Thursday, February 28, 2013

Answered Prayer Packaged in Inconvenience

By Brenda Black

When you pray for drought relief, there's no excuse to complain about mud. The catch 22 of moisture soaking the soil is the accumulation of mush on top. Far and wide across the nation, massive snowfall brought life-giving water in an inconvenient, all be it, beautiful form, turning every day routines into harrowing feats. But, if you think driving to work in a foot of slippery fluff is difficult with solid pavement under the tread, try plowing to work on the farm, through drifts and ruts, over slick, tender grass blades. All I can say is Yee Haw! Hold on tight and give it the gas!

I 'm glad my husband is the one at the wheel while I ride shotgun through such a challenging course. I would rather be the gate girl than the wife who slid the pickup into the fence. I don't know how he navigates through slimy, narrow passages or keeps it in the center of oozing slush, flanked by walls of white drifts just waiting to suck our rig into stuck. I do understand the absolute necessity of keeping my window rolled up! Some things you learn the hard way and a freezing cold mud bath slung in the face is one class I never intend to take.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I am a “do it myself” kind of gal. I take on everything with an “I can” attitude. Sometimes, not to my credit, but to my shame, I think I can do it in my own strength. That's about as smart as me taking the wheel through a dangerous snow drift or riding shotgun to feed hay in winter with the window rolled down! I need to know my limits. I need to accept my powerlessness at times. I need to employ some God-given common sense and I need to turn to God.

If I ask Him to help me, then deny the answer He gives me or the help He brings, I'm going to curse the showers of blessings instead of accept them in their various forms. In rain and snow and sleet and mud, the Lord is good. His perfect wisdom is our solid foundation when the bottom of the road seems to disappear into oblivion. His perfect love protects us from the cold, nasty challenges that life slings into our face. His perfect grace does not demand that we do more than we were ever designed or called to accomplish. The Lord is faithful and knows what is best. Though we wonder at His tactics, we must never begrudge His mysterious answers to prayer.

We pray for the Lord to refresh our land with moisture and He sends a blizzard. That inconvenient snow that some may curse, delivers unseen benefits for which we didn't ask, but we get. Much needed moisture will penetrate deep into the ground as it slowly melts. We receive nitrogen for the soil and a hard freeze to annihilate an overabundance of disease bearing pests. There's run-off filling creeks and ponds and streams that have groaned for a drink. God sees the big picture.
So often, we think we do not get the answers we seek when we pray. In those moments, I must remember that I'm not the Creator in charge of the weather or of life. I need to trust the One who bids the snow to get me through the tough things that want to suck the life out of me or slam me headfirst into a frigid embankment.

Before we can get to the pasture, we first have to get out of the drive!
As the Lord spoke to Job long ago, He speaks with the same authority today: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail...What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?” (Job 38:22-27)

I think we know the answer to all of these questions. If God is great enough to command all of earth, isn't He the One that should be 4-wheeling His way through my life. The One at the wheel has far more experience and has every intention of protecting me. I need to employ the common sense the Lord gave me: Just buckle up, keep the window up, and look up for His safety.

Answers to prayer comes packaged in strange and inconvenient containers. But, with eyes wide open , a receptive heart and a good grip on the dash, we might just be able to see the big picture when we trust the Lord to transport us through life's scary drifts.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Missing Pieces on the Page

By Brenda Black

I anticipated this year to be challenging for a number of reasons. The catalog of pending events, assignments, appointments and duties burgeoned before I ever turned the calendar page. It was filled with hard stuff like surgeries and a root canal; dotted with fun stuff I enjoy. The blank white boxes day after day, I branded with meetings and deadlines. Welcome work. Volunteer tasks. Important people. Then it was gone. One unexpected computer crash later and I'm piecing my agenda back together.

Some events are recurring, predictable and easily recalled while other dates logged far in advance seem vague. Bit by bit, I remember and quickly jot them down before that recollection fades. How dependent I have become on technology is a sign of these modern times and my aging brain. How full my life has become seems to correlate with the easy access of gadgetry. I'm learning more and more that just because it is deftly entered data, doesn't mean it will be as easily accomplished. BUT, it is achievable, doable, possible, attainable. AND it just might be remarkable to trust God more, depend on His strength and see Him assemble what is necessary and beneficial and eliminate what is of lesser worth.

So as I start my day earlier than usual, after staying up late as normal, I am reminded anew that I'm never completely in control of anything tangible...or digital. I have one task over which I have sovereignty: The choice I make to lean on the Lord and trust His provision and supremacy.

Wise Solomon learned it long before me and challenged everyone to follow such a trustworthy King.

“Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, 'What are you doing?'

“Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him.

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? ” (Ecclesiastes 8:2-7)
Either I look at this word of instruction as gloom and doom or I embrace it as gracious, blissful ignorance. I don't know what waits around the corner. I can't predict the future, I know not how long I have to live and work and love and learn. But I do know the One who has it all under control. The King of Kings!

Though life is busy and inconvenient at times, God is never too busy to care about every scribble I mark on the calendar of my life. He cares. I know this full well. And that is what keeps me sane in the midst of everyday trials. It keeps it all in perspective and helps me realize that nothing temporary is life or death panic worthy. And even life and death are of no concern when the Lord God Himself knows every day ever written for me.

All too often, God is the missing piece. We've alloted Him no time. We've not sought His wisdom nor asked for His help. And when we hit a crisis or crash, we are incapacitated. Your days do not have to be lived that way. The Lord Jesus Christ is waiting to fill your life with the missing peace.

Friday, February 8, 2013

On a Sneeze and a Prayer

By Brenda Black

My head was splitting from the moment my feet hit the floor. Headaches and travel do not marry well and the itinerary didn't include time for divorce. My travel companion, for better or worse and a good thousand miles was to be an excruciatingly bad migraine.

Two hours on the road and the first leg of the journey merged into a baggage check then getting the once-over from a TSA agent who obviously graduated from a training class on face recognition or possibly a staring contest. No bomb in the shoes. No liquid in the bag, no wire under the bra, but I still had the headache. Maybe an overpriced cold turkey sandwich and liquid gold in the form of bottled water would ease the pain before take off. I bid my hubby adieu and assured him I'd be fine, even though I wanted to cry.

I found a place near the window with my gate in sight and a clear view of the luggage ramp. At first I was thrilled to see my bags the first up the conveyor belt, but struggled to interpret the conversation and gestures as each employee paid special attention to my two parcels. By the time I boarded behind wheel chairs, babies, business class and two rounds of ticket holders, the plane was nearly full and available seats scattered and sparse. In spite of the headache, I entered the plane with a smile to match the 

Southwest greeting that welcomed me aboard. Then the long, agonizing walk down the aisle ensued. It's a game of looking for the best prospect. Who looks inviting and who looks like they don't want you near them? I found a kind looking couple in the first third of the plane. He had long legs and preferred the aisle seat, she sat near him selecting the middle. That left the window -- my favorite spot. Only the awkward crawl across two strangers to get there and I could rest.

Our conversation was brief and cordial, a generic ice breaker at best. Half way across the wide horizon, a single sneeze broke the lingering silence. And that kind blonde to my right offered a sincere "Bless you."

It was enough to give me hope. All I needed was courage to ask for something more. My heart pounded with equal intensity to the throbbing in my head. I questioned what God was pressing me to do and nearly convinced myself to not risk it. But He wouldn't leave me alone, so I finally ventured: "May I ask you a personal question? When you blessed me earlier, was that evidence of your belief in prayer and in the power of Jesus Christ?" When she answered with a quick and certain "Yes,"I dared the next request: "Would you please pray for me. My head is splitting and it's getting worse."

Two strangers sat elbow to elbow and silently we joined hearts and sent thoughts heavenward. Knowing that she was covering me, I prayed for whatever measure of faith she had that it be increased. I asked the Lord to bless her and His touch on me would do a greater work in her. I honestly felt that was more important than my own relief! The pain diminished and a sneeze and a prayer later, I knew the Lord was up to something special -- He is always at work! I'm thankful my discomfort compelled me to reach out and I believe if the Lord helped me, He surely touched her as well.

For the remainder of the trip, we talked off and on and found many things in common. By the time hundreds emptied the plane, among them left my new sister in Christ.

Then I figured out why so much conversation surrounded my suitcases. I was the sole passenger remaining aboard for the next destination and those bags were commissioned to a special place in the belly of the plane.

I was alone only a matter of minutes until the plane filled again. This time I watched as one by one they loaded, and among the final ticket holders, God delivered another delightful Christian lady. We praised God for the next short 45 minute journey. I never sneezed but she still blessed me and I her when we parted company!

I met two living for the One while way up and away in the sky. A big headache and a little "achoo" are no match for blessing and a prayer and the body of Christ!