October 27, 2017
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6
He sat with his arms crossed on his desk his face buried deep in the crevices of his arms. Wedged behind him was his backpack, securely strapped to his back. I knelt beside him and quietly whispered to him to start the assignment. Nothing. Not a nod. Not a curse word. Not a gesture. Nothing.
I made a loop around the room, checking on my other students, and stopped by again. Still nothing. I tried every motivational word, speech, tone, and facial expression I could conjure up, but still no response. As the minutes ticked away on the clock, his arms crossed tighter, his face buried deeper, and his defiance grew stronger. Battle lines were being drawn, trenches were being dug, and it was only the first day of school.
I knelt beside my bed that night and cried out to the Lord. I didn’t know what to do. In all my years of teaching, I had never encountered a student like him. Yes, they had thrown fits before, slammed their books, crossed their arms, tossed their hair, rolled their eyes, clicked their tongues or even stormed out of class, but this was different. He was different. This was a battle I didn’t have a strategy for winning and it was a war neither of us could afford to lose.
God beckons us to call on him when we are desperate. He promises to not only hear, but to listen to what we are saying. When I am distressed, I want someone to hear me, to truly listen to the cry of my heart. Deep down I long for connection and affirmation. I want to know that I am not crazy and that I am going to be okay. I long to melt into the arms of a safe place, let out a heavy sigh, and not be strong for just a moment- letting someone else hold my burden for a fleeting second.
God longs to be that person for us. Psalm 18:6 reassures us that God hears us from his temple and listens.
God heard me that night and gave me wisdom and patience beyond what I ever could have imagined. It was a rough and rocky year for sure, but we made it through. There were frequent skirmishes and I was on speed dial with the office for a quick student extraction if the situation warranted it, but for the remainder of the year some semblance of detente existed between us.
I wish I could say I changed my student’ life, but I didn’t. Odds are he is in jail now with the cord of defiance wrapped tightly around his heart. His defiance changed me though. I spent a year on my knees each morning crying out to God in my distress over this difficult student (and others who would follow in the years to come), and God heard me and listened.
What about you? What is distressing you right now that you need to take to God? I encourage you to cry out to him today knowing that he will hear your voice and will listen to your heart.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
I stepped into the small room and closed the door. I trembled as I picked up the black receiver and dialed the all too familiar phone number. It was going to be the hardest call I had ever had to make. My heart pounded as I waited to hear the voice on the other line.
“Daddy, I want to come back. Is there any way I can come back to school next year?”
My parents had given me the gift of one year away at school for college. They weren’t wealthy and one year of tuition plus room and board was about all they could afford. My year was up. I had completed my first year of college and it was time to go home. It was the end of my last semester and I was gathered with some of my closest friends in our dorm lobby making donuts for the last time, when they looked at me and said, “Kim, we have figured out a way for you to come back to JBU next year. We want you to come back. Why don’t you call your parents and ask?”
Asking is not easy for me. I am a pleaser by nature and to ask for something means inconveniencing someone else, and I don’t like to do that. Asking means making myself vulnerable to the response of someone else. Calling my parents and asking my dad if I could return to school 1,200 miles away from home was a big deal for me. I really wanted to go back to John Brown and my friends knew it, but I hadn’t asked. Their intervention was the push I needed to ask for what I wanted.
God instructs us in Matthew 7:7-11 to ask for the things we need. We don’t have because we don’t ask. We don’t find what we are looking for because we don’t seek. We don’t have doors opened to us because we don’t knock.
The voice on the other line listened to my request and then asked:
“Honey, do you want to go back? Is this what you really want?”
“Then we will make it work, don’t worry about it. If you really want to go back, we will find the money. ”
That spring night in Siloam Springs, Arkansas changed my life. It set me on a path of faith that required me to walk closely with my God. I met my husband, found my calling, and surrendered my life to my Lord. All I had to do was ask.
The same thing holds true for asking God for what we need. Just like my dad was willing to do whatever it took to give me what my heart desired, God desires to give us good things as well. All we have to do is ask.
Is there something you want or need? Have you asked for it? Have you sought after it? Have you knocked on God’s door requesting it? Ask Him today. You may find the answer you have been looking for, just because you asked.
But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. Luke 6:27-28 NLT
I didn’t want to listen. I was mad. I was hurt. I wanted vengeance.
The lies, the mean words, plus the passive aggressive maneuvering had pushed me over the tolerance ledge. I was ready to tell anyone and everyone my truth. I wanted the lying snake to have his head chopped off. The painted smile of constraint was quickly fading away from my face. If the opportunity had presented itself, I would have unloaded a truck load of wrongs on an unsuspecting friend and buried them in my stinky heap of anger and bitterness.
But, God had a different plan. The lying snake was his to deal with, not mine. I am not a snake handler and trying to wrestle with the enemy snake in my life was ultimately going to end badly for me. You see, the longer I tried to hold onto this snake of vengeful anger, the more I was being repeatedly struck with the deadly poison of resentment.
My soul was being poisoned by the bite of bitterness every time I reached into my hurt feelings in order to strangle that snake. My determination to “bring down” my so called enemy was hurting me. My slash and burn tactics were destroying me and damaging the people around me.
In Luke 6:27-28, God calls us to act differently when we are wronged. He wants us to deal with those who slight us differently. He wants us to back off and let him handle the snakes in our lives.
He knows that if we are left to our own devices we will blow anger and animosity everywhere, like dandelions spreading seeds of bitterness all over the place. Instead, he entreats us to love and pray for those who hurt us. He requires that we relinquish the revenge to him. This doesn’t mean we become doormats or let abuse go unreported and unchecked, but it does mean that in those everyday wrongs we endure, we take them to God instead of the gossip chain.
Love. Do Good. Bless. Pray.
As for the snake in my life, God handled it. Unfortunately, for me it took a long time to get over the bitterness that had built up around my heart from the anger I felt. God had to soften my heart and rebuild my relationship with Him over the course of several years.
My “snake” experience taught me to take my hurt feelings and disappointments in people to God in prayer so that they don’t become venomous bites of bitterness that eventually destroy me.
What snake do you need to release to God in order to stop being poisoned by the fangs of anger and bitterness?
Things to ponder: What “snake” are you trying to wrestle with today?
Have you spread seeds of anger? Ask God to forgive you and work to repair the damage it may have caused.
Who do you need to pray for today?
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
It was a priceless treasure delivered to me in a small pink gift bag stuffed with white tissue paper in the middle of a parking lot. “It’s a ‘just because’ gift” she said tilting her head as she passed the bag to me. “It’s no big deal, but I thought of you when I saw it and I knew you would use it.” I peeked in the bag and dug through the tissue paper looking for the buried treasure. In the midst of that crinkled white paper nestled deep in the folds, I found a small tin box with flowers and fringe and “prayer box” written on top. A “just because” gift that was more meaningful to me than many “because” of special occasion gifts.
You see my friend knew that prayer was important to me. She knew that if she asked, I would pray for her. She knew that the little box would soon be filled with tiny pieces of paper with the pleas of my heart scribbled on them.
My journey into writing my conversations with God began in college. I have been keeping prayer journals ever since. My problem is I pray and I journal, but then I stop. Then, I start, stop, and start again. Stacks of semi-filled journals adorn on my bookshelf.
Today’s verses remind me that I need to be more than an on-again, off-again petitioner. I need to be steadfast in my prayers. I need to be unwavering in my commitment to pray on a regular basis for the ongoing needs of those around me. I need to be reliable. I need to be consistent. I need to make prayer a systematic part of my daily routine.
Not only do I need to make petitioning a regular part of my day, I need to make praise for the answers just as routine. Paul tells us to be “watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Not only should we be interceding, but we should be celebrating God’s answers as well. For me, this means I need to go back through those written requests and document the answers next to them.
I love that my prayers now have a special place to go. After I scribble my supplications on small pieces of paper, I tuck them in the little tin box where I know they will stay safe until God answers them.
Things to Ponder: What is one thing you can do today to start being more consistent in your prayer life?
Thank God today for one prayer he has answered.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.