it was Noah had done to duplicate the response, without success. Only Noah could produce the belly-laugh we were all so desiring.

When we first found out that we were expecting Emmie, my husband and I speculated about how our lives would change. With older children, we were used to some independence and were concerned about how "tied down" we would be with a baby in the house. However, she posed no restrictions on us whatsoever. Everywhere we went, Emmie went and if she wasn't welcomed, we didn't go. Through the years she became as much a companion and friend as a child, although we never lost that desire to create a smile and laughter in her.

Now she is approaching adulthood. Well, approaching it only in an official sense, because she is as much or more an adult than many people who have lived for several decades. She is level-headed and thoughtful. The little girl, with long blond hair and bright blue eyes, and little girl ways are long gone. The dreams and hopes and plans of the adult lay ahead.

In her wake are two parents who have fulfilled their duty given to them by the Lord. We have been fruitful, we have multiplied and leave three children and two grand-children in our places. The thought that our parenting is complete is somehow sad, however, as if a door is closing, an era ending. It is as unsettling for us as it must be exciting for our new graduate.

She is at that point in life where she will make her own decisions, her own plans, her own choices. We look ahead to a different life, but one where the path is yet hidden by the shade of the trees. She will choose her own career, her own friends and choose her own companions. We are waiting to see what turns and twists and choices await in the life ahead for us.

One thing is for certain though, I know of two people who are hoping those turns lead to a path close to hers, and who hope to be among her chosen companions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When I Think of You...

In church Sunday, one of the gentlemen who helps with the services, was speaking to the congregation and said, "When I think of you, I pray for you."

Both his face and his voice spoke so strongly of the sincerity which filled his heart, and I have no doubt that wherever he is, or whatever he is doing, when one of these dear ones comes into his remembrance, he immediately prays for them.

This is what Paul stated to the Philippians, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. " (Philippians 1:3) What a blessed thing to think that there is someone somewhere praying for us at any given time. Surely we will find in eternity that we have grossly underestimated the power of prayer for our brothers and sisters and the strength of theirs for us. How many times have we been in a situation and found unexpected strength? Unexpected patience? How many times have we found a way in darkness? How many times have we found that item that has been lost? Or narrowly escaped injury or danger? We cannot believe this to be the result of sheer chance or fate. No, this is the result of the prayers of the saints being offered up for us of which we are even unaware.

Let us choose to realize that there are others taking a part in our lives that we cannot see. Perhaps today I am extremely busy at work (and today we were very busy!), I can take a second and think, "Someone is praying for me now," and be encouraged that my name is being lifted up to the Father.

"How do you know someone is praying for you?" you may ask me. I can't know for sure at any given moment that a brother or sister in Christ is praying specifically for me, but this one thing I do know. That the Lord Jesus " is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. " (Hebrews 7:25) The Lord Jesus lives to make intercession for me. For ME.

Not only that, "but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. " (Romans 8:26, 27) So the Holy Spirit also makes intercession for me. For ME. For you! At any given moment the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit make intercession for us.

Is the moment difficult? They are praying for us. Is the moment dark and sad? They are praying still. Is the moment full of the misunderstanding of others? They are praying. Is the moment full of apparent need? They have not stopped praying. Their prayers for us know no end.

What comfort this should be to our weary hearts, what joy to our souls! The Captain of our Salvation today, in this very moment, bows His knees to the Father in prayer for us. It should make us bow to our knees in return.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Prayer and Breathing...

Glen and I were talking about prayer today and why so many Christians mention that they feel inadequate in their prayer life. I told him about a Christian that I had heard that was talking about today being the National Day of Prayer. He was telling people to set aside a certain amount of time for prayer and to have a list of things to pray for. Now these are not bad suggestions, and I myself have followed this particular method often.

However, during our conversation, it dawned on me that perhaps we feel so inadequate in our prayers because we feel like we have to do so much to prepare for prayer, and to set ourselves up to be ready to pray, that by the time we are ready, we don't have much left for prayer itself.I know that's often how it is with me.

Maybe prayer should be more like breathing, we just breathe. We don't put much thought into breathing, usually. If we are going to have natural childbirth, then of course, we spend a lot of time learning breathing techniques, and rightfully so. If we are doing certain athletic activities, we need to know certain ways of breathing. In our lives we will have times of intense and concentrated prayer, times when the burdens of our hearts are so strong we can't do anything but pray.

But for the most part, like our breathing, maybe our prayers should be more instantaneous. Whenever, where ever we are, we should just pray. No special words, no special place, just say the words to the Lord simply and plainly. After all, both the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit make intercession for us. They know what we should be saying. Perhaps we should do more with fewer words. Maybe it should be a constant flow from our minds, something that goes on even while we are doing other things.

If you watch a young mother with little children, you will see this type of thing. She may be talking to you, but she is also watching those children. She's making sure they don't get into danger or trouble. She may be feeding them or diapering them or rocking them at the same time she's cooking dinner and folding clothes AND talking to you. Maybe prayer is meant to be like that.

There are of course times when we will want to get alone to pray, and the Lord Jesus was a great example of that, frequently going alone into the mountain to pray. But just as prayer was for Him a continual flow with the Father, so perhaps we should consider our prayers more of a continual flow. So often we think nothing of using a blackberry or iphone or such to "twitter" or Facebook messages to each other throughout the day. Why do we not consider the same freedom in conversing with the Lord, sending those pertinent petitions and praises to Him throughout the day, instead of waiting for a particular time or place?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fun and Work...

Maybe its the soothing sound and sights of the water, maybe its being in contact with nature, maybe its the stillness of it all, but when we go kayaking, my mind seems fill up with all kinds of thoughts.

This weekend was no exception, I was having such a wonderful time. It was thrilling to be back in the boat after the winter. The temperature was perfect, the water was wonderful, only one other boater was out on the water when we started -- we had the river basically to ourselves. It was perfect and it was fun.

Coming back, it was warmer and much harder to paddle against the current. There were more boaters out on the water and we had to watch carefully for them. With their motors, they can look far away one minute and be upon you the next, so we had to keep our eyes open for them all the time.

It struck me how kayaking is fun...and work. You can't get out on the water without paddling, and sometimes that paddling is hard. Crossing the river this weekend was tough. I tried to really push myself hard and cross it quickly. My heart rate was up and I was sweating once I got to the shore. While it was enjoyable, it was definitely work.

Now the kayaking stroke is different than you would think. You don't really pull hard with your shoulders. You plant the paddle in the water and use your core muscles to pull the boat past the paddle, and you let the boat float past. You have to work with the paddle and with the boat and know what each of them has to do to make the three of you work efficiently and safely. There is a similar principle at work in our Christian life.

As Christians, our lives are enjoyable, fun and yes, work. We can't just sit back passively and expect the Lord to run over us in our lives. We can't aggressively run ahead of the Lord and work independently of Him either. We must know how the Lord works, how He works in and through us. We must depend upon Him for all things, but we must realize that we, too, have a place in the work.

The Lord Jesus was our perfect example in this. He often said that He did nothing without the Father.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."
John 5:19

"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." John 5:30

"But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. " John 5:17

This too, is the dynamic for our Christian life. He works in and through us. He works and we work. I push the paddle, it moves the water and the boat floats by. It is a family working.

"But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." I Corinthians 8:6

You Must Get In The Water...

We went kayaking for the first time this season on Saturday. I was afraid the water might be too chilly since the temperature had been hovering in the 70's, and when my foot first hit the water my words were "That water's cold!" I never thought about the water being too chilly again, however. Once we paddled away from the put-in, I was so thrilled to be back in the water, and so engrossed in our trip, I never felt cold again. In fact, later in the trip the cold water actually felt refreshing.

We crossed the river, which took longer and was more difficult than I expected -- this was the biggest river we have crossed so far -- and then traveled along the shoreline exploring creeks and canals along the way. As we made our way back to the put in, the coming in was more difficult. We were traveling against the current, our arms were tired and the sun had come up considerably in the two hours since our sunrise put-in, making the temperature a good deal warmer.

At one point we stopped to rest and just let the boats drift a little. Ahead of us was a group of pelicans diving into the water for their breakfast. They would plummet into the water, their heads submerged for awhile, then resurface visibly chomping on something they had found down below. Straight ahead of me was a pole in the water with a sign attached. Perched on top of this sign were two pelicans watching their friends fishing for their meal. Finally one of the two hopped off the sign and plunged into the water. Like all the others, he was successful in obtaining his breakfast, but his friend stayed perched on the sign.

A minute or two later, a pelican flew to the sign and perched next to the one already sitting there. It was almost as if the second pelican nudged the first one and said, "Hey, Buddy, if you want some fish, you've got to get into the water!" Then he jumped off after more fish. The poky little pelican still sat there, watching his friends eat to their hearts' content.

In my heart I was cheering the little guy on, "Get off the sign, go get the fish!" I didn't think he was going to do it, but finally he flew off the sign and into the water. I was so happy when I saw him chewing on his fish! Immediately, I thought that what I had seen was so much like our Christian lives. We desperately want the fish: we want to have a close walk with the Lord, we want to know His supply, His strength, His power; but to have that we have to get into the water!

We have to be willing to jump off the sign and be willing to hit that water. We have to be willing to be a little uncomfortable because the water is wet and cold. We have to be willing to have our head dunked under the water for awhile. OK, what does that mean in real life?

Maybe that means I have to give up a little sleep in the morning to spend time reading the Bible. That's where the fish are. Maybe it means that instead of feeling irritation or bitterness toward that person who has pulled out in front of me on the way to work, I choose to pray for them. That's where the fish are. Maybe it means instead of having to have "my way" in a certain issue -- with co-workers, family members or friends -- I choose to humble myself and let other people have the supremacy. That's where the fish are.

I can sit on the sign and watch others, and wish that was me, or I can do what I know the Lord calls me to do and get into the water and catch some fish. After all, catfish and grits are one of my favorite things for breakfast!

"Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him
that sent me,
and to finish His work. "
John 4:34