Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Pray?

"Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
Luke 5:16

Closed eyes, bowed head and folded hands. This is the posture of prayer I learned as a child from my mother at bedtime . It's the posture depicted in the serene water-colored paintings of praying children hanging in childhood nurseries or Sunday school rooms. I never questioned why prayer had to look like that. It just did. I never questioned why I was taught to pray. "It's how we talk to God," was the only reason I needed.

Prayer has been part of the Judea-o-Christian faith from the time sin entered the world. Prior to that, Adam and Eve could speak face-to-face with God. In the gospels, even Jesus had to pray in order to talk to God, and he was his son.

So, why pray? I mean, besides it being the means of communication with God or just the thing to do because that's what we were taught as children, why do we pray?

Luke paid attention to Jesus' prayer habits. In Luke chapter five, Jesus' ministry was spreading. He spent long days with growing crowds of people teaching, preaching God's word, and healing the sick. I can imagine he felt pretty spent after days like that. Luke tells us in verse 16, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."

What do you think Jesus prayed about in those times? What do you think he asked his Father for? Maybe he felt overwhelmed and needed encouragement to carry on his ministry. Maybe he was burdened by all the brokenness knowing full well the creation he spoke into existence was far from what it should be. Maybe he was looking for his Father to carry some of that burden. Maybe he just sat in silence, listening for the familiar words of his Father to feed and empower his spirit after an exhausting day.

The second reference to Jesus' prayer life is in Luke 6:12-13. "One of those days Jesus went out into the hills to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, who he designated as apostles..."

Here we see Jesus retreating, alone to talk with God about an important decision. It was one of the most important decisions in the history of the world-wide church as we know it today. Jesus needed to choose which of his disciples he could entrust to carry out his mission on earth once he was gone. Who could best carry out the Gospel, the good news to the rest of the world?

We know Jesus wrestled with this because he went away from the chaos of life and prayed all day and all night. He didn't throw up a quick prayer. He didn't go by his hunch. He didn't consider who liked him the most. He only chose those whose hearts were searched by God. He not only talked to God but he listened.

In our own lives and especially in the busyness of our ministries (in and out of church) how many of us retreat? How many of us specifically go to the lonely places (an empty room, a secluded spot in the woods, at the beach, wherever) to seek God's opinion and direction?

If we're honest, most of us would say we don't. I know we retreat away from the crowds. But, our retreating usually entails a large, flat screen T. V. or a good book. Or, if we do find ourselves completely alone, in a quiet room we fall asleep and our prayers become incoherent mumbles.

While all these forms of retreating are okay to rest the body and mind they're not effective prayer habits. There's no conscious communication, no give and take between us and God. We need to remind ourselves to take conscious steps toward God in silence, away from the din of activity and follow Jesus' example of prayer. "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Believed Yet Have Not Seen

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
John 20:29

A visit from an angel. A miraculous conception. A leap in the womb. A virgin birth. Words of the shepherds. Gifts of the kings. Prophesies spoken. More fulfilled. Wisdom beyond years. A sinless son.

Even so, Joseph and Mary still could not comprehend who their son, Jesus, was or what His mission was about. They saw him, heard him, touched him, smelled him, tasted his salty skin and still they wondered, pondered, treasured, marveled at the words others spoke of Him and the words Jesus spoke of himself.

Is it any wonder, then, that those of us who've never seen or touched Jesus in the flesh, or had a close encounter with and angel, have difficulty believing who He is? Is it so surprising that in our feeble faith we wrestle with the idea that God has a purpose for our lives? Is it any wonder that we spend more time pondering the words God speaks into our hearts than actually believing their truth? Why do we marvel when God does the miraculous? Shouldn't we expect the inexplicable from God?

There always seems to be more questions than absolutes in our faith. Yet, the facts remain and have stood the test of centuries: Jesus is the son of God. Jesus lived among us in the flesh. Jesus died to defeat sin and death. Jesus was raised on the third day. Jesus lives so that we might live. Jesus waits in heaven to return for those who have not seen, yet have believed.

Grandmas with Cameras by Sally Dube

A family friend of the Aldrich-Bardon crew has wordsmithed a great poem based upon a recent photo at our granddaughter's birthday. With her permission I've posted it here in my blog and dedicate it to all the proud grandmas out there. Enjoy!

Grandmas with Cameras
by Sally Dube

Something happens to most mothers

When they are old (but still quite young =)

Their children grow up, marry

And have a daughter or a son!

This baby is the sweetest

That on earth they’d ever seen

Now that Mother has a new name

She’s now “Grandma” her ultimate dream!

She rocks and sings that little one

Her heart filled with so much love

She never knew how blessed she’d be

By this bundle sent from above.

Her camera never leaves her hand

So not to miss that smile

For this baby IS the cutest EVER

So lots of pictures in a short while

Laughing, crying, sleeping, yawning

Making sure to get each look

Rolling, sitting, creeping and crawling

Why her grandchild should be in a book!

Grandmas with cameras are a special breed

Never missing a photo op

With a flash and a snap and a “say cheese”

Their pictures just don"t stop =)


Thank-you Sally for your precious gift of words!


Dawn (Grams) and Juanita (Mammie)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Whispered Truths

"But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:13

I've always thought of myself as a good judge of character. It's usually pretty easy for me within a few minutes of meeting someone new to figure out the truth about them. I feel it in my gut. But sometimes, figuring out the truth about myself is not so easy.

The truth of who I am may be hidden by the shouts of false accusations by repeated offenders in my life, or the history of past failures, or the whispers of the Enemy. You may share some of the lies I hear: you're unlovable, unworthy, discarded, invisible, orphaned, alone, untalented. All of these are lies. Why then, are the lies so believable and the truth so difficult to find?

The secret lies in whom we choose to listen to; to whom we will our lives; on whom we focus our attention.

When we make a conscious decision to ask forgiveness of our sins and follow Christ, the Bible says we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Whatever we'd done in our past is past, forgotten by God. But how do we make our minds forget the past? We can't. The historical record is imprinted forever. So, use it and learn from it. But, we can ask Christ to renew our minds and our hearts so that they agree with what God sees as truth in us. Romans 12:2 says, " transformed by the renewing of your mind." In other words, change what your mind is thinking. How is this accomplished? By focusing on Christ... the Christ in us.

Tonight I sat in a seminar which taught us how to take the negative emotion (the lie) and refocus it from our mind to our will (or our gut) and allow Christ to gain control of that emotion to bring peace. It sounds hokey, I know. But it works. If we refocus our attention from the negative (I'm a failure, unloved and unworthy) toward Christ, He will renew our thinking. Christ will replace those lies with the Spirit of TRUTH... His Holy Spirit. Instead of hearing the shouts of "I'm a failure, unloved and unworthy," the Holy Spirit whispers the words of Christ to your heart. "You're a daughter (son) of the King. You are loved beyond measure and worthy of every good thing."

What we focus on, we become. May our focus be on Christ, the author and giver of life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

"The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21

Written words are easily edited by their author. They rest on paper or on the screen with cursor flashing. They sit silently while the author reads them over carefully checking for punctuation, clarity of thought, flow and sound. More words can be added or deleted from sight without the knowledge of their intended audience.

Spoken words are rarely edited. They flow like a river from the tongue of the speaker directly to those in the room without much thought. Spoken words are fluid with conversation, emotion and intent. They can never be "taken back," erased, deleted or edited after they are heard. Although they may seem invisible to the eye, they are as permanent as those etched with pen and ink upon the heart of the receiver.

Saturday, nine names stared up at me from my paper. They were the names of nine students who I had the privilege to teach, whose eyes caught mine several times a day, whose ears listened to my stories, whose hands I'd held when they were sad or whose feet followed me around the classroom. Each name represented one life created by God for a purpose and I had to write words that best described that child for their graduation ceremony. These words would not only be written in permanent ink, saved in scrapbooks as part of the child's academic legacy, but they would be read aloud to proud parents, adoring grandparents and to the child themselves. The words I chose would hold the power to speak life into each child or the power to destroy it.

As I wrote, an old Sunday school chorus repeated in my head: "Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love so, be careful little eyes what you see." This song continued with "be careful little mouth what you say," then "be careful little hands what you do" and finishing with "be careful little feet where you go." As I hummed this silently in my head, I realized that what I wrote about each student would leave a lasting mark on their hearts. My words could influence how they see themselves, what and how they speak to themselves and to others, what they do in life and where they go. I chose my words carefully picturing them through God's eyes; perfectly made and lovable in every way.

Oh yes, they all have their faults. Don't we all? But their Godly potential is woven into every fiber of their being. It only needs to be drawn out and encouraged to thrive. Our tongues have the power to do just that. What we hear spoken aloud is indelibly written on our hearts so, be careful little mouth what you say.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Good Gift

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Matthew 7:11

We moved back home to our sleepy little town when our son was six months old. Our first floor apartment was set at the edge of one of the first suburban neighborhoods born just after the depression era of the early to mid 1930's. Most warm mornings, three seasons a year, I'd buckle our son into his blue stroller and meander up and down the quiet, tree lined streets.

After two years of walking those quaint New England neighborhoods, I'd memorized every house; their beautiful, landscaped yards, their color and unique architecture, even their placement on the street. They were all beautiful but I had my favorite. It was a small, white colonial with a big back yard. It was fenced-in with green hedges with a long driveway on one side and a cute little archway that was attached to the left side of the front stoop that created a double front peak. It faced the southeastern sky so I knew it would be sunny and welcoming most of the day. It was the house I felt I could call home; a place to put down roots and plant our family. It was something I'd never had growing up...a homestead; a place where good memories were made and reminisced.

I always ended our walks at the street directly opposite that pretty white house and pause a moment to take a long look and breathe a simple prayer. "Lord," I'd say, "if you so choose to give us a house, I'd like one just like that!"

When I was five months pregnant with our daughter, we knew it was time to buy a house. Before we could even open the ads in the newspaper, an acquaintance had a house for us to look at. It was her elderly mother's home. She'd lived in it since 1936 (53 years) and she wanted to meet the purchasing family face-to-face. So, with address in hand, I navigated the directions for my husband as we wove through the familiar streets I'd walked every day for two years.

"Okay, take the next left and the house will be the second driveway on the left," I instructed. My husband pulled into the driveway and I looked up from the written directions for the first time.

"Here we are," my husband said cheerfully.

I was speechless. There we were, parked in the driveway of my favorite, white house.

"You okay?" my husband asked trying to figure out why I wasn't getting out of the car.

"This is our house," I finally managed to whisper through tear brimmed eyes. "It's the exact house I've prayed for every day for two years."

We didn't make an offer that night. In fact, the asking price was way out of our price range. But with a bit of negotiating they accepted our offer and within a month we moved into our pretty, white house. It will be twenty one years this November since our house became our home. We've raised two children here and continue to make wonderful memories now with our grandchildren. This pretty white house has truly become our family's homestead.

I love to tell this story because it's a story about God's generous heart towards his daughter. He looked beyond my whispered prayer and into my heart. He could have chosen to bless me with any gift but He chose to give me the best gift; the gift that meant the most to me.

This same God wants to be generous to you, too. He's waiting for you to ask.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Family Cornerstones 4

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

The first time I heard this verse was during a desperate phone call to our pastor at two in the morning when my husband had lost his job. These words didn't do much to comfort either one of us that night. We were reeling with raw emotions like anger, anxiety, loss and inadequacy that accompany an experience like this. We had a young family, a hefty mortgage, a car payment and we felt abandoned by our God.

Our world was turned inside out and my husband's self image plummeted fast. We knew in our heads that these words were true but our hearts needed more time. It sure didn't seem like God had plans to prosper us or give us hope, at all. To us, it seemed we were the farthest thing from His mind.

It was difficult to dream of our future those days when we were all consumed with making it through each day, week, month. But, we found out that every day was a new future and God provided for us. Every day we had food on the table and clothes on our back. Every week we paid our bills. Every month we paid our mortgage. Somehow, God not only provided but prospered us.

Eventually my husband found another job...and it closed its doors a few years later. But this time, instead of reeling with raw emotions, we hung onto hope. We knew from the last time that God does make plans for us; plans to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. We knew that God would take care of us. He had something better in store for us like He did before. We chose hope and started dreaming again of what the future might hold.

The journey God's Word took from our heads to our hearts was a difficult one. It was painful. It was repeated. But eventually, we "got it." When our hearts became aligned with God's words, like in Jeremiah, God ignited our imaginations. Our desires aligned themselves with God's desires for us and our future took shape. It was like adjusting the focus on a camera lens. Slowly the world came into focus. What looked blurry and shapeless a moment before was now clear and identifiable.

This last cornerstone stands to remind us that God truly is our provider of every thing (Jehovah Jirah). It stands to remind us that God does hold our future. He plans to prosper us, not to harm us.