Friday, December 25, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

So I am spending all this time to try to figure out how to pray. Overwhelmed by my total lack of confidence in an area of my faith that I am called to be doing without ceasing. And yet, at Christmas especially, maybe we should be following the lead of the young. This was what my Middle Man prayed today at Christmas dinner -
"Dear God, Thank you for your wonderful gift. Thank you for sending your son. Amen"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lord, Teach Me to Pray

On Tuesdays, for one hour, all three of my boys are in school at the same time. This is because Little One has started a speech class once a week for one hour. He had been going for an hour and half which was heavenly but he graduated from that class rather quickly and is now in the one hour speech articulation class. I was a little bummed that he was progressing so quickly because I was really enjoying a whole hour and a half. But at this point in my life as a Mommy, I will gladly take one hour, once a week. Especially since that one hour is at 8:30 in the morning and a town away so there really is not much I can do but hang out at Starbucks, drink my mocha while it is hot, and start reading through all the new books I have.

So this week I was sitting at my table all ready to go with four books in front of me having to choose where to begin. How does one choose what book to read first? I always feel like I am being asked to choose which child is my favorite. Though if I am totally honest, I do have a favorite child, but it is not always the same child. Good thing I have three kids because at any given moment any one or two might be pushing my last buttons but there is always one that makes me smile on that day and reminds me how lucky I am to have each and every one of them. So you can see I have a deep need to improve on my prayer life.

I decided to start with a book by Andrew Murray written over a hundred years ago. It was recommended by a friend and as a former history teacher I figured when in doubt go with a classic. So glad I did because the first chapter of "With Christ in the School of Prayer: Unlock the Power of Prayer" is called Lord, Teach Us to Pray. In it he writes this prayer,
Lord Jesus! I ask Thee this day to enroll my name among those who confess that they know not how to pray as they ought, and specially ask Thee for a course of teaching in prayer. Lord! teach me to tarry with Thee in the school, and give Thee time to train me. May a deep sense of my ignorance, of the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before Thee in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.

I love that prayer. And while the words may be different, with a lot less Thees, my heart cries out in the same way. Turns out I was going at this study of prayer the wrong way, seeking book recommendations and talking to friends, before I ever went to Jesus the perfect teacher of prayer. Because no matter what books I read, who I talk with or what I find in the Bible, without Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I will never understand prayer. I will never be able to really experience prayer as God wants for me.

So Lord, please teach me to pray! Let me be a humble student, open to wherever your training will take me, eager to learn from you, open to your Spirit, with a deep understanding that the power of prayer comes not from me, but from you. Let my prayers start and stop with You.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seeking Book Recommendations on Prayer

I ran into my pastor at Starbucks today. He was reading a book on the Holy Spirit which made me realize I had not asked him for any recommendations for books on prayer. So in between getting Little One a tall water, no ice (very specific like his mommy) and helping him get his scone out of the bag, I asked my pastor if he had any books to recommend for my study of prayer. I felt a little better when he did not have a laundry list of the best books on prayer ever written all ready to go. Turns out that prayer is a challenge for a lot of strong, mature Christians. He thought of a few and is going to get back to me with some suggestions. We did have an interesting start of a discussion about the purpose of prayer and thinking through what it means to pray without ceasing. Were we in that moment praying at all times? Is prayer us talking? It seems to me that prayer would have to be conversational which would require that I stop talking sometimes to let the other person, God, get a word. I have found with both my husband and kids that we can be together, communicating with one another without ever saying a word or even be thinking a specific thought but just being together. I would think the same would be true with God. Is to pray without ceasing mean being in communion with God at all times? Not necessarily talking or even listening but just being in His presence. Little one was not really enjoying our theological discussion and decided to spin around, fall down and cry loudly. So I had to leave quickly because there is no crying in Starbucks. But not before I found out I really need to get a systematic theology book. Guess I will add that to my Amazon list.

Here is one great thing my pastor has taught me about prayer though. A month or so ago he was teaching on suffering. Really good, challenging stuff that took the spot light off our conditions and put it on God's sovereignty. One thing the pastor said was that the Bible says to cast our cares upon the Lord (I Peter 5:7). He said that when we take our anxieties to the Lord, He will trade our cares for His peace. We pray and give our worries and concerns to God, not asking for solutions or answers but placing them on His alter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The other day I was at the gym working out with a new friend. We were on the step climbers, trying to get our bums to lift up a bit and not sag down in our mommy jeans. I was feeling really good about our workout because we had already done the treadmill and eliptical trainer and were on our third aerobic circuit before hitting the weights. I was definitely all sweaty and smelling and while I could still hold up my end of the conversation, being a little short of breath was making me be a better listener. Seemed like a really productive time at the gym to me. I was feeling all healthy and athletic.

And then the Boot Camp lady with the amazing arms walked up and started pushing my friend's resistance up on her stair climber. Turns out my friend had taken Boot Camp at our gym last year a few times a week and was obviously not working hard enough for the instructor. We, as the perfectionists that we are, starting working out harder, at least until the Boot Camp lady walked away and we were safe to slow down.

I love the idea of Boot Camp at the gym. I would like to do the class one day. Actually I don't ever really want to work out that hard, but I would love to have those arms and abs. I would also like to know that I could do it, that I could survive that class without laying on the ground in the the fetal position in a pool of my own sweat crying to just let me stop. I want the results without all the work. And after talking to my friend, it turns out the work is not just getting into shape and then you are done. No, you have to keep working out that hard and then harder to keep those arms and flat stomach. I like the idea, but not sure I am up for the follow through.

See, I am in a place of maintaining in my life. This started as pure survivalism when I had the kids. I started at the gym because they had two hours of free childcare a day. It was the one place I could go, turn on my own music, read a book and just zone out and walk on the treadmill while someone else entertained my kids. And in the mommy world of self sacrifice, taking care of my body, my health, was one selfish thing I could do that I could justify as benefiting my kids directly. Over time, as my kids got more self sufficient and our schedules got busier, going to the gym became less of a necessity for sanity and more of a desire to get a bit of stress out each week while avoiding having to buy the bigger jeans. But when the necessity was gone the consistency was gone too. And no where was I going to the gym to really work out, to really work hard. I was not about pushing my body too hard, just hard enough to get what I wanted which was a little stress reduction and to tick off the workout portion of my list of things I should be doing. I keep telling myself that when the kids are all in school I will start getting more serious about my workouts, that right now I am just maintaining, doing enough to stay healthy, but not really doing enough to get in shape.

I started thinking more about this idea of maintaining. I am looking through my life and see maintenance as my motivation. Not excellence, not greatness. Maintenance.

I used to be a perfectionist, probably as a response to my people pleasing nature. But I realized that was not going to work for me as a mom. I could not be the perfect mom. I was never going to be able to do it all because I actually need a little thing called sleep. I can be the good enough mom. I can maintain in my life. I keep telling myself - Someday. This applies to the laundry, the clutter piled on my desk, my Trader Joe's frozen dinners, my liberal take on screen time for the kids, as well as my relationship with God. Someday, I will have a working filing system I use every day. Someday, I will cook every meal from scratch and my kids will eat it. Someday, I will spend time every day reading the Bible, spending time studying God's word, in prayer and meditation.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Telling a Better Story

So just after I wrote my post about the story not being all about me, I started reading a great book by Donald Miller entitled, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Year". It is hard to explain but my take away from the book is that we each need to be using our lives to tell a better story. I loved this book, it will be my go to gift this season, but it sort of crashed down on my idea that I can relax because The Story is not about me. Because while I still believe this is true, Donald Miller takes this idea further and says that while God is the central part of the story, we still need to be writing a better story with our lives. And not just a better story for ourselves, but a better story for our kids. I love Donald Miller's writing style as well as the thoughts he writes. "Blue Like Jazz" made me feel like I was not all alone in my view of God and the church. If you have not read Donald Miller, I would suggest you pick it up and give it a read.

Prayer: A User's Guide?

So I have been gone for a while. Well not really gone but I have not written in a long, long time. Wish it was because I was busy doing something really exciting and meaningful but alas it was not. I just haven't really thought of anything really interesting to say lately. There have been a few time when I have thought of something to write, but I don't want to get my laptop out in the middle of the night and by the time the sun rises, I have lost all my deep thoughts in the fog of exhaustion that comes from middle of the night insomnia.

I have been thinking about prayer lately, but don't have anything to really write. At least not anything productive. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with prayer. That may not be an accurate description, more that I am confused by prayer. I know we are called to pray both as individuals and as a community, but I am not sure we (me as well as the church) are on the right track. I hate the idea of shopping list prayers, asking God to give us what we want. But on the other hand Matthew 7:7 says, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." The Lord's Prayer asks for our daily bread. I know we are to call out to God, that we are supposed to pray without ceasing. But after all these years of church services, theology classes, Bible study and being in the church, I still don't think I have a good understanding of prayer. So I have sought out some book recommendations from people I think actually get prayer, put in my order with Amazon, and am planning to spend a few months just sitting with prayer. Since I am buying the books I should have some interesting notes in the margins. If I can find something to write with while reading the book. All the sharpened pencils in our house seem to have disappeared and I think the pens are all off having a party somewhere I would never think to look.

So here's hoping I have something to share soon.