Don’t Hit Bye: Prayer Without Ceasing

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It’s been a long time since I fit in the secret hiding space under a blanket-covered coffee table, but my youngest granddaughter brought me along as her special guest recently. She read to me from her first I Can Read booklet, then introduced me to all her Lego people by name and personality characteristics. She has a marvelous imagination.

It didn’t bother her in the least that I attended via Facetime on Mommy’s phone. She just propped me up between sweet Emma with the yellow plastic hair and charming Benjamin with the miniature bow and arrow. We played until the phone batteries ran out.

This week she called to show me – with great excitement — the space where her baby tooth used to reside. Its new residence was an empty Doritos bag, because she was munching chips in her car seat in the van when the great moment arrived. She dug the tooth out and proudly held it up to the screen so I could see the little spot of blood on the bottom – her red badge of courage.

My family is spread across the country and as much as I complain about being techno-challenged, I love modern technology that allows me to be a part of the lives of people I love so much. On the other side of the continent, in the Maritimes, another granddaughter also lost her first tooth on the same day. She shared her joy as well.

Later in the week, when a storm closed schools and took out power on the island, she and her brother called me from their safe place snuggled with two cats and a dog under thick blankets in a dark cold house. We talked about feeling afraid and what we can do when things we depend on don’t work and that Jesus is always with us. Suddenly the lights came on! There was much rejoicing and plugging in of devices.

When my oldest granddaughter started staying at home by herself instead of attending her brother’s “boring soccer games,” she Facetimed me as well. Sometimes I help her with homework and sometimes she just props me up near the computer while she works on an essay and I putter around on my own projects. Sometimes we don’t need words to say I love you. Sometimes being in the presence of a safe person is enough – even if that presence is only via a cell phone. She jokingly told me she simply wanted someone who could hear her scream should the occasion arise.

Once one of the kids put me in the fridge to see if the light stayed on when the door was closed. I was able to advise. Another time she smuggled me into a room where an adult conversation, that clearly neither of us was meant to hear, was taking place. Awkward. I started singing a silly song – loudly, very loudly. And then she had to go to bed and we couldn’t play anymore that evening.

One chat with my little granddaughter made me think. During one of our Grandma-babysits-by-long-distance-so-Mommy-can-shower play dates she said, “Grandma, I’m setting you down for a minute. I’m just going to the bathroom so don’t hit bye, ok?”

I’ve often said I wished I could pick up a phone and talk to God. I have questions. I have things I want to show him. Sometimes I get scared in a cold dark world with no sign of order or light being restored any time soon, and I need him to just be there in case I feel the urge to scream.

That’s what prayer is – talking and listening to God, with a variety of subtler forms of communication. Sometimes prayer is pouring out my heart and sometimes it’s simply being in his presence. The thing is, I realized I am the one who “hits bye” when I am distracted.

Some place along the way I picked up ideas about prayer that formalize and complicate hanging out with someone who loves me and enjoys being with me as much as I enjoy my grandchildren. Somehow, I thought prayer was like sending God a formal business letter. It needed a salutation, words of appreciation and respect, reminders of previous topics discussed, and an information download leading to the real reason of the letter – the request, followed by more compliments and a closing assuring sincere intent.

Prayer in public meant making an extemporaneous speech addressed to God but delivered for others to hear and judge with appropriate confirming murmurs. Frankly, the process was just about as intimidating as standing up before my fellow tenth graders and talking to them about civil responsibility and my intent to vote when I was old enough. These speech prayers usually have sign-off endings as well, sometimes with an over-and-out “amen” by each speaker and sometimes in “a closing prayer” by a person with authority to wrap things so we could get on with the more relaxed talk in the foyer. (By the way, Amen doesn’t mean The End. It means “I agree.” In current vernacular it might be the equivalent of a thumbs-up like.)

Sometimes a prayer can be written with thought, like a poem. Many passages of scripture are prayers we can voice ourselves, but they do not need to be the end of the conversation. They may be the beginning of a deeper intimacy.

My granddaughter made me question why I “hit bye” at the end of my prayers. What if God wasn’t finished? What if he was puttering around holding the universe together while he waited for me to get to the point or ask a better question and then when he had something to say I hung up on him?

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (who were experiencing some pretty severe bullying) that they would find God’s way for them if they continuously practised expressing joyful, thankful attitudes and didn’t stop praying.

How do we stay in continual contact with our Maker? Call out to him. Talk. Listen. And don’t hit bye.

Reverence

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Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word.

Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers.

Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

-John Muir

The mountains are my Holy Land. I go there to pray and rest in the presence of the Lover of my soul. It’s holy because He is holy.

Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain

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I met some firefighters at the grocery store this evening. They were in town picking up snacks and toiletries and enjoying the luxury of cell service. Everyone smiled at them.

The men and women who fight forest fires are heroes around here. They leave behind a cloud of ashes and the smell of smoke wherever they go, but they take with them the sincere thanks of people who live in British Columbia. This time they also received free advice from a kind soul who warned them to be careful.

“You need to keep your noses open because if you smell smoke there will be a fire somewhere,” he grinned, proud of remembering an important lesson. He told them if he had money he would take them all out for a drink. They thanked him graciously. They knew he meant it.

I asked which fire they were working. It was the big one that threatened the city of Kimberley and the beautiful valley of St. Mary’s Lake. “But we had lots of rain this week, so we should be finishing up soon,” one guy said.

One of my friends has been working at the perimeter of the same fire. He guards fire-fighting equipment all night because, believe it or not, thieves like to steal tools and machinery that men and women use to save lives and property – perhaps even the thieves’ own. Some people are givers and some are takers. Lord, help us all.

Yesterday I followed dramatic skies up to a little lake in the hills. I had to tuck my camera under my jacket and run back to the car when it began to rain. In a few minutes it began to pour.

After a while a gap in the clouds allowed the sun to pour through at the same time.

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We prayed so long for rain. And it came.

Rain feels beautifully cleansing and refreshing after a season of choking on smoke and watching for evacuation alerts. I felt thankful — thankful for the fire crews, thankful for the rain, and thankful for the green forests I love so much.

There is something about almost losing something that increases its value.

For those of you who have lost homes and beautiful wooded views, I am so sorry. May the change of seasons bring you hope of new beginnings.

We all need hope. Hope teaches us to dance in the rain by faith before the day comes when our clothes get soaked and we dash for the car.

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain…

(Hosea 6:3 NASB)

Watching and Waiting

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Photo: Jimsmith Lake, fire season

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

Smoke from the fires here in British Columbia blocks out the sun and our view of the mountains. I’ve seen the pictures of Slave Lake and Fort McMurry in Alberta and cities in California after wildfires swept in. We live in the middle of a tinder-dry forest. I know what can happen – and there’s no rain in sight.

The next town down the road is on evacuation alert. I wonder if I should be packing up a lifetime of family photos or deciding which paintings and heirlooms to take and which to leave to the flames if we need to run.

My anxiety level rises when I feel pressured to make a decision, whether it’s what kind of replacement laptop to buy or whether or not I should throw an old guitar in the back seat of the car. I can’t think straight. That’s when I need to take a step back into rest and trust and ask the Lord what I am missing.

Usually the missing element is peace, and it’s missing because FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOFSI (fear of forgetting something important) has taken it’s place.

Today is one of those days when I find I am actually pressuring myself to make decisions based on “What if _____________ (enter disaster de jour event here) happens?”

Sometimes I don’t receive direction because I don’t need it. I’ve noticed God tends not to bother with answers to hypothetical questions about events that will never occur.

Sometimes my frustration or confusion is due to an inability to hear because of a barrage of fearful thoughts that drown out God’s voice.

Sometimes I don’t hear because my confidence is misplaced. The author of the book of Proverbs wrote about the dangers of trusting in our own armaments over trusting in God. You can do your best to prepare for the battle, but ultimate victory comes from the Lord God. (Prov. 21:31 TPT)

Sometimes, when I remember to step into the quietness of peace where his still voice is best heard, he simply asks for trust. “Put your confidence in Me. Watch. Wait. I’m still here.”

The words of Fanny Crosby’s song, “Blessed Assurance” have been coming to me lately.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

His goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and His lovingkindness endures forever — even when I forget.

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Superabundant Hope

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Last year the mountain ash tree outside my window bore no fruit. This year the branches bend low under the weight of thousands of berries. In the winter, when nothing grows here in the Canadian Rockies, birds will feast on them. Abundant provision now for sustenance later.

My prayer for you today:

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope,

fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy

and perfect peace

as you trust in him.

 

And may the power of the Holy Spirit

continually surround your life

with his super-abundance

until you radiate with hope!

(Romans 15:13 TPT)

Mountains of Influence

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A King’s prayer for the coming King.

O God, make the king a godly judge like you
and give the king’s son the gift of justice too.

Help him to give true justice to your people,
honorably and equally to all.

Then the mountains of influence will be fruitful,
and from your righteousness
prosperity and peace will flow to all the people.

(Psalm 71: 1-3 TPT)

I never noticed until this week how often the Bible speaks of righteousness and peace being in relationship with each other. Our landscapes are shaped by both. Righteousness creates space for peace to flourish. Peace creates an environment for righteousness to grow.