This week, the husband and I are at the beach…kidless.  Yes, you heard right…sans children.  It’s been a great time to reflect and think in quiet, without interruption, without demands, without noise.  (And it’s been a fabulous time to sleep.  I have to mention sleep because I think I’ve done more sleeping in the past three days than in the past month.  I am a new woman.)

Over the past month, I’ve been boldly praying.  (See I Hate this Kind of Post for what spurred this season of prayer).  And honestly, I’ve been asking God for things and explaining to Him the good reasoning behind my requests.  It’s been a lame attempt to convince God of how good my desires really were…perhaps convincing myself more than Him.  Only today, as I sat in the morning hours on the balcony of our little one-room efficiency condo did I start to listen.  Sipping my coffee, I looked at the coastline of pop-up tents and umbrellas in the sand and began again with my “bold” prayers:

“Dear Jesus, I’ve been advised by godly counsel to ask boldly for the desires of my heart.  (See what I did there, I put the responsibility of my requests on others, just in case they are things I shouldn’t ask for…) And I’ve been talking to you a lot about those plans and dreams I’d like to see come to fruition.  (See God, look how faithful I am, how persistent, and deserving of your blessing…) Again, I’m going to ask for…”

And on went my list…

When I was being advised to pray boldly at the feet of the Father, no one prepared me to receive an equally bold answer.

“You’re not ready.”

It echoed in the newly emptied catacombs of my kidless, interruption-less, quiet and still cavernous mind.

I’m not ready…I’m not READY??…I’m NOT ready…Oh, dang…  

In Psalm 46:10, God makes a daring promise that in our stillness He is made known.  (“Be still and know that I am God”). In our quiet, He will show up.  In our listening, He will speak a bold word.

I just wasn’t ready for, “You’re not ready.”

Later in the morning, as I was lounging on my sticky purple plastic beach chair, sipping my sparkling water and eating a banana, I watched a nearby family.  Dad was lanky and covered in tattoos and mom donned bleach blonde dreadlocks.  Bold.  They were accompanied by a daughter, about age 7, and a son who looked to be about 3.  The father carried a long surfboard.  This, too, seemed bold.  We are at a Texas beach and as long as I’ve been a Texan (my whole life), I’ve only witnessed boogie boards in the Lone Star surf.  You’re not really going to catch a gnarly wave in the Gulf of Mexico. If you have a legit surfboard at a Texas beach, you probably have surfed somewhere else and know what you are doing.  It didn’t take long to ascertain this dad was not a novice surfer.

First, he took his daughter out to catch some waves.  She did an amazing job, first balancing using her dad’s shoulders then letting go to ride the foaming white all the way to the shore’s edge.  Her knees were bent, one foot in front of the other, her middle countering every tilt in the board’s rise and fall, and her arms stretched out to the sides.

The little three-year-old watched from the shore, eagerly awaiting his turn.  He was fearless, running into chest-deep water, nearly toppling over as the waves crashed against his miniature body.  No fear.  Tough.  Bold.  Eager.

Soon it was his turn for a surf lesson with daddy.  He climbed atop the board as if on horseback, his leg-span barely reaching from one side to the other.  He clung for life, chest pressed against the floating deck, fingers curled around its edges.  As a wave approached, his father quickly lifted him up to standing on the board, holding one hand and running in the water beside him.  His legs were stiff, his body straight as a tree hewn in a mountain forest.  His other arm lay flat at his side.  No buckling.  No give.  No bend.

Into the water he went, tree crashing.  He was bold.  He was tough.  He was fearless.  But he wasn’t ready.

I get it now.  In this quiet place of reflecting, void of chocolate milk and goldfish crackers, diapers and muddy floors, phone calls and FaceBook notifications, my bold prayer has been answered…with a bold word.  I am not ready.

I am not ready to receive the things of which I’ve been asking.  I’m not ready.  Though I didn’t realize my actions at first, I clearly see them now.  I have been bold.  I have been fearless.  I have been eager.  I’ve even been trusting of my Father.  But I have also been locked knee and rigid in my approach.  I’ve been resistant to any swaying of the current beneath me.  I haven’t had any give…any slack to the Spirit, any flex to my daily relationship with Jesus.

I’ve been trusting Him with the big picture end goal of surfing…but not with the daily practice of salt in my eyes and sand in my pants.

I haven’t been watching Him and His example, studying His every move and posture of balance.  I haven’t been trying his methods at home, when I rise or when I fall.  My hands have been palm-down at my side, unreceptive, unfeeling.  I’ve only been the eager one, wanting so much more than I am ready for.

My bold prayer now shifts.  Now, my request is not for the things, but to be made ready for them.

Father, you have marked my ways before I was even born.  I trust you with YOUR plans.  Please prepare me for them.  Help me to be open to your Word and your touch as you run beside me, discipling me and coaching me.  Make me pliable to your instruction and in sync with the movement of your Spirit as it guides the path marked out for me.  Make me your disciple and a good student of Your Word.  Bold.  Eager.  Ready.

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6).

I hate this kind of post.  I’m talking about this one…the one I am about to write.  I am going to have to be real, honest, and publicly humbled.  Great.  However, it’s long overdue.

God has been speaking to me and I haven’t been listening.  I will joyfully allow Him to hold the talking stick when He’s got words of encouragement, surprise gifts for me to unwrap, or Kumbaya feelings.  But, when the conversation gets serious…and He starts to hold me accountable…I reach across the drum circle, yank that stick from His hands, and walk away from the campfire muttering, “jerk…”.

Here I am, blogger of “good things found beneath the surface of life’s dirt”, and I have to confess I’ve left the search party.  Lately, I haven’t been seeking anything out, let alone God.  And, therefore, no joy resides, at least in the meatiness of life.  I’m ‘happy’ in the midst of encouragement, blessings, and the occasional euphoria.  But let’s face it, there is so much more to life than what we and others see on the surface.

Our lives are deep, deep gardens filled with layers and layers of soil.  Layers and layers of hurt.  Layers and layers of history.  And sometimes, breaking out of that dirt, fertilized and fueled by our pasts, are weeds and thorns.  The garden hasn’t been tended, planting of good seed has been abandoned, and a story-rich soil cultivates an unwanted crop.

I haven’t been proactively planting.  I haven’t been talking to the Gardener about His plans, His timing, or His fruit.

The message He has had for me, through 3 distinct people (so far…it’ll probably take more to get it through my thick skull) is that He wants me to ask Him.  He doesn’t just want me to ask, He wants me to ask boldly.  He wants me to come, with no apprehension, full of reckless abandon.  He wants me to demand better…not of others, not of myself, but of Him.

The goal here is not to boldly demand material possessions, change in circumstance or people, or a surface level yield.  He wants me to demand the soil be tilled, the weeds be pulled, new seed be sown, and the entire make-up of the garden restored and redefined.  It’s similar to a masterful chef who desires his patrons to demand the finest meal.  It’s a welcomed request, because it’s what the cook does best.  God is in the business of redeeming, restoring, and rebuilding.  It’s what He does best, and He wants me to demand it.  He wants to give me a new vision for this season’s harvest.

Unfortunately, right now I don’t want to ask Him for assistance in the field, I don’t even want to talk.  Without confidence in His ability to answer those bold kind of prayers, we don’t pray.  Without confidence in God’s character, we don’t ask.  Without confidence in His ability to do the unthinkable (in our hearts and the hearts of others), we resign to living among the weeds.  We resign to defeat among the thorns in our sides.  We scrap to find sustenance among the trash.  All while God is reminding us He is right there, tools in hand, wanting to do some serious work.

He isn’t the hired laborer, though.

I recently watched a documentary on organic farming.  (I know…exciting.)  The filmmaker follows her own boyfriend as he describes his passion for the most refreshing snap peas and the most flavorful carrots.  While she never imagined living on a farm, his dream becomes contagious and she is swept up in his vision and plan for amazing produce.  He demands better than tasteless frozen veggies and out-of-season tomatoes shipped nationwide.  The days are promised to be long and hard, especially without heavy machinery or pesticides.  Everything is to be done by hand, from pulling weeds to washing away invasive bugs.  The expenses and lack of reliable income guarantee financial strain and stress.  But the vision he casts for a healthy cornucopia of rich and fragrant food makes the sacrifices of time and wealth worth it.

In the same way, the great Gardener wants to dream with us.  He wants us to be swept up in the vision He casts.  He, himself, demands better for us.  He promises to do the grunt work and share the bounty.  If we aren’t at least talking to Him, how are we to catch wind of His passion?  How are we to even hear that a better crop is possible?  How do we even know what to boldly ask for?

I am currently working on a second book.  And of course, it’s supposed be about all of this: this stuff I’m struggling to understand and trust.  It’s about the ability of God to cultivate gardens full of life out of what seems barren.  As I look through my notes, God’s scripture and my own words have been incredibly convicting.  The truths run like clear brooks cutting through my rigid and dusty heart.  He’s preparing my soul’s soil.  He doesn’t promise that I will like it.  I might have to sacrifice certain comforts for a table full of good.  He is chipping away at the parts of my dry creek bed that stand in the way of His raging waters of provision…even when I’m not asking.  Those small banks of my soul don’t stand a chance against His flood of mercy, grace, and love.

What

a faithful

God.

So, here’s my bold prayer.  Though it may seem simplistic and small, it feels for me as though I’m asking mountains to move:

Father, help me to boldly pray.  Cast unto me Your vision.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Day 13: Prayer

After a day of following your child back and forth from the bathroom to the bed, any and all efforts are made to not have to repeat the itinerary over the next few days with all your other children.  Today, as I washed laundry and wiped down surfaces with bleach, I added a lot of prayer.  I asked others to pray.  I pleaded with God to protect the rest of us from this yucky little bug.

Then my husband came down with it.

God was faithful in answering my prayers…none of the other kids have caught the illness…(yet).  And I start to wonder, “Did I leave him out of my requests to God for health?”  And in this question, I’m somehow trying to understand and make sense of why he got sick.  Perhaps, God’s answer to my prayer isn’t at all dependent on if I get my request right.  I don’t think He answers only according to the exact words I use.  I think He answers the way He does for reasons I just don’t understand.  And I’ve got to learn to be okay with that.  I have to learn to trust.

So I added prayer.  And I will keep adding prayers…and Lysol.

 “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.”

Psalm 69:13


Day 14: Lysol

You thought I was joking… I added so much Lysol to the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen today, that I think my lungs are disinfected.  As I add to Lent, the whole point is to remind me of all I have gained because of all that Jesus gave on the cross.  This deep burning feeling in my chest, while caused by inhaling potent and probably harmful chemical vapors, reminds me of the deep spiritual cleansing I receive through Jesus.

It is His death on the cross that wipes away my sins and purifies my every inch of being.  This doesn’t mean that I am perfect.  I daily bring my germy, nasty self to the foot of the cross and He covers me in the Lysol-like grace of His forgiveness.  When God looks at me, He sees Jesus in my place.  It’s completely undeserved, but He sees someone who was perfect and spotless…in my place!  This free gift was given to me on the cross as Jesus willfully took on all that my sickness of depravity deserves.  Each day, His death works it’s wonders, canceling out my sin and shame, making me clean and new.  Unlike Lysol, His blood kills 100% of my grime, there is not 1/100th of a sin that His sacrifice doesn’t cover.

What freedom!  What health!  What grace!  What a way to live!

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Psalm 51:7

Last night I had a dream…

It was a crowded room full of glitz and glamour.  I’m not quite sure how I fit in, or why I was among the on-slot of celebrity faces, but it was obvious that no one knew me.  I sat next to my husband at a very small round table donned with a white linen table cloth, a vase with one red rose, and candlelight.  Across the table, with one elbow next to his diner plate and the other propped on the back of his own chair sat Bill Murray.  He puffed on a cigar precariously dangling between his lips and in front of him was a small glass of dainty ice cubes and scotch.  Next to Murray in his tux appeared Ryan Gosling, who only leaned on the table to make a contorted face and an inside joke to our dinner guest before he was whisked up into the stirring pot of fame dancing around the room.  

We looked at each other in disbelief that we were in the presence of comic genius and marveled as he started to make small talk with us.  He was funny.  I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but all I know is that we were overwhelmed with uncontrollable laughter.  As the dinner ended, an invitation was made by the party’s hostess that the after-party would be taking place now.  The mob of people exited the building down stairs shoulder to shoulder, not staying for the next event.  Bill Murray’s head stood at least a foot above the crowd and he turned to us from across the noisy crowd and said,

“Well that’s pretty contradictory to the Bible or the Koran or whatever you believe…”

We laughed.  I’m not quite sure what he was referring to, except that all these people leaving were in agreement that whatever the hostess wanted us to stay for wasn’t worth it.  

We made it to the street and oddly enough all the ritzy hollywood types continued on foot, while our car, driven by my dad pulled up.  We got in, still laughing with wide smiles, and were soon accompanied by my mom and our two boys.  I don’t know where the girls were…it was a dream. 🙂  We turned onto a street filled with cars and all of a sudden found ourselves sitting in a living room with tons of people and..

Bill Murray…

The pomp and circumstance was gone, the tuxes and evening gowns were all replaced with casual jeans and t-shirts.  We laughed and cajoled as we listened to witty banter and slick one-liners.  As Paul and I relaxed on the couch, the rest of the group seemed to intensely gather at the feet of the actor, eyes wide open and attentive with their whole bodies.  At one point, he turned to us and said, 

“Watch this…”

“I think I need a glass of ice water.”

And at that, the entire room left to the kitchen, pushing and shoving to find a cup and the ice-maker.  He laughed.

“Watch this…”

He turned and from behind his chair pulled out a glass filled with fresh ice water.  He swirled the glass a little to jingle the ice against the cup.  Immediately, the room filled and the Murray disciples all gathered to hear the man speak once again.

We didn’t know what to think of his trick.  But, it seemed as though he wasn’t at all enjoying the power he had over the masses.  He seemed to almost loathe and pity his followers.  He got up from his chair and found the bathroom.

In his absence, a hush fell over the room and the anticipation of his return by the party guests was almost frightful.  Paul turned to me and said, 

“I don’t think he feels good.”

I agreed, “I think he’s tired and unhappy…maybe even sick to his stomach.”

He soon returned and a man in the crowd piped up with a story for Bill.  It was uninteresting and was an obvious attempt to impress the famous comedian.  Soon, everyone lost interest and started their own side conversations as the storyteller continued, oblivious to his fading audience.  Bill Murray turned to me and said,

“I’d much rather be spending my evening with a family watching polar bears and meerkats fight over the migration of the monarchs in Europe.” (remember, this is a dream…)  “You know, wish I had settled down somewhere.”

“It must be hard in this kind of environment…always on the road, to have meaningful relationships…”, I said, and then I woke up.

My jaw and cheeks were tight as I halfway came to.  I think my face muscles were labored from smiling in my sleep at the initial non-stop laughter and funny discourse.  And then, my heart sank.  I wanted to go back.  I wanted to sit on the couch next to Bill Murray and put my hand on his shoulder and invite him to watch Animal Planet at my house, with my kids.  After all, we had just had dinner and drinks and were hanging out on a couch.  I wanted him to become part of our family…to be..”Uncle Bill”.  

I tossed and turned, trying to fall asleep and re-enter the dream just as it had left off.  I played through the conversation in my mind–heartfelt sympathy for his desire to be settled followed by an invitation to come over to our house any time he was in town.  In my half-awake state I imagined what the evening of popcorn and nature shows would be like, the jokes he would tell and the way my kids would laugh at his crazy antics.  Then, the more I regained consciousness from my sleepy state, the more I started to apply realistic worry about fantastical “Uncle Bill” spending the night in our meager office/guest room, the fact the I don’t really know the man or his past, and worse case scenarios…what if he hurt my kids in the middle of the night?

Sleep was not coming easy at this point.  I had to sit up and shake my head.  Angie, you don’t know Bill Murray.  You’ve never met him.  He’s not coming over for family movie night.

My heart was twisted  between dreamworld and reality and I couldn’t relax enough to fall back asleep.  I thought, “God, what in the world is this crazy dream about?  Do you want me to pray for Bill Murray???”

So as ridiculous as it sounds, I prayed for Bill Murray at 2 am.  I asked God to give him peace and joy in Jesus and not his success.  I prayed that he find happiness and a family.  Then I peacefully and easily fell asleep.

This morning, as I was recounting my dream to Paul, I realized I really know nothing of Bill Murray, except that he’s hilarious.  I have no knowledge of his personal life and I just hours earlier had prayed for the man.  So I did what any other non-celebrity would do…googled it.  I learned he’s actually been married twice and has five children.  So, I’m sure he’s had a chance to watch the Discovery Channel with kiddos.

I don’t know why I had the dream, or why I am even blogging about it today.  All I do know is that it prompted me to pray for Bill Murray last night.

There are many people in this world of high stature and with lots of worldly success that I never pray for.  I never think to pray for them, because I assume they have it all.  Today I’ve wondered if anyone is praying for these people–for the people who so many gravitate towards and follow–for the people who have so much cultural and social influence.  And, I don’t mean pray for them, that they learn to love Jesus and can use their platform to spread the Gospel… I mean praying for their hearts, even if they come to know Jesus in the last minutes of their life, away from cameras and spotlights, and no one ever knows about it.  I don’t think I have ever thought to pray for a celebrity or someone I don’t know to have personal joy in someone greater than themselves, simply for their benefit.

I pause to think, do I even do this for those around me?  At first response, I think I would say, “absolutely!”  When I have a hurting friend or an ailing child, of course, I am praying for them and strictly for their sake.  But, if I really dig deep, some times–not all the time–but some times, my prayers for them are motivated by my discomfort.  Their hurt or their illness is uncomfortable for me or scary for me, and life would be more manageable for me if they were better.  I think I am learning.  I think that I am learning to more often pray for others simply for the sake of their benefit, not mine.  Imperfectly, I am learning to pray for the Spirit to work in individual hearts and not for the betterment of a group or for a movement in the masses.  I am learning to seek the Father’s will, that He be glorified, above that of my own comfort or happiness.

In the back of my mind I kind of hope somehow Bill Murray catches wind of a little blog about him and hears that he was prayed for.  It might make him feel good, it might make him mad.  I have no clue.  But if he’s reading this crazy random musing….just know, Uncle Bill, you are always welcome to come over and talk about it.