We’ve Moved!

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After almost exactly 4 years on this space, I think I may have outgrown CrayKray, and it’s time to say goodbye. This space has seen four of the happiest years of my life and I have loved getting to share it all with you here. More of you than I could possibly have expected have subscribed, shared with your friends, commented, and faithfully read my silly thoughts throughout that time, and I am so thankful for each of you. I hope you’ll follow me across the internet as I unveil the new space I’m really excited about.

I’ve spent the past few weeks (with a few unexpected travel breaks) setting up a new space for my writing on the interwebs. I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve been up to and I hope you’ll join the conversation over there just as faithfully as you did here.

So without further ado, come on over and check out theinspiredstory.com. You can even click through and share with your friends and subscribe or comment on a thing or two. See you there!

On Love and Legacy and Being Filled

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It’s been a while. Between travel for the holidays and trying to cram every American thing I wanted to do in and resting and visiting, there wasn’t much time for blogging. And then I came back to Mexico and was in the middle of settling in and getting comfortable with a new semester. Coming back was easier than I expected and it was good to see my kids and get back into the routine. Mexico was feeling more like home.

And then last Tuesday I got a “Call as soon as you get home” email at the end of the school day and it hit me like a brick wall that I am still thousands of miles and an international border away from everyone I love. I don’t think anyone was ready for my Grandma to leave the world just three long months after her husband of 65 years. No one, that is, except maybe Grandma herself. 

When you love your Jesus and you love your husband and they’re both in the same place, I think it’s probably a little easier to let go of the fight.

My grandmother, for as long as I can remember, has been so full. Full of life, full of love, full of activities and with a full voice and full of fight. She sang soprano in the church choir and hollered full through the house (and through the telephone line) to get the whole huge family together for Thanksgiving dinner. She volunteered in more organizations than I can name, from League of Women Voters to Stephen Ministers. She was political and intelligent and a stay at home mom. She worked out three times a week at the retirement home where they lived. She loved to travel and she loved to host and she loved her family. She was honest and funny and crinkled her nose when she laughed. She wore the biggest earrings I have ever seen and she wrote cards for every occasion. I am almost certain I have received a Halloween card every year of my life from my grandmother.

I think, for Grandma, writing cards was her love language. She loved to show us she loved us by finding something witty or sweet and writing a few personal words inside. Going through her house after she passed, we found drawers and drawers of cards, sorted by theme, from Valentine’s Day to Sympathies. It was like a card store with no duplicates, hand picked by my grandmother. She was so intentional.

She chose the scriptures we would read and her funeral, and I read Psalm 92, which ends with: 

In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

I cannot describe my grandmother better than that. Even in old age, still producing fruit to show that the Lord was her rock.

There was a lot of talk of legacy as we celebrated her life last weekend. I think Grandma’s most impressive legacy is the fullness of life that was in her, the fullness that she poured into everyone she met. I pray that we can remember the fullness and not dwell on the emptiness of her loss, that we can be filled to fill others. What a legacy that would be.

Is anything too wonderful for God?

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And we’re back with Advent week 3, the women of Advent. To see the previous two posts, scroll down.

The third week of advent is traditionally “joy” week, the week when the pink candle is lit. Who better to highlight this week than the Biblical character famous for her laugh?

We’re going back in time a little bit this week from Rahab and Leah’s stories to the beginning of the Jewish people and God’s promise. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, first enters the Biblical narrative in at the end of Genesis 11, as a part of a genealogy explaining who has lived since Adam (it’s crazy that we’re still that close to the beginning that they can explain how Abraham descended from the first man).

And right after explaining how we got here, God makes a promise to Abram. God asks Abram to follow Him wherever he may lead, and promises that He will make Abram into a great nation, which means descendants. Of course, Abram and Sarai don’t have any of those yet, but he’s only 75 and Sarai’s even younger than that, so no immediate worries about God’s follow-through.

Then there’s a weird little story about Abram and Sarai going to Egypt and Sarai becoming Pharaoh’s mistress and accidentally giving him what sounds like ancient STDs (or a non-descript “plague”…). They eventually move back to the land God is calling them too, and years and years and years pass. And still, there are no children.

So God reiterates his promise with even more details in Genesis 15. It’s clear that Abram is beginning to doubt God’s promise as he still has no heir (v. 2), so God comes up with some beautiful language to describe Abram’s future descendants. And Abram believes.

Presumably, Abram goes home and tells his wife it’s time to get busy because God promised them LOTS of descendants and Sarai, ever the practical woman, reminds him of something. She’s barren. At this point, they have almost certainly been married for decades without popping out a single child, and it’s clear that even with some divine intervention, this isn’t in the stars for her (see what I did there?). Sarai believes God’s promises…. ish. She believes that God is big enough and powerful enough to create a nation through her husband, but also that he works through a rational, cause-and-effect driven world, and so He must have meant that Abram would have children with another woman. It’s logical, it’s rational, and more than anything, it allows God to keep his promise without the need for the miraculous. Sarai does not want God’s promise to fail, and so she believes she should help it along. As if humanity has ever done more than get in the way of God’s promises being fulfilled.

Sarai sends her servant to Hagar to have a child, and her plan succeeds. Hagar has Ishmael and a lot of ugly things happen, to Hagar, to Sarai, and to the future of humanity. To this day, Sarai’s descendants (the Jews) and Hagar’s descendants (the Muslims), struggle to find peace.

More years pass, and God again meets with Abram and promises him a son, but this time, God specifically promises that the child will come through Sarai and that it will be born within the next year. And Sarah, she laughs out-loud at hearing that her 90-year-old, post-menopausal, dried-up uterus that couldn’t even bear a child when she was fertile is going to have a son. Sarah, though I’m sure she would never say it, is a cynic. And the angel hears her laugh and asks her, point blank, “Is anything too wonderful for God?” Sarah, face-to-face with her own unbelief, she takes the easy way out. She lies. But there it is, her laugh recorded in God’s own book and she can’t take back what’s written in scripture, her doubts and lies shared for all posterity.

Finally, finally God comes through, follows up, keeps his promise without Sarah’s help. Sarah names her baby the son of Laughter, and her cynical, dried up, unbelieving laugh has turned to a laugh filled with joy.

And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Our cynical, unbelieving, scoffer hearts find that God has finally, finally come through on his promised redemption and there is nothing left to do but laugh with Joy, laugh at our former doubts and trust that all of the promises of God must be Yes and Amen in Christ because look at what he has already done.

Is anything too wonderful for God?

In heaven above and on the earth below

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This advent, I am posting about the women of advent- the women who waited with longing and expectation for what they could not see or understand. Last week I wrote about Leah and her abiding hope. If you missed it, scroll down and you can catch up.

The second candle on the advent wreath is sometimes called the “peace” or the “prophecy” candle. The readings for the second week of advent usually have to do with prophecies throughout the Old Testament that were specifically fulfilled in Christ’s coming, focusing on how we can trust God to fulfill his promises and the peace that comes with that understanding. So, of course, I’ve decided to focus this week on the story of a woman whose Biblical history centers on a time of war (not peace), and who was likely unfamiliar with Jewish prophecies as she was not actually Jewish.

Rahab is one of the more fascinating women in the Biblical narrative. Her defining characteristic when she is first introduced (Joshua 2:1) is that she is a prostitute. She likely had a house conveniently located on the outskirts of the city, near the wall, because of the type of business she had. Perhaps that is why our two Jewish spies end up in her house- because of its convenient location near the wall. Maybe there were shadier things going on. Maybe she rented her rooms by the hour and that was all they needed. We don’t know why they ended up at Rahab’s place, just that they did.

But Rahab, the lowest of the low, used and abused by those around her and with nothing to lose, lied and bargained to demonstrate her faith in a God she did not know. Rahab was not Jewish, but word had likely reached her of this strange nomadic people on her doorstep. There must have been legends of some of the strange and miraculous things that had happened to these people and the God they claimed to follow, because Rahab says to the spies,

I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Rahab says that “we” have heard, and that fear has fallen on “us”, but you don’t find other residents of Jericho tripping over themselves to find the spies and ask for mercy. The stories were not enough to work on the hearts and faith of Rahab’s neighbors, but God used them to work in her heart, to grow her faith in a God she had only heard rumors of, until she could say with confidence,”For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

While I don’t fully understand the morality of lying to help the Israelites, it is clear that God blessed Rahab for the risk she took in saving them. The story goes on and Rahab and her family are saved by this act of faith and sacrifice (Joshua 6), while her new People “…devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” The God of Peace doesn’t work in ways that I understand, and this passing account of a genocide raises more questions than answers for me.

So why focus on Rahab during the season of Advent? First, because Rahab is the ultimate reminder that God dwells in the unexpected. In the home and heart of a prostitute, in the parting of the Red Sea, in a helpless newborn in a manger. God doesn’t just smile down on the downtrodden and outcast and weak, though. He builds his redemptive narrative in them. In Hebrews 11:31, we see Rahab’s faith acclaimed, even with a reminder of her occupation:

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Rahab, by faith, was adopted into the Jewish people, even as far as being adopted into the family line of Christ. In fact, she is one of only four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ (Leah, from last week, didn’t even get that distinction). Rahab believed in a future she could not see or touch or plan, and she was willing to bet it all on a God she had only heard whispers of. Rahab lived Advent.

Rahab was all-in with God being able to redeem her, and He did. Are you?

I pray that this week, as we inch closer and closer to Christmas, you would remember the faith of Rahab in a God she didn’t know or understand. I pray that you would have peace in the reminder that God fulfills his promises, just as he did to Rahab, just as he did in Christ, just as he is doing today. And I pray that you would look for the downtrodden and desolate and outcast (maybe that’s even you today) and remember how God used Rahab.

Peace be with you this second week of Advent.

this time i will praise the Lord.

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Advent is my favorite season in the church year. A quick search of my blog will show that just about every year I write about it here. I’ve written about advent songs, advent children’s books, advent traditions and more. As I’ve thought about how to tackle advent this year, I’ve been especially drawn to the women of Christmas, the often overlooked Biblical women who contributed in some way to the advent story. Women in the lineage of Christ who, despite their gender, had their story told in the pages of the Old and New Testament. I love their stories, because I’m a bit of a feminist, but also because they lived advent. Advent is a waiting; a waiting with hope but without a plan, a waiting for something you know is true and good and believe is promised but that you have never seen. Women in Biblical times were completely dependent on the men in their lives. They were second class citizens, useful for reproduction and bringing up children. It’s clear from some of the strong women in the Bible that some of these women were waiting for a better future for their daughters, for future generations of women.

Today is the first Sunday of advent, and traditionally the “hope” candle is lit this week. My favorite woman of hope in the Bible becomes part of Christ’s lineage in an unconventional way. We first meet her in the story of my namesake, Rachel, and the man who loved her, Jacob, in Genesis 29.

It’s a strange story, of sister-wives and indentured servitude, but by verse 30, Jacob (heir to Abraham’s promise and therefore an ancestor of Christ) is unhappily married to both Leah and Rachel. As verse 30 says, “he loved Rachel more than Leah.” Rachel was beautiful, Leah was plain if not downright ugly. And Jacob never wanted Leah. In fact, it seems that no one ever wanted Leah, by virtue of the fact that her father had to trick someone into marrying her.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be Leah? So unattractive that your own father even admits it’ll take a miracle or some cheating to get you married. And then being openly rejected by your husband because he loves your own sister better. With women being defined by the men in their lives, Leah was almost as low as she could have been, humiliated and unloved. Hope for Leah, it seems, could only come from her ability to bear sons. Maybe then, maybe with sons, someone would love her, would want her, would want to claim her in their family and build a heritage with her.

“When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb.” I love that God loves the underdog, that he sees the downtrodden and broken-hearted, that he is in the business of fulfilling hopes. Leah, to her credit, seems to have some spunk and starts naming her children really excellent things like “See, a son!” (Reuben), “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also,” (Simeon), and “Now my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons,” (Levi). Sweet girl, don’t you realize that for generations your sons will be the patriarchs of the tribes of your nation, and those poor tribes will carry these names for centuries?

It’s clear from the progression of names, that her hopes for these sons to rescue her, to fulfill her dreams, are being dashed. Presumably if having sons had changed Jacob’s feelings towards her, the sons would have been named things like “Hallelujah, Jacob loves me best now!” and “How’s it feel to be second best, Rachel?” God has opened her womb, but has not answered her prayers in the way that she wanted them. Her husband hates her, she is still ugly and unloved, and now she’s probably exhausted too with three little boys to raise.

And then Leah has a change of heart within the space of one verse. She conceives again, pregnant with a fourth child. But somehow she hasn’t pinned her hopes and dreams to this child. In the middle of her despair, she gives up her dream of being loved and wanted by Jacob. Instead, she names this child “This time I will praise the Lord,” (Judah).

The story goes on, and Rachel and Leah continue to have a really epic child naming war (my personal favorite is poor Naphtali, whose name evidently means: “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed”). Eventually God remembers Rachel and she finally, finally gives birth to a boy named Joseph, who goes on to do very important things and whose story we follow for quite a lot of Genesis.

It seems like Leah has been abandoned, hopeless and unloved. But in Matthew chapter 1, in the genealogy of Christ, we read in verses two and three “Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez…”

Judah. Not Joseph. Not Reuben. Judah. The son whose name means surrender to hope in God and not in man. God took Leah’s small faith, small hope, and gave her what she had always wanted: someone would love her, would want her, would want to claim her in their family and build a heritage with her. God himself claimed Leah in his family and built His heritage with her.

A quick scan of the headlines, a few years of living in this broken world and you will find your hopes dashed and your dreams hard to find, just like Leah did. Advent is a reminder that from the brokeness, from the chopped down stump a new branch is springing forth. Advent reminds us that there is hope not in what we can see, but in the One who is making it new.

Hope looks like accepting what God has given with these words: “This time I will praise the Lord,” and then waiting with joyful expectation to see them redeemed. Like He was for Leah, God is in the business of fulfilling our dreams and renewing our hopes, though often not in the way we had expected. I pray that this week, you will look with hope out of whatever darkness and despair you may be facing and say with Leah and with hope, “This time I will praise the Lord.”

Aside

Torn.

** I wrote this post several weeks ago, and didn’t like it enough to publish it (which is not an uncommon occurrence). Today, though, I feel like I’ve taken six steps backwards in this regard and have forgotten that it is true and right to clean out the closets in my life. So I am finally posting this as a reminder to myself. And know that today, the last sentence does not feel true. I am not learning to throw away old clothes or put on new ones, but I am trying to remember. **

This is my favorite blue dress.

Isn't it wonderful?

Isn’t it wonderful?

I love this dress. It has gotten me through a lot of hard times, scary times. I trust it. I trust that when I wear it, it will be a good day. I wore it on my first day of student teaching, my first day of American teaching, my first day of Mexican teaching.

The zipper on the dress has been sticking for a while now. I’ve started wearing it less frequently, saving it for special days when I feel like I need a little extra luck to make it through.

About a month ago, I wore it to school and one of my students squirted a whole ketchup packet onto the back of it during lunch (casualties of being an elementary school teacher: your clothes). I grabbed another teacher to watch my class and quickly ran to the bathroom to wash the ketchup off, and to deal with my fury while not so close to the offending student (he was really, really sorry, for what it was worth). The ketchup mostly came out in the wash, but I was even more careful about when I could wear it and risk it being damaged.

And then last Thursday. I had planned to wear the dress because it had been so long and I was bored with the clothes I always wear (seriously, my class can name all of my outfits). And I put it on and started to zip it, and exactly halfway up… nothing. It wouldn’t go up, it wouldn’t go down. I struggled with it for ten minutes, the whole time cursing the fact that it wasn’t stuck lower, so I could wriggle out of the dress, or higher, so I could just pin it and call it good for the day. Finally, I knew I had to finish getting ready for work and could waste no more time, so I took my scissors and I destroyed my favorite dress.

As I looked at it, ruined on the ground, I was upset that the zipper got stuck exactly in the middle. Higher and I could have worn it one last time, lower and I wouldn’t have had to cut it. But what a ridiculous thought! It would be ruined anyway!  Why would I hang it in my closet ruined? Why am I upset that this is where it broke when it would be broken regardless?

I still haven’t been able to bring myself to throw it out. It’s sitting in a heap at the bottom of my dirty clothes pile.

Poor zipper.

Poor zipper.

Like sinful habits and old complaints and long forgotten sufferings, I will hold onto things that I know have a stuck zipper and a rip down the side because subconsciously I’m thinking, “What if I run out of clothes and this is the only thing I can wear?” I love this dress. I know it’s good for first days and parent teacher conferences and maybe someday I’ll need it for one of those things, stuck zipper and all.

I hold onto past pain and sinful habits because I trust the reality of what happened, the tangibleness of my former suffering and sin, the truth in my memories. I trust them more than I trust that God is making them new, will redeem them, and has the future under control. I feel that I can rely on what I’ve experienced before (even the ugly things) or my own ability to get things done (which is already hung up in the closet with a rip and a ketchup stain) more than I can rely on God.

Over the last few months, my metaphorical closet has been filling up with stained dresses and broken shoes. Things that I thought I could do on my own, that I could rely on, have been shredded before my very eyes, in large doses of humility and failure. Every day it’s still a struggle not to look at them longingly in the closet, and I confess that some days I would rather walk around with a big old rip down the center of my dress than admit that I need new clothes, admit that my old way of doing things is broken. But I am learning, and slowly learning to throw away the old clothes and put on the some new ones.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

in the telling.

God’s story

every day, i wake up to the same song for my alarm.

You strive, o man, and you strive again, your heart too proud to rest

it’s an ironic awakening and i love it.

i check my email, see if anything exciting has happened in the news, struggle into my clothes and coffee and begin a new day. i read my bible, brush my hair, eat my cheerios and walk the few feet to work to prepare for the 13 beautiful lives about to walk through my door.

and for the rest of the day, i tell stories.

i tell stories to try to get them interested, like about which multiplication fact is my favorite and why (it’s 56=7×8 because 5678 is a cool fact). i tell stories from the Bible to get them to learn from the histories given to us to show us how to live and why. i tell stories about watching butterflies break out of cocoons and of all of the world working together during science. i read stories that other people told in writing and in language arts, about toy rabbits and third grade girls and everything in between.

and in the eyes of the students entrusted to me i have learned that the story is in the telling.

i can watch their eyes grow wide with wonder as i retell the story of jacob wrestling with God and walking with a limp for the rest of his life, limping around the room as I do and talking about the blessing and reminder even in the limp. or i can watch their eyes glaze over as i read from the science book, trying to get through the required curriculum as quickly as possible. life cycles have never been more boring.

the story is in the telling. and the telling is only possible if the story is a part of me, something i have lived or created or loved.

my students love to tell stories too, stories of the families they love or of what they spend their time doing or how some small part of their life intersects in some small way with what we might be talking about, maybe. children are born storytellers. everything they are living is new and worth sharing, and they have no self-consciousness about the worthiness of their stories. if they have lived or created or loved it, it is a story, and stories are meant to be told.

some days it feels like i have told all of my stories, that i have nothing new or creative to share with the world.

but the story is in the telling. so today i am telling myself stories of things i have lived and created and loved and they are good. 

some time ago, Someone Else began a story with and it was good. it has been a story of creation, of love, and above all of life, and He is still telling it.

tell your story like it’s worth telling. because it isn’t a story unless it is told.

i will open my hands

Copyright DG EMPL, Flickr

Copyright DG EMPL, Flickr

There’s a lot of talk of “following God” in Christian circles. I suppose it’s not surprising, there’s a lot of talk of following God in the Bible too. But when Christians talk about following God, they generally talk about not sinning, about not putting yourself in places where you might be tempted, and maybe sometimes they talk about praying and listening to God’s leading when making a big decision.

That doesn’t seem to be how people in the Bible followed God. In the story of Elisha, in the story of so many of the disciples, in the story of Zaccheus, in the story of Abraham, God presented an opportunity and following God meant abandoning everything else. Immediately. Everything you’d ever wanted, hoped for, loved, felt comfortable with. Followers of God left family, left reputation, left careers, left comfort and security and the future they had imagined and went to somewhere they could not name or explain, in the name of following God. Abraham left home, and was willing to sacrifice family, Elisha left home, family, and career, Zaccheus left reputation (albeit a bad one) and career, the disciples left everything to follow God.

And when they followed God, there wasn’t a question about whether or not they were following God. The choices they made were not rational, often, and they told people they did these things in the name of following God. Their lives were not easy, and one can imagine that they could have been if they had ignored God’s will.

To follow God is to sacrifice and to accept. To hold on to the things of this world with open hands, ready to accept what God may place there as well as ready to sacrifice what he has already given. If we really believe that this world is temporary, that we are made for another home, then why do we hold on so tightly to things that will perish? Not just hold on tightly to our possessions, but we hold even tighter to our abilities, our comfort, our dreams of the future, our careers, our reputations, our friends, our families.

If God called you to follow him into failure, would you go?

Into loneliness?

Into discomfort?

Into inability?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to follow God into failure (Daniel 3:18), David followed Him into loneliness (Psalm 25:16), Job followed Him into some pretty epic discomfort, Gideon followed Him into inability (Judges 7:2). Countless others found that where God asked them to go was somewhere they never would have gone on their own.

Following God does not look like doing what you want to do and getting what you’ve always wanted to get. Don’t get me wrong, God gives good gifts to his children. But we don’t get into following God because we want his good gifts. We follow God because he has already given the perfect Gift and promised a perfect future and we want that more than we want any good gift he could give us in this lifetime.

Do I want heaven more than I want career success? Do I want God’s will more than I want my good reputation? Do I want the growth of the Kingdom more than I want a family? More than friends? More than my intelligence, my abilities, my good gifts?

The answer, in my heart of hearts, is a resounding no. No, I want to cling to the gifts I have already been given and work heartily for the future I have imagined for myself, and I will happily follow God if he’s leading me in that direction.

But I can imagine a life dedicated to the kingdom. And I can choose to let go and hope in a future that is sure, that is perfect, and that I can participate in now, even if it doesn’t match the future I want.

I will open my hands.

Aside

Pray.

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A few years ago, a band I liked sent out an email to all of the fans on their email lists asking for submissions of videos of places where we hoped the light of Christ would shine through us. They mailed out little white candles that were supposed to be featured in the video that you submitted. They said that they planned to use it to make a music video for one of their songs, but they didn’t exactly explain how it would work.

I considered it, but ultimately didn’t participate because I didn’t really have a good way to video myself and I didn’t have a great idea of what I would record. I wasn’t the world’s hugest fan of the band and I didn’t know the song they were making the music video for very well so I couldn’t really understand how the videos would be used. And I was busy and with all of these excuses, it just didn’t make the top of the list.

The video came out a while later, and it is adorable and I love the way they used the videos (and remarkably includes quite a few shots of Vanderbilt and Nashville, so I feel like I’m a part of it anyway). You can watch it here (though to be honest this song and video aren’t really the point of this post):

Addison Road – This Little Light Of Mine Music Video from addison-road.

I imagine the people who did send in their videos maybe knew a little more about the band and wanted to be a part of what they were creating in some small way. Perhaps they thought that this video might bless someone and they wanted to be a part of that, or maybe they just wanted to be a part of whatever Addison Road was doing because they loved the band. I’m sure they didn’t know exactly how their video would be used or if it would even be a part of the final video, but they submitted it anyway because they wanted to participate in what was being created.

I have been learning a lot about and studying prayer a lot lately. I’ve never really understood prayer (I don’t think anyone has, honestly) and how it can be that God is sovereign over everything but somehow our praying matters, that somehow our praying changes things. But the Bible seems to be very clear on both of those points, so I decided to try to study more and practice prayer more and see what happened.

And it has become more and more clear to me that whether or not I understand prayer, prayer changes things. In the past few weeks, even, God has answered big and small prayers, some so small that I had almost forgotten I’d prayed for them and just had to laugh at God’s attention to detail.

One of the devotionals I have been reading about prayer had a day on intercessory prayer, or praying for other people. Being so very far away from so many people I know and love, intercessory prayer has become an important part of my prayer life. The most significant way I can be a part of the lives of the people I love has always been to be praying for them, but now it is practically the only way I can be a part of their lives and I depend on it. But still, it’s hard to imagine the sovereign God of the universe really responding to my prayers for my friends and family. In fact, it would be impossible to imagine except for all the times it happens in the Bible (see the parable of the persistent widow or  Exodus 32 for some examples). As I was thinking about that this week, I read this: “Intercessory prayer is less about changing God’s mind and more about participating in his mercy.”

And then I saw it. Like the music video I could have participated in. Would my video entry have changed the course of the music video? Almost certainly not. The band had surely sketched out what they wanted the video to be like even before receiving submissions (though there was definitely more guesswork involved than there is with prayer, being that God is omniscient). But I would have been able to participate in what they were creating.

God already knows how tomorrow will go and the next day and all the way until the end of the world and beyond. He knows what he has created and he knows what he is creating, but he invites us to participate in what he is making through prayer. Let me say that again. God invites us to participate in his creation when we pray.

So why are we not praying? For me, I know I have all the same excuses I had about the music video. I feel I’m not very good at it, or I don’t have very good ideas, or I don’t understand what difference it will make, or most of all… I’m busy and it slips my mind.

The God of the universe invites me to participate in his mercy poured out on those I love, and it slips my mind.

But I’m working on it. Maybe someday soon I’ll post on what I’ve been learning about how to pray and how to be intentional in my prayer life. But for now, I will continue to learn and to practice and to pray. And if you need intercession for something, I would love to go before God on your behalf. Because I want to be a part of what God is doing in your life and in the world. Don’t we all?

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