Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thinking of You and God Together

     Yesterday I ran across some of reflections about prayer in my journal that gave me pause for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my own sense of being such a novice at prayer even at 64 years of age. I hopefully no longer think of prayer in religious terms, but I find myself of late still longing to learn to pray in a much more engaging way than ever before. 
     But before I paste my journal thoughts, I share with you one of the most profound yet simple definitions of intimate prayer I have ever read. It comes from a book by George MacDonald entitled, Thomas Wingfold, Curate, and the words are those of a gnarled old dwarf of a man who clearly walked with God in fierce intimacy. The line comes as the old man's niece relays his words to a wealthy and dying man: "I asked him, sir--'Shall I tell him you are praying for him?' and he said, 'No. I am not exactly praying for him, but I am thinking of God and him together.'" What if prayer, at its essence was indeed that simple? What if it were possible to live so God-captivated that "thinking of you and God together" shaped history? I am quite convinced that there's more in these words from a very wise and godly man than I can currently perceive, but the phrase carries the fragrance of an intimate conversation with Papa that never ceases and makes my heart burn!
     But here are my own musings about prayer, slightly edited. I put them forth as a novice still "wishing more than willing" a fruitful prayer life. I leave it in a different font so that you can distinguish past ramblings from my current ones. :-)
If you want authority, you must also accept responsibility.” That thought comes to me as I think of prayer, as you know. I don’t know for sure that it that was you, so I won’t put it in blue. And I know you will have more to say if it was you. Somehow you will blend the easy yoke and light burden Jesus promised with our call to co-labor with you in a way that means we do share some responsibility yet without it becoming mere human striving. Somehow grace must be draped over our purpose in a way that spurs us on to joyful obedience without crushing us under the weight of duty and joyless obligation. And as I reflect more on this I think I am seeing that the reason prayer feels “heavy” is that we believe so little in your willingness to answer us and pour your life and power through us! Yet I have no problem trusting you to show me how to allow your love to flow through me in terms of being loving and kind, which is for the most part a joyful thing to me, not a duty. Yes, if I can grasp how it is that you have taught me in that area, I may be able to grasp how I can feel a "responsibility" regarding prayer without it becoming drudgery or a place of potential shame. This is a big thought, Papa, and I think I have much more to listen to you about it. But I do see how important it is to believe what you have said many times to me: “Your prayers matter.” And I sense you telling me they matter far more than I have heretofore realized. No wonder you have been giving me Matthew 7:11 over and over again. What if you really are more eager to answer than we are to ask? 
      There you have it. I think I wrote down more questions than answers, but will you listen to God with me and see what He says to you about prayer and share it with the others who read this blog? Also, one thing I have learned for sure is that Andrew Murray is right when he states in so many words that the real challenge and the real key in prayer is to "begin in the patient love of the Father." If I take the time to allow Holy Spirit to lead me to an awareness of Father's infinite love for the person(s) for whom I am praying, my heart connects with the River of Heaven's grace and petition and intercession flow almost without effort. Maybe there's something there, eh, that answers my questions from a few months before? Just thinking, listening, musing. What do you think?
     On another, unrelated note, a friend of mine has written a wonderfully well thought out response to John MacArthur's heart-breaking decision to attack the largest and most vibrant part of Jesus' church. Maurice is a wonderful thinker with a wonderful heart, and although I don't share his love for reformed theology I do commend his wise reflection to you regarding John MacArthur's "strange" attack upon those who name Jesus as Lord along with him. You can read Maurice's thoughts here. (Thanks, Maurice!)

Lost in Father's patient love,

Tom, one of His children

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Three Years Later...

     This past Wednesday marked the 3rd "anniversary" of Jettie's passing from this life. Her exit coincided with my sister's birthday, so even if my internal clock weren't still keeping track my calendar would!
     God has healed me in many ways over the past three years. I am still being healed, of course, but perhaps for the first time since the "great sorrow day," I feel ready to write some reflections on what I have experienced and learned on my journey from ashes to beauty. I didn't really want to write about this today, but Father seems insistent that I do, so I trust that someone out there may need what He gives me to share. So here are a few things I have learned so far.
     First and most importantly, I have learned by experience in more ways than I can describe just how tender, faithful and loving God is. To prepare for this entry I went back and reviewed some of my early reflections in grief, and I was once again amazed at how God has guided the healing process, supporting and directing me even when I was unable or unwilling to cooperate. The entry for December 19, 2010 was especially remarkable to me because of what I plan to write today: much of what I wrote there foretold what I now describe as my experience. Papa, you are so amazing, so loving beyond comprehension and description!
     Second, I have learned that, especially when the relationship with the loved on is a really good one, grief takes much longer to recover from and affects us in more ways than we could ever imagine. One of the most surprising effects of my loss was the eruption of fear in virtually every area of my life. I felt unprecedented fear in the oddest of situations, not just the ones one would expect! I felt fear while driving, especially going over overpasses or driving in traffic (of which there is plenty in Houston!). I felt fear whenever I would get ready to eat something ("What if it was the type of food that she ate that killed her???"). I felt fear that I would never again be able to return to the Secret Place life. I was afraid that God would ask me to be a bachelor forever (I make a terrible bachelor!). You get the picture. I am glad to report that now, of course, those fears are gone. "I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears." 
     It also takes much longer to recover from deep loss than I ever anticipated. I found myself trying to rush the process in spite of God's encouragement not to set deadlines! And if anyone would have told me that it would take me about 2 1/2 years to get past the major part of the grief I wouldn't have believed them. If anyone had told me that it would take longer than three years for me to remember the past without tears at times, I wouldn't have believed them. How grateful I am for friends and loved ones (especially my beloved Charlie) who are more patient with me than I am! And I am even more grateful for a God who never runs out of patience and who has not once "rushed" me through this recovery process.
     And that brings me to the third important learning. It is absolutely essential for God to guide the process. Living loved and listening are not optional for the person who would recover from deep loss.
     And here are few more things I've learned which I won't take time to expand upon:

  • Impatience with oneself never helps! Running into Papa's arms helps immeasurably.
  • Everyone of us is different in terms of how we must process grief. Yes, there are some common threads (whoever said that decisions would be more difficult, resulting in some odd choices was spot on: I have had three different new trucks since the great sorrow day! Ouch!). But anyone who thinks that they can fully understand another's grief is simply wrong. Only God can fully understand, and only He can enable us to help the healing process in others. My own loss enables me to understand to a greater extent another's loss, but I dare not lean on my experience alone if I am to help them move from ashes to beauty.
  • It's good to laugh again! :-) Laughter returning was one of the most healing things in my own journey (and my dear Charlie makes me laugh a lot. I smile as I write this!)
     One final string of thoughts I think I need to add here: things I would have done differently. I write these down mostly so that you can learn from them. First, if I had a "do over" for this time, I would have sought help from a grief counselor. I am quite convinced that help from counseling would have made for a a more wholesome experience. Second, I would be kinder and more patient with myself, trusting God more than I have so far, to guide and lead the entire process. Third, I would have listened more to those closest to me (who often held back their words perhaps because I bristled or ran when approached by them!). 
     I close today, though, where I started: marveling at God's amazing grace, His unwavering faithfulness. Maybe some day I will be able to describe better than I can at present how many ways He has demonstrated these to me. For now, I simply say, "To you, O God, be honor, glory, thanks and adoration forever and ever. For you are good and your mercy endures throughout eternity!"

Marveling at wholeness in process from His hand,

Tom, one of Abba's children