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LentRecently, I read that Christians should share their testimonies more intentionally and more frequently.

I must admit that up until the last ten years or so I thought testimonies were only about how you came to know Christ as your savior.  That happened for me when I was five.  I never felt that I had much of a testimony.

Now, I know that our testimony is much more fluid and ever changing.  It’s about our whole lives.  It’s little things and big things.

My faith has been tested on many occasions, but I’d like to take this time to discuss the two times I see as pivotal right now.  When I was sixteen and when I was forty.

By the time I reached the age of sixteen, very little had challenged my Christian walk.  I mistakenly believed that being a Christian was relatively easy.  Then my parents got a divorce.  My whole world flipped. Nothing made sense to me. And while I don’t really think I blamed God, I took my eyes off of Him.  I turned to my own strength and failed to acknowledge that He could make something good out of all the pain I was experiencing.  In the aftermath of the divorce, I made choices that were less than wise, and I did that for almost ten years.

In 2005-2006, I finally forgave myself of the bad choices and started working my way back to what God meant for my life.  I liken it to CS Lewis’s Eustace when he knows that he is not supposed to be a dragon, but Aslan has to rip the skin away to show the new and improved Eustace.

Skip ahead to when I’m forty.  Steven and I lose three grandparents and two babies in the course of a year.  Another life flipping year.

But there was a difference.

I kept my eyes on God.  On the promises of scripture, specifically Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

I don’t think this necessarily made the events any easier to handle.  But it kept me from making subsequent choices that may have compounded the pain and struggle I was experiencing.  Tears were still shed. Anger was still expressed. Confusion was still felt.

But instead of keeping all those feelings to myself, I let God handle them.  He’s better at it.  I followed His lead and nudging. I admitted my own weaknesses and together Steven and I continued to work through our experience. We helped each other let God help us.

I don’t know if any of this makes any kind of sense.  I do know that having faith in God doesn’t eliminate trials. But maybe it redirects our responses to those trials, if we keep our eyes on it. . .which also isn’t all that easy sometimes.

And maybe that is why testimony is so important.  To remind each other that none of us thinks it’s easy.

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Prayer Works?

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Before I continue, I would like to state that I do believe that prayer is important.  I also fear I will be unable to communicate clearly my thoughts in this post. But, nonetheless, I shall try.

For a little over a month I have been ruminating {Steven’s term} on the phrase “prayer works.” It caught my ear while I was listening to the radio and someone called in to extol the power of prayer.  For some reason, it bothered me.

I believe the phrase is, indeed, meant as a praise to the power of God.  However, what does it mean when a friend prays for healing but dies? Or a couple prays for a child but never has one? Or a young person prays for the job but doesn’t get it? Is prayer “working” in these instances? I’m not sure it’s fair or appropriate to simply say, well, those just weren’t meant to be.

During my rumination, my thoughts have continuously been drawn to David’s first child with Bathsheba.  We are told in 2 Samuel 12 that the son will die.  And when he becomes ill after birth, David pleads with God for the child, fasting and lying on the ground.  But the child dies.  David’s servants fear to tell him this news, but when he finds out, he gets up, washes, eats, worships the Lord, and continues with his life. . .not without grief.  He tells his household that while the child lived, there was still hope that God might be gracious.

Was this prayer working?

I remember when we found out that Little’s heartbeat was too slow and the size too small, that I prayed.  I prayed to God that I wanted that child. But I also prayed that I wanted God more.

Prayer does work.  But I believe we have to be careful how we use the phrase and in what way we evaluate working.  Prayer is not a magic potion. I think, in my limited way, that for both me and David, prayer is surrendered worship. It’s a conduit to a stronger relationship with the Father.

In the last year, I have become especially sensitive to the phrases we use in our Christianity and faith and what message they convey. Perhaps this is why I have spent so much time mulling over this particular one. I’m still not sure that I can properly vocalize what it is about “prayer works” that bothers me.  I think because it inadvertently separates believers. Praying believers begin to question if their prayers are wrong because they don’t receive the blessing or healing or understanding for which they are pleading.

But humble prayer is not wrong. Talk with God. Share with Him your hopes and dreams and fears and failures. Perhaps that is how prayer works.  By sharing these things we are able to feel more at peace and more confident as we journey WITH Him on Earth.

One of my grandmother’s favorite hymns was In the Garden. Have a listen and hear the sweetness and power of prayer.

When Peace

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In the last ten months, I have spent much time in grief. It’s consuming. And it’s frustrating. My head knows that there is an abundance of beauty and love surrounding me, but my heart just gets a bit stuck.

I have been angry. . .and defensive.  Defensive of my feelings.  Defensive of my God.

I have been depressed, consumed by all that was lost and all that would never be.

Mostly, I have been at unrest.

But, today. Today, I had a breakthrough and peace descended on me like the river. It refreshed my soul.

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God IS with you wherever you go.” {emphasis mine}

I’ve read and heard that verse before.  But today it was so deeply personal.  And when the preacher said that it showed God’s divine presence in each of our lives and how He is with us in our journey and waiting for us at the place He’s taking us, it was like eating one of my grandma’s peanut butter balls with her at her kitchen counter.  It was bliss.

God is not surprised by the events in my life. He has been patiently waiting for me and cheering for me as I navigate these unexpected waters.

I am not perfect. But I am loved.

I am not strong. But I am held by the God of the universe. . .and, He is the Almighty.

I am not without wounds. But I am filled with the joy of knowing that Christ is my success.

When peace like a river attends my soul, the balm of Gilead is there applied, and my soul sings loudly.

A Milly Pause

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Usually Seasoned Fiction is a post about Milly and Paper Wrappers. But let’s pause a moment and do something a bit different. I don’t generally go for poetry. It’s not what I find is my strength. That said, I ran across this poem I wrote in 2009 after reading the book of Esther and book about the book of Esther. I thought I’d share it today.

“For Such a Time as This”
For such a time as this
God has put me in this place.
I didn’t know when I awoke
That I could be His tool of grace.
I am just an ordinary me
Nothing special about I
But the fragrance of God
Has poured from my life
For such a time as this.

The moments of my life
Are routine and mundane
I am only one who struggles through this world
My star shines for Him
To risk without gain
To know that all I do is
For such a time as this.

My Lord has permeated each day.
Each breath and each step
Though ordinary it seemed
His plan was so great
Though I could not see
As He placed me His stage
For such a time as this.