Answered Prayer: Clean Water!

My very first official race was a 10K that represented something immense, the achievement of a goal I had never even set out to accomplish. I believe that God blesses us and we should share our blessings. And because it was such a momentous symbol of God’s incredible transformation in my life, I wanted to do something productive through the race that would help others.

So, I started a fundraiser for WaterAid, an organization that helps provide clean water and sanitation to communities around the world that are suffering from fatal yet completely preventable diseases. No child should die from diarrheal diseases or parasites when it is possible to bring them clean water.  Anyway, I digress. I started out with a goal of $5,000. .

After a few weeks of very discouraging results, I realized that I had failed to incorporate God into this effort. I was doing it for him, so to speak. But I failed to ask him to bless my efforts. So, I posted a prayer request about my fundraising effort for WaterAid through every avenue available to me, including this blog. And boy did he bless me. The $5,000 goal I began with was adjusted to $2,000 when I ended up being the sole fundraiser. I leveraged every fundraising piece of knowledge I had gained in my career to try and persuade people to support my cause.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to raise even $10. Largely with the support of my church members, especially our priest and church secretary I was able to surpass my goal amount of $2,000. It was difficult and discouraging at times, but I praise God because it led to a sense of awareness in my church community. In fact, a year later, some of the members still ask me about it.

The power of answered prayer.

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People You Can’t Stand

People you can’t stand. The mutual friends that annoy you, the coworkers that are mean, the guy on the bus that gives you attitude because you sat next to him, and the people that shove you around in the crowded subways. Sometimes they are irritating blips on your life screen; other times you get caught up in a cycle of anger and resentment.

You pray and ask God to help you love them. Maybe you have to say that prayer repeatedly, in each moment that your heart rebels against the command to love them. It’s not easy to have the grace that God has. 

Just take a moment to soak that in. It gives new insight to the oft-repeated but rarely-considered line in the Lord’s prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who have trespassed against us.” How easily we ask for God’s forgiveness yet we rarely think of the well of patience our Lord has for us.

There is a mind-blowing (if you really let your heart mull over it) lesson to learn from these interactions – how amazingly endless is the DEPTH AND BREADTH OF GOD’S LOVE & GRACE?!

*Image taken from:http://www.pktfuel.com/neighbourly-love/

What is God’s answer?

There are times when I start to spiral out of control with my desire to know exactly what God’s will is. Even when I’ve gotten an answer, I want to know I heard God right. A friend once asked me what would make God’s will clear to me. What would tell me exactly what His answer was? I had no idea how to respond. I joked about wanting Him to write me a letter, but part of me was hoping something like that would actually happen.

Later in the day, I came across this article (Maybe God Doesn’t Care) and I was reminded that while there is no such thing as too much prayer, there is a danger in relentlessly pursuing a concrete answer. Why? Because it actually stems from a need to control; a desire to know exactly what is in store and when. Yes, we should submit to God and seek to do his will. However, we also need to trust in Him and his ability to direct us. We have to allow him to actually act and give him the reins. We can’t allow ourselves to get stuck in a never-ending cycle of doubt and worry disguised as seeking his will.

Image taken from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6FYom8sr5L4/Ty1zdliEQyI/AAAAAAAAITE/3_vVk0I_VWQ/s1600/proverbs+3+5+6+copy.jpg

Can an Unanswered Prayer be a Prayer Answered?

Have you ever hit a point when you can’t remember the last time you laughed wholeheartedly? When you’ve been so burdened, stressed, and frustrated that you don’t even know what to pray for anymore?

Maybe you know in your head that you’re supposed to wait on God’s plan and that he knows best. You may be aware that there are reasons that things don’t turn out the way you want. But that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.

My advice: Keep talking to God. Keep trying to get to know him and his will. Persist because it’s what you need to do and God will enable you to keep going. Sometimes he is pulling things together and he needs you to wait. Sometimes you were better off not getting what you asked for. Sometimes you grow and learn as you wait, and your prayer ends up completely changing.

Take a look at this man’s struggle to pray when he loses the ideal job; it’s a great reminder of God’s wisdom and foresight.

Disappointed by God?

What are the expectations we place on God? When things go wrong, do we grow distant from him? Do we question why he’s allowing us to go through so much pain and suffering? Do we get angry with him and rile at him? Do we ask ourselves why we even bothered praying about it when it looks like God doesn’t care?

Some advise us to keep our expectations low in life so we can protect ourselves against getting hurt. Does that apply to God? Perhaps we should be evaluating our expectations against the word of God. We need to look at our source of information on God – the Bible and our own connection with him – and then compare that to the expectations we have of God. Are we expecting his good to be based on our definition or his? When God says he has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), do we take that verse at face value or do we think about in context of the God we know whose wisdom goes far beyond our perspective (Romans 12:2)?

When things are falling down around us and we want to rant and rave at God because he isn’t answering us the way we want him to, we need to take a step back and consider what we know of God.

  1. God is a LOVING God. There’s no one else who loves you more.  But remember that he also loves ALL of us, even those we see as enemies.
  2. God is JUST. But his justice doesn’t necessarily look the same as it does in our minds.
  3. God is WISE. He sees a much bigger picture than we do and he knows what’s coming down the line.
  4. God is JOY and PEACE.
  5. God is PATIENT. His patience ties into his wisdom as well and that’s what we need to remember when we’re feeling impatient with him because his answer may take much longer than we think it should.
  6. God is FAITHFUL. If Jesus can die on the cross for sinners, don’t you think he will do everything in his power to honor his relationship with you?
  7. God is STRONG and ALL-POWERFUL. There is literally nothing that he can’t handle.

In addition to what we know of God’s character, we should also take into account that his plans involve us. He asks us to have the heart of a servant.

This isn’t a one-way relationship. God has a special role for each of us and in our service, people witness the love of of God. Sometimes what happens in our lives is not about us, it’s about the people around us who witness our relationships with God.

So, take a fresh look at your situation and try to see how God’s answer may tie into a greater purpose. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking out for you but it does mean he has a much broader perspective. I believe we shouldn’t lower our expectations of God, but adjust them to align with God’s character and his promises.

Read more in this blog post titled Expectations.

One Step at a Time

I Kissed My Date Goodnight

I survived a miniature family reunion this weekend in New Jersey. Relatives gathered from near and far — including both coasts of Canada, Texas, Argentina, and The Garden State itself. We spent several days riding the magical carousel of eating and talking, eating and talking, eating and talking. Conversations effortlessly (and loudly) filled every empty space with multiple languages, laughter and much-needed reminiscence.

pizzaOn my final night there, we ordered a few pizza pies from a local joint and gathered around the table for — wait for it — more eating and talking. (If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?) I found myself in a particularly heartfelt, honest conversation with my brother, his wife, and my cousin, Daniel. We talked about faith and how sometimes it’s hard to believe in God, sometimes it’s hard to understand his ways. We each had areas of faith we struggled with, yet all…

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God Gave Me a Break (Another look at burnout)

The US packaging

Do you know what God did for me today? He literally gave me a break.

This week I decided to attend a nondenominational church I often visit, especially because I knew the pastor would be talking about marriage. I left having connected with the Holy Spirit and gained some food for thought about relationships. I then headed to my home church to catch part of service and most importantly, to teach my Sunday School class.

All was going as planned until I rounded up the teenage boys who comprise my class. As I waited for the last two to come out of the sanctuary and head upstairs, I found that no one was in the classroom. When I looked back, the other two had also disappeared. I spent a good 10-15 minutes searching the entire church twice and even the parking lot, only managing to find one of my 6-7 students.

Giving up the search, I headed back to my classroom defeated and I decided to pray. I’ve been challenged quite a lot through this class; whether it be with my students’ questions or personal feelings of failure. There have been many times I’ve come home feeling rejected by my students’ lack of interest that day. I’ve often questioned whether I was the right person to be teaching and whether I’d correctly read God’s will for me.

I want to share my prayer from this afternoon:

Father, today my students literally hid from me in order to not go to class. A part of me is hurt by that but then…I shouldn’t take it personally.

Father, at times like these I wonder if this is really what you’ve called me to. How capable am I really? But I know you don’t need me to help these kids understand you. I only need to be willing and you’ll take care of the rest. So, I put these kids in your hands and ask you to bless them with a keen interest to know and love you. Open their hearts to a deep understanding of your love. Draw them into strong personal relationships with you. Let their lives be centered on you and you alone. Help them turn to you and rely on you. Let them know that only you can provide the fulfillment they seek.

Father, please use me as you see fit. Be with me and guide me and bless me in this ministry you’ve given me. Encourage me, Father, and help me be heartened. In your name I pray, Amen.

The one thing that guarantees burnout is the fear that whatever you’re doing has been useless or is not appreciated. More than anything, that is what drains me of the desire to continue. However, what I thought of today was the post I put up earlier this week, especially this quote – “Take the time to be fed so that you can effectively feed others.”.

I re-read that post and I realized that today, God allowed me to take the time to be fed through the morning sermon and through the fellowship of friends at my home church.

Yes, I feel discouraged by what happened today but maybe God wanted me to take a break. And in that case, it just makes me more capable to “effectively feed others”.

Also, I may not have held class today, but I did have the opportunity to pray for my students and that is probably the most powerful thing I will ever do for them.

A Request for your Prayer

Clean Water!

Clean water is something we often take for granted but for many people it means more than just a liquid comprised of H2O. It can help kids gain an education, allow women to earn a living, and ensure a steady income for families in dire need. How? It’s simple really. Have you ever been sick and felt completely incapable of functioning? Imagine repeatedly getting sick from infectious diseases because of dirty water. These diseases can stunt growth in children and prevent adults from being able to work for a steady income. Each year millions of children die from entirely preventable causes. Something as simple as clean water can transform entire communities! 

So, I have a very important prayer request for you. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m running my first 10K this June. I also decided to raise money for an organization called WaterAid with an ambitious goal of $5,000. I honestly did not think I’d face such difficulty raising money but the response has been almost nonexistent.

The other day I was thinking about what I could do to turn the tide and I realized I hadn’t asked God to help me – silly me! I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before! So, I prayed this morning asking God to bless my efforts and now I’m asking you to join me in prayer. I don’t want your donations, I just want your prayer. I know God is more than capable of making my measly efforts fruitful beyond imagination.

So please pray that God will bless me in this effort to raise money to save entire communities with a much needed resource – clean water.

Deuteronomy 15:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Answered Prayer: What a mess!

English: A stack of copy paper.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, I know this analogy is a bit long but I think you’ll appreciate the perspective I gained today so bear with me. 🙂

If you’ve ever worked on a group project; you know how much frustration, mis-communication, and stress is involved. Although I’ve had my share of frustrations with people who didn’t write well or who were not as communicative as I would have liked, I have to say I’ve fared rather well with my group members in grad school.

However, this semester I was in uncharted territory. I was assigned to a group of three with one member (let’s call her R) who literally did not show up for meetings, failed to meet deadlines, and did not contribute to our project in any substantial way. In fact, the work this person did accomplish had to be “re-done” because they did not do it properly. My other group member has been (thankfully) very good about meetings and deadlines etc. While she would get upset with R, I was focused on getting our paper done and felt surprisingly calm about our slacking group mate.

Fast forward to this morning when I sat down to take my first look at our final paper due on Tuesday. As I read through it, I realized it would require a great deal of editing – particularly for the sections written by R. I spent the next hour and a half editing, or should I say re-writing, the paper and I sent it off to my group. After I came back from church, I checked my email only to get involved in a flurry of emails clarifying which document we should be editing. Finally, when that was all sorted out, our not-so-stellar group mate sent us her edits and I found that she had completely ignored my revisions to her sections.

Needless to say, I was angry. It wasn’t just a matter of writing style or even grammar; the content itself was incorrect and I had spent precious time fixing it and adding crucial material. I couldn’t even look at it anymore I was so upset; tears of frustration literally welled up in my eyes. How could I submit this as my final paper for the semester?

In the midst of all this, of course I couldn’t keep my emotions to myself! As I finished venting to my friend, she sent me this message – “I’m sorry! Sounds like a real mess of a situation.” My reply back was – “lol…yeah it is a mess but thanks for hearing me out and thanks for your prayer…God must feel this way abt us huh?”

I said it in a somewhat off-handed manner but then I was struck by the truth of that statement. When God knows better (as I feel I do in this particular situation), how frustrated must he be to see us mess it all up? When we’re running around in circles or being incredibly counterproductive and we refuse to accept his edits and additions to our lives; does he feel those tears of frustration? Not selfishly like I did, but on our behalf.

Can’t you just see him looking at us and saying “If you would just listen and acknowledge what I’m trying to tell you, I know things would work out. I love you and I only want what’s best for you!” (Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 12:11) Unlike me, he says it in complete unconditional love and patience.

In the midst of a whole lot of stress, anxiety, and frustration; I feel like I had a moment of connection with God that I treasure. Isn’t that an interesting spin on answered prayer?

Do you pray for your future husband/wife? I do. I think what Ruth says in this article is true, we should be asking God to guide us in all aspects of our lives. For me, that includes praying for “prospective him” because it helps me feel connected to this man I haven’t met yet. I also pray through all the frustration and longing I experience because it helps me let it go into God’s hands. So, I actually pray a lot about my dating life, basically because it gives me peace. How about you? What’s your take?

I Kissed My Date Goodnight

It’s time for a little brutal honesty from this raised-in-the-church pastor’s daughter: I don’t pray too much about my dating life. Okay, okay. Pick your jaw up off the floor and stay with me here. As Ricky Ricardo often said, I’ve “got some ‘splainin’ to do.” Fair enough.

If a man asks me out on a date, I don’t pray about whether or not we should grab dinner. If someone shows interest in me, I don’t flip open the Bible to see if he meets the criteria of a biblical husband. And if I like a guy, it’s probably not because I heard God say, “Like that guy.” Actually, that has never been the case.

Don’t get me wrong: I pray every day. I try to pray even when I’m not “officially” praying — even when my head isn’t bowed, when my eyes aren’t closed, when I’m not in church…

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