Who are Your Prayer Warriors?

by Heather Bock

Tuesdays are always crazy for me. I’m part of a busy generation in the middle of a busy nation, so I’m sure you can relate. This week is even crazier because my oldest turned nine today, and I’m throwing him a birthday party on Saturday. Ever since he turned three, I have made it a tradition in our family to create big parties at our house with lots of homemade decorations. It’s become something my kids anticipate and love, and even though it ends up being a lot of work, I completely enjoy it. You could say it’s my hobby three times a year. I also wanted to make cupcakes for Mr. C to bring to his Wednesday class to make his actual day special. On top of that, I’ve been preparing for a conference that I will be attending next weekend–so excited!–and that has taken a lot more (good) time than I thought it would.

I went to bed on Monday night wondering how I would get everything done on Tuesday and still treat everyone in my family with the love and respect stress tries to strip away.  Continue reading

Stump

We have an ugly stump in our backyard. Unfortunately (or should I say, fortunately?), this is the best picture I have of it. It’s on the far right of the picture.

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The stump needs a sledge hammer and a strong arm at some point because the thing is obviously not going to grow into anything beautiful ever again. (There is, I have to say, some charming fungi growing on the side, but that symbol will have to be left for another post.)

I felt a bit like that stump last week, which is a big reason why I posted nothing on this blog last Wednesday. I had nothing to share about what God has been teaching me, even though I prayed for words to say, as I do every week. I felt like that Casting Crowns “East to West” song, that I was just one mistake away from Him leaving me this way. Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize so many times, my apologies start to feel meaningless, even though I really do mean them every time I utter them.

I’m starting to get a reputation with my kids for apologizing. After I last apologized to Mr. C for losing patience with him, he said, “I knew you would say sorry. While you were angry, I was thinking about how you would say you’re sorry later.” I’m not sure how I feel about that response. I guess it’s good to have the reputation for saying I’m sorry, but I’d rather not have to say it at all.

I know repentance is more than just saying sorry. The Hebrew word for repent is shuwb, which means to repent and turn away, to cease from. If I keep getting impatient, have I really repented? What’s the point of trying when I know I will probably do it again?

I was encouraged, however, when I looked up the times this word is used in the Old Testament and found one instance of Moses asking God to turn away from His burning anger (Ex. 32:12). Obviously, God’s anger was righteous and therefore not sin, but God does get angry with the Israelites again and again. If God repented in the first case and came back to do the same again, then how much more will I do the same as a sinful human being?

Then I looked up repent in the New Testament. I found it used in Luke 17:4: “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” If Jesus is encouraging the disciples to forgive someone multiple times, does it follow that we should repent multiple times? I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to repent with sincerity every time I sin, even if I know I may struggle with the sin in the future. Better to attempt repentance and turning away from sin while acknowledging it was wrong to those around you than not at all.

The biggest encouragement God gave me for this was on Sunday when my pastor talked about the Jesse Tree stump, a symbol my kids had hung on our Jesse Tree a few days before the sermon. The stump represents Jesse and his family. If you don’t remember, let me remind you about Jesse’s family. I don’t know much about Jesse, but his grandmother was Rahab, a foreign prostitute. His son David started out strong and did repent from his sins, but even as Israel’s greatest king, he had an affair (probably against the woman’s will) and killed the woman’s husband to cover it up. Later, David’s son Amnon fell in love with his sister and raped her. David was angry, but he apparently did nothing about it. Then Absalom, another of David’s sons, took matters in his own hands and killed his brother Amnon. Later, Absalom gathered a group of men to himself and fought against his father and his men. Another of David’s sons, Solomon had many foreign wives and concubines who didn’t follow God and who turned Solomon’s heart away from fully serving and following God. And it went mostly downhill from there.

It hadn’t hit me then, but if God could take a group of people who were as messed up as David and his family, and bring Jesus out of it, then He (who is after all the same God) can take this stump of a person and bring life out of her, as well. So why remain discouraged over my failings? I will repent and turn to the One who can stir new sap, tinge green into the dead wood in my heart.

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Story of a Dream Torn Away

BowedHave you ever had to give up a dream?

If you read my blog regularly, you may already be tired of hearing the word surrender. It seems to be a theme running through my life, but maybe it goes through every Christian’s life. After all, Jesus told us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The problem is that more often I slip into the world’s culture of making everything all about me. Maybe I shouldn’t say “world’s culture,” though. I don’t need the world’s help for that–it’s been inside me from birth.

When I have something, whether it’s a new shirt, an ability to run, a relationship with a friend, or a dream, most of the time I fall into the trap of thinking it ultimately belongs to me. After all, I’m the one who wears the shirt. I’m the one running. I’m the one who spends time with the friend. This thought process is stronger with dreams. Dreams feel very personal, very intimate, almost an inextricable part of who I am.

Heather Running

Running is something I had to surrender. I can still run, but I have trouble racing anymore–I always injure something! By the way, I don’t usually run with my eyes closed.

However, none of these really completely belong to me, even when I think they do, not even my dreams. God has given me everything I have, and He has every right, as my King, Father, and Friend, to take whatever He deems necessary to take. Not only does He have the right, but if He deems it right, He IS right. He knows better than I ever will what I need. Not that He’s stingy, only giving me what I need. No, my Father, even on this earth, has given me far, far more than I could ever need physically, not to mention spiritually. In fact, in the past He has given me gifts I didn’t need in any way, just to make me feel loved. He has always been sweet to me.

In knowledge of this, I can give the shirt off my back to someone who needs it. It may be harder to give a new, fun one, but God tested me on that one a few years ago, and with His help, I can do that fairly easily. I can also surrender a beloved friend if I need to, knowing God has other good plans for that friend, even though I might grieve the parting. However, giving up a dream is still hard for me.

This past week, a dream I held close to my heart was wrenched out of my hands, quickly, the way a loving parent might tear a Band-Aid off a child’s arm. I do believe it was my loving Parent who did this, just at the time He knew I needed it to be done. He knew I was cherishing this dream a little too strongly, clutching it a bit too tightly. I needed a reminder that this was not my dream in the first place, but placed in my heart by God Himself. It’s His, to do with whatever He wishes.

I’d like to say my first response was humility before God, an attitude that said, “Do what You want with this dream, God.” My first response was closer to misery. It was definitely hard to keep the tears back, even though I was going somewhere and needed to get through it without telltale red-rimmed eyes. My second response was to ask God why He had done it. You’d think this doubt of God’s goodness would turn Him away from me. But you see, God isn’t like that.

God didn’t punish me. He comforted me. The next morning, when I was again heading somewhere I needed to be dry-eyed, words to a song by Kendall Payne, called “Aslan,” were persistently running through my head. First of all, if you read my last post, you might remember I’ve been reading the Narnia Chronicles with my kids–my last post was about Aslan. Second, I heard this song a few days before this, but before that, I hadn’t heard the song for a very long time. I had just rediscovered it after writing about Aslan and Eustace and was surprised by the reference to the same topic about which I had been writing.

After the words ran over and over in my head that morning, I realized I really needed to listen to the words more carefully. I turned the song on to hear words about how God is not safe and how I might be tempted to run away. Kendall Payne sings that God won’t do the things I know He could, He won’t think the way I want Him to, but He is good. The words go on to say that God’s water of life is free, but it costs everything. He’s not necessarily fair in our minds, but He fixes what can’t be fixed and gives grace. He cuts deep, but He never leaves a wounded person behind. Most of all, the song repeats several times how God is good.

God reminded me kindly and gently through this song that I might not understand Him, but He is good, and I can trust that. Then He gave me the grace to trust it. I might or might not get my dream back. No matter what, if I do get it back, I will hold it with a whole lot more humility. If God chooses to use it after all, I’ll know it is He who used it, not me. And when I’m in my right mind, that’s what I want, anyway–that He may be glorified with all He’s given me.