Thinking Out Loud

June 7, 2013

Never Give Up, Never Surrender Praying

With apologies for borrowing the Galaxy Quest title, this is actually a rather serious article which appeared here a year ago under the title When Faith Meets Finality.

I have to be honest. I am the type of person who doesn’t radiate a lot optimism when it comes to my own personal prayer requests, but when it comes to your prayer concerns, I believe in the limitless power of God to do anything — absolutely anything — even when the doctors, business consultants and marriage counselors have said there is no room for hope.

I’ve also encouraged my kids to pray and to ever be trying to enlarge our prayer circle beyond our own immediate family needs, which frequently means they are praying for people they have never met, or as is the case today, a person who I had never met.

She was the wife of a sales rep of a guy who calls on our store representing a large Christian publishing company. When we first met seven years ago, she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So we prayed in a parking lot that day, and have been praying for her healing ever since. She fought long and hard and at one point seemed to triumph over the disease, but then it returned. And then it spread.

However, this did not temper the language with which I interceded. Like I said, I believe in the limitless possibilities of what can happen when people pray.

Until the day my wife phoned me to say an email had arrived announcing she had passed away.

For several minutes I was silent.

Faith met finality. Her battle with cancer was over.

Still, without trying to spin the outcome we had not longed for, I believe I can say that in some measure the prayers of myself and others were answered, for although some would argue that our wrestling with God simply dragged on the process, in those seven years her two children — now in their early teens — got to spend more time with her, to receive her values, to have a more solid memory of the sound of her voice, to be held, and to be loved.

Do these outcomes shatter my faith? Hardly. It’s still there. God could raise her from the dead if He chose to, and I have heard stories where people prayed just that. Were they in denial? I don’t think so; I think there are other ways to manifest denial than by proclaiming the possibilities of miracles.

I believe we should just keep praying, right up to the last possible moment. If anything, this just increases my faith for the next need that is brought to our attention.

As to my recurrent weakness in coming boldly to God’s throne for my own needs, I simply offer this today: You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

June 14, 2012

When Faith Meets Finality

I have to be honest. I am the type of person who doesn’t radiate a lot optimism when it comes to my own personal prayer requests, but when it comes to your prayer concerns, I believe in the limitless power of God to do anything — absolutely anything — even when the doctors, business consultants and marriage counselors have said there is no room for hope.

I’ve also encouraged my kids to pray and to ever be trying to enlarge our prayer circle beyond our own immediate family needs, which frequently means they are praying for people they have never met, or as is the case today, a person who I had never met.

She was the wife of a sales rep of a guy who calls on our store representing a large Christian publishing company. When we first met seven years ago, she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So we prayed in a parking lot that day, and have been praying for her healing ever since. She fought long and hard and at one point seemed to triumph over the disease, but then it returned. And then it spread.

However, this did not temper the language with which I interceded. Like I said, I believe in the limitless possibilities of what can happen when people pray.

On Tuesday my wife phoned me to say an email had arrived announcing she had passed away. For several minutes I was silent. Faith met finality. Her battle with cancer was over.

Still, without trying to spin the outcome we had not longed for, I believe I can say that in some measure the prayers of myself and others were answered, for although some would argue that our wrestling with God simply dragged on the process, in those seven years her two children — now in their early teens — got to spend more time with her, to receive her values, to have a more solid memory of the sound of her voice, to be held, and to be loved.

Do these outcomes shatter my faith? Hardly. It’s still there. God could raise her from the dead if He chose to, and I have heard stories where people prayed just that. Were they in denial? I don’t think so; I think there are other ways to manifest denial than by proclaiming the possibilities of miracles.

I believe we should just keep praying, right up to the last possible moment. If anything, this just increases my faith for the next need that is brought to our attention.

As to my recurrent weakness in coming boldly to God’s throne for my own needs, I simply offer this today: You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

June 12, 2012

Hanging Out Time

There are a number of areas where I would like a ‘do-over’ and those that were a test of my parenting skills are no exception. But one thing I did right was establish a nightly Bible story and prayer time which I’m told has also been an inspiration to some other families.

I wrote about it here almost three years ago.

Sunday night we had our last hanging out time (aka HOT) before Kid One left for his summer camp ministry, where Kid Too will join him in a couple of weeks. The ‘final’ of this event was more significant since Kid Too is off to university in the fall, one that doesn’t afford him the luxury of coming home on weekends as does Kid One.  So I suppose there will still be a few weekend editions with just two of us;  just as there have only been two of us present for the weekday editions the past few years.  But for the most part, what started nearly two decades ago with a copy of The Beginner Bible is about to enter the realm of history.

The robins are leaving the next.

Kid One returns in the fall to his second last year of electrical engineering. An engineer in the house. Who would have guessed? His parents tend to be a little more artsy. Kid Too is off to study with the aim of becoming a youth pastor. Not too scary until you consider that most youth ministry people end up ‘graduating’ to adult ministry.

I kept thinking we should do something special for the final night, but instead I was struggling to keep it together. It seemed like somewhere, a soundtrack should have been turned up, with Michael W. Smith singing “Friends;” except that we’re relatives not friends, and maybe without all the sappiness that critics think that song radiates.

Still the verse really applies,

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your lives is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’re gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong.

I keep thinking how much their nightly time in the Bible and Christian books, and in prayer has benefited me. I’ll have to work twice as hard this fall to keep discipline.

A chapter in their lives is through; and sadly, in ours also.

By the way, I mentioned this last year without too much success, but for those of you who want to support a couple of summer missionaries, the camp where they work offers a summer assistance program that supplements their rather meager base salary. If you are in Canada, you get a tax receipt. Just email me using this blog’s contact page for more info.

February 13, 2011

When Scripture Is Like a Comfortable Chair

Unless you have public speaking experience, or work in radio and television, or are an actor; chances are that when you’re called upon to read something you haven’t seen before out loud, you stumble over the occasional sentence.  Miss the syntax of a sentence and you can get really bogged down. Start to read the sentence as if it’s a declarative statement when in fact it’s a question, and things can get quite messed up.

Despite having some experience in both broadcasting and public speaking, I can mess up entire paragraphs, especially if I’m not fully concentrating.

Every night at 9:00 PM, my boys — who are now 16 and 19 — join me for Bible study time.  We sometimes read from different translations, but most often read from a wide assortment of devotional books, current Christian bestsellers, or Christian classics.   So we could go from Mere Christianity or With Christ in the School of Prayer all the way to Francis Chan’s Forgotten God or Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew in the course of a single week.  In other words, this ain’t The Beginner Bible story time.

As I’m reading — especially with the older classics — it’s not unusual for me to have to start a sentence over.  Sometimes I take two or three runs at a sentence to try to find the ‘voice’ of the author.

But lately I’ve noticed something. I’m not trying to blow my own horn by saying this, but I hope it challenges you or resonates with you or both. I’ve noticed that when I hit a sentence that contains a quotation from scripture, it literally rolls off the tongue; even if the translation is somewhat different.

I’ve found that the scripture passages an author chooses to cite are like second nature; they fit like a cozy chair or a comfortable pair of shoes. I may not have internalized their message fully, and I may not be living out every aspect of their teachings, but at the very least, I can’t claim unfamiliarity with the words.

Although I stumble over the sentences that come before and the phrases that follow, once I am reading Bible quotations, I’m on familiar ground, almost as though the words are the words of an old friend.

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