Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dangerous prayers

Have you ever held back from praying a Dangerous Prayer because you knew - soul-wrenching, gut-deep KNEW - that God would answer it with a resounding YES?

I have.

Twice, in the past 6 months.

Once was this past summer. I was driving somewhere I didn't need to be going. Watched the interstate lines dart under the wheels of my car, flashes of white, my spirit begging me to ask God to intervene. To stop me.

I couldn't pray it. Because I knew He would. And I wasn't ready to let go yet.

But I wanted to. So badly, I wanted to.

My soul prayed it anyway, the urgent plea not verbally crossing my lips or even coherently forming into syllables within my thoughts...but my heart cried out in desperation just as tangibly, vividly, as a spoken word.

I halfway expected a flat tire.

I made it to my destination. And God intervened in a different way. A way that had me wishing for a flat tire. Instead of air leaking out of rubber, there were words hissing through unprepared lips. Instead of metal rims scratching gravel, there were claws of panic scratching at my heart. He was freeing me from the very thing I needed to be freed from. But I fought.

I started a game of tug-of-war with God that afternoon. Like Jacob, thinking I had a chance at changing my destiny. So, so mistakenly thinking I wanted to.

Like Jacob, I left that fight with wounds. Scars. Some that are still healing. Rope burns on my palms. Forever-memories of how God intervenes even when we don't have the courage to outright ask Him to.

But unlike Jacob - I wasn't struggling to receive my blessing. I was fighting against it. Terrified of getting it. Scared of how much it would hurt to take that free fall of faith.

Despite all of that struggle - God came, prepared for battle. Not to fight me, but to fight for me, and that battle took the form of a tangible argument that wasn't actually between me and the other person at all.

He answered that almost-prayer of my exhausted spirit that day in a way that yanked me off the path I'd been treading - that path constantly interrupted with flashes of white - and turned me around. Rope burns, scars, dirty fingernails, skinned knees and all. Turned me around, unlocked the chains from my wrists and told me to march. To walk in freedom.

But those chains had been so heavy, I'd grown numb. And when they finally fell off, all those nerves that grown immune began to ache. Tingle. Hurt.

There's always a price to freedom.

A few weeks ago, I prayed one of those dangerous, scary prayers again. The kind of prayer you are terrified to utter because you KNOW God will answer it.

This time, though, I had learned. And I had enough courage to force the words off my lips verbally, intentionally, with a pounding heart and adrenaline laced pulse. Because I knew it was for the best, even though the guarantee of receiving this answered prayer made my heart hurt.

And He's answering it. Just like I knew He would. With each passing day, He's answering it, and His way is so, so obvious. So obvious, it's halfway hilarious.

You know you're in God's will when you pray things you don't want to pray and get immediate answers confirming exactly those things.

It's easy to pray for blessings. To ask for favor and wealth and health. To ask for others in your life to receive the same. It's harder to pray the prayers of the trenches. The prayers that mean sacrificing your own heart, your own flesh, your own desires, as misplaced as they are...and yet that's why we do it. We KNOW they're misplaced. We know we need that sharp corner of ourselves softened and rounded and changed. Even if it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Even if it means letting go of things or people or dreams we've held tight to for a long time.

To wounded hearts, a bad familiar is still more comfortable than the unknown.

I opened my hands when I prayed this last Dangerous Prayer. Opened them up wide, to let go. Looked down, remembered the rope burns. Remembered His way is best. No more tug of war. No more wrestling.

What is your Dangerous Prayer? The one you know you're called to pray, to ask for, to seek God about? The one that is lurking in your spirit right now as you read this post, the one that's making your heart race at these words and causing conviction to knock loud and crisp on your heart?

Pray it. From one battle wounded warrior to another, I beg you - pray it.

We might have the rope burns, but He has the nail-scarred hands, and the price of that Freedom was worth far more than any hurt you'll pay getting back into His will. The transition can sting. Badly. Trust me, I remember.

But the only way to His kind of peace? Is to live dangerously.

Monday, October 20, 2014

For the blood-stained and weary stained by the Blood...


A five-letter word some unfortunately deem a four.

Deemed by those who don't know the drip of red that stains as it washes clean. Those who haven't had reason to be coaxed from the shadows into the light and stand, not appalled and ashamed, but weary and welcome.

By grace. Through grace. Because of grace.

Five letters.

One for every finger on the hand.

Every finger that instead of pointing outward, curls inward, one by one, into a fist. Pointing back at themselves.

Everyone needs grace.

Some just linger more aware of their need than others.

And in those grace-needy moments, those moments where the stained cling to the crimson garment at the foot of the cross and look up at the battle that was fought on two boards... that's where joy is found. That's where circumstances fade away, worries are cast aside. That's where checkbooks disintegrate and broken hearts mend and disease dries up and prayers are answered not because of what we try to do and fail but because of Who already did it.

And the account might still be in the red and the pain may tarry and the report linger might not be morning yet, you might still be mourning - but there is joy. Joy in the waiting. In the hoping. In the trusting.

2 boards + 1 hero = all we ever really needed in the first place.

A hero we can access because of one word. Five letters.

It all comes down to, comes back to, comes full circle to, grace.

(hit play on the video to the right for a song I've had on repeat for the last year)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Day I Tried To Open a Bottle of Wine With a Hammer

I needed communion. 

It'd been on my heart for weeks, but I'd never done it by myself. Communion. At home? Alone? 

That was reserved for padded church pews. For elderly hands passing wobbly silver trays of plastic grape-juice-filled cups. For tiny fingers plucking snippets of tasteless crackers from a doily-lined dish. For grave-expressions on suit-clad pastors and ominous undertones of the seriousness of partaking with sin lingering in your life. 

Never sat well with me. It'd been ten minutes since I'd prayed last. I'd probably sinned since then. Worry. Concern. Heaviness. How did anyone do this?

No, no. Not just sin in general. You know, just the living-in-sin stuff. The constant sin you choose to dwell in all the time. 

Huh? How is that different?

That was my typical growing up experience with communion. 

Until I attended a Captivating Retreat through John and Stasi Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries last year in Colorado. And I marched with a hundred or more other women to a candlelit stage, with a low table surrounded by pillows, a table laden with goblets of red wine and large loafs of bread, all crumbly, broken, flaking reminders of the cross.

And then I got it. 


"the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level."

An exchange with Jesus. His body and blood for my sin. His atonement for my acceptance. His death for my life. 

Not a fair exchange. And that is forever sobering. 

But that's grace. 

I needed communion. And I needed it in my house, Alone. Not on a pew. Not with women on a stage. No band or instruments softly serenading the silence. Just me and God. I needed the symbolism and the memory and the experience. Needed a realignment. 

Needed to remember.

So I dug out a single Saltine cracker from the box in the pantry, and grabbed a bottle of red wine that had been used as decoration on my counter ever since returning from a trip two years ago, where I'd snagged it from an artsy gift shop. 

There was just one complication. 

No corkscrew. 

As I'd never been particularly adept at working those anyway, I didn't worry. I'd figure it out. I tried a steak knife, at first, the idea being I could gouge a hole through the cork enough to pour out just a taste of the liquid. 

That didn't work. Flakes of cork went everywhere. 

So I tried a flat edged skinny knife, trying to wedge the flat edge between the cork and the glass, and pry it open. 

The very edge of the glass lip broke, chipped, shattered across the counter and the floor. 

(I know. This is where I should have stopped, should have realized it wasn't going to happen, and moved on. But it'd become a personal mission. I had to open this bottle. I had to have this moment and experience)

I cleaned up the glass. Went back to the steak knife. 

Then decided to Google alternatives to corkscrews. 

There were quite a few. 

I tried them all. 

Flaking cork. Frustrated words. Toolbox supplies scattered across the entire counter.  

I twisted in a picture hanging screw with a hook on one end into the cork. Tried to pry it out with pliers. 

I pounded three nails into the cork, tried to pry them out with a hammer. 

More broken glass from the lip of the bottle. 

And finally Jesus said STOP. 

(I think He was laughing) 

And I realized, then, staring at my counter littered with screws, nails, cork fragments, and enough tools to build a dog house or at least a mailbox, that I was missing the forest for the trees. It wasn't about the wine, it was about my heart. And at the moment, my heart was far from ready to "share or exchange intimate thoughts and feelings" with the Lord.

I packed up my tools. Put the busted bottle back in its decorative place on the counter. Checked once more for glass dust. Lit a candle, sat at the table with my Bible, and had communion. With a stale Saltine and Raspberry Lemonade carbonated water from a bottle. 

Nothing could have been sweeter or richer or warmer.

So often I miss the point for the specifics, the message for the minutiae, the theme for the details. I stare so hard at the speck on the horizon that I can't even see the glorious sunset around me. 

I almost missed it. I almost missed a holy experience because I spent an hour trying to open a wine bottle. With a hammer.

What else have I missed, or almost missed?

What have you?

What else have I allowed to consume my thoughts, energy, time, emotion and creativity? What else have I struggled with needlessly, when the provision was already right there, waiting for me to acknowledge it? 

Maybe - maybe - search for ways to put away your toolbox today, your toolbox full of effort and willpower and determination and indignation and just open your fridge. Get the carbonated water. Accept the provision that's already there.

Jesus' provision. His blood. His sacrifice. 

He turned water into wine once already, you know.